Aesop's Fables: Asses

The donkey is usually a figure of mockery in Aesop's fables, often became he aspires to be more than an ass, as here in the story of The Ass in the Lion's Skin, The Ass's Brains, and The Ass and the Lapdog. At the same time, the donkey's lowly status can grant him an honesty and humility that other creatures lack, as in the story of The Horse and the Ass.

For the two-fable illustration, you will get the story of The Cock, The Ass, and The Lion later.

[Notes by LKG]

These fables are part of the Aesop's Fables (Jacobs) unit. Story sources: The prose fables are from The Fables of Aesop by Joseph Jacobs (1894) and the limericks and illustrations are from The Baby's Own Aesop by W. J. Linton and illustrated by Walter Crane (1887).


Jacobs 49. The Ass in the Lion's Skin (Perry 188)

An Ass once found a Lion's skin which the hunters had left out in the sun to dry. He put it on and went towards his native village. All fled at his approach, both men and animals, and he was a proud Ass that day.

In his delight he lifted up his voice and brayed, but then every one knew him, and his owner came up and gave him a sound cudgelling for the fright he had caused.

And shortly afterwards a Fox came up to him and said: "Ah, I knew you by your voice."

Fine clothes may disguise, but silly words will disclose a fool.

Crane 29. The Ass in the Lion's Skin (Perry 358)

"What pranks I shall play!" thought the Ass,
"In this skin for a Lion to pass."
But he left one ear out,
And a hiding, no doubt,
"Lion" had - on the skin of an Ass!


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 74. The Ass's Brains (Perry 336)

The Lion and the Fox went hunting together. The Lion, on the advice of the Fox, sent a message to the Ass, proposing to make an alliance between their two families.

The Ass came to the place of meeting, overjoyed at the prospect of a royal alliance. But when he came there the Lion simply pounced on the Ass, and said to the Fox: "Here is our dinner for to-day. Watch you here while I go and have a nap. Woe betide you if you touch my prey."

The Lion went away and the Fox waited but, finding that his master did not return, ventured to take out the brains of the Ass and ate them up.

When the Lion came back he soon noticed the absence of the brains and asked the Fox in a terrible voice: "What have you done with the brains?"

"Brains, your Majesty! it had none, or it would never have fallen into your trap."

Wit has always an answer ready.

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 10. The Ass and the Lapdog (Perry 91)

A Farmer one day came to the stables to see to his beasts of burden: among them was his favourite Ass, that was always well fed and often carried his master.

With the Farmer came his Lapdog, who danced about and licked his hand and frisked about as happy as could be. The Farmer felt in his pocket, gave the Lapdog some dainty food, and sat down while he gave his orders to his servants. The Lapdog jumped into his master's lap, and lay there blinking while the Farmer stroked his ears.

The Ass, seeing this, broke loose from his halter and commenced prancing about in imitation of the Lapdog. The Farmer could not hold his sides with laughter, so the Ass went up to him, and putting his feet upon the Farmer's shoulder attempted to climb into his lap.

The Farmer's servants rushed up with sticks and pitchforks and soon taught the Ass: clumsy jesting is no joke.

Crane 60. The Ass and The Lap Dog (Perry 91)

"How Master that little Dog pets!"
Thinks the Ass, and with jealousy frets,
So he climbs Master's knees,
Hoping dog-like to please,
And a drubbing is all that he gets.


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 78. The Horse and the Ass (Perry 357)

A Horse and an Ass were travelling together, the Horse prancing along in its fine trappings, the Ass carrying with difficulty the heavy weight in its panniers.

"I wish I were you," sighed the Ass; "nothing to do and well fed, and all that fine harness upon you."

Next day, however, there was a great battle, and the Horse was wounded to death in the final charge of the day.

His friend, the Ass, happened to pass by shortly afterwards and found him on the point of death. "I was wrong," said the Ass: "Better humble security than gilded danger."

Next page: Deer

(600 words)

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