2018-01-20

Aesop: The Grasshopper and the Ant

After the story of how the grasshopper's singing annoyed the owl, I feel obliged to the follow that with the famous fable of the grasshopper and the ant.

I have collected lots of different English versions and illustrations, and here is the one by  V. S. Vernon Jones:

THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANTS

One fine day in winter some Ants were busy drying their store of corn, which had got rather damp during a long spell of rain.

Presently up came a Grasshopper and begged them to spare her a few grains, "For," she said, "I'm simply starving."

The Ants stopped work for a moment, though this was against their principles. "May we ask," said they, "what you were doing with yourself all last summer? Why didn't you collect a store of food for the winter?"

"The fact is," replied the Grasshopper, "I was so busy singing that I hadn't the time."

"If you spent the summer singing," replied the Ants, "you can't do better than spend the winter dancing." And they chuckled and went on with their work.

The Vernon-Jones book is by Arthur Rackham:


There are quite a few versions which are critical of the ant's selfishness, as you can see here in the version by Charles Bennett:

THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER

As a rich purse-proud Ant was airing himself at the foot of an old oak tree, beneath the roots of which lay his vast bonded warehouses of Corn, up came a poor starveling Grasshopper to solicit a grain of barley. The selfish Ant told him he should have laboured in Summer if he would not have wanted in Winter.

"But," said the poor Chirper, "I was not idle: I sung out the whole season. I did my best to amuse you and your fellow-husbandmen while you were getting in your harvest."

"If that is the case," returned the Ant with unpardonable callousness, "you may make a merry year of it, and dance in Winter to the tune you sang in Summer."

MORAL. As the world dispenses its payments, it is decreed that the Poet who sings for his breakfast shall whistle for his dinner.

Here is Bennett's illustration:

2018-01-17

Aesop: The Owl and the Grasshopper

I was wondering how to follow up the story of the sneaky meals served by the fox and the stork, and the first fable that came to mind is the fable of an owl and a noisy insect, who is sometimes a cicada, and sometimes a grasshopper.. If you have noisy neighbors, you will sympathize with the owl, but please don't do what the owl does!

I've collected different English versions and illustrations of the story, and the one I chose for this post is by Jenny H. Stickeny, illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull.

THE OWL AND THE GRASSHOPPER

An Owl, who was sitting in a hollow tree, dozing away a long summer afternoon, was much disturbed by a rogue of a Grasshopper, singing in the grass below. So far from moving away at the request of the Owl, or keeping quiet, the Grasshopper sang all the more, saying that honest people got their sleep at night.

The Owl waited in silence for a while, and then artfully addressed the Grasshopper thus: "I suppose I ought to be angry with you, my dear, for I confess I would rather sleep than listen to your singing. But if one cannot be allowed to sleep, it is something to be kept awake by such a pleasant little pipe as yours. And now it occurs to me that I have some delicious nectar with which to reward a musician who sings so sweetly. If you will take the trouble to come up, you shall have a drop. It will clear your voice nicely."

The silly Grasshopper came hopping up to the Owl, who at once caught and killed him, and so finished her nap in comfort.



2018-01-15

Aesop: The Fox and the Stork

Yesterday's fable featured the wolf and the long-beaked bird, which might be a stork or a crane or a heron... the beak is the thing! There's another famous Aesop's fable about a bird with a beak, usually a crane or stork, who outsmarts the fox, whose obviously does not have a long beak like a bird!

I've collected many English versions and illustrations of the fox and the long-beaked bird, and I especially like this short-and-sweet English translation of the Latin fable by the Roman poet Phaedrus:

THE FOX AND THE STORK

Harm should be done to no man; but if anyone do an injury, this Fable shows that he may be visited with a like return.

A Fox is said to have given a Stork the first invitation to a banquet, and to have placed before her some thin broth in a flat dish, of which the hungry Stork could in no way get a taste.

Having invited the Fox in return, she set before him a narrow-mouthed jar, full of minced meat: and, thrusting her beak into it, satisfied herself, while she tormented her guest with hunger; who, after having in vain licked the neck of the jar, as we have heard, thus addressed the foreign bird:

“Everyone is bound to bear patiently the results of his own example.” 

Here are two illustrations that show both phases of the story; one by Walter Crane and one by Charles Robinson: