Aesop's Fables: More Fables about People

The prose fables in this unit come from what I consider to be the biggest and best collection of Aesop's fables in English: Sir Roger L'Estrange's late 17th-century masterpiece, Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists with Morals and Reflections. I have not included the morals and reflections here, just the story — but the morals and reflections make for good reading too, and if you are curious, you can see the whole (enormous) book online at the Internet Archive. L'Estrange was an important, and controversial, figure in British public life also; you can read his biography at Wikipedia.

As you will see, English spelling and capitalization in the late 17th century did not follow modern norms, and L'Estrange's English style is very colorful and hyperbolic. Even though these are prose fables and not poetry, I would strongly suggest you read them out loud to get the full effect!

[Notes by LKG]

These fables are part of the Aesop's Fables (English) unit. Story source: Story source: Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists by Roger L'Estrange (1692).

Aesop's Fables: More Fables about People

A Boy that would not learn his Book

There was a Stomachful Boy put to School, and the whole World could not bring him to Pronounce the First Letter of his Alphabet.

"Open your Mouth," says the Master, "and cry A."

The Boy Gapes with so much as offering at the Vowel.

When the Master could do not good upon him, his School-Fellows took him to Task among Themselves. "Why 'tis not so hard a Thing methinks," says one of 'em, "to cry A."

"No," says the Boy, "'tis not so hard neither; but if I should cry A once, they'd make me cry B too, and I'll never do that, I'm Resolv'd."

There's no Contending with Obstinacy and Ill Nature; especially where there's a Perverseness of Affection that goes along with it.

A Miser and Rotten Apples

There was a Stingy Narrow-Hearted Fellow, that had a Great deal of Choice Fruit in his Ground, but had not the Heart to touch any of it 'till it began to be Rotten.

This Man's Son would every foot and anon be taking some of his Companions into the Orchard with him.

"Look ye." says he, t"hat's an Excellent Apple, and here's a Delicate sort of Plums. Gather and Eat what you will of these, provided you don't Meddle with any of the Rotten Ones: For my Father (you must know) keeps them for this own Eating."

This is to set forth the Wicked and Scandlous Wretchedness of Avarice, that rather then make use of the Bounties of Providence in their Seasons, suffers them to lye by and Perish.

Two Travellers find an Oyster

As Two Men were Walking by the Sea-Side, at a Low-water, they saw an Oyster, and they both Pointed at it together: The One Stoops to take it up; the other gives him a Push, and tells him, "'Tis not yet Decided whether it shall be Yours or Mine."

In the Interim, while they were Disputing their Title to't, comes a Passenger that way, and to him they referr'd the Matter by Consent, which of the Two had the Better Right to the Oyster.

The Arbitrator very Gravely takes out his Knife, and Opens it, the Plaintiff and Defendant at the same time Gaping at the Man, to see what would come on't. He Loosens the Fish, Gulps it down, and so soon as ever the Morsel was gone the way of all Flesh, wipes his Mouth, and Pronounces Judgment.

"My Masters," says he, with the Voice of Authority, "the Court has Order'd each of ye a Shell, without Costs; and so pray go Home again, and Live Peaceably among your Neighbours."

Referees and Arbitrators seldom forget Themselves.

A Widow and a Green Ass

There was a Widow that had a Twittering toward a Second Husband, and she took a gossiping Companion of hers to her Assistance, how to manage the Job.

"The Truth of it is," says she, "I have a dear Mind to another Bedfellow: But the Devilish People would keep such a Snearing, and Pointing at me, they'd make me e'en weary of my Life."

"You are a Fine Widow i' faith," says T'other, "to trouble your Head for the Talk of the People. Pray will ye mind what I say to ye now. You have an Ass here in your Grounds; go your Ways and get that Ass painted Green, and then let him be carry'd up and down the Country for a Show. Do this, I say, without any more Words; for talk does but Burn Day-Light."

The Thing was done accordingly; and for the First Four or Five days, the Green Ass had the whole Country at his Heels, Man, Woman and Child, staring and hooting after him. In Four or Five Days more, the Humour was quite spent, and the Ass might travel from Morning to Night, and not one Creature to take Notice of him.

"Now," says the friendly Adviser, "a New-marry'd Widow is a kind of a Green Ass: Every Body's Mouth will be full on't for the First Four or Five Days, and in Four or Five more, the Story will e'en talk it self asleep."

Common Fame is as False and Impudent as a Common Strumpet. Let every Man live to his Confidence, and never trouble his Head with the Talk of the People.

An Old Man and an Ass

An Old Man and a Little Boy were driving an Ass before 'em to the next Market to Sell.

"Why have you no more Wit," says One to the Man upon the Way, "than you and your Son to Trudge it afoot, and let the Ass go Light?"

So the Man set the Boy upon the Ass, and Footed it himself.

"Why, Sirray," says another after this, to the Boy, "you lazy Rogue you, must you Ride, and let your Ancient Father go a Foot?"

The Man upon this, took down his Boy, and got up Himself.

"D'ye see," says a Third, "how the Lazy Old Knave Rides Himself, and the poor Little Child has much ado to Creep after him!"

The Father, upon this, took up his Son behind him. The next they met, ask'd the Old Man whether his Ass were his Own or no? He said, "Yes."

"Troth there's little Sign on't," says t'other, "by your Loading him thus."

"Well," says the Fellow to himself, "what am I to do now? For I am laugh'd at, if either the Ass be empty, or if One of us Rides, or Both."

And so in the Conclusion, he bound the Ass's Legs together with a Cord, and they try'd to Carry him to Market with a Pole upon their Shoulders betwixt them. This was Sport to every Body that saw it, insomuch that the Old Fellow in great Wrath threw down the Ass into a River, and so went his Way Home again.

The Good Man, in fine, was willing to please Every Body, but had the ill Fortune to please No Body, and lost his Ass into the Bargain.

He that resolves not to go to Bed, 'till all the World is pleas'd, shall be troubled with the Head-Ach.

Next: Apes

(1000 words)

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