The Ass and the Wolf

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The Ass and the Wolf
by Aesop

Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the lyon and of the hors

Eche one ought to eschewe dyssymylyng / for none ought to were on hym the skyn of the wulf / but that he wyll be lyke to hym / For none ought to fayne hym self other than suche as he is / As to vs reherceth this fable / Of a lyon whiche sawe a hors / whiche ete grasse in a medowe / And for to fynde somme subtylyte and manere for to ete and deuoure hym / approched to hym / and sayd / god kepe the my broder / I am a leche / and with al a good phisycyen / And by cause that I see that thow hast a sore foote / I am come hyther for to hele the of hit / And the hors knewe wel all his euyl thought And sayd to the lyon / My broder I thanke the gretely / and thow arte welcome to me / I praye the that thow wylt make my foote hole / And thenne the lyon sayd to the hors / late see thy foote / And as the lyon loked on hit / the hors smote hym on the forhede / In suche wyse that he brake his hede and fyll oute of his mynde / & the lyon felle to the ground / And soo wonderly he was hurte / that almost he myght not ryse vp ageyne / And thenne sayd the lyon in hym self / I am wel worthy to haue had this / For he that sercheth euylle / euyll cometh to hym / And by cause that I dyssymyled and fayned my self to be a medycyn / where as I shold haue shewed my self a grete enemye / I therfore haue receyued good reward /

And therfore euery body oughte to shewe hym self suche as he is /

L'Estrange's translations (1692)[edit]


An Ass had got a Thorn in’s Foot, and for want of a better Surgeon, who but a Wolf at last to draw it out with his Teeth! The Ass was no sooner eas’d, but he gave his Operator such a Kick under the Ear with his sound Foot for his Pains, that he stunn’d him, and so went his way.


There was an old hungry Lion would fain have been dealing with a Piece of good Horse-Flesh that he had in his Eye: but the Nag he thought would be too fleet for him, unless he could supply the want of a Heel, by Artifice, and Address. He puts himself into the Garb, and Habit of a Professor of Physick, and according to the Humour of the World, sets up for a doctor of the College. Under this Pretext, he lets fall a Word or two by way of Discourse, upon the Subject of his Trade; but the Horse smelt him out, and presently a Crochet came in his Head how he might countermine him. I got a Thorn in my Foot t’other Day, says the Horse, as I was crossing a Thicket, and I am e’en quite Lamer on’t. Oh, says the new Physician, do but hold up your Leg a little, and I’ll cure ye immediately. The Lion presently puts himself in Posture for the Office; but the Patient was too nimble for his Doctor, and so soon as ever he had him fair for his Purpose, gave him a terrible Rebuke upon the Forehead with his Heel, that he laid him at his Length, and so got off with a whole Skin, before the other could execute his Design.

THE MORAL OF THE TWO FABLES ABOVE. Harm watch, Harm catch, is but according to the common Rule of Equity and Retaliation, and a very warrantable Way of deceiving the Deceiver.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Ass and the Wolf

An Ass feeding in a meadow saw a Wolf approaching to seize him, and immediately pretended to be lame. The Wolf, coming up, inquired the cause of his lameness. The Ass replied that passing through a hedge he had trod with his foot upon a sharp thorn. He requested that the Wolf pull it out, lest when he ate him it should injure his throat. The Wolf consented and lifted up the foot, and was giving his whole mind to the discovery of the thorn, when the Ass, with his heels, kicked his teeth into his mouth and galloped away. The Wolf, being thus fearfully mauled, said, "I am rightly served, for why did I attempt the art of healing, when my father only taught me the trade of a butcher?"