Friday Fable: Aesop’s “THE DRIVER AND THE DONKEY ON THE CLIFF”*

Posted by jlubans on November 23, 2012

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Caption: Illustration from Creighton University's Carlson Fable Collection.
“A donkey had turned aside from the main road and was heading for a cliff. The driver shouted at him, 'Where are you going, you wretched beast?' He grabbed hold of the donkey's tail and tried to drag him back from the cliff, but the donkey did not stop and instead kept going forward. So the man pushed the donkey even harder than he had pulled him back and said, 'Go ahead then! You can take the worthless victor's crown in this damned contest.' 
The fable criticizes people who are destroyed by their own stupidity.”

Who’s the stupid? The donkey? The raging driver? I initially thought it was the donkey, but I think Aesop’s epimythium (the moral at the end of the fable) is likely referring to the driver’s behavior. Instead of pushing the donkey over the cliff, the driver should be doing everything to save the donkey. Maybe pull out a bit of sugar, a carrot, whatever to distract the donkey from his self-destruction. After all the donkey is the driver’s livelihood; it’s unlikely the driver has a back-up at home.
And so it goes on the job. We may have a fellow worker who seems hell-bent on getting fired. Should we ignore the behavior or should we, with a kind word or two, try to divert the person from going over the cliff?

*Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.

PS. If you are reading this in Seattle, you can check out Leading from the Middle at the Seattle Public Library!


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