Tuesday, May 14, 2024



The Ant and the Dove

An ant went to the bank of a river to quench its thirst, and being carried away by the rush of the stream, was on the point of drowning. A dove sitting on a tree overhanging the water plucked a leaf and let it fall into the stream close to her. The ant climbed onto it and floated in safety to the bank. Shortly afterwards a birdcatcher came and stood under the tree, and laid his lime-twigs for the dove, which sat in the branches. The ant, perceiving his design, stung him in the foot. In pain the birdcatcher threw down the twigs, and the noise made the dove take wing.


One good turn deserves another

Another version:

A Dove saw an Ant fall into a brook. The Ant struggled in vain to reach the bank, and in pity, the Dove dropped a blade of straw close beside it. Clinging to the straw like a shipwrecked sailor to a broken spar, the Ant floated safely to shore.

Soon after, the Ant saw a man getting ready to kill the Dove with a stone. But just as he cast the stone, the Ant stung him in the heel, so that the pain made him miss his aim, and the startled Dove flew to safety in a distant wood.

A kindness is never wasted.


A further version:

An Ant, going to a river to drink, fell in, and was carried along in the stream. A Dove pitied her condition, and threw into the river a small bough, by means of which the Ant gained the shore. The Ant afterward, seeing a man with a fowling-piece aiming at the Dove, stung him in the foot sharply, and made him miss his aim, and so saved the Dove’s life.

Little friends may prove great friends.


Moral of the fable:

The moral of the story is that a good deed never goes unnoticed and comes back to us in one form or another.

The dove’s act of kindness returned to him when the ant saved his life from the hunter, i.e., if you do good, good will come to you.

Similarly, in life, doing good deeds and helping people might come back to us in some form. It’s the same with evil deeds, which may come back to us in some form.

From Wikipedia:

There has been little variation in the fable since it was first recorded in Greek sources. An ant falls into a stream and a dove comes to the rescue by holding out a blade of grass to allow it to climb out. Then, noticing that a fowler was about to catch the dove, the ant bit his foot and his sudden movement caused the bird to fly away.

Other interpretations have been made of the fable. In a 1947 postcard series it is turned into a political statement in the aftermath of the occupation of France by the Nazis. There a little boy with a slingshot distracts a man with an armband labelled "Law" from chasing a girl who is running away with stolen apples in her pinafore.

By the way:

The expression ‘one good turn deserves another’ has been in the language since at least 1636, as here in William Camden’s Remaines concerning Britaine:

“One good turne asketh another.”

‘One good turn deserves another’ is in use in colloquial English but is also a legal concept in the area of trade or exchange of goods or services. A contract has been said to be binding if it is ‘One good turn deserves another’, that is, if it involves an exchange of goods or services for something of value, usually money.

The proverb is often used to describe corrupt practice, where favours (notably political or sexual favours) are illicitly given in exchange for cash. that is, ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’.

A little wordplay involving the synonyms ‘turn’ and ‘tern’ was used by the scriptwriters of the 1991 thriller movie ‘The Silence of the Lambs‘, starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins as Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter:

Hannibal Lecter: Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center. Sounds charming.

Clarice Starling: That’s only part of the island. There’s a very, very nice beach. Terns nest there. There’s beautiful…

Hannibal Lecter: Terns? If I help you, Clarice, it will be “turns” for us too. I tell you things, you tell me things. Not about this case, though. About yourself. One good turn deserves another. Yes or no?

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