Aesop's Fables: Birds, Part 1

The story of The Fox and the Crow here shows the trickster fox at his best. The name given to the fox here, Reynard, is the name of the fox in medieval French folklore. For more about Reynard the fox, see Wikipedia.

Then, for a wonderful example of "life imitating art," see the crow who really does drop rocks in a jar to raise the level of the water! The crow's intelligence is put to a more sinister purpose in the story of The Tortoise and the Birds.

Finally, in the last two stories on this page, we get to see the vanity of two birds, the jackdaw and the peacock. The peacock rebukes the jackdaw in The Jay and the Peacock, and then in The Peacock and Juno, the queen of the gods rebukes the bird. For the story of why the peacock was Juno's special bird, see the Greek myth of Argus and Hera (Hera is the Greek name; Juno is Roman).

For the two-fable illustration, you will get the story of The Snake and the File and The Eagle and the Crow 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).

Birds, Part 1

Jacobs 8. The Fox and the Crow (Perry 124)

A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree. "That's for me, as I am a Fox," said Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree.

"Good-day, Mistress Crow," he cried. "How well you are looking to-day: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds."

The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox.

"That will do," said he. "That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese I will give you a piece of advice for the future: Do not trust flatterers."

Crane 12. The Fox and The Crow (Perry 124)

Said sly Fox to the Crow with the cheese,
"Let me hear your sweet voice, now, do please!"
And this Crow, bring weak,
Cawed the bit from her beak.
"Music charms," said the Fox, "and here's cheese."


Jacobs 55. The Crow and the Pitcher (Perry 390)

A Crow, half-dead with thirst, came upon a pitcher which had once been full of water; but when the Crow put its beak into the mouth of the pitcher he found that only very little water was left in it, and that he could not reach far enough down to get at it. He tried, and he tried, but at last had to give up in despair.

Then a thought came to him, and he took a pebble and dropped it into the pitcher.

Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the pitcher.

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the pitcher.

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the pitcher.

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the pitcher.

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the pitcher.

At last, at last, he saw the water mount up near him, and after casting in a few more pebbles he was able to quench his thirst and save his life.

Little by little does the trick.

Crane 39. The Crow and The Pitcher (Perry 390)

How the cunning old Crow got his drink
When 'twas low in the pitcher, just think!
Don't say that he spilled it!
With pebbles he filled it,
Till the water rose up to the brink.


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 47. The Tortoise and the Birds (Perry 490)

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; the Eagle, taking the hint, let fall the Tortoise on a sharp rock, and the two birds made a hearty meal of the Tortoise.

Never soar aloft on an enemy's pinions.

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 21. The Jay and the Peacock (Perry 472)

A Jay venturing into a yard where Peacocks used to walk, found there a number of feathers which had fallen from the Peacocks when they were molting. He tied them all to his tail and strutted down towards the Peacocks.

When he came near them they soon discovered the cheat, and striding up to him pecked at him and plucked away his borrowed plumes.

So the Jay could do no better than go back to the other Jays, who had watched his behaviour from a distance; but they were equally annoyed with him, and told him: "It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds."

Crane 32. The Vain Jackdaw (Perry 472)

"Fine feathers," Jack thought, "make fine fowls;
I'll be envied of bats and of owls."
But the Peacock's proud eyes
Saw through his disguise,
And Jack fled the assembly of fowls.


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 33. The Peacock and Juno (Perry 509)

A Peacock once placed a petition before Juno desiring to have the voice of a nightingale in addition to his other attractions; but Juno refused his request. When he persisted, and pointed out that he was her favourite bird, she said: "Be content with your lot; one cannot be first in everything."

Crane 33. The Peacock's Complaint (Perry 509)

The Peacock considered it wrong
That he had not the nightingale's song;
So to Juno he went,
She replied, "Be content
With thy having, and hold thy fool's tongue."


Next page: Birds, Part 2

(700 words)

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