Aesop's Fables/Headscratchers

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  • The story of the tortoise and the hare just bugs me. Its moral is supposed to be "slow and steady wins the race", but that's not it at all. It's a story about overconfidence and humility. If the hare had kept running, he would have won, regardless of how slow and steady the tortoise moved. It's only because he decided to thumb his nose at the tortoise by taking a nap before the finish line. The real moral of the story is don't underestimate your opponent and always be a good sport.
    • Already discussed here: The Tortoise and the Hare.
    • In the original tales themselves the morals were not stated at the end. Those were later additions/interpretations.
  • The story of the ugly duckling. Think about the story a minute. What it tells you is that if you are ugly you will get nowhere in life. For people to like you, you need to turn beautiful. Not the feel good story of the year.
    • I'd just like to notice this is not an Aesop Fable. The point is made, though...
      • True, but it is used as one. People use it all the time to comfort children who feel disliked.
    • I'd say its actual point is more about perseverance, and not giving up on yourself. Had the cygnet given up and not struggled to survive the winter, he might have never made it to his "swany-ness". So it's more about "don't give up on life."
  • So, "The North Wind And The Sun"... the stated aesop is "kindness, gentleness, and persuasion win where force fails", but my mind never gets over the fact that the Sun clearly cheated. There was no way the North Wind could take off the traveler's coat, even with kindness, gentleness and persuasion!
    • In some versions it's a cloak, which would be more feasible. And anyway, the North Wind did take him up on it, so he can't really complain.
      • The point I'm putting is that, applying the moral to the story, the wind would never get the man to take the coat off with kindness and whatnot. Answering my own qualm, the story shouldn't be taken to face value, but it'd be more effective if both Sun and Wind had the means to make the man take out the coat with gentleness and whatever, and not only one of them.
        • I think it was more of a "whose way is better" contest, not a "let's see who can find the best way fastest."
        • And besides, what do you mean by "no way"? If the North Wind had blown as a gentle, swirling, inviting breeze, it might have enticed the traveler to stop for a rest, take off his coat, and play for a while in the pleasant wind.
    • Hey, Aint No Rule.
  • In all of the fables you have an animal or whatever anthropomorphized and imbued with a really basic nature, so as to illustrate a single human quality. Right. So in the fables that end with one character proving his point over another, what happens to the loser? Sometimes they die or are destroyed, like in The Farmer and the Viper, but sometimes, like the above one about the North Wind and the Sun, it just ends. The North Wind's whole reason for existence has just been proven pointless, but presumably he can't change his nature, so what's he supposed to do about it? Just keep blowing pathetically at travelers while the Sun lies back and smirks? Why doesn't he get to cash in on the moral like the reader?
    • The fables aren't about teaching the loser, they're about teaching the reader, like a cautionary tale. So yeah, the loser gets a pretty raw deal.
    • All the North Wind has to do is accept that he is not very good at making travellers take off their coats, but he is very good at making travellers grab their coats really tightly in tacit acknowledgement of the North Wind's power, and be content with that.
  • The Man and the Satyr:
A Man and a Satyr once formed a bond of alliance. One very cold wintry day, as they talked together, the Man put his fingers to his mouth and blew on them. On the Satyr inquiring the reason, he told him that he did it to warm his hands. Later on in the day they sat down to eat, the food prepared being quite scalding. The Man raised one of his dishes towards his mouth and blew in it. On the Satyr again inquiring the reason, he said that he did it to cool the meat. "I can no longer consider you as a friend," said the Satyr; "a fellow who with the same breath blows hot and cold I could never trust."
A man who talks for both sides is not to be trusted by either.
Perfectly good moral, terrible metaphor. There's nothing wrong with the fact that humans can blow hot and cold. The Satyr just doesn't get it.
    • Maybe I'm being hypocritical, but you're taking the story too much to face value. This being a Greek fable, the story pretty much existed to illustrate the moral. It actually looks more like a joke with a moral, in fact...
      • Yeah, but it doesn't illustrate the moral. There are other Aesop's fables that have more or less the same point, like the Origin Myth about how bats were trying to be birds and beasts at the same time and were banished to live in darkness when both groups found out about it. That one makes sense, as the bats were actually trying to suck up to both sides of a conflict. All the man was trying to do was warm up his hands and cool down his food. It's using a metaphor inside the fable, which kind of kills the point.
      • That bugged me too, along with mild Paranoia Fuel. I was slightly traumatized about blowing to warm myself/cool my food for a while after reading that...because the version I read didn't even give the metaphorical explanation.
    • The real problem with that is that the man's breath was pulling towards a comfortable (for him) medium. It's an argument against moderacy, assuming it wasn't translated wrong.
    • I think the problem is that it went from moral story to a clever pun. Also, one wonders why we should be taking moral lessons from satyrs.
      • Exactly. Satyrs were almost always depicted as complete asshats. Straw Man argues against moderation and in this case does not have a point.
  • The frog and the Ox. Not all creatures can become as great as they think, English translation; the story boils down to don't try to be something your not, and be complacent with where you are in life. What kind of moral is that? When has being accepting of your lot in life ever achieved anything. Every thing great in life from the wheel to the A-bomb came from someone saying "This sucks, I want something better, I know what I could do..." No person we remember in history lived a life of mediocrity.
    • And those are the oxes. The frogs are the ones who try to be big, and may even become big, but don't have what it takes to stay big. Think what happens if you give a homeless person a bag with one million dollars, great chances are they'll just blow it all in possessions they won't be able to maintain. So they "blow up" and get back to the first peg. This doesn't mean they can't become that big, just that they aren't doing it right(and, in that regard, the fable doesn't give an alternative that's not "die and be born again").
      • Uh, no. Oxen are born into their great stature, frogs are not. saying that the frog is going about it the wrong way is a confirmation of the idea that he should just be happy the way he is, small and miserable. The ox did NOTHING to achieve its great status, and the frog showed initiative and tried to accomplish something. The oxes are the people who were born into power.
        • Values Dissonance, peasant. Suck it up and get back to watching your employer's goats. * Rimshot* Don't forget to tithe to your goddesses!
        • Alternately, the point is that the frog's goal was delusional. The impossible will always be impossible no matter how hard you try. Because for every person who succeeded in achieving something amazing there are at least one hundred others who pursued an impossible dream to misery and ruin.
  • What is the point behind "The Moon and her Mother"? To put it in short, the Moon asks for her Mother to make her a dress. Her Mother complains she can't, as the Moon keeps changing size as it passes through its phases. Then it ends. Here's a link to the story. What is the point?
    • Agreed; that is weird. However, I'm going to offer that it may be a moral about commitment. To have a dress made is something of a commitment, you put time and material and energy into it. However, a commitment like that is lost on the Moon, because she changes size all the time. So perhaps the moral is, "Know your own nature; don't make commitments you can't keep, and don't enter promises with people who are fickle."