The Original Fables of La Fontaine/The Wolf and the Fox

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For works with similar titles, see The Wolf and the Fox.

XL

THE WOLF AND THE FOX

(Book XII.—No. 9)

     

A fox once remarked to a wolf, "Dear friend, do you know that the utmost I can get for my meals is a tough old cock or perchance a lean hen or two. It is a diet of which I am thoroughly weary. You, on the other hand, feed much better than that, and with far less danger. My foraging takes me close up to houses; but you keep far away. I beg of you, comrade, to teach me your trade. Let me be the first of my race to furnish my pot with a plump sheep, and you will not find me ungrateful."

"Very well" replied the obliging wolf. "I have a brother recently dead, suppose you go and get his skin and wear it." This the fox accordingly did and the wolf commenced to give him lessons. "You must do this and act so, when you wish to separate the dogs from the flocks." At first Reynard was a little awkward, but he rapidly improved, and with a little practice he reached at last the perfection of wolfish strategy. Just as he had learned all that there was to know a flock approached. The sham wolf ran after it spreading terror all around, even as Patroclus wearing [1] the armour of Achilles spread alarm throughout camp and city, when mothers, wives, and old men hastened to the temples for protection." In this case, the bleating army made sure there must be quite fifty wolves after them, and fled, dog and shepherd with them, to the neighbouring village, leaving only one sheep as a hostage.

This remaining sheep our thief instantly seized and was making off with it. But he had not gone more than a few steps when a cock crew near by. At this signal, which habit of life had led him to regard as a warning of dawn and danger, he dropped his disguising wolf-skin and, forgetting his sheep, his lesson, and his master, scampered off with a will.


Of what use is such shamming? It is an illusion to suppose that one is really changed by making the pretence. One resume's one's first nature upon the earliest occasion for hiding it.

     

  1. At the Siege of Troy. He was mistaken for Achilles.