Friday Fives: Favorite Fables

I used to have a book of Aesop’s fables when I was growing up, and I always enjoyed reading them. I’m not sure whether the morals often attached to the end of the brief stories originated with Aesop, but the point of each fable should be clear (though sometimes it’s not, or more than one moral can be found). So for today’s A-to-Z Friday Five, here are five fables:

The Hare and the Tortoise

The Hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. “I have never yet been beaten,” said he, “when I put forth my full speed. I challenge any one here to race with me.”

The Tortoise said quietly, “I accept your challenge.”

“That is a good joke,” said the Hare; “I could dance round you all the way.”

“Keep your boasting till you’ve beaten,” answered the Tortoise. “Shall we race?”

So a course was fixed and a start was made. The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the winning-post and could not run up in time to save the race. Then said the Tortoise: “Plodding wins the race.”

The Lion and the Mouse

Once when a Lion was asleep a little Mouse began running up and down upon him; this soon wakened the Lion, who placed his huge paw upon him, and opened his big jaws to swallow him. “Pardon, O King,” cried the little Mouse: “forgive me this time, I shall never forget it: who knows but what I may be able to do you a turn some of these days?” The Lion was so tickled at the idea of the Mouse being able to help him, that he lifted up his paw and let him go. Some time after the Lion was caught in a trap, and the hunters who desired to carry him alive to the King, tied him to a tree while they went in search of a wagon to carry him on. Just then the little Mouse happened to pass by, and seeing the sad plight in which the Lion was, went up to him and soon gnawed away the ropes that bound the King of the Beasts. “Was I not right?” said the little Mouse.

The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs

One day a countryman going to the nest of his Goose found there an egg all yellow and glittering. When he took it up it was as heavy as lead and he was going to throw it away, because he thought a trick had been played upon him. But he took it home on second thoughts, and soon found to his delight that it was an egg of pure gold. Every morning the same thing occurred, and he soon became rich by selling his eggs. As he grew rich he grew greedy; and thinking to get at once all the gold the Goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find nothing.

The Fox and the Crow

A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree. “That’s for me, as I am a Fox,” said Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree. “Good-day, Mistress Crow,” he cried. “How well you are looking to-day: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds.” The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox. “That will do,” said he. “That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese I will give you a piece of advice for the future: Do not trust flatterers.”

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

There was once a young Shepherd Boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. It was rather lonely for him all day, so he thought upon a plan by which he could get a little company and some excitement. He rushed down towards the village calling out “Wolf, Wolf,” and the villagers came out to meet him, and some of them stopped with him for a considerable time. This pleased the boy so much that a few days afterwards he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help. But shortly after this a Wolf actually did come out from the forest, and began to worry the sheep, and the boy of course cried out “Wolf, Wolf,” still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again deceiving them, and nobody stirred to come to his help. So the Wolf made a good meal off the boy’s flock, and when the boy complained, the wise man of the village said: “A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth.”

Do you have a favorite fable?

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13 Responses to Friday Fives: Favorite Fables

  1. I’ve always loved Aesop’s fables. I pretty much grew up on them, too. I’ve tried to incorporate a few into my work from time to time, though it’s hard to do so without being painfully obvious.

    Cool post!

    J.W. Alden

    • Thanks, J.W.! They certainly can inspire stories, and have. But you’re right–the trick is not to be too obvious about it since they are so well-known.

  2. I loved Aesop’s Fables as a child too. You have three of my favourites listed above: The Tortoise and the Hare, The Lion and the Mouse, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf. I think sometimes these fables work their way into our stories unbeknownst to us because they are so true at their core. I loved trying to guess what the moral of the story would be at the (slow and steady wins the race). Great lessons to be learned here :)

    • I think The Tortoise and the Hare particularly appealed to me because I was so bad at anything athletic in school. I totally sympathized with the tortoise, though I can’t say I won any races because the athletes all took a nap. But it’s the principle that matters. :D

  3. Oh, I adored Aesop’s fables. They were like mini educational and moral stories, but way more entertaining. :D Plus, they’re enormous fun to try and put a new spin on.

    • I don’t think I’ve *consciously* tried an Aesop re-write, but that would be a fun challenge: to re-write an Aesop fable, but without making it obvious, and perhaps, as you say, with a new spin.

  4. Cool spin on Friday Five, Colin. Fables are one of my favorite types of stories to read with my daughter… Gotta love a classic, and you’ve gotta love a story that hides a lesson. The Lion and the Mouse is one of my favorites as well. :)

    • Thanks, Katy! The edition of Aesop’s Fables I had as a child had the moral of each one printed at the bottom, probably by the editor. I must say, I prefer the stories left like this without the moral spelled out, so you can enjoy each fable and let the implications of it either hit you square in the face, or creep up on you as you think about it. A novel-writing lesson from Ancient Greece! I suppose they knew a thing or two about storytelling… :)

  5. I loved Aesop’s fables as a child, and it was wonderful to read them to my children when they were small.

    I’m just thinking of The Oak and The Reed, and how the moral could be applied to the publishing industry today :-)

    • Oh yes, Sarah, I think that’s a good application to that fable! For the benefit of those who don’t recall this particular story, here’s one version of it:

      THE OAK AND THE REEDS
      An Oak that grew on the bank of a river was uprooted by a severe gale of wind, and thrown across the stream. It fell among some Reeds growing by the water, and said to them, “How is it that you, who are so frail and slender, have managed to weather the storm, whereas I, with all my strength, have been torn up by the roots and hurled into the river?” “You were stubborn,” came the reply, “and fought against the storm, which proved stronger than you: but we bow and yield to every breeze, and thus the gale passed harmlessly over our heads.”

  6. I always loved the Goose That Laid The Golden Egg best, My grandmother read it to me every time I slept over; it was her favorite, too. What a great Friday Five!

  7. Pingback: A-to-Z Blogging Challenge 2013: Reflections » Colin D Smith

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