Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
16. THE MONKEY AND THE LION'S BREATH
Perry 514 (Romulus
When the lion made himself king of the beasts, he wanted to be known
for his fairness, so he gave up his old habits and contented himself with
a limited diet just as the other animals did, committed to dispensing
justice with complete honesty. As time went by, however, the lion's resolution
began to waver. Since he was not able to alter his natural inclinations,
he began to take certain animals aside in private and ask them whether
or not his breath smelled bad. It was a clever strategy: the animals who
said that it smelled bad and the animals who said it did not were all
killed just the same and the lion was thus able to satisfy his appetite.
After he had slaughtered a number of the animals in this way, the lion
turned to the monkey and asked how his breath smelled. The monkey exclaimed
that the lion's breath smelled of cinnamon, as if it were the very altar
of the gods. The lion was ashamed to slaughter someone who said such nice
things, so he changed his tactics and fooled the monkey with a newly devised
stratagem. The lion pretended that he was sick. The doctors came right
away, of course, and when they checked the lion's veins and found that
his pulse was normal, they ordered him to eat some food that would be
light on his stomach, thus alleviating his nausea. 'Kings may eat what
they like,' admitted the lion. 'And I've never tried monkey meat... I
would like to have a taste of that.' No sooner said than done: the obsequious
monkey was quickly killed so that the lion could eat him immediately.
The penalty for speaking and for keeping silent is one and the same.
Note: Cinnamon was an extremely valuable and exotic substance in the
ancient Greco-Roman world and in medieval Europe, travelling all the
way from the 'Spice Islands' of Indonesia through Arabia to north Africa
and ports on the Mediterranean.
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.