summer holidays – M reading Aesop

The King of the beasts was in an irritable mood. That morning his mate had told him that his breath was most unpleasant. After doing considerable roaring to show that he was king, he summoned his counselors.
First he called the sheep.
“Friend sheep,” he roared, opening his great mouth, “would you say that my breath smells unpleasant?”
Believing tha the lion wanted an honest answer, the sheep gave it, and the king of the beasts bit off her head for a fool.
Then he called the wolf and asked him the same question. The wolf, catching sight of the carcass of the sheep, said, “Why, your majesty, you have breath as sweet as blossoms in the spring -”
Before he could finish he was torn to pieces for a flatterer.
At last the lion called the fox and put the question to him. The fox gave a hollow cough, then cleared his throat. “Your majesty,” he whispered, “truly I have such a cold in the head that I cannot smell at all.”


  1. AKK said

    He! Do you know the tale of the cat, the lion and the man who cut wood?

  2. Simon G said

    Can’t remember… go on…

  3. AKK said

    In the forest one day a cat meets a lion who had never seen a cat before. Thinking that it was some kind of rabbit, the lion jumps and grabs the cat and is ready to eat it.

    “Oh no, King of the Beasts, you can’t eat me! I am your next of kin. We are cousins!”, cried the cat.

    “What are you talking about? How can you and I be related? Are you taking me for a fool?” the lion roared.

    “Look at me carefully. Look at my claws, my moustaches, my ears, my nose” said the cat trembling.

    The lion rolled and examined the cat from all sides. Finally he said “I admit there could be a faint relationship. But why are you so tiny?”

    “Oh great Master, once upon a time cats were as big as lions. We have become small since we started living with man”.

    “I don’t know man. What’s a man?” asked the lion. “Is it an animal?”

    “Yes” answered the cat. “It’s an animal and the most terrible of all”.

    The lion was irritated. “I don’t believe you. You have to take me to see a man. And if I don’t find him terrible, I am going to eat you whether you are my cousin or not.”

    “Ok. Just follow me” said the cat and took the lion to a place in the forest where there was a woodcutter who was trying to open a stub with a sledgehammer and wedges. He was very thin, dressed in rags and after every strike of the hammer he panted heavily.

    “Prepare to die” said the lion to the cat. “Is this miserable creature the terrible man you were talking about?”

    “No Master! We have to get closer to see better! From this distance you can’t tell how terrible man is.” cried the cat. And the lion who had started to find this amusing, approached the man. As he did so, the man dropped the sledgehammer and fell on the ground crying all in tears : “Ah how lucky I am! God sent you, oh King of the Beasts. See here? I can’t open this stub. My wedges are caught in it and I have no more strength left to take them out. But for you, oh mighty lion, it will be like a game. Please, help me. Put your claws inside the slot between the two parts of the stub and open it a little more so that I am able to take my wedges out”. And he started whining over his misery and about how much he needed the wood from that stub and about his hungry family at home, etc, etc.

    Tired of hearing the man’s whines, the lion grabbed the stub and with his strong claws split open the two parts without difficulty. The man took his sledgehammer and started striking the wedges one after the other out of the stub. But when he stroke out the last one, the slot snapped shut catching tightly the lion’s claws in it! The man now raised his sledgehammer and hit the helpless lion as many times as he could. When he thought that it was dead, he gathered his tools and he left.

    But the lion wasn’t dead. He came over and after long while, gathering its forces, managed to let free of the stub. Crawling in great pain because half the bones of his body were broken, he joined the cat who was waiting and had watched the scene from a distance.

    “You are the bravest and cleverest animal in the world and it’s a great honor for me to know that we are cousins” he said. “If we lions lived with man, we would have shrunk down to the size of mice!”

    (I heard this from Marios, my friend and fellow-villager in Ikaria, who knows all kinds of stories and jokes. We were taking a breath from cutting wood when he told me this one.)

  4. Simon G said

    The lion’s final words are great – “If we lions…” hahaha!
    Well done Marios too – the perfect story for a bit of wood cutting!

    Another of Aesop’s stories that has been passed on by word of mouth for the last 2500 years, without making it into the collections??

    (btw I bought myself a wedge the other day – so I can now identify with that man who was “very thin, dressed in rags and after every strike of the hammer he panted heavily” There’s something very satisfying about that cr-aaa-ck as the wood finally splits open…)

  5. Anonymous said

    We have talked about it already…

    For somebody who is privileged of a good education what is fascinating about living in a relatively isolated and faraway, small place like Ikaria is that he/she can discover elements of tradition and lore that have long ago disappeared from the location of their original birth.

    For example demotic epics and medieval songs narrating stories that took place in the Balkan subcontinent during, let’s say, the 13th century, were discovered to be in the mouths of the inhabitants of tiny dots in the map –islands like Nysiros and Karpathos- in the early 20th century.
    Imagine that I had no idea that Aesop was (or was supposed to be) from Samos! Yet it’s written all over. The Samians themselves would rather boast of Pythagoras instead.

  6. Anonymous said

    I have heard the story of “The Lion, the Cat and the Woodcutter” too, and I have it in my notes. But in the version I recorded there was a logical inadequacy. The woodcutter had an ax and it was the ax that he was supposed not to be strong enough to take off the stub. After the lion helped him, it was with the ax that the woodcutter hit it. So if it was hit with an ax, the lion would have bled to death and it wouldn’t have been able to speak to the cat in the end, wouldn’t it?

    The sledgehammer makes much more sense. The “ax version” was probably a simplified edition for children. And there is a variation to it saying that it was the blade of the ax that was caught in the stub and that the woodcutter hit the lion with the shaft. But to knock out a lion with only a piece of wood, that’s not believable either, isn’t it?

  7. isl_gr said

    So thank you Simon for reading Aesop in Samos and

    thank you, Angelos, for the “sledgehammer and wedges version” of a delightfully and didacticaly misanthorpic myth. Would that be 2500 y.old survivor? If so, for one more time this proves that for a tradition to live on, the conditions of its birth have to live on too; that is, traditional woodcutting.

    “bang-bang-bang” “pant-pant-pant” “cra-aaaa-aa-ack”

  8. vixen said

    Hey Master SG!
    Eleni called me in and now you have all 3 of us on your back ! Do you give me permission to copy-paste this whole page (including the comments) in my blog next week? I will leave it as it is. I will only change the title to something like “Reading Aesop in Samos”. I will not tag “threats” :lol

  9. Simon G said

    Thank you ‘elle’ and ‘vixen’ – yes, permission is happily given. But you should know first that the photo was not taken in Samos. I went there at Easter but not in summer. In summer it was France. The story, from one of M’s books of Aesop’s fables, is definitely from Samos though, or somewhere nearby.

    Incidentally, most French people are surprised when you tell them these stories are from Aesop, a greek. “No, no,” they say, “they are french, from De La Fontaine!” Then they go and check and next time they see you they are a little shaken and can’t quite believe that all along it has been true!

    El, I am very envious of you being able to hear old stories that have been passed down by word of mouth – especially from your grandmother, but from other people on the island too. This in itself is a good education, is it not? Anthropology and Psychology without the eye-strain, footnotes and student overdraft.

    Almost all of the stories I know, I know from my own or other people’s readiong of books. I am definitely not a “natural” when it comes to storytelling – but maybe a little bit of a “tortoise”.

    Yes, there is a ‘just right’-ness about Angelos’s, Marios’s telling of the wedge fable. A bit like that sound of the wood splitting.

    btw – on the subject of stories that don’t seem quite right, do you know the story of The Fox and Her Child?
    Perhaps ‘vixen’ does!
    I came across it, and the saying, here:
    but to me the Child Fox should not say the same thing as the mother, it should maybe be something like:

    The two were quiet for a while. Then the fox cub began to open its mouth and take in big gulps of air.
    “What are you doing, daughter?”
    “Just eating the aroma of that meat,” said the cub.

    where the child really shows it has understood. But I would prefer to hear a traditional version. And even if it is ‘wrong’ there is another layer of meaning in that wrongness, just as there is in the over-simple morals that sometimes go with the written versions of the fables…

  10. vixen said

    There is nothing clever in repeating and imitating. It’s obviously a typo or a mistake of the copyist. In the way I know the fable, the cub sniffs the air and rubs his stomach looking very pleased. At his mother’s wondering the cub explains, “I am eating with my nose!”

    Cool webpage that ☺°â˜º° “Greek Spider” 😮

    Thank you for letting me re-blog. I will copy as far as Eleni’s last comment and I will put a link so that people can read the rest if they like.

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