The Tortoise and the Birds

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the Egle whiche bare a nutte in his becke and of the rauen

He that is sure and wel garnysshed yet by fals counceyll may be bytrayed / wherof Esope telleth suche a fable /

An Egle was somtyme vpon a tree / whiche held with his bylle a nutte / whiche he coude not breke / the rauen came to hym / and sayd / Thow shalt neuer breke it / tylle thow fleest as hyghe as thow mayst / And thenne late it falle vpon the stones / And the Egle beganne to flyhe and lete fall his proye / and thus he lost his notte /

And thus many one ben deceyued thorugh fals counceylle / and by the fals tongue of other

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

A CROW AND A MUSCLE (Perry 490)

There was one of your Royston-Crows, that lay battering upon a Muscle, and could not for hi Blood break the Shell to come at the Fish. A Carrion-Crow, in this interim, comes up, and tells him, that what he could not do by Force, he might do by Stratagem. Take this Muscle up in the Air, says the Crow, as high as you can carry it, and then let him fall upon that Rock there; his own Weight, you shall see, shall break him. The Roystoner took his Advice, and it succeeded accordingly; but while the one was upon Wing, the other stood lurching upon the Ground, and flew away with the Fish.

THE MORAL. Charity begins at home, they say; and most People are kind to their Neighbours for their own sakes.

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Tortoise & The Birds


A TORTOISE desired to change its place of residence, so he asked an Eagle to carry him to his new home, promising her a rich reward for her trouble. The Eagle agreed, and seizing the Tortoise by the shell with her talons, soared aloft. On their way they met a Crow, who said to the Eagle: "Tortoise is good eating." "The shell is too hard," said the Eagle in reply. "The rocks will soon crack the shell," was the Crow's answer; and the Eagle, taking the hint, let fall the Tortoise on a sharp rock, and the two birds made a hearty meal off the Tortoise.


Never soar aloft on an enemy's pinions.