Morals from Aesop's Fables


Aesop's fables are as relevant today as they were centuries ago. Like the Panchatantra of ancient India or the Jataka tales of the Buddhist world, Aesop's fables fired the imagination of generations of young minds since ancient times and served as reminders of our age old moral values and the importance of being good and doing good in a simple and straightforward manner. 

The fables are remarkably simple in expression but convey the deeper aspects of human life in a very appealing way and leave a strong impression upon the readers and listeners alike. They are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago.  For some it may be surprising to know that some of the best remembered and well known sayings like "self help is the best help" or "much ado about nothing" or "look before you leap", are drawn from Aesop's Fables only.

The history of Aesop is buried in antiquity and, like that of Homer, is shrouded in myth and legend. Aesop probably lived sometime around the 6th BC, in ancient Greece, first as a slave, serving two masters and then as a free intellectual, earning a good reputation for his remarkable wit and wisdom.

According to some legends, his death was unnatural. He was said to have been killed in Delphi by some people following some misunderstanding. There is no general consensus as to what constitutes the original fables of Aesop and how many were later added on ascribed to him owing to his popularity. There is also a theory that Aesop probably got some of his stories from the sailing Indian merchants or the traveling Buddhist monks and added them to his own. The similarity between some stories of the Panchatantra and those of Aesop do suggest that both these works had drawn probably from some common folklore of their times. It is possible that some of the fables might have traveled either ways along the trade routes and the wandering tribes and got incorporated in course of time into respective lists.

The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.

Like will draw like

In serving the wicked, expect no reward, and be thankful if you escape injury for your pains.

If you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter.

Slow but steady wins the race

Self help is the best help

Birds of a feather flock together

The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful.

No arguments will give courage to the coward.

Fair weather friends are not worth much

Don't make much ado about nothing.

If men had all they wished, they would be often ruined.

Pleasure bought with pains, hurts.

One story is good, till another is told.

If words suffice not, blows must follow.

Look before you leap.

Fair weather friends are not worth much.

Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends.

Those who suffer most cry out the least.

Zeal should not outrun discretion.

Change of habit cannot alter Nature.

Do not attempt to hide things which cannot be hid.

He is wise who is warned by the misfortunes of others.

The value is in the worth, not in the number.

Do not attempt too much at once.

No one truly forgets injuries in the presence of him who caused the injury.

Harm seek. harm find.

 Evil companions bring more hurt than profit.

 Do not be in a hurry to change one evil for another.

Little liberties are great offenses.

Old friends cannot with impunity be sacrificed for new ones.

Notoriety is often mistaken for fame.

Whatever you do, do with all your might.

Those who seek to please everybody please nobody.

Pride goes before destruction.

There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth.

Time and place often give the advantage to the weak over the strong.

Example is more powerful than precept.

Better poverty without care, than riches with.

Harm hatch, harm catch.

Benefits bestowed upon the evil-disposed increase their means of injuring you.

Equals make the best friends.

Hypocritical speeches are easily seen through.

What's bred in the bone will stick to the flesh.

Abstain and enjoy.

The memory of a good deed lives.

Children are not to be blamed for the faults of their parents.

Avoid a remedy that is worse than the disease.

The least outlay is not always the greatest gain.

Might makes right.

We must make friends in prosperity if we would have their help in adversity.

False confidence often leads into danger.

The more honor the more danger.

Every man for himself.

He is not to be trusted as a friend who mistreats his own family.

They are not wise who give to themselves the credit due to others.

He who shares the danger ought to share the prize.

Evil wishes, like chickens, come home to roost.

Our mere anticipations of life outrun its realities.

In quarreling about the shadow we often lose the substance.

Stoop to conquer.

I should indeed be a very simple fellow if, for the chance of a greater uncertain profit, I were to forego my present certain gain.

The hero is brave in deeds as well as words.

Do nothing without a regard to the consequences.

It sometimes happens that one man has all the toil, and another all the profit.

In avoiding one evil, care must be taken not to fall into another.

Every man should be content to mind his own business.

The great do not always prevail. There are times when the small and lowly are the strongest to do mischief.

It shows an evil disposition to take advantage of a friend in distress.

The best intentions will not always ensure success.

Everyone is more or less master of his own fate.

How can you expect the sheep to be safe if you admit a wolf into the fold?

Know that not even the stars need to be relit

Happy is the man who learns from the misfortunes of others.

Misfortunes springing from ourselves are the hardest to bear.

Men often bear little grievances with less courage than they do large misfortunes.

Those who assume a character which does not belong to them, only make themselves ridiculous.

Contentment with our lot is an element of happiness.

 The desire for imaginary benefits often involves the loss of present blessings.

Count the cost before you commit yourselves.

Be on guard against men who can strike from a distance.

Use serves to overcome dread.

No one can be a friend if you know not whether to trust or distrust him.

Fine feathers don't make fine birds.

Every tale is not to be believed.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

A willful man will have his way to his own hurt.

A false tale often betrays itself.

Acquaintance softens prejudices.

Counsel without help is useless.

Straws show how the wind blows.

The dishonest, if they act honestly, get no credit.

Union is strength.

Evil tendencies are shown in early life.

Persuasion is better than Force.

A man is known by the company he keeps.

What is most truly valuable is often underrated.

Youth's first duty is reverence to parents.

Some men are of more consequence in their own eyes than in the eyes of their neighbors.

Self-interest alone moves some men.

Try before you trust.

They who act without sufficient thought, will often fall into unsuspected danger.

No evil, whether it be small or large, ought to be tolerated.

The safeguards of virtue are hateful to those with evil intentions.

Source: Fables. Aesop. 10th Edition. George Fyler Townsend, editor(s), 1880.