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ESL/EFL Texts: Fables for ESL/EFL Beginners

A fable is short, simple form of naive allegory. Although the term fable can be applied to any work of fiction, it most frequently denotes a brief tale in which animals or inanimate objects speak and behave like humans, usually to advance a moral point. The term is derived from the Latin fabula, "a telling." Unfortunately, the fables usually contain many obsolete (old) words, therefore fables badly approach for the ESL beginners.

Aesop is the supposed author of a collection of Greek fables, almost certainly a legendary figure. Various attempts were made in ancient times to establish him as an actual personage. Herodotus in the 5th century BC said that he had lived in the 6th century and that he was a slave. Plutarch in the 1st century AD made him adviser to Croesus, the 6th-century-BC king of Lydia. An Egyptian biography of the 1st century AD places him on the island of Samos as a slave who gained his freedom from his master, thence going to Babylon as riddle solver to King Lycurgus, and, finally, meeting his death at Delphi. The probability is that Aesop was no more than a name invented to provide an author for fables centering on beasts, so that "a story of Aesop" became synonymous with "fable."

On a site ESLMOBI.COM there is a small collection of Aesop's fables, which one is reworked for the beginners.

The Hen and the Golden Eggs

A Cottager and his wife had a Hen, which laid every day a golden egg.
They supposed that it must contain a great lump of gold in its inside, and killed it in order that they might get it, when, to their surprise, they found that the Hen differed in no respect from their other hens.
The foolish pair, thus hoping to become rich all at once, deprived themselves of the gain of which they were day by day assured.

The Bear and the Two Travelers

Two men were traveling together, when a bear suddenly met them on their path.

One of them climbed up quickly into a tree, and concealed himself in the branches.

The other, seeing that he must be attacked, fell flat on the ground, and when the Bear came up and felt him with his snout, and smelt him all over, he held his breath, and feigned the appearance of death as much as he could.

The Bear soon left him, for it is said he will not touch a dead body.

When he was quite gone, the other traveler descended from the tree, and, accosting his friend, jocularly inquired "what it was the Bear had whispered in his ear?"
His friend replied: "He gave me this advice: Never travel with a friend who deserts you at the approach of danger."

Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends.

The Lion and the Mouse

A Lion was awakened from sleep by a Mouse running over his face. Rising up in anger, he caught him and was about to kill him, when the Mouse piteously entreated, saying: "If you would only spare my life, I would be sure to repay your kindness."

The Lion laughed and let him go.

It happened shortly after this that the Lion was caught by some hunters, who bound him by strong ropes to the ground. The Mouse, recognizing his roar, came up and gnawed the rope with his teeth, and, setting him free, exclaimed: "You ridiculed the idea of my ever being able to help you, not expecting to receive from me any repayment of your favor; but now you know that it is possible for even a Mouse to confer benefits on a Lion."

No one is too weak to do good.

The Farmer and His Sons

A Farmer, being at death's door, and desiring to impart to his sons a secret of much moment, called them round him and said, "My sons, I am shortly about to die; I would have you know, therefore, that in my vineyard there lies a hidden treasure. Dig, and you will find it."

As soon as their father was dead, the sons took spade and fork and turned up the soil of the vineyard over and over again, in their search for the treasure which they supposed to lie buried there.

They found none, however: but the vines, after so thorough a digging, produced a crop such as had never before been seen.

The Father and His Two Daughters.

A man had two daughters, the one married to a gardener, and the other to a tile-maker.

After a time he went to the daughter who had married the gardener, and inquired how she was, and how all things went with her. She said: "All things are prospering with me, and I have only one wish, that there may be a heavy fall of rain, in order that the plants may be well watered."

Not long after he went to the daughter who had married the tile-maker, and likewise inquired of her how she fared; she replied: "I want for nothing, and have only one wish, that the dry weather may continue, and the sun shine hot and bright, so that the bricks might be dried."

He said to her: "If your sister wishes for rain, and you for dry weather, with which of the two am I to join my wishes?"

The Shepherd's Boy and Wolf

A Shepherd-boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, brought out the villagers three or four times by crying out, "Wolf! Wolf!" and when his neighbors came to help him, laughed at them for their pains.
The Wolf, however, did truly come at last.
The Shepherd-boy, now really alarmed, shouted in an agony of terror: "Pray, do come and help me; the Wolf is killing the sheep;" but no one paid any heed to his cries.

There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth.

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