Friday Fable. Aesop’s “The Bear and the Two Travelers”*

Posted by jlubans on December 19, 2014

Caption: Illustration by Henry Justice Ford, ca. 1888 at age 28.

“TWO MEN were traveling together, when a Bear suddenly met them on their path. One of them climbed up quickly into a tree and concealed himself in the branches. The other, seeing that he must be attacked, fell flat on the ground, and when the Bear came up and felt him with his snout, and smelt him all over, he held his breath, and feigned the appearance of death as much as he could. The Bear soon left him, for it is said he will not touch a dead body. When he was quite gone, the other Traveler descended from the tree, and jocularly inquired of his friend what it was the Bear had whispered in his ear. ‘He gave me this advice,’ his companion replied. ‘Never travel with a friend who deserts you at the approach of danger.’”

“Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends.”

“Aye, it be true, young Jim,” talking like a pirate out of Treasure Island. This fable’s moral dredges up an unpleasant memory. After a business acquaintance – he worked at a different institution - was fired, I saw him at a national meeting and failed to approach him. I avoided offering him my best wishes or reaching out to him. I’ve an excuse – embarrassment for him, maybe - but more likely it was some quirky avoidance reaction on my part. It’s not that I “cut” him - to use a British term – that’s deliberate and mean-spirited. This was more a feigned not noticing - yet knowing - someone in a crowd of people on a conference floor. I’d change it if I could. So, listen me sea-faring laddies and lassies; do what’s right when you next encounter someone upon whom fortune is leering.

*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 the Gutenberg Project.

Leading from the Middle Library of the week: Kelburn Library of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Copyright John Lubans 2014

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