Animal Folklore: Aesop’s Fable

The second animal folklore I wanted to add to this collection comes from the classic Aesop’s Fables, once again as performed by my mother over a phone call when I had asked her to reread portions of some of my favorite animal folklore from when I was a child. Along with Kipling’s classic, I remember I loved when she would read stories from Aesop’s Fables to me as well. There are many versions of these fables, as they go back to Greek and Roman traditions. The story my mother chose from these collections is one of her own personal favorites, “The Ass in the Lion’s Skin.”

The story is essentially about a very vain donkey that dawns on the skin of a lion he finds that was left by a hunter. He puts the skin on and begins to terrify the local animals, who think he is really a lion. It is only the clever fox that eventually discovers that he is not a lion after the donkey, absolutely pleased with himself, neighs in his donkey voice. At that moment, the fox realizes he is not a lion, telling him “if you had kept your mouth shut you might have frightened me too! But you gave yourself away with that silly bray!” The underlying moral of this fable is that you may be able to deceive some with false looks created through one’s appearance and clothing, but it will always come out who you really are.

Since this is my mother’s favorite of the whole collection, she was very excited to read it. It was short, but her excitement made it even shorter. She was rushed to get to the part about the fox, because she really appreciates the fox character in all of Aesop’s Fables. He is sly, clever, and cunning—able to outsmart much more powerful opponents with his intelligence. However, in this story, my mother appreciates the fact that he serves as a bit of comic relief. The situational irony exposes the donkey’s secret to the reader earlier on, and it is nice to see the donkey’s farce revealed. My mother always gives a very sarcastic and cool tone to the dialogue of the fox, as she tries to impart these characteristics with the underlying nature of this character. I think this is why she really likes this tale above all else, because the reader can see the true sarcastic nature of the fox that does compliment is wittiness developed in the other fables.