Aesop's Fables: People Wise and Foolish, Part 1

On this page you will encounter people both wise and foolish (mostly foolish, of course!), including one of Aesop's most famous fables, the story of the boy who cried wolf. As with "the lion's share" and "sour grapes," the phrase "to cry wolf" has passed into the English language, taking on a life of its own separate from the fable itself. You can read more about the boy who cried wolf at Wikipedia.

[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).


People Wise and Foolish, Part 1


Jacobs 14. The Mountains in Labour (Perry 520)

One day the Countrymen noticed that the Mountains were in labour; smoke came out of their summits, the earth was quaking at their feet, trees were crashing, and huge rocks were tumbling. They felt sure that something horrible was going to happen. They all gathered together in one place to see what terrible thing this could be.

They waited and they waited, but nothing came.

At last there was a still more violent earthquake, and a huge gap appeared in the side of the Mountains. They all fell down upon their knees and waited.

At last, and at last, a teeny, tiny mouse poked its little head and bristles out of the gap and came running down towards them, and ever after they used to say: "Much outcry, little outcome."

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 43. The Shepherd's Boy (Perry 210)

There was once a young Shepherd Boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. It was rather lonely for him all day, so he thought upon a plan by which he could get a little company and some excitement. He rushed down towards the village calling out "Wolf, Wolf," and the villagers came out to meet him, and some of them stopped with him for a considerable time.

This pleased the boy so much that a few days afterwards he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help.

But shortly after this a Wolf actually did come out from the forest, and began to worry the sheep, and the boy of course cried out "Wolf, Wolf," still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again deceiving them, and nobody stirred to come to his help.

So the Wolf made a good meal off the boy's flock, and when the boy complained, the wise man of the village said: "A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth."

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 80. The Buffoon and the Countryman (Perry 527)

At a country fair there was a Buffoon who made all the people laugh by imitating the cries of various animals. He finished off by squeaking so like a pig that the spectators thought that he had a porker concealed about him.

But a Countryman who stood by said: "Call that a pig s squeak! Nothing like it. You give me till tomorrow and I will show you what it's like."

The audience laughed, but next day, sure enough, the Countryman appeared on the stage, and putting his head down squealed so hideously that the spectators hissed and threw stones at him to make him stop.

"You fools!" he cried, "see what you have been hissing," and held up a little pig whose ear he had been pinching to make him utter the squeals.

Men often applaud an imitation and hiss the real thing.

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 81. The Old Woman and the Wine-Jar (Perry 493)

You must know that sometimes old women like a glass of wine. One of this sort once found a Wine-jar lying in the road, and eagerly went up to it hoping to find it full.

But when she took it up she found that all the wine had been drunk out of it. Still she took a long sniff at the mouth of the Jar. "

Ah," she cried: "What memories cling 'round the instruments of our pleasure."

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 79. The Trumpeter Taken Prisoner (Perry 370)

A Trumpeter during a battle ventured too near the enemy and was captured by them. They were about to proceed to put him to death when he begged them to hear his plea for mercy.

"I do not fight," said he, "and indeed carry no weapon; I only blow this trumpet, and surely that cannot harm you; then why should you kill me?"

"You may not fight yourself," said the others, "but you encourage and guide your men to the fight."

Words may be deeds.

Crane 43. The Trumpeter Taken Prisoner (Perry 370)

A Trumpeter, prisoner made,
Hoped his life would be spared when he said
He'd no part in the fight,
But they answered him: "Right,
But what of the music you made?"

SONGS MAY SERVE A CAUSE AS WELL AS SWORDS







(700 words)













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