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Please begin with an informative title:

These last few days, I've been pondering what made me into who I am today.  That answer always beginss to my Dad and my Mom, especially their love of books.  We were surrounded by them!  BOOKS!  Lots and lots of BOOKS!  From the encylopedia sets we had by the beginning of the third grade – including “The Book of Knowledge” and the Children's Stories, we were given wonderful books on fables, story tales, adventures.  As I think about it, certain ones still keep coming to the foreground of my mind after all these years of first reading (and believe me, I do mean ALL these years – 60+ behind the binding).  And, from those books, I remember phrases, ideas, lessons... and among the earliest of them that I recall were Aesop's Fables.

Frequently, I remember certain sayings and realize many of my “guiding principles” come from  those simple stories.  I loved those books and read them over and over as a child.  I wonder how many children are reading these books today – books that were written over two thousand years ago.  If they are, will they too carry these wise stories into their lives, will they share them with their children?

These Fables, these “stories”, all had one theme in common – consequences.   From our actions, our choices, the fable presents lessons to be learned.  How often, as children, do we hear stories that leave an indelible imprint on our young minds. i HOPE these same tales now being shared with children of this and recent past generations?  At 67, I remember as clearly today as I did when I was 6 and 7 yrs old, sitting on the floor looking at the “stories” in the abundance of books that surrounded me.  

My father was an avid reader – his love of books has come down through my life because of the exposure to those magical/mystical stories. As a small child/young adult, I was able to disappear into another reality, another world filled with other people and their experiences, their reactions, their success, adversity, challenges or failure.  I learned the hard lessons along beside the goat, the wolf, the snake, the farmer - sometimes with laughter, manytimes with a studied "I'M not gonna get caught like THAT" reaction.

That is why, in this electronic age where even a one year old child has TWO computers instead of books and the bonding time between parent and child?  I wonder if we are cheating that child by not sitting together and reading these strange things called “books”.  Are we really that busy in life that we cannot take the time to refresh our own memories of these wise tales with the fresh young mind who has yet to hear them? The time we take to share the stories builds relationships of trust and comfort and love between parent and child.  The lessons learned are relatively painless as the child is taught compassion, wisdom, empathy, understanding.  Don't we owe the next generation the gift of imagination?

If you are interested in which tales, which fables have stayed – stuck and stayed and molded this one mind... please drop into the well with me...

Intro

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We hear so many phrases, “you can't please everybody”, “look before you leap”, “sour grapes”, “don't cry wolf” - but do you think to wonder where these originate?  Last night, I was struck by one such fable, “the dog in the manger”, and set out to find it's source.  I couldn't remember if it was written by the Brothers Grimm or perhaps Hans Christian Anderson.  I was wrong on both counts.

This particular fable was written over 1000 years earlier by Aesop.  I pulled my trusty kindle to find the original again and then started to re-read these words so wise.  (I keep my kindle loaded with so many classics that are free to download and are the wonderful reminders of the wisdom of those gone long before).

For the first fable, it is short, succienct and has always come to the forefront of my mind when I encounter situations that apply.

The Dog in the Manger

A DOG lay in a manger, and by his growling and snapping prevented the oxen from eating the hay which had been placed for them. “What a selfish Dog!” said one of them to his companions; “he cannot eat the hay himself, and yet refuses to allow those to eat who can.”

Translated by George Fyler Townsend. Aesop's Fables (p. 21). Amazon Digital Services, Inc..

For a few more of Aesop's wise words, I kept reading and had to laugh at this one – it is very “political”, don't you think?
The Bear and the Two Travelers

TWO MEN were traveling together, when a Bear suddenly met them on their path. One of them climbed up quickly into a tree and concealed himself in the branches. The other, seeing that he must be attacked, fell flat on the ground, and when the Bear came up and felt him with his snout, and smelt him all over, he held his breath, and feigned the appearance of death as much as he could. The Bear soon left him, for it is said he will not touch a dead body. When he was quite gone, the other Traveler descended from the tree, and jocularly inquired of his friend what it was the Bear had whispered in his ear. “He gave me this advice,” his companion replied. “Never travel with a
friend who deserts you at the approach of danger.”

Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends.

Translated by George Fyler Townsend. Aesop's Fables (p. 22). Amazon Digital Services, Inc..  

I couldn't help but laugh as this has a newer twist today.  
Two friends were walking in the woods when a huge bear charged out in front of them.  One of the two friends slowly bent down and began tying his sneakers, the other friend exclaimed “YOU can't outrun that bear!”

His companion replied, “I don't HAVE to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun you!”

These two go together, don't they – same thing, different viewpoint!  The first example is the good samaritan, the second is the seinfeld syndrome.  Both are the same situation, but the choices are very different.

Continuing on a similar theme of human behavior, Aesop wrote of the Miser.

The Miser

A MISER sold all that he had and bought a lump of gold, which he buried in a hole in the ground by the side of an old wall and went to look at daily. One of his workmen observed his frequent visits to the spot and decided to watch his movements. He soon discovered the secret of the hidden treasure, and digging down, came to the lump of gold, and stole it. The Miser, on his next visit, found the hole empty and began to tear his hair and to make loud lamentations. A neighbor, seeing him overcome with grief and learning the cause, said, “Pray do not grieve so; but go and take a stone, and place it in the hole, and fancy that the gold is still lying there. It will do you quite the same service; for when the gold was there, you had it not, as you did not make the slightest use of it.”

Translated by George Fyler Townsend. Aesop's Fables (p. 23). Amazon Digital Services, Inc..

This one is so appropriate in today's climate of greed where some continue to amass huge “lumps of gold” that they never make the slightest use of.  It is the attaining that drives them, yet – for all their vast accumulated sums, they might as well be collecting stone.

That which flows freely from one's being returns yet again in greater quantity and with greater meaning.  Just like “gold”, so also is love.  Love isn't endless – it has to be returned to continue to grow.  When the entire focus is on “protecting” what one has, the opportunity to grow is missed.

As is knowing when to give, so is knowing when to protest important!  I am reminded of Occupy – and the reason that so many are willing to stand up for what is important.

The Piglet, the Sheep, and the Goat

A YOUNG PIG was shut up in a fold-yard with a Goat and a Sheep. On one occasion when the shepherd laid hold of him, he grunted and squeaked and resisted violently. The Sheep and the Goat complained of his distressing cries, saying, “He often handles us, and we do not cry out.” To this the Pig replied, “Your handling and mine are very different things. He catches you only for your wool, or your milk, but he lays hold on me for my very life.”

Translated by George Fyler Townsend. Aesop's Fables (p. 25). Amazon Digital Services, Inc..

This one is horribly true when it comes to the world instability.
The Laborer and the Snake

A SNAKE, having made his hole close to the porch of a cottage, inflicted a mortal bite on the Cottager’s infant son. Grieving over his loss, the Father resolved to kill the Snake. The next day, when it came out of its hole for food, he took up his axe, but by swinging too hastily, missed its head and cut off only the end of its tail. After some time the Cottager, afraid that the Snake would bite him also, endeavored to make peace, and placed some bread and salt in the hole. The Snake, slightly hissing, said: “There can henceforth be no peace between us; for whenever I see you I shall remember the loss of my tail, and whenever you see me you will be thinking of the death of your son.”

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

Translated by George Fyler Townsend. Aesop's Fables (p. 25). Amazon Digital Services, Inc..

And, we've all heard the story of the wolf in sheep's clothing – but how many of us know the ending?

From Aesop:

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

ONCE UPON A TIME a Wolf resolved to disguise his appearance in order to secure food more easily. Encased in the skin of a sheep, he pastured with the flock, deceiving the shepherd by his costume. In the evening he was shut up by the shepherd in the fold; the gate was closed, and the entrance made thoroughly secure. But the shepherd, returning to the fold during the night to obtain meat for the next day, mistakenly caught up the Wolf instead of a sheep, and killed him instantly.

Harm seek, harm find.

Translated by George Fyler Townsend. Aesop's Fables (p. 25). Amazon Digital Services, Inc..

This should be on the wall of every member of congress...
The Ass and the Mule

A MULETEER set forth on a journey, driving before him an Ass and a Mule, both well laden. The Ass, as long as he traveled along the plain, carried his load with ease, but when he began to ascend the steep path of the mountain, felt his load to be more than he could bear. He entreated his companion to relieve him of a small portion, that he might carry home the rest; but the Mule paid no attention to the request. The Ass shortly afterwards fell down dead under his burden. Not knowing what else to do in so wild a region, the Muleteer placed upon the Mule the load carried by the Ass in addition to his own, and at the top of all placed the hide of the Ass, after he had skinned him. The Mule, groaning beneath his heavy burden, said to himself: “I am treated according to my deserts. If I had only been willing to assist the Ass a little in his need, I should not now be bearing, together with his burden, himself as well.”

Translated by George Fyler Townsend. Aesop's Fables (p. 26). Amazon Digital Services, Inc..

On that thought, let me invite you to read all of Aesop's Fables – and, if you have children, start sharing them in your “reading time” together.  It is never too early for them to listen and learn these valuable lessons.  These will stay with your children much longer than the latest video game they “win”, trust me!

And, for all who are wont to rid the government of all therein, this is a lesson that would be hard learned.  From over 2000 years ago, Aesop observed wisely that simply ridding oneself of one burden without knowing what will come after also has consequences!

The Oxen and the Butchers

THE OXEN once upon a time sought to destroy the Butchers, who practiced a trade destructive to their race. They assembled on a certain day to carry out their purpose, and sharpened their horns for the contest. But one of them who was exceedingly old (for many a field had he plowed) thus spoke: “These Butchers, it is true, slaughter us, but they do so with skillful hands, and with no unnecessary pain. If we get rid of them, we shall fall into the hands of unskillful operators, and thus suffer a double death: for you may be assured, that though all the Butchers should perish, yet will men never want beef.”

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

Translated by George Fyler Townsend. Aesop's Fables (p. 27). Amazon Digital Services, Inc..

well, this is getting a bit long – so let me just suggest you download the kindle for pc/mac and then add Aesop's Fables to your collection – and think of this as a wonderful child's birthday present, along with the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson (oh, and don't forget Mother Goose!)

I hope you've enjoyed these as much as I did re-reading them – and there are many more to still enjoy yet again.  And may your children and grandchildren and young friends be fortunate to have copies of Aesop and the other great story tellers to guide them on their life's paths!

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 11:20 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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