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:

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