Aesop's Fables

Week 4: Ancient Greece - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

The Frog and the Mouse

Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 600 words.

Several times a year, I get email from people asking me about the fable of the frog and the scorpion, which is a famous story that got a new lease on life from its ingenious use in the movie The Crying Game (fabulous movie!). The story of the frog and the scorpion is not found in Aesop, but there is a very similar story about a frog and a mouse, which you will read here.

Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
THE FROG AND THE MOUSE (from the ancient Greek Life of Aesop; Fable #384)

Back when all the animals spoke the same language, the mouse became friends with a frog and invited him to dinner. The mouse then took the frog into a storeroom filled to the rafters with bread, meat, cheese, olives, and dried figs and said, 'Eat!' Since the mouse had shown him such warm hospitality, the frog said to the mouse, 'Now you must come to my place for dinner, so that I can show you some warm hospitality too.' The frog then led the mouse to the pond and said to him, 'Dive into the water!' The mouse said, 'But I don't know how to dive!' So the frog said, 'I will teach you.' He used a piece of string to tie the mouse's foot to his own and then jumped into the pond, dragging the mouse down with him. As the mouse was choking, he said, 'Even if I'm dead and you're still alive, I will get my revenge!' The frog then plunged down into the water, drowning the mouse. As the mouse's body floated to the surface of the water and drifted along, a raven grabbed hold of it together with the frog who was still tied to the mouse by the string. After the raven finished eating the mouse he then grabbed the frog. In this way the mouse got his revenge on the frog.

Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
THE FROG AND THE MOUSE (from the medieval Latin fable by Ademar)

A mouse asked a frog to help her get across the river. The frog tied the mouse's front leg to her own back leg using a piece of string and they swam out to the middle of the stream. The frog then turned traitor and plunged down into the water, dragging the mouse along with her. The mouse's dead body floated up to the surface and was drifting along when a kite flew by and noticed something he could snatch. When he grabbed the mouse he also carried off her friend the frog. Thus the treacherous frog who had betrayed the mouse's life was likewise killed and eaten.
For people who do harm to others and destroy themselves in the bargain.

Aesop's Fables: Caxton (1484)
Of the rat and of the frogge

Now it be so that as the rat wente in pylgremage he came by a Ryuer and demaunded helpe of a frogge for to passe and go ouer the water And thenne the frogge bound the rats foote to her foote and thus swymed vnto the myddes ouer the Ryuer And as they were there the frogge stood stylle to thende that the rat shold be drowned And in the meane whyle came a kyte vpon them and bothe bare them with hym This fable made Esope for a symylytude whiche is prouffitable to many folkes For he that thynketh euylle ageynst good the euylle whiche he thynketh shall ones falle vpon hym self.

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what did the mouse need from the frog?
  • how did the frog betray the mouse?
  • what happened to the mouse and to the frog in the end?

Source: Laura Gibbs, translator. Aesop's Fables (2003). Weblink.
Source: Caxton published his edition of Aesop's fables in 1484. There are modern reprints by Joseph Jacobs (1889) and more recently by Robert Lenaghan (1967). Weblink.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM