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Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)

406. THE FOX AND THE DRAGON
Perry 518 (Phaedrus 4.21)

While excavating her den, a fox dug a hole in the earth and as she made deeper and deeper tunnels in the ground, she finally reached the cave of a dragon who was guarding a hidden treasure. When the fox saw the dragon, she said, 'First of all, I beg your pardon for this carelessness on my part; second, you no doubt realize that gold means nothing to me, so I hope that you will be so kind as to explain to me what profit you gain from this work, and what reward could be so great that you would forgo the pleasure of sleep and live out your life here in the dark?' 'I have no reward,' the dragon replied, 'but this task was assigned to me by Jupiter on high.' 'Does that mean you take nothing for yourself and do not give anything to anyone?' 'That is what the Fates have decreed.' 'Please don't be angry then if I speak freely,' concluded the fox, 'but someone who lives like this must have been born under an unlucky star!'
Since you will soon depart to that place where those before you have gone, why do you miserably torment yourself, blind to the truth? Yes, I am speaking to you, you miser, who make your future heirs rejoice while depriving the gods of incense and depriving yourself of food, you who are gloomy when you hear the melody of the lyre, in agony when you hear the joyful sounds of the flute, groaning at the cost of food. You stingy man, you save every penny for your estate, burdening heaven with promises you do not mean to keep, while you cut back on every possible funeral expense so that not even Libitina, the goddess of undertakers, will profit from your death!

Note: Libitina was the Roman goddess of corpses, funerals, and undertakers, and death certificates were kept in her temples.


Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
NOTE: New cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.