Sunday, February 26, 2023



Aesop's Fables, or the Aesopica, is a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE. Of diverse origins, the stories associated with his name have descended to modern times through a number of sources and continue to be reinterpreted in different verbal registers and in popular as well as artistic media. The fables originally belonged to the oral tradition and were not collected for some three centuries after Aesop's death. By that time a variety of other stories, jokes and proverbs were being ascribed to him.


The Oak and the Reeds


A Giant Oak stood near a brook in which grew some slender Reeds. When the wind blew, the great Oak stood proudly upright with its hundred arms uplifted to the sky. But the Reeds bowed low in the wind and sang a sad and mournful song.

"You have reason to complain," said the Oak. "The slightest breeze that ruffles the surface of the water makes you bow your heads, while I, the mighty Oak, stand upright and firm before the howling tempest."

"Do not worry about us," replied the Reeds. "The winds do not harm us. We bow before them and so we do not break. You, in all your pride and strength, have so far resisted their blows. But the end is coming."

As the Reeds spoke a great hurricane rushed out of the north. The Oak stood proudly and fought against the storm, while the yielding Reeds bowed low. The wind redoubled in fury, and all at once the great tree fell, torn up by the roots, and lay among the pitying Reeds.


Better to yield when it is folly to resist, than to resist stubbornly and be destroyed.


Various morals have been ascribed to this fable:
  • It is better to bend than break. It is better to be flexible than stubborn.
  • Never be so proud of yourself. One should be humble always.
  • Pride goes before a fall.
There are early Greek versions of this fable and a 5th-century Latin version. They deal with the contrasting behaviour of the oak, which trusts in its strength to withstand the storm and is blown over, and the reed that 'bends with the wind' and so survives. Most early sources see it as a parable about pride and humility, providing advice on how to survive in turbulent times.

In modern time it has been argued that the conduct of the reed is not necessarily something to be admired, that it can be seen as cowardly and self-serving. It is also suggested that the fable is a recommendation for acceptance, that the standing up against greater odds, against injustice, racism and the like, for freedom and equality, should not be accepted because of unequal strength.

Typifying this is Teddy Roosevelt’s 1910 “Man In the Arena” speech:

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