The Oaks and Jupiter

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the man and of the wood

He that gyueth ayde and help to his enemy is cause of his dethe / as recyteth this fable of a man whiche made an axe / And after that he had made his axe / he asked of the trees / and sayd / ye trees gyue yow to me a handle / And the trees were content / And whanne he had maade fast his handle to the axe / he began to cutte and throwe doune to the ground alle the trees / wherfore the oke and the Asshe sayd / yf we be cutte / hit is wel ryght and reason / For of oure owne self we ben cut and thrawen doune /

And thus hit is not good to put hym self in to the daunger and subiection of his enemye / ne to helpe hym for to be adommaged / as thou maist see by this presente fable / For men ought not to gyue the staf / by whiche they may be beten with

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


A Carpenter that had got the iron Work of an Ax already, went to the next Forest to beg only so much Wood as would make a Handle to’t. The Matter seem’d so small, that the Request was easily granted; but when the timber Trees came to find that the whole Wood was to be cut down by the Help of this Handle; There’s no Remedy, they cry’d, but Patience, when People are undone by their own Folly.

THE MORAL OF THE FOUR FABLES ABOVE. Nothing goes nearer a Man in his Misfortunes, than to find himself undone by his own folly, or but any way accessary to his own Ruin.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Oaks and Jupiter

The Oaks presented a complaint to Jupiter, saying, "We bear for no purpose the burden of life, as of all the trees that grow we are the most continually in peril of the axe." Jupiter made answer: "You have only to thank yourselves for the misfortunes to which you are exposed: for if you did not make such excellent pillars and posts, and prove yourselves so serviceable to the carpenters and the farmers, the axe would not so frequently be laid to your roots."

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Man and the Wood

A Man came into a Wood one day with an axe in his hand, and begged all the Trees to give him a small branch which he wanted for a particular purpose. The Trees were good-natured and gave him one of their branches. What did the Man do but fix it into the axe head, and soon set to work cutting down tree after tree. Then the Trees saw how foolish they had been in giving their enemy the means of destroying themselves.