Translated by George Fyler Townsend
The Lion, the Fox and the Ass entered into an agreement to assist each other in the chase. Having secured a large booty, the Lion on their return from the forest asked the Ass to allot his due portion to each of the three partners in the treaty. The Ass carefully divided the spoil into three equal shares and modestly requested the two others to make the first choice. The Lion, bursting out into a great rage, devoured the Ass. Then he requested the Fox to do him the favor to make a division. The Fox accumulated all that they had killed into one large heap and left to himself the smallest possible morsel. The Lion said, “Who has taught you, my very excellent fellow, the art of division? You are perfect to a fraction.” He replied, “I learned it from the Ass, by witnessing his fate.”
A Bull finding a lion’s cub asleep gored him to death with his horns. The Lioness came up, and bitterly lamented the death of her whelp. A wild-boar Hunter, seeing her distress, stood at a distance and said to her, “Think how many men there are who have reason to lament the loss of their children, whose deaths have been caused by you.”
The Woodcutter cut down a Mountain Oak and split it in pieces, making wedges of its own branches for dividing the trunk. The Oak said with a sigh, “I do not care about the blows of the axe aimed at my roots, but I do grieve at being torn in pieces by these wedges made from my own branches.”
A cottager and his wife had a Hen that laid a golden egg every day. They supposed that the Hen must contain a great lump of gold in its inside, and in order to get the gold they killed it. Having done so, they found to their surprise that the Hen differed in no respect from their other hens. The foolish pair, thus hoping to become rich all at once, deprived themselves of the gain of which they were assured day by day.
An Ass, carrying a load of wood, passed through a pond. As he was crossing through the water he lost his footing, stumbled and fell, and not being able to rise on account of his load, groaned heavily. Some Frogs frequenting the pool heard his lamentation, and said, “What would you do if you had to live here always as we do, when you make such a fuss about a mere fall into the water?”
A Crow was jealous of the Raven, because he was considered a bird of good omen and always attracted the attention of men, who noted by his flight the good or evil course of future events. Seeing some travelers approaching, the Crow flew up into a tree, and perching herself on one of the branches, cawed as loudly as she could. The travelers turned towards the sound and wondered what it foreboded, when one of them said to his companion, “Let us proceed on our journey, my friend, for it is only the caw of a crow, and her cry, you know, is no omen.”
A man came into a forest and asked the Trees to provide him a handle for his axe. The Trees consented to his request and gave him a young ash-tree. No sooner had the man fitted a new handle to his axe from it, than he began to use it and quickly felled with his strokes the noblest giants of the forest. An old oak, lamenting when too late the destruction of his companions, said to a neighboring cedar, “The first step has lost us all. If we had not given up the rights of the ash, we might yet have retained our own privileges and have stood for ages.”
A Crab, forsaking the seashore, chose a neighboring green meadow as its feeding ground. A Fox came across him, and being very hungry ate him up. Just as he was on the point of being eaten, the Crab said, “I well deserve my fate, for what business had I on the land, when by my nature and habits I am only adapted for the sea?’
Contentment with our lot is an element of happiness.
A Woman possessed a Hen that gave her an egg every day. She often pondered how she might obtain two eggs daily instead of one, and at last, to gain her purpose, determined to give the Hen a double allowance of barley. From that day the Hen became fat and sleek, and never once laid another egg.
A Shepherd, watching his Ass feeding in a meadow, was alarmed all of a sudden by the cries of the enemy. He appealed to the Ass to fly with him, lest they should both be captured, but the animal lazily replied, “Why should I, pray? Do you think it likely the conqueror will place on me two sets of panniers?’ “No,” rejoined the Shepherd. “Then,” said the Ass, “as long as I carry the panniers, what matters it to me whom I serve?’
The Kites of olden times, as well as the Swans, had the privilege of song. But having heard the neigh of the horse, they were so enchanted with the sound, that they tried to imitate it; and, in trying to neigh, they forgot how to sing.
The Wolves thus addressed the Sheepdogs: “Why should you, who are like us in so many things, not be entirely of one mind with us, and live with us as brothers should? We differ from you in one point only. We live in freedom, but you bow down to and slave for men, who in return for your services flog you with whips and put collars on your necks. They make you also guard their sheep, and while they eat the mutton throw only the bones to you. If you will be persuaded by us, you will give us the sheep, and we will enjoy them in common, till we all are surfeited.” The Dogs listened favorably to these proposals, and, entering the den of the Wolves, they were set upon and torn to pieces.
The Hares waged war with the Eagles, and called upon the Foxes to help them. They replied, “We would willingly have helped you, if we had not known who you were, and with whom you were fighting.”
Count the cost before you commit yourselves.
A very skillful Bowman went to the mountains in search of game, but all the beasts of the forest fled at his approach. The Lion alone challenged him to combat. The Bowman immediately shot out an arrow and said to the Lion: “I send thee my messenger, that from him thou mayest learn what I myself shall be when I assail thee.” The wounded Lion rushed away in great fear, and when a Fox who had seen it all happen told him to be of good courage and not to back off at the first attack he replied: “You counsel me in vain; for if he sends so fearful a messenger, how shall I abide the attack of the man himself?’
When man first saw the Camel, he was so frightened at his vast size that he ran away. After a time, perceiving the meekness and gentleness of the beast’s temper, he summoned courage enough to approach him. Soon afterwards, observing that he was an animal altogether deficient in spirit, he assumed such boldness as to put a bridle in his mouth, and to let a child drive him.
Use serves to overcome dread.