Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
153. THE DUNG BEETLE AND THE EAGLE
Perry 3 (Life of
As he was being chased by an eagle, the hare ran to the dung beetle,
begging the beetle to save him. The beetle implored the eagle to respect
the hare's asylum, solemnly compelling him by the sacred name of Zeus
and pleading with the eagle not to disregard him simply because of his
small size. But the eagle brushed the beetle aside with a flick of his
wing and grabbed the hare, tearing him to pieces and devouring him. The
beetle was enraged and flew off together with the eagle to find the nest
in which the eagle kept his eggs. After the eagle was gone, the beetle
smashed all the eggs. When the eagle came back, he was dreadfully upset
and looked for the creature who had smashed the eggs, intending to tear
him to pieces. When it was time for the eagle to nest again, he put his
eggs in an even higher place, but the beetle flew all the way up to the
nest, smashed the eggs, and went away. The eagle grieved for his little
ones and said that this must be the result of some angry plot of Zeus
to exterminate the eagle race. When the next season came, the eagle did
not feel secure keeping the eggs in his nest and instead went up to Olympus
and placed the eggs in Zeus's lap. The eagle said to Zeus, 'Twice my eggs
have been destroyed; this time, I am leaving them here under your protection.'
When the beetle found out what the eagle had done, he stuffed himself
with dung and went straight up to Zeus and flew right into his face. At
the sight of this filthy creature, Zeus was startled and leaped to his
feet, forgetting that he held the eagle's eggs inside his lap. As a result,
the eggs were broken once again. Zeus then learned of the wrong that had
been done to the beetle, and when the eagle returned, Zeus said to him,
'It is only right that you have lost your little ones, since you mistreated
the beetle!' The beetle said, 'The eagle treated me badly, but he also
acted very impiously towards you, O Zeus! The eagle did not fear to violate
your sacred name, and he killed the one who had taken refuge with me.
I will not cease until I have punished the eagle completely!' Zeus did
not want the race of eagles to be wiped out, so he urged the beetle to
relent. When his efforts to persuade the beetle failed, Zeus changed the
breeding season of the eagles, so that it would take place at a time when
the beetles were not found above ground.
Note: The fable of the dung beetle and the eagle is alluded to on three
occasions by Aristophanes: Wasps
695 and Peace
127-34. In Caxton (6.2), the dung
beetle is replaced by a weasel!
Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura
Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.