Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
199. THE WASP AND THE BUTTERFLY
Perry 556 (Phaedrus
A butterfly noticed a wasp flying by and exclaimed, 'What an unfair turn
of events this is! In our previous lifetimes, when we inhabited the bodies
from whose mortal remains we received our souls, I was the one who spoke
eloquently in times of peace and fought bravely in war, and I was first
among my fellows in all of the arts! Yet look at me now, an utter frivolity,
crumbling into ashes as I flutter here and there. You, on the other hand,
were formerly a mule, a beast of burden, yet now you stab and wound anyone
you want with your sting.' The wasp then uttered words that are worth
repeating: 'It does not matter what we used to be: the important thing
is what we are now!'
Note: This fable derives from the ancient belief that wasps would spring
from the carcass of a dead mule or horse (e.g. Aelian, Characteristics
of Animals 1.28), while a spirit or 'psyche' would take shape in the
form of a butterfly (Aristotle,
History of Animals 551a).
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.