Posted by jlubans on August 02, 2018

Caption: Balaam’s Ass enduring one of three beatings.

WHEN Jupiter stocked the universe with the various tribes of animals, the Ass, among others, came into the world.
But, either purposely or from an accident owing to the press of work at such a busy time, (Jupiter) made a sad mistake, and the Ass came out of its mould no larger than a squirrel.
Scarcely any one ever took any notice of the Ass, although the Ass yielded to no one in pride.
The Ass was much inclined towards boasting. But what was it to boast of?
With such a puny stature, it was ashamed to show itself in the world.
So our conceited Ass went to Jupiter, and began to pray for a larger stature.
"Have pity on me !" it cried : "how can I bear this misery? Lions, panthers, elephants, all obtain honour everywhere, and, from the highest to the lowest, everyone goes on talking about them only. Why have you treated Asses so unkindly that they never obtain any honour, and not a word is ever spoken about them by any one?
But, if I were only as big as a calf, I would lower the pride of the lions and panthers, and all the world would be talking about me."
Every day our Ass continued to sing this same song to Jupiter, and bothered him so that at last he granted its request, and the Ass became a big beast.
But, besides this, it acquired such a savage voice that our long-eared Hercules dismayed the whole forest.
"Whatever is that brute? What family does it belong to? It has very long teeth, anyhow, hasn't it? and no end of horns!"
At last, nothing else was talked about besides the Ass.
But how did it all end ? Before the year was out, everyone had discovered what the Ass really was.”
Our Ass became proverbial for stupidity, and, ever since that time. Asses have been beasts of burden.

Noble birth and high office are excellent things; but how can they profit a man whose soul is ignoble?
Surely, not all asses,
two legged or four, are of an ignoble soul.
I am reminded of Balaam’s Ass - the biblical talking donkey -
who disobeys his master and saves him (and the Hebrews) from destruction.
The Ass serves as a metaphor of the best kind of follower in the first chapter of my book, “Leading from the Middle”.
What’s the best kind of follower? The one that tells you the truth, especially the truth you do not want to hear.

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869.
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© Copyright John Lubans 2018

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