Aesop's Fables: Deer

In some Aesop's fables, the deer takes the form of a stag, a formidable foe, as you can see in the fable of The Horse, The Hunter, and The Stag. Yet the stag can also fail to be aware of its own strength, and its horns can be its undoing as in The Hart and the Hunter and The Stag in the Ox-Stall.

Meanwhile, the fable of The One-Eyed Doe is a good example of a weird and improbable fable, something that you could never imagine really happening in the world but which is instead something like a "thought experiment" designed to express the moral in narrative form.

For the two-fable illustrations, you will get the story of The Ass and the Enemy and The Deer 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 32. The Horse, The Hunter, and The Stag (Perry 269)

A quarrel had arisen between the Horse and the Stag, so the Horse came to a Hunter to ask his help to take revenge on the Stag.

The Hunter agreed, but said: "If you desire to conquer the Stag, you must permit me to place this piece of iron between your jaws, so that I may guide you with these reins, and allow this saddle to be placed upon your back so that I may keep steady upon you as we follow after the enemy."

The Horse agreed to the conditions, and the Hunter soon saddled and bridled him.

Then with the aid of the Hunter the Horse soon overcame the Stag, and said to the Hunter: "Now, get off, and remove those things from my mouth and back."

"Not so fast, friend," said the Hunter. "I have now got you under bit and spur, and prefer to keep you as you are at present."

If you allow men to use you for your own purposes, they will use you for theirs.

Crane 16. Horse and Man (Perry 269)

When the Horse first took Man on his back,
To help him the Stag to attack,
How little his dread,
As the enemy fled,
Man would make him his slave and his hack.


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 25. The Hart and the Hunter (Perry 74)

The Hart was once drinking from a pool and admiring the noble figure he made there. "Ah," said he, "where can you see such noble horns as these, with such antlers! I wish I had legs more worthy to bear such a noble crown; it is a pity they are so slim and slight."

At that moment a Hunter approached and sent an arrow whistling after him. Away bounded the Hart, and soon, by the aid of his nimble legs, was nearly out of sight of the Hunter; but not noticing where he was going, he passed under some trees with branches growing low down in which his antlers were caught, so that the Hunter had time to come up.

"Alas! alas!" cried the Hart: "We often despise what is most useful to us."

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 30. The Stag in the Ox-Stall (Perry 492)

A Hart hotly pursued by the hounds fled for refuge into an ox-stall, and buried itself in a truss of hay, leaving nothing to be seen but the tips of his horns.

Soon after the Hunters came up and asked if any one had seen the Hart. The stable boys, who had been resting after their dinner, looked round, but could see nothing, and the Hunters went away.

Shortly afterwards the master came in, and looking round, saw that something unusual had taken place. He pointed to the truss of hay and said: "What are those two curious things sticking out of the hay?"

And when the stable boys came to look they discovered the Hart, and soon made an end of him. He thus learnt: nothing escapes the master's eye.

Crane 46. The Stag in The Ox Stall (Perry 492)

Safe enough lay the poor hunted Deer
In the ox-stall, with nothing to fear
From the careless-eyed men:
Till the Master came; then
There was no hiding-place for the Deer.


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 66. The One-Eyed Doe (Perry 75)

A Doe had had the misfortune to lose one of her eyes, and could not see any one approaching her on that side. So to avoid any danger she always used to feed on a high cliff near the sea, with her sound eye looking towards the land. By this means she could see whenever the hunters approached her on land, and often escaped by this means.

But the hunters found out that she was blind of one eye, and hiring a boat rowed under the cliff where she used to feed and shot her from the sea.

"Ah," cried she with her dying voice: "You cannot escape your fate."

Crane 41. The Blind Doe (Perry 75)

A poor half-blind Doe her one eye
Kept shoreward, all danger to spy,
As she fed by the sea,
Poor innocent! she
Was shot from a boat passing by.


Next page: Hares

(600 words)

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