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Æsop's Fables (V. S. Vernon-Jones)

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Æsop's Fables: A New Translation  (1912) 
by Aesop, translated by Vernon S. Vernon Jones
For other versions of this work, see Fables (Aesop).

ÆSOP’S
FABLES

BOOKS ILLUSTRATED BY
ARTHUR RACKHAM

Uniform with this Vol. 15s net each

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. By William Shakespeare.

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Aesops Fables-Rackham-008.jpg
THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE
Æsop's Fables

A•NEW•TRANSLATION
BY•V•S•VERNON•JONES
WITH•AN•INTRODUCTION
BY•G•K•CHESTERTON
AND•ILLUSTRATIONS
BY•ARTHUR•RACKHAM

LONDON:WILLIAM•HEINEMANN
NEW•YORK:DOUBLEDAY•PAGE•&•CO.
1912

All rights reserved.

INTRODUCTION

ÆSOP embodies an epigram not uncommon in human history; his fame is all the more deserved because he never deserved it. The firm foundations of common sense, the shrewd shots at uncommon sense, that characterise all the Fables, belong not him but to humanity. In the earliest human history whatever is authentic is universal: and whatever is universal is anonymous. In such cases there is always some central man who had first the trouble of collecting them, and afterwards the fame of creating them. He had the fame; and, on the whole, he earned the fame. There must have been something great and human, something of the human future and the human past, in such a man: even if he only used it to rob the past or deceive the future. The story of Arthur may have been really connected with the most fighting Christianity of falling Rome or with the most heathen traditions hidden in the hills of Wales. But the word “Mappe” or “Malory” will always mean King Arthur; even though we find older and better origins than the Mabinogian; or write later and worse versions than the “Idylls of the King.” The nursery fairy tales may have come out of Asia with the Indo-European race, now fortunately extinct; they may have been invented by some fine French lady or gentleman like Perrault: they may possibly even be what they profess to be. But we shall always call the best selection of such tales “Grimm’s Tales”: simply because it is the best collection.

The historical Æsop, in so far as he was historical, would seem to have been a Phrygian slave, or at least one not to be specially and symbolically adorned with the Phrygian cap of liberty. He lived, if he did live, about the sixth century before Christ, in the time of that Cræsus whose story we love and suspect like everything else in Herodotus. There are also stories of deformity of feature and a ready ribaldry of tongue: stories which (as the celebrated Cardinal said) explain, though they do not excuse, his having been hurled over a high precipice at Delphi. It is for those who read the Fables to judge whether he was really thrown over the cliff for being ugly and offensive, or rather for being highly moral and correct. But there is no kind of doubt that the general legend of him may justly rank him with a race too easily forgotten in our modern comparisons: the race of the great philosophic slaves. Æsop may have been a fiction like Uncle Remus: he was also, like Uncle Remus, a fact. It is a fact that slaves in the old world could be worshipped like Æsop, or loved like Uncle Remus. It is odd to note that both the great slaves told their best stories about beasts and birds.

But whatever be fairly due to Æsop, the human tradition called Fables is not due to him. This had gone on long before any sarcastic freedman from Phrygia had or had not been flung off a precipice; this has remained long after. It is to our advantage, indeed, to realise the distinction; because it makes Æsop more obviously effective than any other fabulist. Grimm’s Tales, glorious as they are, were collected by two German students. And if we find it hard to be certain of a German student, at least we know more about him than we know about a Phrygian slave. The truth is, of course, that Æsop’s Fables are not Æsop’s fables, any more than Grimm’s Fairy Tales were ever Grimm’s fairy tales. But the fable and the fairy tale are things utterly distinct. There are many elements of difference; but the plainest is plain enough. There can be no good fable with human beings in it. There can be no good fairy tale without them.

Æsop, or Babrius (or whatever his name was), understood that, for a fable, all the persons must be impersonal. They must be like abstractions in algebra, or like pieces in chess. The lion must always be stronger than the wolf, just as four is always double of two. The fox in a fable must move crooked, as the knight in chess must move crooked. The sheep in a fable must march on, as the pawn in chess must march on. The fable must not allow for the crooked captures of the pawn; it must not allow for what Balzac called “the revolt of a sheep.” The fairy tale, on the other hand, absolutely revolves on the pivot of human personality. If no hero were there to fight the dragons, we should not even know that they were dragons. If no adventurer were cast on the undiscovered island—it would remain undiscovered. If the miller’s third son does not find the enchanted garden where the seven princesses stand white and frozen—why, then, they will remain white and frozen and enchanted. If there is no personal prince to find the Sleeping Beauty she will simply sleep. Fables repose upon quite the opposite idea; that everything is itself, and will in any case speak for itself. The wolf will be always wolfish; the fox will be always foxy. Something of the same sort may have been meant by the animal worship, in which Egyptian and Indian and many other great peoples have combined. Men do not, I think, love beetles or cats or crocodiles with a wholly personal love; they salute them as expressions of that abstract and anonymous energy in nature which to any one is awful, and to an atheist must be frightful. So in all the fables that are or are not Æsop’s all the animal forces drive like inanimate forces, like great rivers or growing trees. It is the limit and the loss of all such things that they cannot be anything but themselves: it is their tragedy that they could not lose their souls.

This is the immortal justification of the Fable: that we could not teach the plainest truths so simply without turning men into chessmen. We cannot talk of such simple things without using animals that do not talk at all. Suppose, for a moment, that you turn the wolf into a wolfish baron, or the fox into a foxy diplomatist. You will at once remember that even barons are human, you will be unable to forget that even diplomatists are men. You will always be looking for that accidental good-humour that should go with the brutality of any brutal man; for that allowance for all delicate things, including virtue, that should exist in any good diplomatist. Once put a thing on two legs instead of four and pluck it of feathers and you cannot help asking for a human being, either heroic, as in the fairy tales, or unheroic, as in the modern novels.

But by using animals in this austere and arbitrary style as they are used on the shields of heraldry or the hieroglyphics of the ancients, men have really succeeded in handing down those tremendous truths that are called truisms. If the chivalric lion be red and rampant, it is rigidly red and rampant; if the sacred ibis stands anywhere on one leg, it stands on one leg for ever. In this language, like a large animal alphabet, are written some of the first philosophic certainties of men. As the child learns A for Ass or B for Bull or C for Cow, so man has learnt here to connect the simpler and stronger creatures with the simpler and stronger truths. That a flowing stream cannot befoul its own fountain, and that any one whe says it does is a tyrant and a liar; that a mouse is too weak to fight a lion, but too strong for the cords that can hold a lion; that a fox who gets most out of a flat dish may easily get least out of a deep dish; that the crow whom the gods forbid to sing, the gods nevertheless provide with cheese; that when the goat insults from a mountain-top it is not the goat that insults, but the mountain: all these are deep truths deeply graven on the rocks wherever men have passed. It matters nothing how old they are, or how new; they are the alphabet of humanity, which like so many forms of primitive picture-writing employs any living symbol in preference to man. These ancient and universal tales are all of animals; as the latest discoveries in the oldest prehistoric caverns are all of animals. Man, in his simpler states, always felt that he himself was something too mysterious to be drawn. But the legend he carved under these cruder symbols was everywhere the same; and whether fables began with Æsop or began with Adam, whether they were German and mediæval as Reynard the Fox, or as French and Renaissance as La Fontaine, the upshot is everywhere essentially the same: that superiority is always insolent, because it is always accidental; that pride goes before a fall; and that there is such a thing as being too clever by half. You will not find any other legend but this written upon the rocks by any hand of man. There is every type and time of fable: but there is only one moral to the fable; because there is only one moral to everything.

CONTENTS

PAGE
THE FOX AND THE GRAPES 1
THE GOOSE THAT LAID THE GOLDEN EGGS 2
THE CAT AND THE MICE 2
THE MISCHIEVOUS DOG 3
THE CHARCOAL-BURNER AND THE FULLER 4
THE MICE IN COUNCIL 4
THE BAT AND THE WEASELS 5
THE DOG AND THE SOW 5
THE FOX AND THE CROW 6
THE HORSE AND THE GROOM 6
THE WOLF AND THE LAMB 9
THE PEACOCK AND THE CRANE 9
THE CAT AND THE BIRDS 10
THE SPENDTHRIFT AND THE SWALLOW 10
THE OLD WOMAN AND THE DOCTOR 13
THE MOON AND HER MOTHER 14
MERCURY AND THE WOODMAN 14
THE ASS, THE FOX, AND THE LION 15
THE LION AND THE MOUSE 16
THE CROW AND THE PITCHER 17
THE BOYS AND THE FROGS 17
THE NORTH WIND AND THE SUN 18
THE MISTRESS AND HER SERVANTS 18
THE GOODS AND THE ILLS 21
THE HARES AND THE FROGS 22
THE FOX AND THE STORK 23
THE WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING 24
THE STAG IN THE OX-STALL 24
THE MILKMAID AND HER PAIL 25
THE DOLPHINS, THE WHALES, AND THE SPRAT 26
THE FOX AND THE MONKEY 26
THE ASS AND THE LAP-DOG 27
THE FIR-TREE AND THE BRAMBLE 28
THE FROGS’ COMPLAINT AGAINST THE SUN 29
THE DOG, THE COCK, AND THE FOX 29
THE GNAT AND THE BULL 30
THE BEAR AND THE TRAVELLERS 30
THE SLAVE AND THE LION 31
THE FLEA AND THE MAN 32
THE BEE AND JUPITER 35
THE OAK AND THE REEDS 36
THE BLIND MAN AND THE CUB 36
THE BOY AND THE SNAILS 39
THE APES AND THE TWO TRAVELLERS 39
THE ASS AND HIS BURDENS 40
THE SHEPHERD’S BOY AND THE WOLF 41
THE FOX AND THE GOAT 42
THE FISHERMAN AND THE SPRAT 43
THE BOASTING TRAVELLER 43
THE CRAB AND HIS MOTHER 44
THE ASS AND HIS SHADOW 44
THE FARMER AND HIS SONS 45
THE DOG AND THE COOK 45
THE MONKEY AS KING 46
THE THIEVES AND THE COCK 47
THE FARMER AND FORTUNE 48
JUPITER AND THE MONKEY 48
FATHER AND SONS 49
THE LAMP 49
THE OWL AND THE BIRDS 50
THE ASS IN THE LION’S SKIN 53
THE SHE-GOATS AND THEIR BEARDS 54
THE OLD LION 54
THE BOY BATHING 55
THE QUACK FROG 56
THE SWOLLEN FOX 56
THE MOUSE, THE FROG, AND THE HAWK 57
THE BOY AND THE NETTLES 57
THE PEASANT AND THE APPLE-TREE 58
THE JACKDAW AND THE PIGEONS 58
JUPITER AND THE TORTOISE 59
THE DOG IN THE MANGER 60
THE TWO BAGS 60
THE OXEN AND THE AXLETREES 61
THE BOY AND THE FILBERTS 61
THE FROGS ASKING FOR A KING 62
THE OLIVE-TREE AND THE FIG-TREE 65
THE LION AND THE BOAR 65
THE WALNUT-TREE 66
THE MAN AND THE LION 66
THE TORTOISE AND THE EAGLE 67
THE KID ON THE HOUSETOP 67
THE FOX WITHOUT A TAIL 68
THE VAIN JACKDAW 68
THE TRAVELLER AND HIS DOG 69
THE SHIPWRECKED MAN AND THE SEA 70
THE WILD BOAR AND THE FOX 70
MERCURY AND THE SCULPTOR 71
THE FAWN AND HIS MOTHER 71
THE FOX AND THE LION 72
THE EAGLE AND HIS CAPTOR 73
THE BLACKSMITH AND HIS DOG 73
THE STAG AT THE POOL 74
THE DOG AND THE SHADOW 75
MERCURY AND THE TRADESMEN 76
THE MICE AND THE WEASELS 76
THE PEACOCK AND JUNO 77
THE BEAR AND THE FOX 78
THE ASS AND THE OLD PEASANT 78
THE OX AND THE FROG 81
THE MAN AND THE IMAGE 82
HERCULES AND THE WAGGONER 82
THE POMEGRANATE, THE APPLE-TREE, AND THE BRAMBLE 83
THE LION, THE BEAR, AND THE FOX 83
THE BLACKAMOOR 84
THE TWO SOLDIERS AND THE ROBBER 84
THE LION AND THE WILD ASS 85
THE MAN AND THE SATYR 86
THE IMAGE-SELLER 88
THE EAGLE AND THE ARROW 88
THE RICH MAN AND THE TANNER 89
THE WOLF, THE MOTHER, AND HER CHILD 89
THE OLD WOMAN AND THE WINE-JAR 90
THE LIONESS AND THE VIXEN 91
THE VIPER AND THE FILE 91
THE CAT AND THE COCK 92
THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE 92
THE SOLDIER AND HIS HORSE 95
THE OXEN AND THE BUTCHERS 96
THE WOLF AND THE LION 96
THE SHEEP, THE WOLF, AND THE STAG 97
THE LION AND THE THREE BULLS 98
THE HORSE AND HIS RIDER 98
THE GOAT AND THE VINE 99
THE TWO POTS 100
THE OLD HOUND 100
THE CLOWN AND THE COUNTRYMAN 101
THE LARK AND THE FARMER 102
THE LION AND THE ASS 103
THE PROPHET 103
THE HOUND AND THE HARE 104
THE LION, THE MOUSE, AND THE FOX 105
THE TRUMPETER TAKEN PRISONER 105
THE WOLF AND THE CRANE 106
THE EAGLE, THE CAT, AND THE WILD SOW 106
THE WOLF AND THE SHEEP 109
THE TUNNY-FISH AND THE DOLPHIN 110
THE THREE TRADESMEN 110
THE MOUSE AND THE BULL 111
THE HARE AND THE HOUND 111
THE TOWN MOUSE AND THE COUNTRY MOUSE 112
THE LION AND THE BULL 113
THE WOLF, THE FOX, AND THE APE 114
THE EAGLE AND THE COCKS 114
THE ESCAPED JACKDAW 117
THE FARMER AND THE FOX 117
VENUS AND THE CAT 118
THE CROW AND THE SWAN 118
THE STAG WITH ONE EYE 119
THE FLY AND THE DRAUGHT-MULE 119
THE COCK AND THE JEWEL 120
THE WOLF AND THE SHEPHERD 120
THE FARMER AND THE STORK 123
THE CHARGER AND THE MILLER 123
THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE OWL 124
THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANTS 125
THE FARMER AND THE VIPER 126
THE TWO FROGS 126
THE COBBLER TURNED DOCTOR 127
THE ASS, THE COCK, AND THE LION 127
THE BELLY AND THE MEMBERS 128
THE BALD MAN AND THE FLY 129
THE ASS AND THE WOLF 130
THE MONKEY AND THE CAMEL 131
THE SICK MAN AND THE DOCTOR 131
THE TRAVELLERS AND THE PLANE-TREE 132
THE FLEA AND THE OX 133
THE BIRDS, THE BEASTS, AND THE BAT 133
THE MAN AND HIS TWO SWEETHEARTS 134
THE EAGLE, THE JACKDAW, AND THE SHEPHERD 134
THE WOLF AND THE BOY 135
THE MILLER, HIS SON, AND THEIR ASS 136
THE STAG AND THE VINE 138
THE LAMB CHASED BY A WOLF 139
THE ARCHER AND THE LION 139
THE WOLF AND THE GOAT 140
THE SICK STAG 140
THE ASS AND THE MULE 143
BROTHER AND SISTER 143
THE HEIFER AND THE OX 144
THE KINGDOM OF THE LION 145
THE ASS AND HIS DRIVER 146
THE LION AND THE HARE 146
THE WOLVES AND THE DOGS 147
THE BULL AND THE CALF 147
THE TREES AND THE AXE 148
THE ASTRONOMER 148
THE LABOURER AND THE SNAKE 149
THE CAGE-BIRD AND THE BAT 149
THE ASS AND HIS PURCHASER 150
THE KID AND THE WOLF 151
THE DEBTOR AND HIS SOW 152
THE BALD HUNTSMAN 153
THE HERDSMAN AND THE LOST BULL 153
THE MULE 154
THE HOUND AND THE FOX 155
THE FATHER AND HIS DAUGHTERS 155
THE THIEF AND THE INNKEEPER 156
THE PACK-ASS AND THE WILD ASS 157
THE ASS AND HIS MASTERS 158
THE PACK-ASS, THE WILD ASS, AND THE LION 158
THE ANT 159
THE FROGS AND THE WELL 160
THE CRAB AND THE FOX 160
THE FOX AND THE GRASSHOPPER 163
THE FARMER, HIS BOY, AND THE ROOKS 163
THE ASS AND THE DOG 164
THE ASS CARRYING THE IMAGE 165
THE ATHENIAN AND THE THEBAN 165
THE GOATHERD AND THE GOAT 166
THE SHEEP AND THE DOG 169
THE SHEPHERD AND THE WOLF 169
THE LION, JUPITER, AND THE ELEPHANT 170
THE PIG AND THE SHEEP 171
THE GARDENER AND HIS DOG 171
THE RIVERS AND THE SEA 172
THE LION IN LOVE 172
THE BEE-KEEPER 173
THE WOLF AND THE HORSE 174
THE BAT, THE BRAMBLE, AND THE SEAGULL 174
THE DOG AND THE WOLF 177
THE WASP AND THE SNAKE 178
THE EAGLE AND THE BEETLE 178
THE FOWLER AND THE LARK 179
THE FISHERMAN PIPING 180
THE WEASEL AND THE MAN 180
THE PLOUGHMAN, THE ASS, AND THE OX 183
DEMADES AND HIS FABLE 183
THE MONKEY AND THE DOLPHIN 184
THE CROW AND THE SNAKE 187
THE DOGS AND THE FOX 187
THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE HAWK 187
THE ROSE AND THE AMARANTH 188
THE MAN, THE HORSE, THE OX, AND THE DOG 188
THE WOLVES, THE SHEEP, AND THE RAM 189
THE SWAN 190
THE SNAKE AND JUPITER 190
THE WOLF AND HIS SHADOW 191
THE PLOUGHMAN AND THE WOLF 192
MERCURY AND THE MAN BITTEN BY AN ANT 192
THE WILY LION 193
THE PARROT AND THE CAT 193
THE STAG AND THE LION 194
THE IMPOSTOR 194
THE DOGS AND THE HIDES 195
THE LION, THE FOX, AND THE ASS 196
THE FOWLER, THE PARTRIDGE, AND THE COCK 197
THE GNAT AND THE LION 198
THE FARMER AND HIS DOGS 199
THE EAGLE AND THE FOX 199
THE BUTCHER AND HIS CUSTOMERS 200
HERCULES AND MINERVA 201
THE FOX WHO SERVED A LION 202
THE QUACK DOCTOR 202
THE LION, THE WOLF, AND THE FOX 203
HERCULES AND PLUTUS 204
THE FOX AND THE LEOPARD 205
THE FOX AND THE HEDGEHOG 205
THE CROW AND THE RAVEN 206
THE WITCH 207
THE OLD MAN AND DEATH 207
THE MISER 208
THE FOXES AND THE RIVER 208
THE HORSE AND THE STAG 211
THE FOX AND THE BRAMBLE 212
THE FOX AND THE SNAKE 212
THE LION, THE FOX, AND THE STAG 212
THE MAN WHO LOST HIS SPADE 214
THE PARTRIDGE AND THE FOWLER 215
THE RUNAWAY SLAVE 215
THE HUNTER AND THE WOODMAN 216
THE SERPENT AND THE EAGLE 216
THE ROGUE AND THE ORACLE 217
THE HORSE AND THE ASS 218
THE DOG CHASING A WOLF 219
GRIEF AND HIS DUE 219
THE HAWK, THE KITE, AND THE PIGEONS 220
THE WOMAN AND THE FARMER 220
PROMETHEUS AND THE MAKING OF MAN 221
THE SWALLOW AND THE CROW 221
THE HUNTER AND THE HORSEMAN 222
THE GOATHERD AND THE WILD GOATS 222
THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE SWALLOW 223
THE TRAVELLER AND FORTUNE 224

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

IN COLOUR Facing
page
The Hare and the Tortoise Frontispiece
The Moon and her Mother 14
The Fir-tree and the Bramble 28
The Crab and his Mother 44
The Quack Frog 56
The Shipwrecked Man and the Sea 70
The Blackamoor 84
The Two Pots 100
Venus and the Cat 118
The Travellers and the Plane-tree 132
The Trees and the Axe 148
The Lion, Jupiter, and the Elephant 170
The Gnat and the Lion 198


IN BLACK AND WHITE page
The Fox and the Grapes 1
The Fox and the Crow 7
The Cat and the Birds 11
The Crow and the Pitcher 17
The North Wind and the Sun 19
The Fox and the Stork 23
The Gnat and the Bull 30
The Flea and the Man 33
The Oak and the Reeds 37
The Thieves and the Cock 47
The Owl and the Birds 51
The Ass in the Lion’s Skin 53
The Boy Bathing 55
The Dog in the Manger 60
The Frogs Asking for a King 62
King Log 63
The Fox without a Tail 68
The Fox and the Lion 72
The Dog and the Shadow 75
The Bear and the Fox 79
The Ox and the Frog 81
The Man and the Satyr 86, 87
The Old Woman and the Wine-jar 90
The Cat and the Cock 93
The Sheep, the Wolf, and the Stag 97
The Goat and the Vine 99
The Hound and the Hare 104
The Wolf and the Crane 107
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse 112
The Wolf, the Fox, and the Ape 115
The Cock and the Jewel 121
The Grasshopper and the Ants 125
The Bald Man and the Fly 129
The Monkey and the Camel 131
The Miller, his Son, and their Ass 136-138
The Wolf and the Goat 141
The Kingdom of the Lion 145
The Kid and the Wolf 151
The Mule 154
The Frogs and the Well 161
The Goatherd and the Goat 167
The Wolf and the Horse 175
The Fisherman Piping 181
The Monkey and the Dolphin 185
The Wolf and his Shadow 191
The Lion, the Fox, and the Ass 196
The Gnat and the Lion 198
The Fox and the Leopard 205
The Miser 209
The Hunter and the Woodman 216
The Horse and the Ass 218


Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.
Original:

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

 
Translation:

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927.


The author died in 1955, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.