Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
75. THE SNAKE AND THE FARMER
Perry 51 (Chambry
There was a snake who used to lurk around the front door of a farmer's
house. One day the snake struck the man's son, biting him on the foot.
The boy died on the spot. The boy's parents were filled with immense sorrow
and the grief-stricken father seized his axe and tried to kill the malevolent
snake. When the snake fled his pursuer, the man hurried after him, raising
his weapon, determined to strike, but as the farmer was about to deal
the snake a deadly blow, he missed and managed only to cut off the tip
of his tail. The man was terrified at the thought that he might have killed
the snake, so he took cakes and water along with honey and salt and called
to the snake, wanting to make peace with him. The snake, however, only
hissed softly at the farmer from where he had hidden himself in the rocks
and said: 'Man, do not trouble yourself any longer: there can be no possible
friendship between us any more. When I look upon my tail, I am in pain.
The same is true for you: whenever you look again upon the grave of your
son, you will not be able to live in peace with me.'
The fable shows that no one can put aside thoughts of hatred or revenge
so long as he sees a reminder of the pain that he suffered.
Note: There is an even more detailed explanation of the story's motivation
in an Indian version of the same fable in Book 3 of the Panchatantra:
when the man's son realizes that the snake is able to bestow wealth,
he becomes greedy and decides to kill the snake in order to take all
the snake's treasure, but instead the snake kills him.
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.