You are reading the archives for November 2010.

The Farmer and the Stork


The Farmer and the Stork

A Farmer placed nets over the field he’d just planted, catching a bunch of Cranes that came to eat his seed. Caught with them was a Stork that had broken his leg in the net.

The Stork didn’t want to meet the same fate as the Cranes and so begged the farmer for his freedom.

“Please take pity on me and my broken leg,” said the Stork, “and let me go – just this once. I’m no Crane; I’m a Stork, a bird of excellent character.”

The Stork continued. “I respect and work for my mother and father. And look: my feathers are nothing like that of a Crane.”

The Farmer snickered.

“You may be as you say, but what I know is this: I caught you with thieves, and so I will treat you like a thief.”

Moral: “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Moral: “People who hang out with bad people tend to be bad people.”

Comment: Like many of Aesop’s Fables, the Farmer and the Stork can seem a little harsh today. In the original the Stork pleads for his life; I’ve softened the translation to leave him pleading for his freedom.

You’ll find a very similar moral is conveyed in The Donkey and His Purchaser – the message of which is You Are Judged by the Company You Keep – but without the life and death nature of the story.

Notable: In the original, Cranes are the scavengers the Farmer catches because they are different from Storks but could be confused.

The Hawk and the Nightingale


The Hawk and the Nightingale

A Nightingale, perched on an oak, was spotted by a Hawk, who swooped down and snatched him.

The Nightingale begged the Hawk to let him go, insisting he wasn’t big enough to satisfy the hunger of a Hawk, who ought to pursue bigger birds.

The Hawk said, “I’d be crazy to release a bird I’ve already caught in favor of birds I don’t even yet see.”

Moral: “A bird-in-the-Hand is worth two in the bush.”

The Bald Man and the Fly


The Bald Man and the Fly

  A FLY bit the bare head of a Bald Man who, endeavoring to destroy it, gave himself a heavy slap.  Escaping, the Fly said mockingly, “You who have wished to revenge, even with death, the Prick of a tiny insect, see what you have done to yourself to add insult to injury?’  The Bald Man replied, “I can easily make peace with myself, because I know there was no intention to hurt.  But you, an ill-favored and contemptible insect who delights in sucking human blood, I wish that I could have killed you even if I had incurred a heavier penalty.”

Moral: “Revenge will hurt the avenger”

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The Ingenious Patriot – Ambrose Bierce


Ambrose Bierce

The Ingenious Patriot

  HAVING obtained an audience of the King an Ingenious Patriot pulled a paper from his pocket, saying:

  “May it please your Majesty, I have here a formula for constructing armour-plating which no gun can pierce.  If these plates are  adopted in the Royal Navy our warships will be invulnerable, and therefore invincible.  Here, also, are reports of your Majesty’s
Ministers, attesting the value of the invention.  I will part with my right in it for a million tumtums.”

  After examining the papers, the King put them away and promised him
an order on the Lord High Treasurer of the Extortion Department for
a million tumtums.

  “And here,” said the Ingenious Patriot, pulling another paper from
another pocket, “are the working plans of a gun that I have
invented, which will pierce that armour.  Your Majesty’s Royal
Brother, the Emperor of Bang, is anxious to purchase it, but
loyalty to your Majesty’s throne and person constrains me to offer
it first to your Majesty.  The price is one million tumtums.”

  Having received the promise of another check, he thrust his hand
into still another pocket, remarking:

  “The price of the irresistible gun would have been much greater,
your Majesty, but for the fact that its missiles can be so
effectively averted by my peculiar method of treating the armour
plates with a new- ”

  The King signed to the Great Head Factotum to approach.

  “Search this man,” he said, “and report how many pockets he has.”

  “Forty-three, Sire,” said the Great Head Factotum, completing the

  “May it please your Majesty,” cried the Ingenious Patriot, in
terror, “one of them contains tobacco.”

  “Hold him up by the ankles and shake him,” said the King; “then
give him a check for forty-two million tumtums and put him to
death.  Let a decree issue declaring ingenuity a capital offence.”

The Crimson Candle

Ambrose Bierce

The Crimson Candle

  A MAN lying at the point of death called his wife to his bedside
and said:

  “I am about to leave you forever; give me, therefore, one last
proof of your affection and fidelity, for, according to our holy
religion, a married man seeking admittance at the gate of Heaven is
required to swear that he has never defiled himself with an
unworthy woman.  In my desk you will find a crimson candle, which
has been blessed by the High Priest and has a peculiar mystical
significance.  Swear to me that while it is in existence you will
not remarry.”

  The Woman swore and the Man died.  At the funeral the Woman stood
at the head of the bier, holding a lighted crimson candle till it
was wasted entirely away.

The Moral Principle and the Material Interest

Ambrose Bierce

The Moral Principle and the Material Interest

  A MORAL Principle met a Material Interest on a bridge wide enough
for but one.

  “Down, you base thing!” thundered the Moral Principle, “and let me
pass over you!”

  The Material Interest merely looked in the other’s eyes without
saying anything.

  “Ah,” said the Moral Principle, hesitatingly, “let us draw lots to
see which shall retire till the other has crossed.”

  The Material Interest maintained an unbroken silence and an
unwavering stare.

  “In order to avoid a conflict,” the Moral Principle resumed,
somewhat uneasily, “I shall myself lie down and let you walk over

  Then the Material Interest found a tongue, and by a strange
coincidence it was its own tongue.  “I don’t think you are very
good walking,” it said.  “I am a little particular about what I
have underfoot.  Suppose you get off into the water.”

  It occurred that way.