Aesop's Fables: Nature and Inanimate Objects

In a world where animals can talk, it makes sense that there might be other characters who can talk, and here you will read fables with talking trees, the sun and the wind, and even two jars in conversation.

Finally, you will read a fable that has gained a special fame thanks to its use in Shakespeare's Coriolanus: the fable of the belly and the body parts. You can read more about this famous fable at Wikipedia.

For the two-fable illustration, you will see the story of The Fir and the Bramble 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).

Nature and Inanimate Objects

Jacobs 27. The Man and the Wood (Perry 302)

A Man came into a Wood one day with an axe in his hand, and begged all the Trees to give him a small branch which he wanted for a particular purpose. The Trees were good-natured and gave him one of their branches.

What did the Man do but fix it into the axe head, and soon set to work cutting down tree after tree.

Then the Trees saw how foolish they had been in giving their enemy the means of destroying themselves.

Crane 25. The Trees and The Woodman (Perry 302)

The Trees ask of Man what he lacks.
"One bit, just to handle my axe?"
All he asks - well and good:
But he cuts down the wood,
So well does he handle his axe.


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 37. The Tree and the Reed (Perry 70)

"Well, little one," said a Tree to a Reed that was growing at its foot, "why do you not plant your feet deeply in the ground, and raise your head boldly in the air as I do?"

"I am contented with my lot," said the Reed. "I may not be so grand, but I think I am safer."

"Safe!" sneered the Tree. "Who shall pluck me up by the roots or bow my head to the ground?"

But it soon had to repent of its boasting, for a hurricane arose which tore it up from its roots, and cast it a useless log on the ground, while the little Reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over. 

Obscurity often brings safety.

Crane 23. The Oak and The Reed (Perry 70)

Giant Oak, in his strength and his scorn
Of the winds, by the roots was uptorn:
But slim Reeds at his side,
The fierce gale did outride,
Since, by bending, the burden was borne.


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 60. The Wind and the Sun (Perry 46)

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: "I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin."

So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair.

Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

Kindness effects more than severity.

Crane 4. The Wind and The Sun (Perry 46)

The Wind and the Sun had a bet,
The wayfarers' cloak which should get:
Blew the Wind, the cloak clung;
Shone the Sun, the cloak flung
Showed the Sun had the best of it yet.


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 51. The Two Pots (Perry 513)

Two Pots had been left on the bank of a river, one of brass, and one of earthenware. When the tide rose they both floated off down the stream.

Now the earthenware pot tried its best to keep aloof from the brass one, which cried out: "Fear nothing, friend, I will not strike you."

"But I may come in contact with you," said the other, "if I come too close; and whether I hit you, or you hit me, I shall suffer for it."

The strong and the weak cannot keep company.

Crane 34. The Two Jars (Perry 513)

"Never fear!" said the Brass to the Clay,
Of two jars that the flood bore away:
"Keep you close to my side!"
But the Porcelain replied,
"I'll be smashed if beside you I stay."


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 29. The Belly and the Members (Perry 130)

One fine day it occurred to the Members of the Body that they were doing all the work and the Belly was having all the food. So they held a meeting, and after a long discussion, decided to strike work till the Belly consented to take its proper share of the work.

So for a day or two, the Hands refused to take the food, the Mouth refused to receive it, and the Teeth had no work to do.

But after a day or two the Members began to find that they themselves were not in a very active condition: the Hands could hardly move, and the Mouth was all parched and dry, while the Legs were unable to support the rest.

So thus they found that even the Belly in its dull quiet way was doing necessary work for the Body, and that all must work together or the Body will go to pieces.

Next page: Humans and Gods

(600 words)

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