The Fables of Æsop (Jacobs)/Notes

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London: Macmillan, pages 195–220


So the tales were told ages before Æsop; and asses under lions' manes roared in Hebrew; and sly foxes flattered in Etruscan; and wolves in sheep's clothing gnashed their teeth in Sanskrit, no doubt.


THE European Æsop is derived from the Latin and German Æsop compiled by Heinrich Stainhöwel about 1480 A.D. This consists of the following six parts (see Pedigree opposite).

(1) Medieval life of Æsop, attributed to Planudes. (I. in Pedigree.)

(2) Four books of fables, connected with the name of Romulus, but really, as modern research has shown, all derived from Phædrus, though in a fuller form than the extant remains of that poet. (II.-V. in Pedigree.)

(3) Fabulae Extravagantes: a series of beast stories of the Reynard the Fox type, and probably connected with the new fables introduced by Marie de France. (VI. in Pedigree.)

(4) A few fables from the Greek prose Æsop, really prosings of Babrius. (VII. in Pedigree.)

(5) Selection from the fables of Avian. (VIII. in Pedigree.)

(6) Facetiae from Poggio and Petrus Alfonsi.

All the vernacular versions of Europe were derived in the first instance from this omnium gatherum. Thus in England Caxton introduced the Stainhöwel through the medium of the French. Later collections omitted much of the Stainhöwel, especially the Fabulae Extravagantes and the Facetiae. and added somewhat from the later editions of the Greek prose Æsop, which up to the time of Bentley were supposed to be derived from the Samian slave himself. La Fontaine introduced a few oriental Apologues among the latter half of his Fables. Some of these, e.g. "La Perrette," have been incorporated into the later Æsops.

The present collection aims at representing in selection and arrangement this history of the European Æsop.[1] Three quarters of its contents give in due order those of Stainhöwel, which have survived in the struggle for existence in the popular consciousness. As a kind of appendix the last quarter of fables in this book gives a miscellaneous set derived from various collections published since the Stainhöwel, and winning their way by force of merit into the popular Æsops. For the fables derived from the Stainhöwel-Caxton I have referred briefly to the bibliographical appendix in my edition of Caxton, pp. 225, 268, by the symbols used there, as follows:—

Ro. = Four books of Romulus, really Phædrus.
Ex. v. = Extravagantes.
Re. = Greek prose fables, latinised by Remicius.
Av. = Avian.
Po. = Poggio.

I give here a short summary of the information more fully contained in these bibliographical lists. I have gone more into detail for the last twenty fables or so which do not occur in Caxton.

I.—COCK AND PEARL (Ro. i. 1).

Phædrus, iii. 12. Cannot be traced earlier or elsewhere. It gave its title to Boner's German collection of fables. Luther, La Fontaine, Lessing, Krilof, included it in their collections. It is quoted by Rabelais, Bacon, Essays, xiii., and Mr. Stevenson, Catriona.

II.—WOLF AND LAMB (Ro. i. 2).

Phædrus, i. i. Probably Indian, occurring as the Dipi Jataka, in Tibet and in Madagascar. In the Jātaka a Panther meets a Kid and complains that his tail has been trodden upon. The Kid gently points out that the Panther's face was towards him.

Panther. "My tail covers the earth."

Kid. "But I came through the air."

Panther. "I saw you frightening the beasts by coming through the air. You prevented my getting any prey."—Warra, Warra, Warra.

The Jātaka occurs in Tibet, told of the Wolf and the Sheep. It is referred to by Shakespeare, Henry IV. Act I. scene viii.


Phædrus, i. 4. Probably Indian, from the Calladhanuggaha Jataka (Folklore Journal ii. 371 seq.). An unfaithful wife eloping with her lover arrives at the bank of a stream. There the lover persuades her to strip herself so that he may carry her clothes across the stream, which he proceeds to do, but never returns. Indra, seeing her plight, changes himself into a jackal bearing a piece of flesh and goes down to the bank of the stream. In its waters fish are disporting, and the Indra-jackal, laying aside his meat, plunges in after one of them. A vulture hovering near seizes hold of the meat and bears it aloft, and the jackal, returning unsuccessful from his fishing, is taunted by the woman. In the imitation of the Jataka which occurs in the Panchatantra (v. 8) her taunt is:

"The fish swims in the waters still, the vulture is off with the meat.

"Deprived of both fish and meat, Mistress Jackal, whither away?"

The jackal replies:

"Great as is my wisdom, thine is twice as great.

"No husband, no lover, no clothes, lady, whither away?"

Thus, in the Indian version the loss of the meat is a deliberate plan of the god Indra to read a lesson to the faithless wife. In all the earlier versions the dog is swimming in the stream. The passage across the bridge we get from Marie de France or her original.

IV.—LION'S SHARE (Ro. i. 6).

Phædrus, i. 5. The companions of the Lion in Phædrus are a Cow, a Goat, and a Sheep. This seems to point to some mistranslation from an Indian original, though none such has been discovered. The medieval versions of Marie de France and Benedict of Oxford (Hebrew) have another version in which the Lion's partners are carnivorous, as is appropriate. Our expression, "Lion's share," comes from this fable, on which a special monograph has been written by C. Górski, 1888 (Dissertation).


Phædrus, i. 8. Certainly Indian. Occurring as the Javasakuna Jātaka, in which Buddha tells the story of a Lion and a Crane to illustrate the ingratitude of the wicked. The Jataka concludes: "The master, having given the lesson, summed up the Jātaka thus: At that time the Lion was Devadatta [the Buddhist Judas], and the Crane was I myself." This is a striking example how the Indian doctrine of the transmigration of souls could be utilised to connect a great moral teacher with the history of the fable. In the same way Buddha is represented as knowing the Wolf and Lamb fable, because he had been the Kid of the original.

In my History of the Æsopic Fable I have selected the "Wolf and the Crane" for specially full treatment; and my bibliography of its occurrences runs to over a hundred numbers, pp. 232-234. The Buddhistic form of the fable first became known to Europe in 1691 in De La Loubère's Description of Siam. It had undoubtedly reached the ancient world by two different roads: (a) As a Libyan fable which was included by Demetrius of Phaleron in his Assemblies of Æsopic Fables, circa 300 B.C., from whom Phædrus obtained it; (b) as one of the "Fables of Kybises," brought from Ceylon to Alexandria, c. 50 A.D. This form, which still retains the Lion, was used by a Rabbi, Jochanan ben Saccai, c. 120 A.D., to induce the Jews not to revolt against the Romans; this is found in the great Rabbinical Commentary on Genesis, Bereshith Rabba, c. 64.

It has been conjectured that the tradition of the Ichneumon picking the teeth of the Crocodile (Herod, ii. 68) was derived from this fable, which has always been very popular. The Greeks had a proverb, "Out of the Wolf's mouth." The fable is figured on the Bayeux tapestry (see frontispiece to my History).

VI.—MAN AND SERPENT (Ro. ii. 10).

In medieval prose Phædrus; also in Gabrias, a medieval derivate of Babrius, though not now extant in either Phædrus or Babrius. Certainly Indian, for as Benfey has shown, the Greek and the Latin forms together make up the original story as extant in Fables Bidpai. (See Jacobs, Indian Fairy Tales, xv.; "The Gold-giving Serpent," and Notes, pp. 246, 247.) The fable has found its way among European folk tales in Germany, Poland, and Iceland.


Horace, Sat. II. vi. 77. It must also have occurred in Phædrus, as the medieval prose version of Ademar contains a relic in the Iambic Trimeter of the line—

Perduxit precibus post in urbem rusticum.

Prior and Montagu elaborated the fable for political purposes in their "Town and Country Mouse," 1687.

VIII.—FOX AND CROW (Ro. i. 15).

Phædrus, i. 13. Probably Indian. There are a couple of Jatakas having the same moral. There is an English proverb: "The Fox praises the meat out of the Crow's mouth." The fable is figured on the Bayeux tapestry. (See Frontispiece to History.) Thackeray makes use of it in his pot pourri of fables in the Prologue to The Newcomes. It is perhaps worth while quoting Professor de Gubernatis's solar myth explanation of the fable in his Zoological Mythology, ii. 251: "The Fox (the Spring aurora) takes the cheese (the Moon) from the Crow (the winter night) by making it sing!"

IX.—THE SICK LION (Ro. i. 16).

Phædrus, i. 21.

X.—ASS AND LAP-DOG (Ro. i. 17).

Not in extant Phædrus, but must have been in the complete edition, as the medieval prose versions preserve some of the lines.


From medieval prose Phædrus, which still retains a line or two of the original, but not now extant. Also certainly Indian in the form of "Elephant and Mouse," as elephants are often tied to trees as preliminary to taming them. The Greek form of the fable got into Egyptian literature about 200 A.D., when it occurs in a late Leyden papyrus. Upon this a whole theory of the African origin of the fable was founded by the late Sir R. F. Burton. (See Jacobs, l.c. 91, 92.)


In medieval prose Phædrus and Bayeux tapestry. An attempt has been made to find an Indian origin for this fable, but without much success.


Phædrus, i. 2. Said to have been recited by Solon to the Athenians. It has been recently found in Madagascar, where the Frogs present their petitions, in the first place, to the Sun, and, when the Heron commences to eat them all up, attempt to get the intervention of the Moon. (Ferrand. Contes Malgaches, 1893, No. xiv.)


Phædrus, iv. 23. Referred to by Lucian, Vera Historia. Clearly referred to in Horace's line, Ars Poet. 139

Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.

XV.—HARES AND FROGS (Ro. ii. 8).

In medieval prose Phædrus.

XVI.—WOLF AND KID (Ro. ii. 9).

In medieval prose Phaedrus. Cf. Grimm, Märchen, v.


Phædrus, iv. 19. Probably Indian, occurring in Mahabharata. The versions vary as to the threatened victim. In some it is the peasant himself; in others, it is one of his children after he arrives home. In one of the medieval prosings of Phædrus, by Ademar, a woman finds and nourishes the serpent.


Phædrus, iv. 31. Probably Indian, from the Makasa Jātaka, in which a foolish son takes up an axe to kill a fly which is worrying his father's bald pate, but naturally misses the fly.

XIX.—FOX AND STORK (Ro. ii. 13).

Phædrus, i. 26. Occurs also in Plutarch, Symp. Quæst. 1. 5.

XX.—FOX AND MASK (Ro. ii. 14).

Phædrus, i. 7. In Caxton this becomes "The Wolf and the Skull," and so loses all point.

XXI.—JAY AND PEACOCK (Ro. ii. 15).

Phædrus, i. 3. Referred to by Horace, Epist. I. iii. 18, and Plautus, Aulul. II. i. Probably Indian, owing to the habitat of the bird and the similarity of the Nacca Jātaka. The parvenu bird varies. Benedict of Oxford, in his Hebrew version, makes it Raven. Most of the English Æsops call it a Jackdaw. Thackeray includes it in the Prologue to The Newcomes. A monograph has been written on this fable by M. Fuchs, 1886 (Dissertation). Our expression, " Borrowed plumes," comes from it.

XXII.—FROG AND OX (Ro. ii. 20).

Phædrus, i. 24. Told by Horace, Sat. II. iii. 314. Cf. Martial, x. 79. Carlyle gives a version in his Miscellanies, ii. 283, from the old German of Boner. Thackeray introduces it in the Prologue to The Newcomes. There is said to be a species of Frog in South America, Ceratophrys, which has a remarkable power of blowing itself out.

XXIII.—ANDROCLES (Ro. iii. 1).

Medieval prose Phædrus. Quoted by Appian, Aulus Gellius, and Seneca. Probably Oriental. Was dropped out of Æsop, but is familiar to us from its inclusion in Day's Sandford and Merton; see also, Painter, Palace of Pleasure, ed. Jacobs, i. 89, 90, where the slave is called Androdus.


Medieval prose Phædrus. Quoted by Varro, and in the Pandects, xxi., De evict. I have made use of the Arabic proverb about the ostrich: "They said to the camel-bird, 'Fly'; it said, 'I am a beast': they said, 'Carry'; it said, 'I am a bird.'"

XXV.—HART AND HUNTER (Ro. iii. 7).

Phædrus, i. 12. Possibly Eastern. It has recently been collected in Madagascar. (Ferrand. Contes Malgaches, xvi.)


Phædrus, iv. 8. Told in the Arabic fables of Lôqman of a cat. Quoted by Stevenson, Master of Ballantrae.

XXVII.—MAN AND WOOD (Ro. iii. 14).

Medieval prose Phædrus. Indian. Found also in Talmud, Sanhedrim, 39b.

XXVIII.—DOG AND WOLF (Ro. iii. 15).

Phædrus, iii. 7. Told in Avian, 37, and Benedict of Oxford, of a lion and a dog.


Medieval prose Æsop. Occurs also in Plutarch, Coriol. vi. (cf. North's Plutarch, ed. Skeat, p. 6. Also North's Bidpai, ed. Jacobs, p. 64). It is said to have been told by Menenius Agrippa to prevent the Plebeians seceding from the Patricians in the early days of Rome (Livy, I. xxx. 3). The second scene of Shakespeare's Coriolanus is mainly devoted to this fable. Similar fables occur in the East. An Egyptian Debat on very much the same subject was recently discovered by M. Maspero, who dates it circa 1250 B.C. It is found in the Upanishads, whence it came to the Mahabharata, thence possibly into the Zend Yaçna. A Buddhistic version exists in the Chinese Avadanas. The Jews had early knowledge of a similar fable, which is told in a Rabbinic Commentary on Psalm xxxix. There can be no doubt that St. Paul had a similar fable in his mind when writing the characteristic passage, 1 Cor. xii. 12-26. This combines the Indian idea of the contests of the Members with the Roman notion of the organic nature of the body politic. Thus this fable forms part of the sacred literature of the Egyptians, of Chinese, of Buddhists, Brahmins and Magians, of Jews and Christians; and we might almost add, of Romans and Englishmen. There were also medieval mysteries on the subject. Prato has a monograph on the fable in Archivio per Tradizione Popolari, iv. 25-40, the substance of which I have given in my History, pp. 82-99.

XXX.—HART IN OX-STALL (Ro. iii. 19).

Phædrus, ii. 8.


Occurs both in Phædrus (iv. 3) and Babrius, 19. Has been found by Dr. Leitner in Darbistan as "The Fox and the Pomegranates." Our expression, "The grapes are sour," comes from this.


Phædrus, iii. 18. Cf. Avian, 8.


Phædrus, iv. 4. Attributed by Aristotle, Rhet. ii. 20, to Stesichorus. Referred to by Horace, Epist. I. x. 34. Given in North's Bidpai, ed. Jacobs, p. 65.

XXXIV.—FOX AND LION (Ro. iv. 12).

Medieval prose Æsop. Probably Indian. Quoted by Plato, Alcib. i. 503. Horace, Epist. I. i. 73.


Medieval prose Phædrus. Quoted by Plutarch, Apophth. Lacaed. 69. Curiously enough, though this fable is no longer extant in Babrius, it is one of those used by Crusius to prove that Babrius was a Roman; for it exists among those passing under the name of Gabrias, which were certainly derived from a completer Babrius than that now extant. In this the Statue is declared to have been placed upon a sepulchral monument: a custom only found among the Romans and not among the Greeks. The fable also occurs in the Greek prose Æsop, ed. Halm, 63 (which is also derived from the Babrius), and in Avian, 24. It is quoted in Spectator, No. 11.


Medieval prose Phædrus. The Ant is also the type of provident toil in Proverbs vi. 6. La Fontaine's first fable deals with this subject, and has recently formed the basis of the Opera La Cigale.


Not from Phædrus, nor in the original Romulus, but inserted by Stainhöwel at the end of his selections from "Romulus" to make up the number twenty of the fourth book. Probably from Avian 16, though it also occurs in the prose Æsop, Ed. Halm, 179 (which is ultimately derived from Babrius 36). It is probably Indian, as in Mahabharata the Sea complains that the Rivers bring down to it oaks, but not reeds. It occurs also in the Talmud, Tanith 20. B. Cf. the line in the dirge in Cymbeline, "To thee the reed is as the oak." Wordsworth's poem: The Oak and the Broom develops the subject at great length.


Probably from Marie de France, 98. There was a Greek proverb on the subject, attributed to Ion (Leutsch, Paraeom. Graeci, i. 147). The tale has got among the Folk, Grimm 75, Halm, Griech. Mährch. 91.


Practically derived from Matt. vii. 15. Thackeray makes effective use of it in the prologue to The Newcomes. As a matter of fact it does not occur in any of the collections attributed to Æsop. L'Estrange gives it as number 328, from Abstemius, an Italian fabulist, circa 1450.

XL.—DOG IN THE MANGER (Ex. v. 11).

It is difficult to trace how this fable got so early into the Stainhöwel. It is told very shortly of a Dog and a Horse by Lucian, Adv. in Doct. 30, but is not included in the ordinary Greek prose Æsops. It was included as the last fable in Alsop's Oxford Æsop, 1798, where it was introduced in order to insert a gibe against Bentley for his "dog in the manger" behaviour with regard to the Royal Manuscripts. See Jebb, Bentley, p. 62.


Taken by Stainhöwel from the hundred Latin prose versions of Greek fables translated by Ranutio D'Arezzo from a manuscript, in 1476, before any of the fables had been published in Greek. It occurs in the Greek prose Æsop 66, from Babrius 119.


Told by Herodotus, i. 141. Thence by Ennius, Ed. Vahlen, p. 151. Ranutio got it from prose Æsop, 39, derived from Babrius 9. There is an English proverb: "Fish are not to be caught with a bird-call."


Ultimately derived from Babrius: though only extant in the Greek prose Æsop. Gittlbauer has restored it from the prose version in his edition of Babrius, number 199. We are familiar with the story from its inclusion in the spelling-books, like that of Mavor, whence our expression "To cry wolf."


From Babrius through the Greek prose. Restored by Gittlbauer 247.


The last of Ranutio's hundred fables derived from prose Æsop's 56 = Babrius 22. It is probably eastern. Cf. Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 120. Clouston, Popular Tales, l. 16.


From Avian. Chaucer seems to refer to it: Frere's Tale, 6957.


From Avian, though it also occurs in the Greek prose Æsop 419, from Babrius 115. Ælian's story of the Death of Æschylus because an eagle mistook his bald pate for a rock and dropped the tortoise on it, is supposed to be derived from this fable. It is certainly Indian, like most of Avian's, and occurs in the Kacchapa Jātaka. Here a Tortoise is carried by two birds, holding a stick in its mouth, and falls on opening its mouth to rebuke the birds that are scoffing at it. Buddha uses the incident as a lesson to a talkative king. Cf. North's Bidpai, ed. Jacobs 174, and Indian Fairy Tales, number 13.


From Avian. Aristophanes, Pax 1083, says. "You will never get a crab to walk straight," which may refer to this fable.


Avian, ed. Ellis, 5. Supposed to be referred to by Socrates when he says, Plato, Cratyl. 411 A, "I must not quake now I have donned the lion's skin" But it seems doubtful whether Socrates would have written himself down an ass, and the expression may really refer to the stage representations of Hercules. The fable is certainly Indian as it occurs among the Jātakas in a form which gives a raison d'être for the masquerade. The Ass in the Jataka is dressed every morning by his master in the Lion's skin, so as to obtain free pasturage by frightening away the villagers. (Given in Jacobs, Indian Fairy Tales, number 20.) The story is told of a Hare in South Africa (Bleek, Reineke Fuchs in Africa), Thackeray includes it as before in his Newcomes.


Avian, ed. Ellis, 9.

LI.—TWO POTS (Av. ix.)

Avian, ed. Ellis, II. Probably Indian. (Panch. iii. 13.) It occurs also in the Apocrypha: "Have no fellowship with one that is mightier and richer than thyself, for how agree the Kettle and Earthen Pot together?' (Ecclus. xiii. 2). There is a Talmudic proverb: "If a jug fall on a stone, woe to the jug; if a stone fall on a jug, woe to the jug." (Midr. Est. ap. Dukes Blumenlese, No. 530.)


Avian, ed. Ellis, 18. Also Babrius 44 (Three Bulls). We have ancient pictorial representations of this fable. Cf. Helbig, Untersuchungen 93.


Avian, ed. Ellis, 20. Also Babrius 6. Our "bird in the hand" is the English representation of the ancient fable which has gradually ceased to appear among the popular Æsops.


Avian 22. Probably Indian, occurring in the Panchatantra. It has been recovered among the Indian folk of to-day by Major Temple in his delightful Wide Awake Stories, p. 215; very popular in the Middle Ages, occurring as a fabliau, and used in the Monks' sermons. (See the Exempla of Jacques de Vitry, ed. Crane, 196.) Hans Sachs used it, and Gower, Conf. Amani. ii. 2. Chamisso made it the basis of his tale Abdullah.


Avian 27. A similar anecdote is told in the Talmud, Aboda Sara, 30 a. It is therefore probably Eastern.

LVI.—MAN AND SATYR (Av. xxii.)

Avian 29. Also in Babrius, ed. Gittlbauer, 183. From Greek prose Æsop, 64. Our expression "blow hot and cold" comes from this fable.


Avian 33. Probably Indian, as a similar tale occurs in the Jātakas.


From Petrus Alfonsi, Discipina Clericalis, c. 1106 A.D.; a set of tales taken from Oriental sources to season sermons: very popular in the Middle Ages. Lydgate founded his Chorle and Bird upon it.

LIX.—FOX, COCK, AND DOG (Ro. vii.)

Inserted among a selection from Poggio's Facetiae by Stainhöwel, who derived it from Romulus, iv. 18, so that it was probably once extant in Phædrus. A similar fable occurs as the Kukuta Jātaka which is figured on the Buddhist Stupa of Bharhut. I have reproduced the figure in my History, p. 76, and suggest there that the medieval form represents the original of the Jātaka better than that occurring in the present text, from considerations derived from this illustration.

All the preceding fables occur in the Stainhöwel, and so in Caxton's Æsop. The remainder have come into the popular Æsops from various sources, some of which are by no means easy to trace.


Avian 4, but not included by Caxton in his Selections from Avian. L'Estrange has it as his Fable 223. It occurs also in Babrius, 18, whence it came to the Greek prose Æsop. An epigram of Sophocles against Euripides contains an allusion to this fable (Athen. xiii. 82). The fable is applied to the behaviour of wives by Plutarch: Conj. Praec. chap. xii. It is given by La Fontaine vi. 3, Lôqman (the Arabic Æsop) xxxiv., and Waldis' Esopus i. 89.

Avian 32. Babrius 20. Greek Æsop, ed. Halm, 81. Not included by Caxton in his Selections. "Put your shoulder to the wheel" obviously comes from this fable, and thus ultimately from Avian's line:

"Et manibus pigras disce juvare rotas."

Also in La Fontaine vi. 18, Waldis ii. 14, L'Estrange 246.

Greek Prose Æsop, 59. Lessing, ii. 16. La Fontaine, iv. 20. L'Estrange, 146.

La Fontaine, iii. 1, from Poggio's Facetiae. We get this ultimately from Conde Lucanor, a Spanish collection of tales, many of which can be traced to the East, so that this is probably of Oriental origin, and indeed it occurs as the Lady's nineteenth story in the Turkish book of the Forty Vezirs. The remarks of the passers-by in the original are more forcible than elegant.

This is the only fable which can be traced with any plausibility to Æsop himself. At any rate, it is attributed to him on the high authority of Aristotle, Rhet. II. 20. The Roman Emperors seem to have had a special liking for this fable which they were wont to use to console provincials for the rapacity of proconsuls or procurators. Occurs in Plutarch, ed. Wittemb. IV 1. 144. Prose Æsop, 36 (from Aristotle). Gesta Romanorum, 51. Waldis, iv. 52. La Fontaine, xii. 13. L'Estrange, 254.

Greek prose Æsop, 46. Probably from Babrius (see Gittlbauer's edition, no. 224). Also Waldis, iii. 41. La Fontaine, v. 5. L'Estrange, 101.


Greek Prose Æsop. L'Estrange, 147.


La Fontaine, ii. 2, who probably got it from Abstemius, who may have derived it from the Fables of Bidpai. L'Estrange, 391. It is admirably told in the Prologue to Piers Plowman, texts B. and C. M. Jusserand, in his recent monograph on Piers Plowman (Eng. ed. p. 43), gives a representative of this fable found on the misericord of a stall at Great Malvern, the site of the poem. In a conspiracy against James III. of Scotland, Lord Grey narrated the fable, when Archibald Earl of Angus exclaimed "I am he who will bell the cat." Hence afterwards he was called Archibald Bell-the-Cat (Scott, Tales of a Grandfather, I. xix.). The Cat in Plowman's apologue is John of Gaunt. Skelton alludes to the fable in his Colin Clout. We get the expression "bell the cat" from it.


L'Estrange, 133. It occurs as a folk-tale in Grimm, and among the Folk in England.

Greek ÆEsop, ed. Halm, 90. Lôqman, 14. La Fontaine, i. 16. L'Estrange, 113. The similar fable of the Messengers of Death (on which cf. Dr. Morris in Folklore Journal) is certainly derived from India.

An original fable of Gay's, which has perhaps retained its popularity owing to the couplet

And when a Lady's in the case,
You know all other things give place.


Babrius 98. Used by Eumenes to warn the Macedonians against the wiles of Antigonus (Diod. Sicul. xix. 25). La Fontaine, iv. 1. L'Estrange, 121.


Babrius 47. A similar apologue is told of Ghenghiz Khan, and occurs in Harkon's Armenian History of the Tartars. Plutarch tells it of a king of Scythia (Apophth. 84, 16). Cf. Eccl. iv. 12. L'Estrange, 62. La Fontaine, iv. 17.


Referred to by Plato, Alcib. i. 503; also by Horace, Epist. I. i. 73 (Nulla vestigia retrorsum). It comes to us from the medieval prose Phædrus. Probably Indian, as it occurs in the Panchatantra, iii. 14. Also in the Tutinameh, ii. 125.


Babrius 95, told of the Lion and Bear. Certainly Indian, where it occurs in the Panchatantra, iv. 2, except that an Ass occurs instead of a Deer. From India the fable got to Judæa, where it is found in the Rabbinic Commentary on Exodus, here again the animal is an Ass. In both Indian and Greek original the animal loses its heart, which is regarded by the Ancients as the seat of intelligence. I have had to change the missing organ in order to preserve the pun which makes up most of the point of the story. The tale is however of very great critical importance in the history of the fable, and I have inserted it mainly for that reason. Mr. G. C. Keibel has studied the genealogy of the various versions in a recent article in Zeits. für vergleich. Literaturgeschichte, 1894, p. 264 seq.


Æschylus' Myrmidons as given by the Scholiast on Aristophanes' Aves, 808. Æschylus quotes it as being a Libyan fable, it is therefore probably Eastern. Byron refers to it in his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers:

So the struck eagle, stretch'd upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
View'd his own feather on the fatal dart,
And wing'd the shaft that quiver'd in his heart.

He got the idea from Waller, To a lady singing a song of his composing. Cf. La Fontaine, ii. 6.


From Phædrus, though not in the ordinary editions, the whole of the poem, however, can be restored from the prose version in the medieval Esopus ad Rufum. (See my History, p. 12.) The fable is told of a weasel by the dramatist Strattis, c. 400 B.C., and by Alexis, 375 B.C. Probably Indian, as a similar story occurs in the Panchatantra. A Brahmin saves a Mouse and turns it into a Maiden whom he determines to marry to the most powerful being in the world. The Mouse-Maiden objects to the Sun as a husband, as being too hot: to the Clouds, which can obscure the Sun, as being too cold: to the Wind, which can drive the Clouds, as too unsteady: to the Mountain, which can withstand the Wind, as being inferior to Mice which can bore into its entrails. So the Brahmin goes with her to the Mouse-King. Her body became beautified by her hair standing on end for joy, and she said "Papa, make me into a Mouse, and give me to him as a wife." The Indian fable has exactly the same moral as the Greek one, Naturam expellas. We can trace the incident of strong, stronger, more strong still, and strongest, in the Talmud, while there is a foreign air about the metempsychosis in the Phædrine fable. As this fable is one of the earliest known in Greece before Alexander's march to India, it is an important piece of evidence for the transmission of fables from the East. (Cf. La Fontaine, ii. 18; ix. 7.)

Has become popular through La Fontaine's Perrette. Derived from India, as has been shown by Benfey in his Einleitung. Panchatantra, §209. Professor Max Müller has expanded this in his admirable essay on the Emigration of Fables, Selected Essays, i. pp. 500-576. The story of Alnaschar, the Barber's Fifth Brother in the Arabian Nights, also comes from the same source. La Fontaine's version, which has made the fable so familiar to us all, comes from Bonaventure des Periers, Contes et Nouvelles, who got it from the Dialogus Creaturarum of Nicholaus Pergamenus, who derived it from the Sermones of Jacques de Vitry (see Prof. Crane's edition, no. ii.), who probably derived it from the Directorium Humana Vitæ of John of Capua, a converted Jew, who translated it from the Hebrew version of the the Arabic Kalilah wa Dimnah, which was itself derived from the old Syriac version of a Pehlevi translation of the original Indian work.


Babrius 7. Cf. Kirchhoff, Wendenmuth, vii. 54 (edit. Oesterley). Some versions have only a "wounded charger," who is afterwards set to work as a draught horse.

Greek prose Æsop, 386. Probably from Babrius. Cf. Gittlbauer, 171. Waldis, 155. L'Estrange, 67. Kirchhoff, vii. 93.

Greek Prose Æsop.

Greek Prose Æsop.


Phæd. iv. 9; occurs also in Babrius as reconstructed by Gittlbauer, No. 174.

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  1. Dodsley's Æsop in the last century was arranged on a somewhat similar plan, being divided into three books of Ancient, Modern, and Original Fables.