Friday Fable. Aesop’s “THE SOW AND THE LIONESS”*

Posted by jlubans on September 07, 2012

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“The story goes that a sow who had delivered a whole litter of piglets loudly accosted a lioness, 'How many children do you breed?' asked the sow. 'I breed only one,' said the lioness, 'but he is very well bred!' 
The fable shows that a single man who is remarkable for physical strength and bravery and wisdom is mightier than many weak and foolish people.”

The epimythium, the Latin term for the tacked-on moral, is largely lost on me because of the lioness’ artful response to the overly enthusiastic sow. Better to savor the delicious riposte than to squeeze out an all too obvious moral.
As I think about it, there is something to be said for the sow’s quantity breeding. I recall in my supervisory salad days staff reprimanding me about wanting to gain ever-greater heights of production. I always wanted more!
A few regularly told me that I was sacrificing QUALITY for QUANTITY. They never did see that sacrificing quantity for an unspecific quality might be frustrating to our customers who were deprived of our products. Worse, the most quality-conscious staff member never consulted the customers about what quality meant for them! The more I heard this moralizing, the more it became a classic “mess”, one of those "messes" under which large problems invariably lurked. My chapter on Sherlock’s Dog in Leading from the Middle takes a look at “mess finding”.
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*Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.


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