One day, a long time ago, an old Miller and his Son were on their way to the market with an Ass which they hoped to sell.
They drove him very slowly, for they thought they would have a better chance to sell him if they kept him in good condition. As they walked along the highway some travelers laughed loudly at them. “What foolishness,” cried one, “to walk when they might as well ride? The most stupid of the three is not the one you would expect it to be.” The Miller did not like to be laughed at, so he told his son to climb up and ride. They had gone a little farther along the road, when three merchants passed by.
“Oho, what have we here?” they cried. “Respect old age, young man! Get down and let the old man ride.” Though the Miller was not tired, he made the boy get down and climbed up himself to ride, just to please the Merchants.
At the next turnstile they overtook some women carrying to the market baskets loaded with vegetables and other things to sell. “Look at the old fool,” exclaimed one of them. “Perched on the Ass, while that poor boy has to walk.’ The Miller felt a bit vexed, but to be agreeable he told the Boy to climb up behind him. They had no sooner started out again than a loud shout went up from another company of people on the road “What a crime,” cried one, “to load up a poor dumb beast like that! They look more able to carry the poor creature, than he to carry them.
” “They must be on their way to sell the poor thing’s hide” said another. The Miller and his Son quickly scrambled down and a short time later, the market place was thrown into an uproar as the two came along carrying the Ass slung from a pole. A large crowd of people ran out to get a closer look at the strange sight. The Ass did not dislike being carried, but so many people came up to point at him and laugh and shout, that he began to kick and bray and then, just as they were crossing a bridge, the ropes that held him gave way, and down he tumbled into the river. The poor Miller along with his son now set out sadly for home.
By trying to please everybody, he had pleased nobody and had lost his Ass besides. If you try to please all, you please none.
2. The Wolf, the Kid and the Goat
Mother Goat was going to the market one morning to get provisions for her household, which consisted of but one little Kid and herself. “Take good care of the house, my son,” she said to the Kid, as she carefully latched the door. “Do not let anyone in, unless he gives you this password: ‘Down with the Wolf and his entire race!’ ” Strangely enough, a Wolf was lurking near and heard what the Mother Goat had said.
So, as soon as she was out of sight, up he trotted to the door and knocked. “Down with the Wolf and his entire race,” said the Wolf softly. It was the right password, but when the Kid peeped through a crack in the door and saw the shadowy figure outside, he did not feel at all easy.
“Show me a white paw,” he said, “or I won’t let you in.” A white paw, of course, is a feature few Wolves can show and so Master Wolf had to go away as hungry as he had come. “You can never be too sure,” said the Kid, when he saw the Wolf making off to the woods. Two sureties are better than one.
3. The North Wind and the Sun
The North Wind and the Sun had a quarrel about which of them was the stronger. While they were disputing with much heat and bluster, a Traveler passed along the road wrapped in a cloak. “Let us agree,” said the Sun, “that he is the stronger who can strip that Traveler of his cloak.” “Very well,” growled the North Wind and at once sent a cold, howling blast against the Traveler. With the first gust of wind the ends of the cloak whipped about the Traveler’s body. But he immediately wrapped it closely around him and the harder the Wind blew, the tighter he held it to him.
The North Wind tore angrily at the cloak, but all his efforts were in vain. Then Sun began to shine. At first his beams were gentle and in the pleasant warmth after the bitter cold of the North Wind, the Traveler unfastened his cloak and let it hang loosely from his shoulders. The Sun’s rays grew warmer and warmer. The man took off his cap and mopped his brow. At last he became so heated that he pulled off his cloak and to escape the blazing sunshine, threw himself down in the welcome shade of a tree by the roadside. Gentleness and kind persuasion win where force and bluster fail.
The Ass in the Lion’s Skin
An Ass found a Lion’s skin left in the forest by a hunter. He dressed himself in it and amused himself by hiding in a thicket and rushing out suddenly at the animals that passed that way. All took to their heels the moment they saw him. The Ass was so pleased to see the animals running away from him.
Just as if he were King Lion himself, that he could not keep from expressing his delight by a loud, harsh bray. A Fox, who ran with the rest, stopped short as soon as he heard the voice. Approaching dies Ass, he said with a laugh: “If you had kept your mouth shut you might have frightened me too. But you gave yourself away with that silly bray.” A fool may deceive by his dress and appearance, but his words will soon show what he really is.
5. The Fisherman and the Little Fish
A poor Fisherman, who lived on the fish he caught, had bad luck one day and caught nothing but a very small fry. The Fisherman was about to put it in his basket when the little Fish said: “Please spare me, Mr.
Fisherman! I am so small it is not worthwhile to carry me home. When I am bigger, I shall make you a much better meal.” But the Fisherman quickly put the fish into his basket. “How foolish I should be,” he said, “to throw you back. However small you may be, you are better than nothing at all.” A small gain is worth more than a large promise.