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The Top 5 Aesop Fables That Everyone Should Know

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."

Some of the oldest and best-known sources of guidance for both children and adults can be found in Aesop’s Fables. The Ancient Greek storyteller’s cautionary tales, which generally have anthropomorphic animals at their moral heart, have seeped so naturally into modern culture, that we may not even realise their provenance. 

While details of Aesop’s life and history remain sparse, leading some classic literature scholars to doubt whether he even existed, it can’t be denied that these stories, whoever wrote them, continue to provide valuable life lessons and creative inspiration for us all.

Let’s take a look at some of Aesop’s most beloved moral tales:

1. The Crow and the Pitcher

Had this two-legged thing been as stupid as many, though dying for drink she would not have got any…

The story 

When happening across a pitcher of water out in the wilderness, a thirsty Crow believes that his troubles are over. To the parched bird’s dismay, however, there’s so little water in the vessel that his tiny beak is too short to reach the life-saving liquid within. Ever the industrious and quick-witted sort, the Crow begins to collect as many stones as he can carry and drops them into the pitcher until the water has risen enough for him to drink.

The moral

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Peter Pan and Tinker Bell sculpture

2. The Hare and the Tortoise

The Hare was much amused at the idea of running a race with the Tortoise, but for the fun of the thing he agreed.

The story

Tired of the Hare making fun of his plodding and pondering pace, a Tortoise finally has enough and challenges him to a race. The Hare agrees to the contest and promptly bolts off towards the finish line in the distance. So far ahead does the Rabbit find himself, that he decides he has enough time for a rest. There’s no way the Tortoise could possibly catch him now!

As the Hare lay fast asleep, however, the Tortoise continues to make steady progress, one slow step at a time, eventually passing the Hare to win the race. Before the Hare realises what’s happening, and despite his vain attempts to catch up, it’s too late. The Tortoise has won! 

The moral

Slow and steady wins the race!

3. The Fox and the Hedgehog

A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one big thing.

The story

Upon crossing a river, a Fox gets his tail entangled in a bush and cannot move. While the trapped and in some dismay, a swarm of mosquitoes settle on the poor Fox and tuck into a hearty meal, unable to be swished away by the vulpine’s ensnared tail. 

You are in a bad way, neighbour,’ says a passing Hedgehog, seeing the Fox’s predicament. Trying to help, the Hedgehog suggests that he drive the mosquitoes away who are sucking his blood. But the wise Fox realises that by ridding him of these insects, who’ve already had their fill, would only lead to more mosquitoes arriving with a fresh appetite…and so refuses. 

The moral

Better to bear a lesser evil than to risk a greater in removing it.

4. The Frogs Who Desired a King

Frightened by the din, the frogs go into hiding, only to return slowly to look at the king.

The story

Saddened that they had no one to rule over them, a band of Frogs send a convoy to Jupiter to ask for a King. Jupiter, none too keen on their request, hurled a log into the pool where the Frogs lived and ordered that the log should be their King. The huge splash terrifies the Frogs and they scuttle into the deepest parts of the pool. 

After a while, when they discovered the log posed no threat, they gradually began to venture to the surface again, and, eventually, growing more brave, began to sit on the log itself.

Insulted by Jupiter’s offering, the Frogs send a second convoy to request that the inactive King be taken away. In response, Jupiter sent a Stork to rule over the Frogs, who promptly caught and ate the fleeing amphibians in no time at all!

The moral

When you seek to change your condition, be sure that you can better it.

Toad of Toad Hall sculpture

5. The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs

Thinking to get at once all the gold the goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find nothing.

The story

A classic cautionary tale about a countryman and his wife who owned a magical Goose which laid a glittering golden egg every day. But, aside from considering themselves very fortunate to own such a rare bird, they also began to wonder just how much gold the Goose might have stored inside it.

So, foolishly, they cut open the Goose which swiftly ended the poor bird’s life. Unsurprisingly, and to their disappointment, they discovered that the inside of the bird was like any other and no gold was to be found. In killing the poor Goose, they had deprived themselves of their fortune.

The moral

Too much greed will lead to great loss.

Posted on July 13th 2022

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