Phaedrus’ THE FOX AND THE GOAT*

Posted by jlubans on April 10, 2020

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Caption: Advertising poster (1870-1900) for spool cotton.

As soon as a crafty man has fallen into danger, he seeks to make his escape by the sacrifice of another.

A Fox, through inadvertence, having fallen into a well, and being closed in by the sides which were too high for her, a Goat parched with thirst came to the same spot, and asked whether the water was good, and in plenty.
The other, devising a stratagem, replied: “Come down, my friend: such is the goodness of the water, that my pleasure in drinking cannot be satisfied.”
Longbeard descended; then the Fox, mounting on his high horns, escaped from the well, and left the Goat to stick fast in the enclosed mud.

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Is it ever OK to abandon someone who has helped you? Is it OK to scramble up over a colleague at work and leave him or her far behind?
The Wall is a timed activity rarely used in corporate team building – too many risks.
But, back in the day, the Outward Bound schools made good use of it.
My team of 12 had to get itself up and over the 11-foot tall smooth-faced wall. Much too high for one person, the challenge forced us to cooperate (or not).
After brainstorming a plan, we built a human ladder and most people scrambled up and over, the ones at the top grasping and lifting those on the way up.
Eventually, only one or two were left on the ground. How to get these folks up?
Cooperation is something largely unique to mankind. Unlike the fox, we often do help each other.
But, every now and then there's a fox among us who "seeks to make his escape by the sacrifice of another."
Another version of this fable has the fox taunting the goat: "If you had half as much brains as you have beard, you would have looked before you leaped."

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Caption: Another ad using the fable. 1924. Typhoo means Doctor in Chinese
*Source: THE COMEDIES OF TERENCE AND THE FABLES OF PHÆDRUS.TRANSLATED By HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A.
TO WHICH IS ADDED A METRICAL TRANSLATION OF PHÆDRUS,
By CHRISTOPHER SMART.
LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, 1887.

© Copyright John Lubans 2020

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