The Wild Ass and the Lion

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The Wild Ass and the Lion
by Aesop

Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the lyon and of the cowe / of the goote and of the sheep

Men sayen comynly that it is not good to ete plommes with his lord / ne to the poure it is not good to haue partage and dyuysyon with hym whiche is ryche & myghty / wherof Esope reherceth suche a fable / The cowe / the gote & the sheep went ones a huntyng & chase / with the lyon & toke a herte / And whanne they came to haue theyr parte / the lyon sayd to them / My lordes I late you wete / that the fyrst part is myn by cause I am your lord / the second by cause / I am stronger than ye be / the thyrd / by cause I ranne more swyfter than ye dyd / And who so euer toucheth the fourthe parte / he shalle be myn mortal enemy / And thus he took for hym self alone the herte /

And therfore this fable techeth to al folk / that the poure ought not to hold felauship with the myghty / For the myghty man is neuer feythfull to the poure

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


A Lion, an Ass, and some other of their Fellow-Foresters, went a hunting one day; and every one to go share and share-like in what they took. They pluck'd down a Stag, and cut him into so many Parts; but as they were entring upon the dividend, Hands off, says the Lion, This Part is mine by the Privilege of my Quality; this, because I'll have it in spite of your teeth; this again, because I took most pains for't; and if you dispute the fourth, we must e'en pluck a Crow about it. So the Confederates Mouths were all stopt, and they went away as mute as Fishes. THE MORAL. There's no entring into Leagues or Partnerships with those that are either too powerful, or too crafty for us. He that has the Staff in his Hand will be his own Carver. Bought Wit is best.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Wild Ass and the Lion

A Wild Ass and a Lion entered into an alliance so that they might capture the beasts of the forest with greater ease. The Lion agreed to assist the Wild Ass with his strength, while the Wild Ass gave the Lion the benefit of his greater speed. When they had taken as many beasts as their necessities required, the Lion undertook to distribute the prey, and for this purpose divided it into three shares. "I will take the first share," he said, "because I am King: and the second share, as a partner with you in the chase: and the third share (believe me) will be a source of great evil to you, unless you willingly resign it to me, and set off as fast as you can."

Might makes right.

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Lion's Share

The Lion went once a-hunting along with the Fox, the Jackal, and the Wolf. They hunted and they hunted till at last they surprised a Stag, and soon took its life. Then came the question how the spoil should be divided. "Quarter me this Stag," roared the Lion; so the other animals skinned it and cut it into four parts. Then the Lion took his stand in front of the carcass and pronounced judgment: The first quarter is for me in my capacity as King of Beasts; the second is mine as arbiter; another share comes to me for my part in the chase; and as for the fourth quarter, well, as for that, I should like to see which of you will dare to lay a paw upon it."

"Humph," grumbled the Fox as he walked away with his tail between his legs; but he spoke in a low growl ."You may share the labours of the great, but you will not share the spoil."