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

502. THE MAN, THE HORSE, THE OX AND THE DOG
Perry 105 (Babrius 74)

A horse, an ox, and a dog were suffering from the cold and came to the house of a man. The man opened his door to the animals and led them inside. He warmed them by the hearth which was blazing with fire and placed before them whatever there was to eat. To the horse he gave barley, to the labouring ox he gave peas, while the dog took his place beside the man at the table as his dinner companion. In exchange for this hospitality, the animals surrendered to the man some of the years of life that had been allotted to them. The horse went first, which is why each of us is inclined to exult in our youth; the ox went next, which is why man toils away during his middle years, devoted to his work and accumulating wealth. It was the dog who bestowed on man his final years, at least according to the story. This is why, Branchus, everyone becomes cranky in his old age, only wagging his tail for the person who feeds him while barking incessantly and snarling at strangers.

Note: Here and in the prologue to his fables, Babrius addresses a young boy, 'Branchus,' whom he calls the son of 'King Alexander,' tentatively identified as King Alexander of Cilicia. If this is correct, Babrius would have lived in the second half of the first century C.E.


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.