Friday Fable: Aesop’s “The Grasshopper and the Owl”*

Posted by jlubans on April 18, 2014

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Caption: Illustration (1869) by Joseph M. Kronheim, (1810-1896)
“AN OWL, accustomed to feed at night and to sleep during the day, was greatly disturbed by the noise of a Grasshopper and earnestly besought her to stop chirping. The Grasshopper refused to desist, and chirped louder and louder the more the Owl entreated. When she saw that she could get no redress and that her words were despised, the Owl attacked the chatterer by a stratagem. "Since I cannot sleep," she said, "on account of your song which, believe me, is sweet as the lyre of Apollo, I shall indulge myself in drinking some nectar which Pallas lately gave me. If you do not dislike it, come to me and we will drink it together." The Grasshopper, who was thirsty, and pleased with the praise of her voice, eagerly flew up. The Owl came forth from her hollow, seized her, and put her to death.”

This fable epitomizes how a leader’s patience may wear out and dire consequences result. At the same time, there’s a lesson about bewaring anyone who uses language like, “If you do not dislike”, a certain give-away of double-dealing. But, then the owl, a reasonable creature, gives ample warning.
The fable raises the question, “When does the manager, the parent, the teacher discipline the insubordinate, the fractious, the obstreperous?”
At some point confrontation is the only option and there are life’s lessons to be learned.
The grasshopper is a bit of sad sack in Aesop. First he freezes and starves to death after fiddling away his summer and now he gets gobbled up by an annoyed owl. "Such is life" - the words uttered by Australian bushranger Ned Kelly at his hanging - might apply as well to our dearly departed grasshopper.

*Source: AESOP'S FABLES By Aesop Translated by George Fyler Townsend (probably from this edition): “Three hundred and fifty Aesop's fables”. Chicago, Belford, Clarke & Co., 1886.
Available at Gutenberg:

NOTE: Professor Joseph Janes, chair of the Information School at the University of Washington, writes about “Leading from All Sides” – including leading from the middle – in the March/April 2014 issue of American Libraries magazine, page 18.

NOTE: If you are a member of SLA there’s still time to register for my webinar, “Freedom at Work” on April 23,

@Copyright John Lubans 2014
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