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):


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!

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