Fable is a
literary genre. A fable is a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse,
that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects or
forces of nature which are anthropomorphized (given human qualities such as
verbal communication), and that illustrates or leads to an interpretation of
a moral lesson (a "moral"), which may at the end be added explicitly in a
A fable differs from a parable in that the latter excludes animals, plants,
inanimate objects, and forces of nature as actors that assume speech and
other powers of humankind.
or the Aesopica is a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and
story-teller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560
BCE. Of diverse origins, the stories associated with Aesop's name have
descended to modern times through a number of sources. They continue to be
reinterpreted in different verbal registers and in popular as well as
Mercury And The
A poor Woodman was cutting down a tree near the edge of a deep pool in the
forest. It was late in the day and the Woodman was tired. He had been
working since sunrise and his strokes were not so sure as they had been
early that morning. Thus it happened that the axe slipped and flew out of
his hands into the pool.
The Woodman was in despair. The axe was all he possessed with which to make
a living, and he had not money enough to buy a new one. As he stood wringing
his hands and weeping, the god Mercury suddenly appeared and asked what the
trouble was. The Woodman told what had happened, and straightway the kind
Mercury dived into the pool. When he came up again he held a wonderful
"Is this your axe?" Mercury asked the Woodman.
"No," answered the honest Woodman, "that is not my axe."
Mercury laid the golden axe on the bank and sprang back into the pool. This
time he brought up an axe of silver, but the Woodman declared again that his
axe was just an ordinary one with a wooden handle.
Mercury dived down for the third time, and when he came up again he had the
very axe that had been lost.
The poor Woodman was very glad that his axe had been found and could not
thank the kind god enough. Mercury was greatly pleased with the Woodman's
"I admire your honesty," he said, "and as a reward you may have all three
axes, the gold and the silver as well as your own."
The happy Woodman returned to his home with his treasures, and soon the
story of his good fortune was known to everybody in the village. Now there
were several Woodmen in the village who believed that they could easily win
the same good fortune. They hurried out into the woods, one here, one there,
and hiding their axes in the bushes, pretended they had lost them. Then they
wept and wailed and called on Mercury to help them.
And indeed, Mercury did appear, first to this one, then to that. To each one
he showed an axe of gold, and each one eagerly claimed it to be the one he
had lost. But Mercury did not give them the golden axe. Oh no! Instead he
gave them each a hard whack over the head with it and sent them home. And
when they returned next day to look for their own axes, they were nowhere to
Honesty is the best policy.
Hercules And The Wagoner
A Farmer was driving his wagon along a miry country road after a heavy rain.
The horses could hardly drag the load through the deep mud, and at last came
to a standstill when one of the wheels sank to the hub in a rut.
The farmer climbed down from his seat and stood beside the wagon looking at
it but without making the least effort to get it out of the rut. All he did
was to curse his bad luck and call loudly on Hercules to come to his aid.
Then, it is said, Hercules really did appear, saying:
"Put your shoulder to the wheel, man, and urge on your horses. Do you think
you can move the wagon by simply looking at it and whining about it?
Hercules will not help unless you make some effort to help yourself."
And when the farmer put his shoulder to the wheel and urged on the horses,
the wagon moved very readily, and soon the Farmer was riding along in great
content and with a good lesson learned.
Self help is the best help.
Heaven helps those who help themselves.
Jupiter And The Monkey
There was once a baby show among the Animals in the forest. Jupiter provided
the prize. Of course all the proud mammas from far and near brought their
babies. But none got there earlier than Mother Monkey. Proudly she presented
her baby among the other contestants.
As you can imagine, there was quite a laugh when the Animals saw the ugly
flat-nosed, hairless, pop-eyed little creature.
"Laugh if you will," said the Mother Monkey. "Though Jupiter may not give
him the prize, I know that he is the prettiest, the sweetest, the dearest
darling in the world."
Mother love is blind.
The Wolf And
A Wolf had stolen a Lamb and was carrying it off to his lair to eat it. But
his plans were very much changed when he met a Lion, who, without making any
excuses, took the Lamb away from him.
The Wolf made off to a safe distance, and then said in a much injured tone:
"You have no right to take my property like that!"
The Lion looked back, but as the Wolf was too far away to be taught a lesson
without too much inconvenience, he said:
"Your property? Did you buy it, or did the Shepherd make you a gift of it?
Pray tell me, how did you get it?"
What is evil won is evil lost.
The Stag And His Reflection
A Stag, drinking from a crystal spring, saw himself mirrored in the clear
water. He greatly admired the graceful arch of his antlers, but he was very
much ashamed of his spindling legs.
"How can it be," he sighed, "that I should be cursed with such legs when I
have so magnificent a crown."
At that moment he scented a panther and in an instant was bounding away
through the forest. But as he ran his wide-spreading antlers caught in the
branches of the trees, and soon the Panther overtook him. Then the Stag
perceived that the legs of which he was so ashamed would have saved him had
it not been for the useless ornaments on his head.
We often make much of the ornamental and despise the useful.
The Monkey And The Cat
Once upon a time a Cat and a Monkey lived as pets in the same house. They
were great friends and were constantly in all sorts of mischief together.
What they seemed to think of more than anything else was to get something to
eat, and it did not matter much to them how they got it.
One day they were sitting by the fire, watching some chestnuts roasting on
the hearth. How to get them was the question.
"I would gladly get them," said the cunning Monkey, "but you are much more
skillful at such things than I am. Pull them out and I'll divide them
Pussy stretched out her paw very carefully, pushed aside some of the
cinders, and drew back her paw very quickly. Then she tried it again, this
time pulling a chestnut half out of the fire. A third time and she drew out
the chestnut. This performance she went through several times, each time
singeing her paw severely. As fast as she pulled the chestnuts out of the
fire, the Monkey ate them up.
Now the master came in, and away scampered the rascals, Mistress Cat with a
burnt paw and no chestnuts. From that time on, they say, she contented
herself with mice and rats and had little to do with Sir Monkey.
The flatterer seeks some benefit at your expense.
The Young Crab
And His Mother
"Why in the world
do you walk sideways like that?" said a Mother Crab to her son. "You should
always walk straight forward with your toes turned out."
"Show me how to walk, mother dear," answered the little Crab obediently, "I
want to learn."
So the old Crab tried and tried to walk straight forward. But she could walk
sideways only, like her son. And when she wanted to turn her toes out she
tripped and fell on her nose.
Do not tell others how to act unless you can set a good example.
The Wolves And
A pack of Wolves
lurked near the Sheep pasture. But the Dogs kept them all at a respectful
distance, and the Sheep grazed in perfect safety. But now the Wolves thought
of a plan to trick the Sheep.
"Why is there always this hostility between us?" they said. "If it were not
for those Dogs who are always stirring up trouble, I am sure we should get
along beautifully. Send them away and you will see what good friends we
The Sheep were easily fooled. They persuaded the Dogs to go away, and that
very evening the Wolves had the grandest feast of their lives.
Do not give up friends for foes.
The Wolf The Kid And The Goat
Mother Goat was
going to market one morning to get provisions for her household, which
consisted of but one little Kid and herself.
"Take good care of the house, my son," she said to the Kid, as she carefully
latched the door. "Do not let anyone in, unless he gives you this password:
'Down with the Wolf and all his race!'"
Strangely enough, a Wolf was lurking near and heard what the Goat had said.
So, as soon as Mother Goat was out of sight, up he trotted to the door and
"Down with the Wolf and all his race," said the Wolf softly.
It was the right password, but when the Kid peeped through a crack in the
door and saw the shadowy figure outside, he did not feel at all easy.
"Show me a white paw," he said, "or I won't let you in."
A white paw, of course, is a feature few Wolves can show, and so Master Wolf
had to go away as hungry as he had come.
"You can never be too sure," said the Kid, when he saw the Wolf making off
to the woods.
Two sureties are better than one.
The Ant And The
A Dove saw an Ant fall into a brook. The Ant struggled in vain to reach the
bank, and in pity, the Dove dropped a blade of straw close beside it.
Clinging to the straw like a shipwrecked sailor to a broken spar, the Ant
floated safely to shore.
Soon after, the Ant saw a man getting ready to kill the Dove with a stone.
But just as he cast the stone, the Ant stung him in the heel, so that the
pain made him miss his aim, and the startled Dove flew to safety in a
A kindness is never wasted.
The Town Mouse And The Country Mouse
A Town Mouse once visited a relative who lived in the country. For lunch the
Country Mouse served wheat stalks, roots, and acorns, with a dash of cold
water for drink. The Town Mouse ate very sparingly, nibbling a little of
this and a little of that, and by her manner making it very plain that she
ate the simple food only to be polite.
After the meal the friends had a long talk, or rather the Town Mouse talked
about her life in the city while the Country Mouse listened. They then went
to bed in a cozy nest in the hedgerow and slept in quiet and comfort until
morning. In her sleep the Country Mouse dreamed she was a Town Mouse with
all the luxuries and delights of city life that her friend had described for
her. So the next day when the Town Mouse asked the Country Mouse to go home
with her to the city, she gladly said yes.
When they reached the mansion in which the Town Mouse lived, they found on
the table in the dining room the leavings of a very fine banquet. There were
sweetmeats and jellies, pastries, delicious cheeses, indeed, the most
tempting foods that a Mouse can imagine. But just as the Country Mouse was
about to nibble a dainty bit of pastry, she heard a Cat mew loudly and
scratch at the door. In great fear the Mice scurried to a hiding place,
where they lay quite still for a long time, hardly daring to breathe. When
at last they ventured back to the feast, the door opened suddenly and in
came the servants to clear the table, followed by the House Dog.
The Country Mouse stopped in the Town Mouse's den only long enough to pick
up her carpet bag and umbrella.
"You may have luxuries and dainties that I have not," she said as she
hurried away, "but I prefer my plain food and simple life in the country
with the peace and security that go with it."
Poverty with security is better than plenty in the midst of fear and
The Ass And His Driver
An Ass was being driven along a road leading down the mountain side, when he
suddenly took it into his silly head to choose his own path. He could see
his stall at the foot of the mountain, and to him the quickest way down
seemed to be over the edge of the nearest cliff. Just as he was about to
leap over, his master caught him by the tail and tried to pull him back, but
the stubborn Ass would not yield and pulled with all his might.
"Very well," said his master, "go your way, you willful beast, and see where
it leads you."
With that he let go, and the foolish Ass tumbled head over heels down the
They who will not listen to reason but stubbornly go their own way against
the friendly advice of those who are wiser than they, are on the road to
The Gnat And The Bull
A Gnat flew over the meadow with much buzzing for so small a creature and
settled on the tip of one of the horns of a Bull. After he had rested a
short time, he made ready to fly away. But before he left he begged the
Bull's pardon for having used his horn for a resting place.
"You must be very glad to have me go now," he said.
"It's all the same to me," replied the Bull. "I did not even know you were
We are often of greater importance in our own eyes than in the eyes of our
The smaller the mind the greater the conceit.
And The Little Fish
A poor Fisherman, who lived on the fish he caught, had bad luck one day and
caught nothing but a very small fry. The Fisherman was about to put it in
his basket when the little Fish said:
"Please spare me, Mr. Fisherman! I am so small it is not worth while to
carry me home. When I am bigger, I shall make you a much better meal."
But the Fisherman quickly put the fish into his basket.
"How foolish I should be," he said, "to throw you back. However small you
may be, you are better than nothing at all."
A small gain is worth more than a large promise.
The Fighting Cocks And The Eagle
Once there were two Cocks living in the same farmyard who could not bear the
sight of each other. At last one day they flew up to fight it out, beak and
claw. They fought until one of them was beaten and crawled off to a corner
The Cock that had won the battle flew to the top of the hen-house, and,
proudly flapping his wings, crowed with all his might to tell the world
about his victory. But an Eagle, circling overhead, heard the boasting
chanticleer and, swooping down, carried him off to his nest.
His rival saw the deed, and coming out of his corner, took his place as
master of the farmyard.
Pride goes before a fall.
The Ass In The Lions Skin
An Ass found a Lion's skin left in the forest by a hunter. He dressed
himself in it, and amused himself by hiding in a thicket and rushing out
suddenly at the animals who passed that way. All took to their heels the
moment they saw him.
The Ass was so pleased to see the animals running away from him, just as if
he were King Lion himself, that he could not keep from expressing his
delight by a loud, harsh bray. A Fox, who ran with the rest, stopped short
as soon as he heard the voice. Approaching the Ass, he said with a laugh:
"If you had kept your mouth shut you might have frightened me, too. But you
gave yourself away with that silly bray."
A fool may deceive by his dress and appearance, but his words will
soon show what he really is.
The Owl And
The Owl always takes her sleep during the day. Then after sundown, when the
rosy light fades from the sky and the shadows rise slowly through the wood,
out she comes ruffling and blinking from the old hollow tree. Now her weird
"hoo-hoo-hoo-oo-oo" echoes through the quiet wood, and she begins her hunt
for the bugs and beetles, frogs and mice she likes so well to eat.
Now there was a certain old Owl who had become very cross and hard to please
as she grew older, especially if anything disturbed her daily slumbers. One
warm summer afternoon as she dozed away in her den in the old oak tree, a
Grasshopper nearby began a joyous but very raspy song. Out popped the old
Owl's head from the opening in the tree that served her both for door and
"Get away from here, sir," she said to the Grasshopper. "Have you no
manners? You should at least respect my age and leave me to sleep in quiet!"
But the Grasshopper answered saucily that he had as much right to his place
in the sun as the Owl had to her place in the old oak. Then he struck up a
louder and still more rasping tune.
The wise old Owl knew quite well that it would do no good to argue with the
Grasshopper, nor with anybody else for that matter. Besides, her eyes were
not sharp enough by day to permit her to punish the Grasshopper as he
deserved. So she laid aside all hard words and spoke very kindly to him.
"Well sir," she said, "if I must stay awake, I am going to settle right down
to enjoy your singing. Now that I think of it, I have a wonderful wine here,
sent me from Olympus, of which I am told Apollo drinks before he sings to
the high gods. Please come up and taste this delicious drink with me. I know
it will make you sing like Apollo himself."
The foolish Grasshopper was taken in by the Owl's flattering words. Up he
jumped to the Owl's den, but as soon as he was near enough so the old Owl
could see him clearly, she pounced upon him and ate him up.
Flattery is not a proof of true admiration.
Do not let flattery throw you off your guard against an enemy.
The Fox And The Stork
The Fox one day thought of a plan to amuse himself at the expense of the
Stork, at whose odd appearance he was always laughing.
"You must come and dine with me today," he said to the Stork, smiling to
himself at the trick he was going to play. The Stork gladly accepted the
invitation and arrived in good time and with a very good appetite.
For dinner the Fox served soup. But it was set out in a very shallow dish,
and all the Stork could do was to wet the very tip of his bill. Not a drop
of soup could he get. But the Fox lapped it up easily, and, to increase the
disappointment of the Stork, made a great show of enjoyment.
The hungry Stork was much displeased at the trick, but he was a calm,
even-tempered fellow and saw no good in flying into a rage. Instead, not
long afterward, he invited the Fox to dine with him in turn. The Fox arrived
promptly at the time that had been set, and the Stork served a fish dinner
that had a very appetizing smell. But it was served in a tall jar with a
very narrow neck. The Stork could easily get at the food with his long bill,
but all the Fox could do was to lick the outside of the jar, and sniff at
the delicious odor. And when the Fox lost his temper, the Stork said calmly:
Do not play tricks on your neighbors unless you can stand the same
The Cock And The Fox
One bright evening as the sun was sinking on a glorious world a wise old
Cock flew into a tree to roost. Before he composed himself to rest, he
flapped his wings three times and crowed loudly. But just as he was about to
put his head under his wing, his beady eyes caught a flash of red and a
glimpse of a long pointed nose, and there just below him stood Master Fox.
"Have you heard the wonderful news?" cried the Fox in a very joyful and
"What news?" asked the Cock very calmly. But he had a queer, fluttery
feeling inside him, for, you know, he was very much afraid of the Fox.
"Your family and mine and all other animals have agreed to forget their
differences and live in peace and friendship from now on forever. Just think
of it! I simply cannot wait to embrace you! Do come down, dear friend, and
let us celebrate the joyful event."
"How grand!" said the Cock. "I certainly am delighted at the news." But he
spoke in an absent way, and stretching up on tiptoes, seemed to be looking
at something afar off.
"What is it you see?" asked the Fox a little anxiously.
"Why, it looks to me like a couple of Dogs coming this way. They must have
heard the good news andó"
But the Fox did not wait to hear more. Off he started on a run.
"Wait," cried the Cock. "Why do you run? The Dogs are friends of yours now!"
"Yes," answered the Fox. "But they might not have heard the news. Besides, I
have a very important errand that I had almost forgotten about."
The Cock smiled as he buried his head in his feathers and went to sleep, for
he had succeeded in outwitting a very crafty enemy.
A Raven And A Swan
A Raven, which you know is black as coal, was envious of the Swan, because
her feathers were as white as the purest snow. The foolish bird got the idea
that if he lived like the Swan, swimming and diving all day long and eating
the weeds and plants that grow in the water, his feathers would turn white
like the Swan's.
So he left his home in the woods and fields and flew down to live on the
lakes and in the marshes. But though he washed and washed all day long,
almost drowning himself at it, his feathers remained as black as ever. And
as the water weeds he ate did not agree with him, he got thinner and
thinner, and at last he died.
A change of habits will not alter nature.
Belling The Cat
The Mice once
called a meeting to decide on a plan to free themselves of their enemy, the
Cat. At least they wished to find some way of knowing when she was coming,
so they might have time to run away. Indeed, something had to be done, for
they lived in such constant fear of her claws that they hardly dared stir
from their dens by night or day.
Many plans were discussed, but none of them was thought good enough. At last
a very young Mouse got up and said:
"I have a plan that seems very simple, but I know it will be successful. All
we have to do is to hang a bell about the Cat's neck. When we hear the bell
ringing we will know immediately that our enemy is coming."
All the Mice were much surprised that they had not thought of such a plan
before. But in the midst of the rejoicing over their good fortune, an old
Mouse arose and said:
"I will say that the plan of the young Mouse is very good. But let me ask
one question: Who will bell the Cat?"
It is one thing to say that something should be done, but quite a
different matter to do it.
Two Travelers And A Bear
Two Men were traveling in company through a forest, when, all at once, a
huge Bear crashed out of the brush near them.
One of the Men, thinking of his own safety, climbed a tree.
The other, unable to fight the savage beast alone, threw himself on the
ground and lay still, as if he were dead. He had heard that a Bear will not
touch a dead body.
It must have been true, for the Bear snuffed at the Man's head awhile, and
then, seeming to be satisfied that he was dead, walked away.
The Man in the tree climbed down.
"It looked just as if that Bear whispered in your ear," he said. "What did
he tell you?"
"He said," answered the other, "that it was not at all wise to keep company
with a fellow who would desert his friend in a moment of danger."
Misfortune is the test of true friendship.
Three Bullocks And A Lion
A Lion had been watching three Bullocks feeding in an open field. He had
tried to attack them several times, but they had kept together, and helped
each other to drive him off. The Lion had little hope of eating them, for he
was no match for three strong Bullocks with their sharp horns and hoofs. But
he could not keep away from that field, for it is hard to resist watching a
good meal, even when there is little chance of getting it.
Then one day the Bullocks had a quarrel, and when the hungry Lion came to
look at them and lick his chops as he was accustomed to do, he found them in
separate corners of the field, as far away from one another as they could
It was now an easy matter for the Lion to attack them one at a time, and
this he proceeded to do with the greatest satisfaction and relish.
In unity is strength.