Friday Fable. Aesop’s “The Lion, Jupiter, and the Elephant”*

Posted by jlubans on May 20, 2016


“THE LION wearied Jupiter with his frequent complaints. ‘It is true, O Jupiter!" he said, ‘that I am gigantic in strength, handsome in shape, and powerful in attack. I have jaws well provided with teeth, and feet furnished with claws, and I lord it over all the beasts of the forest, and what a disgrace it is, that being such as I am, I should be frightened by the crowing of a cock.’ Jupiter replied, ‘Why do you blame me without a cause? I have given you all the attributes which I possess myself, and your courage never fails you except in this one instance.’ On hearing this the Lion groaned and lamented very much and, reproaching himself with his cowardice, wished that he might die. As these thoughts passed through his mind, he met an Elephant and came close to hold a conversation with him. After a time he observed that the Elephant shook his ears very often, and he inquired what was the matter and why his ears moved with such a tremor every now and then. Just at that moment a Gnat settled on the head of the Elephant, and he replied, ‘Do you see that little buzzing insect? If it enters my ear, my fate is sealed. I should die presently.’ The Lion said, ‘Well, since so huge a beast is afraid of a tiny gnat, I will no more complain, nor wish myself dead. I find myself, even as I am, better off than the Elephant.’”

Here’s how another translator ends this fable: “The Lion thereupon took heart again, and determined not to let troubles, which he shared in common with all created things, blind him to what was pleasant in life.” (Aesop. The book of fables: Containing Aesop's fables, complete. N.Y: Hurst. 1880?)

And so it can be at work, when we let anxiety and envy dictate our thoughts instead of enjoying all the good things available to us like close friendships, our team mates, a supportive boss, not to mention employment when many are seeking work. Is not the lion like the executive in fear of being exposed as an incompetent? That anxiety is right up there with "underachieving, appearing too vulnerable, being politically attacked by colleagues, and appearing foolish."

*Source: 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.

Copyright © John Lubans 2016
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