The Fox and the Woodcutter

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the wulf and of the sheepherd and of the hunter

Many folke shewe them self good by theyr wordes whiche are ful of grete fantasyes / As reherceth to vs thys fable of a wulf whiche fledde byfore the hunter / And as he fledde he mette with a sheepherd / to whome he said My frende I praye the that thow telle not to hym that foloweth me which wey I am gone / & the sheepherd said to hym haue no drede ne fere no thynge / For I shalle not accuse the / For I shalle shewe to hym another way / And as the hunter came / he demaunded of the sheepherd yf he had sene the wulf passe / And the sheepherd both with the heed and of the eyen shewed to the hunter the place where the wulf was / & with the hand and the tongue shewed alle the contrarye / And incontynent the hunter vnderstood hym wel / But the wulf whiche perceyued wel all the fayned maners of the sheepherd fled awey / And within a lytyll whyle after the sheepherd encountred and mette with the wulf / to whome he sayd / paye me of that I haue kepte the secrete / And thenne the wulf ansuerd to hym in this manere / I thanke thyn handes and the tongue / and not thyn hede ne thyn eyen / For by them I shold haue ben bytrayed / yf I had not fledde aweye /

And therfore men must not truste in hym that hath two faces and two tongues / for suche folk is lyke and semblable to the scorpion / the whiche enoynteth with his tongue / and prycketh sore with his taylle

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

A FOX AND HUNTSMEN

A Fox that had been hard run, begg’d of a Countryman that he saw at work in a Wood, to help him to some Hiding-Place. The Man directed him to his Cottage, and thither he went. He was no sooner got in, but the Huntsmen were presently at the Heels of him, and asked the Cottager if he did not see a Fox that way? No truly, says he, I saw none: but pointed at the same time with his Finger to the place where he lay. The Huntsmen did not take the Hint, it seems, but the Fox spy’d him, however, through a Peeping-Hole he had found out to see what News: So the Fox-Hunters went their way , and then out-steals the Fox without one Word speaking. Why how now, says the Man, han’t ye the Manners to take leave of your Host before you go? Yes, yes, says the Fox, if you had been as honest of your Fingers, as you were of your Tongue, I should not have gone without bidding ye farewel.

THE MORAL. A Man may tell a lye by Signs, as well as in Words at length, and his Conscience is as answerable for his Fingers as for his Tongue.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Fox and the Woodcutter

A Fox, running before the hounds, came across a Woodcutter felling an oak and begged him to show him a safe hiding-place. The Woodcutter advised him to take shelter in his own hut, so the Fox crept in and hid himself in a corner. The huntsman soon came up with his hounds and inquired of the Woodcutter if he had seen the Fox. He declared that he had not seen him, and yet pointed, all the time he was speaking, to the hut where the Fox lay hidden. The huntsman took no notice of the signs, but believing his word, hastened forward in the chase. As soon as they were well away, the Fox departed without taking any notice of the Woodcutter: whereon he called to him and reproached him, saying, "You ungrateful fellow, you owe your life to me, and yet you leave me without a word of thanks." The Fox replied, "Indeed, I should have thanked you fervently if your deeds had been as good as your words, and if your hands had not been traitors to your speech."