Texts : Aesop's Fables

From William Caxton's early English translation of 1484, as published on Aesopica.

Caxton 1.2. Of the wulf and of the lambe (Perry 155)

Of the Innocent and of the shrewe Esope reherceth to vs suche a fable / how it was so / that the lambe and the wulf had bothe thurst / and went bothe to a Ryuer for to drynke / It happed that the wulf dranke aboue & the lambe dranke bynethe / And as the wulf sawe and perceyued the lambe / he sayd with a hyghe voys / Ha knaue why hast thou troubled and fowled my water / whiche I shold now drynke / Allas my lord sauf your grece / For the water cometh fro yow toward me / Thenne sayd the wulf to the lambe / Hast thow no shame ne drede to curse me / And the lambe sayd My lord with your leue / And the wulf sayd ageyne / Hit is not syxe monethes passyd that thy fader dyd to me as moche / And the lambe ansuerd yet was I not at that tyme born / And the wlf said ageyne to hym / Thou hast ete my fader / And the lambe ansuerd / I haue no teeth / Thenne said the wulf / thou arte wel lyke thy fader / and for his synne & mysded thow shalt deye / The wulf thenne toke the lambe and ete hym / This fable sheweth that the euylle man retcheth not by what maner he may robbe & destroye the good & innocent man.

Catxton 2.8. Of the hares and of the frogges (Perry 138)

Men say comynly that after that the tyme goth / so must folke go / For yf thow makest distinction of the tyme thow shalt wel accord the scryptures / wherof Esope reherceth to vs suche a fable / And sayth thus / that he whiche beholdeth the euylle of other / must haue pacyence of the euylle that maye come vpon hym / For somtyme as a hunter chaced thurgh the feldes and woodes / the hares beganne to flee for fere And as they ranne / they adressyd them in to a medowe fulle of frogges / And whanne the frogges herd the hares renne they beganne also to flee and to renne fast / And thenne a hare whiche perceyued them so ferdfull sayd to alle his felawes / Lete vs no more be dredeful ne doubtuous / for we be not alone that haue had drede / For alle the frogges ben in doubte / and haue fere and drede as we haue / Therfore we ought not to despayre / but haue trust and hope to lyue / And yf somme aduersyte cometh vpon vs / we must bere it pacyently / For ones the tyme shalle come that we shalle be oute of payne and oute of all drede / Therfore in the vnhappy and Infortunat tyme men ought not be despayred / but oughte euer to be in good hope to haue ones better in tyme of prosperyte / For after grete werre cometh good pees / And after the rayne cometh the fair weder.

Caxton 6.4. Of the catte and of the chyken (Perry 16)

He whiche is fals of kynde / & hath begonne to deceyue some other / euer he wyl vse his craft / As it appiereth by this present Fable of a kat whiche somtyme tok a chyken / the whiche he biganne strongly to blame / for to haue fonde somme cause that he myght ete hit / and sayd to hym in this manere / Come hyther thou chyken / thow dost none other good but crye alle the nyght / thow letest not the men slepe / And thenne the chyken ansuerd to hym / I doo hit for theyre grete prouffite / And ouer ageyne the catte sayd to hym / Yet is there wel wors / For thow arte an inceste & lechour For thow knowest naturelly both thy moder and thy doughter And thenne the chyken sayd to the cat / I doo hit by cause that my mayster maye haue egges for his etynge / And that hys mayster for his prouffyte gaf to hym bothe the moder and the doughter for to multyplye the egges / And thenne the Catte sayd to hym / by me feythe godsep thow hast of excusacions ynough / but neuertheles thow shalt passe thurgh my throte / for I suppose not to faste this day for alle thy wordes / And thus is it of hym whiche is custommed to lyue by rauyn / For he can not kepe ne absteyne hym self fro hit / For alle thexcusacions that be leyd on hym.

From Laura Gibbs, Aesop's Fables. A new translation, 2008 (using the Perry index). Source: Aesopica: Aesop's Fables in English, Latin and Greek

Eagle and Fox (Perry 1)

The eagle befriended the fox but he later devoured the fox's pups. Since she had no power over the eagle, the fox prayed to the gods for justice. Then one day when a sacrifice was burning upon an altar, the eagle flew down and grabbed the sizzling meat to carry it off to his chicks. The meat was so hot that as soon as the chicks ate it, they died. This fable shows that even if the victims of powerful and wicked people cannot get revenge directly, the gods will nevertheless inflict a punishment on them in response to their victims' prayers.

Jupiter and the Frogs (Perry 44)

While the frogs were hopping about in the freedom of their pond they began shouting to Jupiter that they wanted a king who could hold their dissolute habits in check. Jupiter laughed and bestowed on the frogs a small piece of wood which he dropped all of a sudden into their pond. As the wood splashed lightly into the water, it terrified the timid frogs. They plunged into the mud and hid there a long time until one frog happened to raise her head cautiously up out of the water. After studying the king, she summoned the other frogs. Putting aside their fear, the frogs all raced over and began jumping on the piece of wood, rudely making fun of it. When the frogs had showered their king with shame and scorn, they asked Jupiter to send them another one. Jupiter was angry that they had made fun of the king he had given them, so he sent them a water-snake, who killed the frogs one by one with her piercing sting. As the water-snake was happily eating her fill, the useless creatures ran away, speechless in their fright. They secretly sent a message to Jupiter through Mercury, begging him to put a stop to the slaughter but Jupiter replied, 'Since you rejected what was good in order to get something bad, you better put up with it - or else something even worse might happen!'

The Peacock Elected King of the Birds (Perry 219)

There were once some birds who gathered together for a group assembly and debated amongst themselves who was best suited to rule. The peacock said to the other birds, 'The kingship suits me best, since I am remarkably beautiful and in the prime of life.' While the rest of the birds were satisfied with the peacock, the raven made his way into their midst and protested, 'Tell me, if you become king, what is going to happen when the eagle attacks us: are you strong enough to rescue us from his assault?' The fable shows that the kingship is not suited for those who are resplendent with beauty, but rather for those who have physical prowess and other outstanding qualities.

The City Mouse and the Country Mous (Perry 353)

A city mouse once happened to pay a visit to the house of a country mouse where he was served a humble meal of acorns. The city mouse finished his business in the country and by means of insistent invitations he persuaded the country mouse to come pay him a visit. The city mouse then brought the country mouse into a room that was overflowing with food. As they were feasting on various delicacies, a butler opened the door. The city mouse quickly concealed himself in a familiar mouse hole, but the poor country mouse was not acquainted with the house and frantically scurried around the floorboards, frightened out of his wits. When the butler had taken what he needed, he closed the door behind him. The city mouse then urged the country mouse to sit back down to dinner. The country mouse refused and said, 'How could I possibly do that? Oh, how scared I am! Do you think that the man is going to come back?' This was all that the terrified mouse was able to say. The city mouse insisted, 'My dear fellow, you could never find such delicious food as this anywhere else in the world.' 'Acorns are enough for me,' the country mouse maintained, 'so long as I am secure in my freedom!' It is better to live in self-sufficient poverty than to be tormented by the worries of wealth.