Aesop's Bird Fables

Aesop was a Greek storyteller, born around 620 BC. His stories are known as fables. Fables are short stories that teach a moral lesson. Aesop's Fables are the most famous of all and are 2,500 years old. His stories are just as popular today as they were over 2000 years ago. Aesop's fables were passed down by word of mouth and were not printed until generations later. These are some of his ancient stories that contain birds as characters.

The Crow and the Pitcher

A crow so thirsty, that he could not even caw, came upon a pitcher which had once been full of water. When he put his beak into the pitcher, he discovered, that the water was too far down to reach and that he could not possibly get at it. He tried to break the pitcher and then overturn it but his strength was not equal to the task. Just as he was about to give up in despair, he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher until he brought the water up to the brim. He then perched himself on the handle and drank until he quenched his thirst.

Moral: Necessity is the mother of invention.

The Farmer and the Nightingale

A farmer lay listening to a Nightingale's song throughout the summer night. So pleased was he with it that the next night he set a trap and captured it. "Now that I have caught you," he cried, "you shall always sing to me." "Nightingales never sing in a cage," said the bird. "Then I'll eat you," said the farmer. "I have always heard that a nightingale on toast is dainty morsel." "Do not kill me," said the nightingale; "But let me free, and I'll tell you three things far better worth than my poor body." The farmer let him loose, and he flew up to a branch on a tree. The bird said, "Never believe a captive's promise, keep what you have and sorrow not over what is lost forever." Then the nightingale flew away.

Moral: Out of desperation comes deceit.

The Ant and the Dove

An ant at the bank of a river began to drink water. The ant was quickly carried away by the rush of the stream and was at the point of drowning. A dove sitting on a tree overhanging the water plucked a leaf and let it fall into the stream close to her. The ant climbed onto it and floated in safety to the bank. Shortly afterwards a fowler came and stood under the tree, and laid his lime-twigs for the dove, which sat in the branches. The ant, perceiving his intentions stung him in the foot. In pain the bird catcher threw down the twigs, and the noise made the dove take wing and fly away safely.

Moral: One good turn deserves another.

The Fox and the Crow

A crow, having found a piece of cheese, flew to the top of a tree where she hoped to enjoy her meal. A fox caught sight of her and thought "If I plan this right, I shall have cheese for supper." "Good day, Mistress Crow," he said in his most politest tone. "How well you are looking today! How glossy your feathers are and how bright your eyes. Your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your beauty does. Let me hear but one song from you." The crow, being flattered by these words, lifted up her head and began to caw her best. The moment she opened her mouth the cheese fell to the ground only to be snapped up by the fox. As the fox walked away with the cheese, he offered this piece of advice to the crow. "The next time someone praises your beauty, be sure to hold your tongue."

Moral: Flatterers are not to be trusted.

The Caged Bird and the Bat

A singing bird was confined in a cage, which hung outside a window. The bird filled the night with beautiful songs, while all of the other birds were asleep. One night a bat came and clung to the bars of the cage, and asked the bird why she was silent by day and only sang at night. "I have a very good reason for doing so," said the bird. "It was once when I was singing in the daytime that a fowler was attracted by my voice, and set his nets for me and caught me. Since then I have never sung except by night." The bat replied, "It is no use singing at night now when you are already a prisoner. If only you had done so before you were caught, you might still be free."

Moral: Precautions are useless after the crisis.

The Fowler and the Viper

A hunter, set out for the woods, to catch birds. Seeing a thrush perched upon a tree, he watched intently, and prepared to capture his prey. All of his thoughts were on the bird. While looking upwards, he unknowingly trod upon a snake, asleep just before his feet. The snake turned about and stung him. While falling to the ground, the man said to himself, "Woe is me! That while I tried to hunt another, I myself have fallen into the snares of death."

Moral: Do to others, only what you would wish them to do to you.

Jupiter and the Birds

Jupiter commanded all the birds in the kingdom to appear before him so that he might choose the most beautiful to be their king. The jackdaw, aware of its ugly plumage, collected all the fine feathers that had fallen from the other birds. He adorned himself with these feathers and appeared at the great gathering looking very regal. The other birds, recognizing their own plumage, protested, and began to peck at him and strip him of the feathers. "Halt" said Jupiter; "This self-made bird has more sense than you. He is your king."

Moral: Success is the result of effort, not birth.

The Peacock and Juno

A peacock once placed a petition before Juno desiring to have the voice of a nightingale in addition to his other attractions of splendid plumage and tail feathers. Juno in her wisdom refused his request. When he persisted, and pointed out that he was her favorite bird, she said, "Be content with your lot; one cannot be first in everything."

Moral: Count your blessings.

The Cock and the Pearl

A cock was once strutting up and down the farmyard among the hens when suddenly he saw something shinning in the straw. "Ho! Ho!" said he, "that's for me," and soon rooted it out from beneath the straw. What did it turn out to be but a pearl that by some chance had been lost in the yard? "You may be a treasure to men that prize you, but for me I would rather have a single barleycorn than a peck of pearls," said the cock.

Moral: Precious things are for those that can prize them.

The Crow and the Raven

A crow was jealous of the raven because it was considered a bird of omen. The raven always attracted the attention of men, who noted by his flight the good or evil course of future events. Seeing some travelers approaching, the crow flew up into a tree, perched herself on one of the branches and cawed as loudly as she could. The travelers turned towards the sound and wondered what it foreboded when one of them laughed and said to his companion, "Let us proceed on our journey, my friend, for it is only the caw of a crow, and her cry, you know, is no omen."

Moral: Assuming a character of another, only makes one ridiculous.

The Jay and the Peacock

A jay, venturing into a yard where peacocks used to walk, found there a number of feathers, which had fallen from the peacocks when they were molting. He tied them all to his tail and strutted down towards the peacocks. When he came near them they soon discovered the cheat, and striding up to him pecked at him and plucked away his borrowed plumes. So the jay could do no better than go back to the other jays, which had watched his behavior from a distance. Disapproving of his foolish behavior, they told him "It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds."

Moral: External appearances can be deceptive.

The Peacock and the Crane

A peacock, spreading its beautiful tail feathers, mocked a crane that passed by ridiculing the ashen hue of its plumage. He said to the crane, "I am robed like a king, in gold and purple and all the colors of the rainbow. Pity you that has not a bit of color on your wings." "Yes," replied the crane; "But I soar to the heights of heaven and lift up my voice to the stars, while you walk below like a cock among the birds of the dunghill."

Moral: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The Raven and the Swan

A raven saw a swan and desired to secure for himself the same beautiful plumage. Supposing that the swan's splendid white color arose from some magic in the water in which he swam, the raven left his comfortable home, and took up residence in the lakes and streams. There he washed and plumed his feathers throughout many days. Despite his attempts, the bird's plumage remained as black as ever. Before long, the raven perished from want of his usual food and the cold water.

Moral: Change of scenery does not alter one's nature.

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