THE BOY AND THE SNAILS
A Farmer’s Boy went looking for Snails, and, when he had picked up both his hands full, he set about making a fire at which to roast them; for he meant to eat them. When it got well alight and the Snails began to feel the heat, they gradually withdrew more and more into their shells with the hissing noise they always make when they do so. When the Boy heard it, he said, “You abandoned creatures, how can you find heart to whistle when your houses are burning?”
THE APES AND THE TWO TRAVELERS
Two men were travelling together, one of whom never spoke the truth, whereas the other never told a lie: and they came in the course of their travels to the land of Apes. The King of the Apes, hearing of their arrival, ordered them to be brought before him; and by way of impressing them with his magnificence, he received them sitting on a throne, while the Apes, his subjects, were ranged in long rows on either side of him. When the Travelers came into his presence he asked them what they thought of him as a King. The lying Traveler said, “Sire, every one must see that you are a most noble and mighty monarch.” “And what do you think of my subjects?” continued the King. “They,” said the Traveler, “are in every way worthy of their royal master.” The Ape was so delighted with his answer that he gave him a very handsome present. The other Traveler thought that if his companion was rewarded so splendidly for telling a lie, he himself would certainly receive a still greater reward for telling the truth; so, when the Ape turned to him and said, “And what, sir, is your opinion?” he replied, “I think you are a very fine Ape, and all your subjects are fine Apes too.” The King of the Apes was so enraged at his reply that he ordered him to be taken away and clawed to death.
THE ASS AND HIS BURDENS
A Peddler who owned an Ass one day bought a quantity of salt, and loaded up his beast with as much as he could bear. On the way home the Ass stumbled as he was crossing a stream and fell into the water. The salt got thoroughly wet and much of it melted and drained away, so that, when he got on his legs again, the Ass found his load had become much less heavy. His master, however, drove him back to town and bought more salt, which he added to what remained in the panniers, and started out again. No sooner had they reached a stream than the Ass lay down in it, and rose, as before, with a much lighter load. But his master detected the trick, and turning back once more, bought a large number of sponges, and piled them on the back of the Ass. When they came to the stream the Ass again lay down: but this time, as the sponges soaked up large quantities of water, he found, when he got up on his legs, that he had a bigger burden to carry than ever.
MORAL: You may play a good card once too often.
THE SHEPHERD’S BOY AND THE WOLF
A Shepherd’s Boy was tending his flock near a village, and thought it would be great fun to hoax the villagers by pretending that a Wolf was attacking the sheep: so he shouted out, “Wolf! wolf!” and when the people came running up he laughed at them for their pains. He did this more than once, and every time the villagers found they had been hoaxed, for there was no Wolf at all. At last a Wolf really did come, and the Boy cried, “Wolf! wolf!” as loud as he could: but the people were so used to hearing him call that they took no notice of his cries for help. And so the Wolf had it all his own way, and killed off sheep after sheep at his leisure.
MORAL: You cannot believe a liar even when he tells the truth.
THE FOX AND THE GOAT
A Fox fell into a well and was unable to get out again. By and by a thirsty Goat came by, and seeing the Fox in the well asked him if the water was good. “Good?” said the Fox, “it’s the best water I ever tasted in all my life. Come down and try it yourself.” The Goat thought of nothing but the prospect of quenching his thirst, and jumped in at once. When he had had enough to drink, he looked about, like the Fox, for some way of getting out, but could find none. Presently the Fox said, “I have an idea. You stand on your hind legs, and plant your forelegs firmly against the side of the well, and then I’ll climb on to your back, and, from there, by stepping on your horns, I can get out. And when I’m out, I’ll help you out too.” The Goat did as he was requested, and the Fox climbed on to his back and so out of the well; and then he coolly walked away. The Goat called loudly after him and reminded him of his promise to help him out: but the Fox merely turned and said, “If you had as much sense in your head as you have hair in your beard you wouldn’t have got into the well without making certain that you could get out again.”
MORAL: Look before your leap.
THE FISHERMAN AND THE SPRAT
A Fisherman cast his net into the sea, and when he drew it up again it contained nothing but a single Sprat that begged to be put back into the water. “I’m only a little fish now,” it said, “but I shall grow big one day, and then if you come and catch me again I shall be of some use to you.” But the Fisherman replied, “Oh, no, I shall keep you now I’ve got you: if I put you back, should I ever see you again? Not likely!”
THE BOASTING TRAVELER
A Man once went abroad on his travels, and when he came home he had wonderful tales to tell of the things he had done in foreign countries. Among other things, he said he had taken part in a jumping-match at Rhodes, and had done a wonderful jump which no one could beat. “Just go to Rhodes and ask them,” he said; “every one will tell you it’s true.” But one of those who were listening said, “If you can jump as well as all that, we needn’t go to Rhodes to prove it. Let’s just imagine this is Rhodes for a minute: and now–jump!”
MORAL: Deeds, not words.
THE CRAB AND HIS MOTHER
An Old Crab said to her son, “Why do you walk sideways like that, my son? You ought to walk straight.” The Young Crab replied, “Show me how, dear mother, and I’ll follow your example.” The Old Crab tried, but tried in vain, and then saw how foolish she had been to find fault with her child.
MORAL: Example is better than precept.
THE ASS AND HIS SHADOW
A certain man hired an Ass for a journey in summertime, and started out with the owner following behind to drive the beast. By and by, in the heat of the day, they stopped to rest, and the traveler wanted to lie down in the Ass’s Shadow; but the owner, who himself wished to be out of the sun, wouldn’t let him do that; for he said he had hired the Ass only, and not his Shadow: the other maintained that his bargain secured him complete control of the Ass for the time being. From words they came to blows; and while they were belaboring each other the Ass took to his heels and was soon out of sight.