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Perry's Index to the Aesopica

Fables exist in many versions; here is one version in English:


A woman had buried her husband and was sitting beside his tomb, weeping in uncontrollable grief. A man who was plowing nearby saw the woman and wanted to make love to her. He left his oxen yoked to the plow and approached the woman, pretending to weep. She stopped crying and asked him, 'Why are you weeping?' The man answered, 'I have buried my wife, a wise and good woman. When I weep, I lighten my grief.' The woman said, 'I too have lost my husband, and he also was a very good man. When I weep, I lighten the burden of my grief, just as you do.' The man then said to her, 'If we have both suffered the same fate and misfortune, why don't we get to know each other better? I will love you as I loved her, and you will love me as you loved your husband.' By talking in this manner, he managed to win the woman over. When they were busy making love, someone unyoked the man's oxen and drove them away. When the man realized what had happened and could not find his oxen anywhere, he began to wail as if his very heart were breaking. The woman asked, 'Why are you crying?' The man said, 'Woman, now I really have a reason to weep!'

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.

There are two fables of "graveyard seduction." In Perry 388, a man pretends to be lamenting his dead wife in order to seduce a widow who is mourning her dead husband; while they are making love, the man's oxen are stolen and he bursts into tears: "now I really have a reason to weep!" In Perry 543, "The Widow of Ephesus," a soldier who is guarding a criminal's corpse seduces a woman who is mourning her husband. While they are making love, the criminal's corpse is stolen away and so they take the widow's husband's body, and hang it up in place of the stolen corpse.

Perry 388: Gibbs (Oxford) 578 [English]

You can find a compilation of Perry's index to the Aesopica in the gigantic appendix to his edition of Babrius and Phaedrus for the Loeb Classical Library (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1965). This book is an absolute must for anyone interested in the Aesopic fable tradition. Invaluable.