2017-12-30

India: The Frog-King's Folly

As the new year begins, I want to do a better job of including fables from India here at the blog, and here is one that is a great blend of familiar elements from Aesop, such as a trickster who lays a deadly trap for a foolish victim, along with some distinctively Indian elements, such as individual names for the animals and a karmic curse (or, rather, a pretend-curse, as the frog learns to his great cost).

This is a traditional story that goes back to the ancient Panchatantra, and the version I am sharing here is told by the modern author, Shovona Devi (a niece of Rabindranath Tagore); she included the story in her collection of Indian Fables and Folktales.


THE FROG-KING'S FOLLY

Once upon a time a snake had grown too old to catch prey, so it went and took up its quarters beside a pool where there were many frogs.

The King of the Frogs, named Yal-Pada, the Web-Footed One, was apprised of the coming of this dangerous stranger. He went to the snake, attended by all the frogs, to enquire why, of all places on earth, it had chosen the vicinity of this particular pool for its home.

"I am named Manda-Vish, Slow Poison, O King Yal-Pada," said the snake, lowering its hood. "I am under a curse and forbidden to harm frogs without the leave of their king. Once I pursued a frog and by accident bit a Brahmin. He died, pronouncing this curse on me: May you die if you eat a frog again unless with the leave of the King of the Frogs. O King Yal-Pada, I mean to do penance for my sin in slaying the Brahmin," said the snake. "Let it be my penance to bear your majesty on my head wherever it shall please you to ride."

Without more ado Yal-Pada leaped onto the hood of the snake, which crawled away, swaying its body gracefully to and fro. The other frogs looked on amazed, but some bolder spirits amongst them followed their king at a distance.

After a time the snake stopped, gasping.

"Why do you stay, O Manda-Vish?" asked Yal-Pada.

"O King of the Frogs, I am famished and faint," replied the wily serpent. "I cannot bear you back to the pool unless you grant me something to eat. To eat a frog without your leave, I have told you, would mean my death."

King Yal-Pada had enjoyed his ride immensely, and did not like the idea of losing his dignity by hopping back to the pool, so he offered one of his attendant frogs to the snake. Having thus appeased its hunger, Manda-Vish took the King of the Frogs up on its hood again and crawled away back to the pool.

In this way the snake was provided with a frog every day, and in return for its meals it took Yal-Pada out on its hood for a ride. Thus one by one all the frogs were eaten up.

When there were no more frogs left for it, Manda-Vish made its last meal off King Yal-Pada, and then departed to find fresh folly to be the victim of its guile.


2017-12-26

Aesop: The Mouse and its Mother

After the unfortunate story of the thief's mother and her poor parenting, I thought I would do a fable about a wiser mother: this is the story of a mouse-mother teaching a young mouse not to be fooled by appearances. The rooster may look fierce but he poses no threat to the mouse, while things are just the opposite when it comes to the cat.

I've collected different English versions and illustrations for this story, and for comparative purposes, I thought I would include one longer version here, and one shorter version.

The longer version is from The Aesop for Children with illustrations by Milo Winter:

THE CAT, THE COCK, AND THE YOUNG MOUSE


A very young Mouse, who had never seen anything of the world, almost came to grief the very first time he ventured out. And this is the story he told his mother about his adventures. "I was strolling along very peaceably when, just as I turned the corner into the next yard, I saw two strange creatures. One of them had a very kind and gracious look, but the other was the most fearful monster you can imagine. You should have seen him. On top of his head and in front of his neck hung pieces of raw red meat. He walked about restlessly, tearing up the ground with his toes, and beating his arms savagely against his sides. The moment he caught sight of me he opened his pointed mouth as if to swallow me, and then he let out a piercing roar that frightened me almost to death."

Can you guess who it was that our young Mouse was trying to describe to his mother? It was nobody but the Barnyard Cock and the first one the little Mouse had ever seen.

"If it had not been for that terrible monster," the Mouse went on, "I should have made the acquaintance of the pretty creature, who looked so good and gentle. He had thick, velvety fur, a meek face, and a look that was very modest, though his eyes were bright and shining. As he looked at me he waved his fine long tail and smiled. I am sure he was just about to speak to me when the monster I have told you about let out a screaming yell, and I ran for my life."

"My son," said the Mother Mouse, "that gentle creature you saw was none other than the Cat. Under his kindly appearance, he bears a grudge against every one of us. The other was nothing but a bird who wouldn't harm you in the least. As for the Cat, he eats us. So be thankful, my child, that you escaped with your life, and, as long as you live, never judge people by their looks."

Do not trust alone to outward appearances.

And just to show how it is possible to tell the "same" story but very much shortened, here is the version from Baby's Book of Fables:

THE CAT, THE COCK, AND THE MOUSE

"Mother," said a little mouse, "I saw just now a soft, white, kind-looking animal creeping along. I meant to go to it and make friends; but a great, fierce bird stood close by, and gave such a dreadful shriek that I was afraid, and ran away."

"Ah, child," said the mother, "that kind-looking animal is a cat, who would eat you. The bird is a cock, who would do you no harm."

Never judge by appearances.

And here is Granville's illustration for La Fontaine's version of this story:



2017-12-23

Aesop: The Thief and His Mother

After stories two wise parents (the father and the lion), I thought it would be good to share a fable where the parent has failed to do their duty in educating their child. This is Aesop's fable about the young thief and his mother, and be warned: it's a bit gruesome.

I've collected different English versions and illustrations, and the version I've reproduced here is from an unusual little publication: it's an advertising pamphlet published in 1895 by the Halford Sauce Company which contains 27 fables accompanied by Karel van Sichem's 17th-century woodcuts. For some reason they included this grim little fable in the pamphlet!

THE THIEF AND HIS MOTHER

A Boy stole a book from a schoolmate, and took it home to his Mother. This was his first theft, but under his mother's commendation he continued to pilfer till he reached man’s estate, when, at last, he was taken in the act, and led away to public execution. 

His Mother followed, tearing her hair in sorrow, whereon the young man said, “I wish to say something to my Mother in her ear.” 

She approached him when, seizing her ear in his teeth, he bit it off. Upbraiding him for his unnatural act, he replied, “Ah, if you had corrected me when I first stole the school-book, I should not have come to this disgraceful end.” 

MORAL. Those whose vices are not corrected in youth afterwards suffer greater calamities. 




2017-12-22

Aesop: The Undutiful Young Lion

After a father teaching his sons (with the bundle of sticks), I thought I would do a lion father teaching his son... although this son does not heed the lesson that his father tries to teach him. Instead, he learns the hard way, lucky to escape with his life!

This is the version from Bewick's Aesop of 1784:


THE UNDUTIFUL YOUNG LION

Among other good counsels that an old experienced Lion gave to his whelp, this was one, that he should never contend with a man: "for," says he, "if ever you do, you'll be worsted."

The little Lion gave his father the hearing, and kept the advice in his thought, but it never went near his heart. When he came to be grown up, afterwards, and in the flower of his strength and vigour, about he ranges to look for a man to grapple with.

In his ramble he met with a yoke of oxen, and then with a horse, saddled and bridled, and severally asked them if they were men; but they saying they were not, he goes after this to one that was cleaving of blocks: "D'ye hear?" says the Lion, "you seem to be a man."

"And a man I am," says the fellow.

"That's well," quoth the Lion, "and dare you fight with me?"

"Yes," says the man, "I dare: why, I can tear all these blocks to pieces, you see. Put your feet now into this gap, where you see an iron thing there, and try what you can do."

The Lion presently put his paws into the gaping of the wood, and with one lusty pluck made it give way, and out drops the wedge; the wood immediately closing upon it, there was the Lion caught by the toes.

The Wood-man presently upon this raises the country, and the Lion finding what a strait he was in, gave one hearty twitch and got his feet out of the trap, but left his claws behind him.

So away he goes back to his father, all lame and bloody, with this confession in his mouth: "Alas! my dear father," says he, "this had never been, if I had followed your advice."

MORAL. The vengeance of Heaven, sooner or later, treads upon the heels of wilful disobedience to parents.

2017-12-21

Aesop: The Bundle of Sticks

Although Aesop's fables were not originally written for children, they did always have a "didactic" element, conveying some kind of moral or lesson. It is thus not surprising to find that fables sometimes feature parents teaching, or attempting to teach, their children, as in yesterday's fable about the crab-mother and her daughter (or son). So, I was thinking it would be fun to do a series of fable parents and children, showing the kinds of lessons they teach.

For today, I chose a very famous one about a father trying to teach his quarrelsome sons to cooperate. This one is famous enough to have a Wikipedia article of its own: The Old Man and his Sons. In addition to being widely repeated over the ages, it was also known in the ancient world beyond Aesop. For example, the same story was told of a Scythian king who supposedly shared this lesson with all eighty of his surviving sons; he used javelins, instead of sticks (see Scilurus, in Plutarch's Sayings of the Kings and Commanders).

I have collected various English versions and illustrations, and the one I chose to use here is the version by Croxall:


THE OLD MAN AND HIS SONS

An old man had many sons, who were often falling out with one another. When the father had exerted his authority, and used other means in order to reconcile them, and all to no purpose, at last he had recourse to this expedient: he ordered his sons to be called before him, and a short bundle of sticks to be brought, and then commanded them, one by one, to try if, with all their might and strength, they could any of them break it.

They all tried, but to no purpose; for the sticks being closely and compactly bound up together, it was impossible for the force of man to do it.

After this, the father ordered the bundle to be untied, and gave a single stick to each of his sons, at the same time bidding him try to break it.

Which when each did with all imaginable ease, the father addressed himself to them to this effect: "O, my sons, behold the power of unity! For if you in like manner would but keep yourselves strictly conjoined in the bonds of friendship, it would not be in the power of any mortal to hurt you; but when once the ties of brotherly affection are dissolved, how soon do you fall to pieces, and are liable to be. violated by every injurious hand that assaults you."

And for an illustration, here is Walter Crane, which also has a limerick by Linton:


THE BUNDLE OF STICKS. 

To his sons, who fell out, father spake:
"This Bundle of Sticks you can't break;
Take them singly, with ease,
You may break as you please;
So, dissension your strength will unmake."

STRENGTH IS IN UNITY


2017-12-20

Aesop: Mother Crab

Yesterday's fable about the frog who claimed that he was a physician (but could not heal himself) reminds me of another fable about hypocrisy: the story of one crab teaching another crab how to walk straight. It is a "do as I say, not as I do" type of fable! As a teacher, I always take this fable very much to heart, trying not to ask students to do things that I am unwilling (or unable!) to do myself.

The fable is usually told about a mother and her daughter (although sometimes a son instead), but it is not always a crab in English; sometimes the classical crab becomes a lobster or a crayfish instead.

I've collected different English versions and illustrations, and I've chosen the fable-in-verse by Mary Leone Gilliam Thummel to include here:

THE TWO CRABS 

"My dear," said old Mrs. Crab to her daughter,
"Of all awkward beasts on land or on water,
Though they walk, though they jump, though they hop or crawl,
You surely are the most awkward of all."
"O mother, I thought all the graces I knew,
For I've faithfully tried to walk just like you.
But if you will teach me a more graceful way,
I'll learn, for I'll practice by night and by day."
'Tis strange, very strange, how much plainer I see
The mistakes that you make, than those made by me.

And just to show that it is not always a crab-daughter, here is an even shorter fable poem by Oliver Herford which features a crab-son:

THE CRAB AND HIS MOTHER

Said a Crab in tone irate
To her son, "Your sidelong gait
Annoys me; can you not go straight?
Said the Son, "I'll try, if you
Will show me how." What could she do?
Mother Crab went sideways too!

Here's an illustration by Milo Winter which also features a mother and son... with very gendered clothing!


And as an example with lobsters, here is an illustration to La Fontaine by Grandville:


2017-12-19

Aesop: The Frog Physician

After the fables about the cat-as-physician and the lion-as-physician, I have to include the most famous would-be physician in Aesop's fables: the frog. The fable echoes the theme of the famous Biblical rebuke, "Physician, heal thyself," but this time it is the fox who rebukes the sickly-looking frog.

I've collected different English versions and illustrations here, and I picked the Thomas James version to use here. I like the way that invokes Asclepius, the god-physician who was son of Apollo, and whose snake-entwined rod is still famous as a symbol of medicine.


THE QUACK FROG

A Frog emerging from the mud of a swamp, proclaimed to all the world that he was come to cure all diseases. “Here!” he cried; “come and see a doctor, the proprietor of medicines such as man never heard of before; no, not Aesculapius himself, Jove’s court-physician!”

“And how,” said the Fox, “dare you set up to heal others, who are not able to cure your own limping gait, and blotched and wrinkled skin?”

Test a man’s profession by his practice. Physician, heal thyself.

This illustration by Arthur Rackham is a fun one:



And here is another fun one by J. M. Conde:






2017-12-18

Aesop: The Horse and the Lion

After yesterday's fable about the cat as a false friend to the birds, I thought I would follow up with a story about the lion (a big cat!) who plays false friend to a horse, acting like a physician, just as the cat did.

This fable is sometimes told about a wolf instead of a lion, and sometimes a donkey instead of a horse; you can see some different variations and illustrations here.

Here is the version from Croxall's Aesop: I like the way the horse goes away neighing and laughing!


THE HORSE AND THE LION

A lion, seeing a fine plump nag, had a great mind to eat a bit of him, but knew not which way to get him into his power. At last he bethought himself of this contrivance; he gave out that he was a physician, who having gained experience by his travels into foreign countries, had made himself capable of curing any sort of malady or distemper incident to any kind of beast, hoping by this stratagem to get an easier admittance among cattle, and find an opportunity to execute his design.

The horse, who smoked the matter, was resolved to be even with him; and so humouring the thing, as if he suspected nothing, he prayed the lion to give him his advice in relation to a thorn which he had got in his foot, which had quite lamed him, and gave him great pain and uneasiness.

The lion readily agreed, and desired he might see the foot; upon which the horse lifted up one of his hind legs, and while the lion pretended to be poring earnestly upon his hoof, gave him such a kick in the face as quite stunned him, and left him sprawling upon the ground. In the meantime, the horse trotted away, neighing and laughing merrily at the success of the trick, by which he had defeated the purpose of one who intended to have tricked him out of his life.

Here is the accompanying illustration:


In this colored woodcut from Steinhowel's Aesop, you can see that the horse has drawn blood!

2017-12-17

Aesop: The Cat and the Birds

Yesterday's fable was about a wolf who offered to play midwife to the sow (and the sow wisely refused), and I thought I would follow that up with another story about a pretend helper: this is a story about a cat who pretends to be a doctor to the chickens!

I've collected different versions and illustrations here, and I like this one from Aesop's Fables by Lena Dalkeith, with pictures by S. R. Praeger, published in 1908:

THE CAT AND THE BIRDS


One morning a cat with much care dressed himself up like a doctor, and went to call on some little birds that lived in a cage near by.

"Good morning," he said. "I heard from a friend that there was illness amongst you, and, being very much grieved, I hastened here as quickly as I could to see if I could help you in any way."


"No, thank you," cried all the little birds in a chorus; "there is nothing the matter with us. We are very well indeed, and we shall all keep very well so long as our door is shut and you are on the outside of it."

~ ~ ~

I also like the Townsend version because of the metaphorical moral, "Cats hide their claws."

THE CAT AND THE BIRDS

A Cat, hearing that the Birds in a certain aviary were ailing dressed himself up as a physician, and, taking his cane and a bag of instruments becoming his profession, went to call on them. He knocked at the door and inquired of the inmates how they all did, saying that if they were ill, he would be happy to prescribe for them and cure them. They replied, “We are all very well, and shall continue so, if you will only be good enough to go away, and leave us as we are.”
Moral. Cats hide their claws

This illustration by Arthur Rackham is a fun one:

2017-12-16

Aesop: The Sow and the Wolf

After yesterday's fable about the sow and her piglets, I thought I would do another fable about a sow mother; in this fable, the sow has to fend off the offer of a false friend: the wolf. There are many fables about false friends. What I like about this one is that it shows the wolf trying to be sneaky. Luckily, though, the sow is too smart even for this sneaky wolf!

I've collected different English translations and illustrations here, and the one I picked to use here is the 15th-century English version by Caxton. The English of that time is not easy to read, so I've included a modernized version here too, side by side:

Of the sow and the wolf
It is not good to believe all such things as men may hear, whereof Aesop tells such a fable of a wolf which came to a sow and wept and sorrowed for the great pain that the sow felt because she was giving birth to her young piggies. And the wolf came to her saying: My sister, give birth to your young piggies with confidence, for joyously and with good will I shall help and serve you. And the sow then said to him: Go forth on your way for I have no need nor requirement of such a servant, for as long as you shall stand here, I shall not give birth to my children, for you desire nothing other than to have and eat them. The wolf then went and the sow soon gave birth to her piggies. For if she had believed him, she would have had a sorrowful birth.
And thus he that believes foolish things, foolish things happen to him.

Of the sowe and of the wulf
It is not good to byleue all suche thynges as men may here / wherof Esope sayth suche a fable / Of a wulf whiche came toward a sowe / whiche wepte and made sorowe for the grete payne that she felte / by cause she wold make her yong pygges / And the wulf came to her sayeng / My suster make thy yong pygges surely / for ioyously and with good wylle / I shalle helpe & serue the / And the sowe sayd thenne to hym / go forth on thy waye / for I haue no nede ne myster of suche a seruaunt / For as long as thow shalt stonde here I shal not delyuere me of my charge / For other thyng thow desyrest not / than to haue and ete them / The wulf thenne wente / and the sowe was anone delyuerd of her pygges / For yf she had byleuyd hym she had done a sorowful byrthe /
And thus he that folysshly byleueth / folysshly it happeth to hym

And here is the 15th-century woodcut that goes with the fable:

2017-12-14

Aesop: Eagle, Cat, and Sow

After the fable of the eagle mother and the fox mother, I thought I would do another fable about animal mothers, this time about an eagle, a pig, and a very wicked cat. The wicked cat is an expert at the strategy of "divide and conquer," as you will see. The Roman poet Phaedrus tells this story, which means you can also find it in later fabulists; I've collected different English versions and illustrations here.

This is a rhyming version by Mary Leone Gilliam Thummel with an illustration by Edward Eksergian.


THE EAGLE, THE CAT, AND THE SOW 

In the top of a tree was an old eagle's nest,
Where she and her young with contentment were blest.
A sow and her family took up their abode
In the hollow trunk, just close on the road,
While a wild cat reposed in a hole in the middle,
And all went as happy and gay as a fiddle,
Till the cat, with her evil and treacherous mind,
Which to trouble and mischief was always inclined,
Crept up to the eagle and said, "Woe is me!
The old sow I am sure is uprooting the tree!
She will root all around till down it will fall,
And then she'll devour us, young ones, and all!"
The eagle, affrighted, would not leave her brood,
Lest they all perish while she went for food.
This done, the old cat went down to the sow,
Saying, "Friend, I'll tell yon, you'll have trouble now,
The old eagle is watching till you go away,
To get one of your piggies for dinner today."
The sow was now frightened as much as the eagle,
And nothing could her from the hollow inveigle,
So both of these families were starved in the tree,
And the wild cat and her young ones feasted in glee.
The friend who drops in to slander a neighbor
Is more to be shunned than a foe with a saber.



2017-12-09

Aesop: The Eagle and the Fox

After yesterday's post about the eagle and her young (The Eagle and the Beetle), I thought I would move on to another story about the eagle-mother, who steals the young fox cub(s) to feed to her own eagle chicks.

This fable of the eagle and the fox has two very different endings: in versions derived from the Roman poet Phaedrus, the fox threatens the eagle and thus rescues her children, but in other versions coming from the Greek prose tradition, the eagle chicks do indeed devour the little fox(es), and then the fox mother gets her revenge by eating the eagle's chicks. I've included an example of each version below.

This is from Thomas James's Aesop, with illustrations by Tenniel:


THE EAGLE AND THE FOX 

An Eagle and a Fox had long lived together as good neighbours, the Eagle at the summit of a high tree, the Fox in a hole at the foot of it.

One day, however, while the Fox was abroad, the Eagle made a swoop at the Fox's cub and carried it off to her nest, thinking that her lofty dwelling would secure her from the Fox's revenge.

The Fox on her return home upbraided the Eagle for this breach of friendship, and begged earnestly to have her young one again; but finding that her entreaties were of no avail, she snatched a torch from an altar-fire that had been lighted hard by, and involving the whole tree in flame and smoke, soon made the Eagle restore, through fear for herself and her own young ones, the cub which she had just now denied to her most earnest prayers.

The tyrant, though he may despise the tears of the oppressed, is never safe from their vengeance.

~ ~ ~

Here is the more gruesome version as found in Townsend's Aesop, with illustrations by Harrison Weir:

THE EAGLE AND THE FOX 

An Eagle and a Fox formed an intimate friendship and decided to live near each other. The Eagle built her nest in the branches of a tall tree, while the Fox crept into the underwood and there produced her young.

Not long after they had agreed upon this plan, the Eagle, being in want of provision for her young ones, swooped down while the Fox was out, seized upon one of the little cubs, and feasted herself and her brood.

The Fox on her return, discovered what had happened, but was less grieved for the death of her young than for her inability to avenge them.

A just retribution, however, quickly fell upon the Eagle. While hovering near an altar, on which some villagers were sacrificing a goat, she suddenly seized a piece of the flesh, and carried it, along with a burning cinder, to her nest. A strong breeze soon fanned the spark into a flame, and the eaglets, as yet unfledged and helpless, were roasted in their nest and dropped down dead at the bottom of the tree. There, in the sight of the Eagle, the Fox gobbled them up.

2017-12-07

Aesop: The Eagle and the Beetle

After Jupiter and the bee yesterday, I wanted to do another story with Jupiter, so I chose this wonderful story about the dung-beetle and the eagle. The eagle is Jupiter's chosen bird (just as the peacock is the bird beloved of his wife, Juno), so when the eagle needs help, it goes to Jupiter... but that is not enough to protect the eagle from the dung-beetle's revenge.

You can see different versions and illustrations here; I've chosen the version from The Aesop for Children, illustrated by Milo Winter:


THE EAGLE AND THE BEETLE

A Beetle once begged the Eagle to spare a Hare which had run to her for protection. But the Eagle pounced upon her prey, the sweep of her great wings tumbling the Beetle a dozen feet away.

Furious at the disrespect shown her, the Beetle flew to the Eagle's nest and rolled out the eggs. Not one did she spare.

The Eagle's grief and anger knew no bounds, but who had done the cruel deed she did not know.

Next year the Eagle built her nest far up on a mountain crag; but the Beetle found it and again destroyed the eggs.

In despair the Eagle now implored great Jupiter to let her place her eggs in his lap. There none would dare harm them.

But the Beetle buzzed about Jupiter's head, and made him rise to drive her away; and the eggs rolled from his lap.


Now the Beetle told the reason for her action, and Jupiter had to acknowledge the justice of her cause. And they say that ever after, while the Eagle's eggs lie in the nest in spring, the Beetle still sleeps in the ground. For so Jupiter commanded.

Even the weakest may find means to avenge a wrong.

~ ~ ~

And take a look also at this illustration from the Medici Aesop: you can see the eagle snatching the rabbit and carrying it away, then the beetle rolling the eggs out of the nest, and finally the beetle making Jupiter cast the eggs from his lap!




2017-12-06

Aesop: Jupiter and the Bee

After yesterday's post about the bear and the bees, I thought I would share a fable from the bee's perspective: it is an aetiological fable about how the bee got its sting. As you would expect, the god Zeus (Jupiter) is involved in determining the bee's nature. Like bear, the bee pays a price for its anger; because it wants to express its anger, the bee ultimately loses its life.

Here is Thomas James's translation of the Greek fable:


JUPITER AND THE BEE 

In days of yore when the world was young, a Bee that had stored her combs with a bountiful harvest flew up to heaven to present as a sacrifice an offering of honey.

Jupiter was so delighted with the gift that he promised to give her whatsoever she should ask for. She therefore besought him saying, "O glorious Jove, maker and master of me, poor Bee, give thy servant a sting that when any one approaches my hive to take the honey I may kill him on the spot."

Jupiter out of love to man was angry at her request and thus answered her, "Your prayer shall not be granted in the way you wish, but the sting which you ask for you shall have, and when anyone comes to take away your honey and you attack him, the wound shall be fatal not to him but to you, for your life shall go with your sting."

He that prays harm for his neighbour begs a curse upon himself.


And here is an illustration from Steinhowel's Aesop:





2017-12-04

Aesop: The Bear and the Bees

Although I have labeled this a fable of Aesop, it belongs to the "neo-Latin Aesop" of the Renaissance; the first version I know of this fable is found in the fables of Abstemius, who lived from 1440-1508; you can find out more at Wikipedia. Among other works, he was the author of a book called Hecatomythium, a collection of one hundred fables (mythos is the Greek word for a fable or story).

I thought this would be a good fable to share for all the students out there feeling the stress and pressure of finals. Don't be like the bear and let one little "sting" unleash your anger: stay calm, and as the modern saying advises: Don't sweat the small stuff.

Here is the story as told in Aesop for Children (published in 1919):

THE BEAR AND THE BEES

A Bear roaming the woods in search of berries happened on a fallen tree in which a swarm of Bees had stored their honey. The Bear began to nose around the log very carefully to find out if the Bees were at home. Just then one of the swarm came home from the clover field with a load of sweets. Guessing what the Bear was after, the Bee flew at him, stung him sharply and then disappeared into the hollow log.

The Bear lost his temper in an instant, and sprang upon the log tooth and claw, to destroy the nest. But this only brought out the whole swarm. The poor Bear had to take to his heels, and he was able to save himself only by diving into a pool of water.

It is wiser to bear a single injury in silence than to provoke a thousand by flying into a rage.

And here is the illustration by Francis Barlow: you can tell the poor bear is realizing his mistake!

2017-12-03

Aesop: The Moon and Her Mother

A while ago I shared a fable from Nigeria, Nigeria: Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky. I am a big fan of these "why" stories, which are also called "aetiological" fables, from the Greek word aetion, meaning "cause."

So, as a follow-up to that fable, I wanted to share one of Aesop's aetiological fables, this one being about the moon and, specifically, why the moon changes shape. In this fable, the moon is imagined as a woman, and she has a mother... and the mother is having a hard time with the fact that her daughter keeps changing her size! So, it's not really an aetiological fable per se: instead of telling us why the moon changes size, this fable is more about the aftermath and what a bother it is that the moon will not stay the same size.

Here is the fable in V. S. Vernon Jones's translation:


THE MOON AND HER MOTHER

The Moon once begged her Mother to make her a gown. "How can I?" replied she; "there's no fitting your figure. At one time you're a New Moon, and at another you're a Full Moon; and between whiles you're neither one nor the other."


And here is an illustration by the marvelous Arthur Rackham: