Friday Fable. Aesop’s “THE BOYS AND THE FROGS”*

Posted by jlubans on September 30, 2016

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Caption: Illustration by Milo Winter, 1919

“Some Boys were playing one day at the edge of a pond in which lived a family of Frogs. The Boys amused themselves by throwing stones into the pond so as to make them skip on top of the water.
The stones were flying thick and fast and the Boys were enjoying themselves very much; but the poor Frogs in the pond were trembling with fear.
At last one of the Frogs, the oldest and bravest, put his head out of the water, and said, ‘Oh, please, dear children, stop your cruel play! Though it may be fun for you, it means death to us!’"

“Always stop to think whether your fun may not be the cause of another's unhappiness.”

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My question: When beseeched by the Frog, do the “dear children” cease and desist?

One re-telling of this fable is explicit about the boys’ malice: “The boys began to throw rocks at the frogs and even competed against each other as to who could hit the most frogs. Sometimes the rocks hit the frogs so hard that they died.”
That interpretation suggests we humans will do nasty things to fellow beings. No surprise. History offers much evidence about our cruelty especially when led down paths of iniquity by unethical, heartless leaders – we appear to be powerless against tyrants, so much so we too become heartless.
Yet, like in the first telling, I believe it is far more natural for us to stop doing whatever harms another.
What is the source of these kindly impulses?
Compassion for and collaboration with others is essential to our social survival. With temperate ethical leadership, we - as a group - seek to do no harm.
Still, we run daily into invective and hatred in social media. Is anonymity – the refusal to take responsibility for one’s words - the driving factor for digitized intolerance? Maybe it’s true: spite loves a loner.

*Source: Aesop for Children (translator not identified). Illustrations by Milo Winter (1886-1956). Chicago: 
Rand McNally & Company, 1919. Available at Project Gutenberg.

© Copyright John Lubans 2016


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