Aesop’s Fables: Defending a Demagogue

by Bob Schwartz

Aesop's Fables

I just began reading Laura Gibb’s excellent and highly recommended Aesop’s Fables. With almost 600 fables, beautifully translated, that’s less than a penny a fable. Please read it for fun, education and enlightenment.

You may or may not have grown up on these tiny tales from this famous real or apocryphal Greek storyteller, but they have been streaming through civilization for millennia. You certainly know some of them from our common culture: the tortoise and the hare, the ant and the grasshopper. Each includes a moral (e.g., slow but steady wins the race), which is how they came to be seen as lessons for children, but they were originally for adults, and you might look to their value as teaching stories for everyone. Also, if you are a writer or other creative, they can provide instant inspirational spark.

When I read this fable of the fox and the hedgehog (Fable 29 in the Gibbs numbering), I couldn’t help thinking of current events:

Aesop was defending a demagogue at Samos who was on trial for his life, when he told this story: ‘A fox was crossing a river but she got swept by the current into a gully. A long time passed and she couldn’t get out. Meanwhile, there were ticks swarming all over the fox’s body, making her quite miserable. A hedgehog wandered by and happened to see the fox. He took pity on her and asked if he should remove the ticks, but the fox refused. The hedgehog asked the reason why, and the fox replied, “These ticks have taken their fill of me and are barely sucking my blood at this point, but if you take these ticks away, others will come and those hungry new ticks will drink up all the blood I have left!” And the same is true for you, people of Samos: this man will do you no harm since he is already wealthy, but if you condemn him to death, others will come who do not have any money, and they will rob you blind!’