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Aesop's fables for ESL/EFL Beginners

A fable is short, simple form of 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 are little useful for the ESL/EFL 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."

There are 16 Aesop's fables, that you can read in the random (arbitrary) order. To make it click buttons RND.
You can also listen to the oral speech. To make it click buttons SND.
Tip! For the effective study, use the appropriate browser extensions to translate into your native language.


1. The Fox and the Stork
Fox and Stork were on friendly terms. One day the Fox invited the Stork to dinner and wanted to play a trick on him. The Fox provided some thin soup in a shallow dish. This the Fox ate very readily, while the Stork was unable to get anything with its long beak. The Stork saw that she was played and asked Fox to return the visit.
The Fox agreed to dine with the Stork the next day. He arrived in good time and he found, that the food was the chopped meat in a tall, narrow-necked jar. The Stork easily ate with her long neck and beak, while the Fox was hungry.
Do not play tricks on your neighbours unless you can stand the same treatment yourself.


2. 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 pretended to be dead.

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."


3. The ant and the dove
An Ant, walking by the river one day, said to himself, “How nice and cool this water looks! I must drink some of it.” But as he began to drink, his foot slipped, and he fell in.
“Oh, somebody please help me, or I shall drown!” cried he.
A Dove, sitting in a tree that overhung the river, heard him, and threw him a leaf. “Climb up on that leaf,” said she, “and you will float ashore.”
The Ant climbed up onto the leaf, which the wind blew to the shore, and he stepped upon dry land again.
“Good-bye, kind Dove,” said he, as he ran home. “You have saved my life, and I wish I could do something for you.”
“Good-bye,” said the Dove; “be careful not to fall in again.”
A few days after this, when the Dove was busy building her nest, the Ant saw a man just raising his gun to shoot her.
He ran quickly, and bit the man’s leg so hard that he cried “Oh! oh!” and dropped his gun.
This startled the Dove, and she flew away. The man picked up his gun, and walked on.
When he was gone, the Dove came back to her nest.
“Thank you, my little friend,” she said. “You have saved my life.”
And the little Ant was overjoyed to think he had been able to do for the Dove what the Dove had so lately done for him.


4. The Crow and The Pitcher
In a season of dry weather a thirsty Crow found a pitcher (container) with a little water in it. But the pitcher was high and had a narrow neck, and the Crow could not reach the water. The poor thing felt as if he must die of thirst.

Then an idea came to him. Picking up some small pebbles (stones), he dropped them into the pitcher one by one. With each pebble the water rose a little higher until at last it was near enough so he could drink.
Necessity is the mother of invention.


5. The Father and His Two Daughters.
A man had two daughters, the one married to a gardener, and the other to a potter.
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."
Then he went on to the potter's wife and made the same inquiries of her. She replied that she and her husband had nothing to complain of: "But," she went on, "I do wish we could have some nice dry weather, to dry the pottery."
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?"
You cannot please everyone.


6. The wolf and the crane
One day a Wolf, who was eating his dinner much too fast, swallowed a bone, which stuck in his throat and pained him very much. He tried to get it out, but could not.
Just then he saw a Crane passing by. “Dear friend,” said he to the Crane, “there is a bone sticking in my throat. You have a good long neck; can’t you reach down and pull it out? I will pay you well for it.”
“I’ll try,” said the Crane. Then he put his head into the Wolf’s mouth, between his sharp teeth, and reaching down, pulled out the bone.
“There!” said the Wolf, “I am glad it is out; I must be more careful another time.”
“I will go now, if you will pay me,” said the Crane.
“Pay you, indeed!” cried the Wolf. “Be thankful that I did not bite your head off when it was in my mouth. You ought to be content with that.”
Expect no reward for serving the wicked.


7. The frogs and the ox
An Ox came down to a pool to drink. As he splashed heavily into the water, he crushed a young Frog into the mud. The old Frog soon missed the little one and asked his brothers and sisters what had become of him.
"A great big monster," said one of them, "stepped on little brother with one of his huge feet!"
"Big, was he!" said the old Frog, puffing (inflating) herself up. "Was he as big as this?"
"Oh, much bigger!" they cried.
The Frog puffed up still more.
"He could not have been bigger than this," she said. But the little Frogs all declared that the monster was much, much bigger and the old Frog kept puffing herself out more and more until, all at once, she burst.

Do not attempt the impossible.


8. Belling the cat
The Mice once called a meeting to decide on a plan to free themselves of their enemy, the Cat. At least they wished to find some way of knowing when she was coming, so they might have time to run away. Indeed, something had to be done, for they lived in constant fear of her claws.

Many plans were discussed, but none of them was thought good enough. At last a very young Mouse got up and said:

"I have a plan that seems very simple, but I know it will be successful. All we have to do is to hang a bell about the Cat's neck. When we hear the bell ringing we will know immediately that our enemy is coming."

All the Mice were much surprised that they had not thought of such a plan before. But in the midst of the joy over their good fortune, an old Mouse arose and said: "I will say that the plan of the young Mouse is very good. But let me ask one question: Who will bell the Cat?"

It is one thing to say that something should be done, but quite a different matter to do it.


9. The travelers and the sea
Two Travelers were walking along the seashore. Far out they saw something riding on the waves. "Look," said one, "a great ship rides in from distant lands, bearing rich treasures!"
The object they saw came ever nearer the shore.
"No," said the other, "that is not a treasure ship. That is some fisherman's skiff, with the day's catch of savoury fish."
Still nearer came the object. The waves washed it up on shore.
"It is a chest of gold lost from some wreck," they cried. Both Travelers rushed to the beach, but there they found nothing but a water-soaked log.

Do not let your hopes carry you away from reality.


10. The wolf and the lion
A Wolf had stolen a Lamb and was carrying it off to his lair to eat it. But his plans were very much changed when he met a Lion, who, without making any excuses, took the Lamb away from him.

The Wolf made off to a safe distance, and then said in a much injured tone: "You have no right to take my property like that!"

The Lion looked back, but as the Wolf was too far away to be taught a lesson without too much inconvenience, he said:
"Your property? Did you buy it, or did the Shepherd make you a gift of it? Pray tell me, how did you get it?"

What is evil won is evil lost.


11. 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.


12. The Farmer and His Sons
The old Farmer, being on the point of death, wished to be sure that his sons would give the same attention to his farm as he himself had given it. He called them to his bedside and said, “My sons, there is a great treasure hid in one of my vineyards.”
The sons, after his death, took their spades and mattocks and carefully dug over every portion of their land. They found no treasure, but the vines repaid their labor by an extraordinary and superabundant crop.

Industry is itself a treasure.


13. The Shepherd’s Boy and the Wolf

A 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 neighbours 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, nor rendered any assistance. The Wolf, having no cause of fear, destroyed the whole flock.
There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth.


14. The plane tree
(Plane trees are large trees with large leaves.)
Two Travellers, walking in the noonday sun, sought the shade of a wide spreading tree to rest. As they lay looking up among the pleasant leaves, they saw that it was a Plane Tree.
"How useless is the Plane tree!" said one of them. "It bears no fruit whatever, and only serves to litter the ground with leaves."
"Ungrateful creatures!" said a voice from the Plane Tree. "You lie here in my cooling shade, and yet you say I am useless!"
Our best blessings are often the least appreciated.


15. The lion and the ass
(An ass is an animal of the horse family which is smaller than a horse and has longer ears and a braying call.)
One day as the Lion walked proudly down a forest aisle, and the animals respectfully made way for him, an Ass brayed a contemptible remark as he passed.
The Lion felt a flash of anger. But when he turned his head and saw who had spoken, he walked quietly on. He would not honor the fool with even so much as a stroke of his claws.

Do not resent the remarks of a fool. Ignore them.


16. The wolf and his shadow
A Wolf left his lair one evening in fine spirits and an excellent appetite. As he ran, the setting sun cast his shadow far out on the ground, and it looked as if the wolf were a hundred times bigger than he really was.
"Why," exclaimed the Wolf proudly, "see how big I am! Fancy me running away from a puny Lion! I'll show him who is fit to be king, he or I."
Just then an immense shadow blotted him out entirely, and the next instant a Lion struck him down with a single blow.

Do not let your fancy make you forget realities.

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