This book is a collection of Aesop’s most famous fables. Some are so blunt and honest, like the story of the ass and the lap dog. Some are funny, such as the bear and the travellers. Some are well known, such as the boy who cried wolf. But most of them have some common traits: they are simple and inspirational, with lessons that have stood the test of time.
At the introduction of the book, G. K. Chesterton highlighted some interesting insights into the world of fables and fairy tales. Firstly, fables are stories about talking animals, plants, or forces of nature with human-like characteristics, while fairy tales are mostly human characters that involve good and evil traits and may or may not have magical capabilities.
Secondly, the fables in this book are not necessarily written by Aesop but rather collected by Aesop, just as Grimms’ fairy tales are well known as the best collection of fairy tales instead of written by the Grimm brothers.
Thirdly, the origin of the fables themselves are mostly lost in history and have since become anonymous, universal, and have been passed down from generation to generation, which is a common theme in the earliest human history.
And finally, through the analogies of animals we can learn so much about human emotions, about our shortcomings, about our hopes and dreams, about finding our place in the social hierarchy, about justice and injustice, about hard work that result to nothing if we doing it wrong and pure damn luck that result to everything, and so much more.
Here are some of my favourite moral stories from this book:
- If you are wise you won’t be deceived by the innocent airs of those whom you have once found to be dangerous.
- Notoriety is often mistaken for fame.
- Look and see which way the wind blows before you commit yourself.
- Persuasion is better than force.
- Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.
- Boasters brag most when they cannot be detected.
- Better poverty without a care than wealth with its many obligations.
- We may often be of more consequence in our own eyes than in the eyes of our neighbours.
- Misfortune tests the sincerity of friendship.
- Do not waste your pity on a scamp.
- You cannot believe a liar even when he tells the truth.
- Look before your leap.
- Show gratitude where gratitude is due.
- Give assistance, not advice, in a crisis.
- They complain most who suffer least.
- Do not attempt too much at once.
- What is worth most is often valued least.
- Heaven helps those who help themselves.
- Revenge is a two-edged sword.
- If you choose bad companions no one will believe that you are anything but bad yourself.
- If you attempt what is beyond your power, your trouble will be wasted and you court not only misfortune but ridicule.
- Injuries are never forgotten in the presence of those who caused them.
- Precautions are useless after the event.
- A man is known by the company he keeps.
- Advantages that are dearly bought are doubtful blessings.
- Servants don’t know a good master till they have served a worse.
- It is no use being your own master unless you can stand up for yourself.
- Think twice before you act.
- Rude shocks await those who take to themselves the credit that is due to others.
- It’s no use trying to hide what can’t be hidden.
- What’s bred in the bone is sure to come out in the flesh.
- There is no virtue in giving to others what is useless to oneself.
- All men are more concerned to recover what they lose than to acquire what they lack.
- Do not promise more than you can perform.
- Happy is he who learns from the misfortunes of others.
- Better servitude with safety than freedom with danger.
- Those who pretend to be something they are not only make themselves ridiculous.
Imagine old age wisdom taught through hundreds of classic short stories. This is what this book is ultimately about. I enjoyed reading it so much.