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Perry's Index to the Aesopica

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


In the house of a certain farmer there lived a snake who regularly came to the table and was fed on scraps of food. Not long afterwards the farmer grew rich, but then he became angry at the snake and tried to attack him with an axe. The farmer then lost his wealth and he realized that he had prospered because of the good luck he had gained from the snake before having wounded him. The farmer then begged the snake to forgive him for his evil deed, and the snake replied, 'You are sorry for what you have done, but you must not expect me to be your faithful friend until this scar heals. It is not possible for me to be truly reconciled to you until all thought of that treacherous axe has left my mind.'
The person who injures anyone at any time must be treated with suspicion, which is a serious obstacle to the restoration of affection among friends.

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.

The Greek tradition represented by Perry 51 is clearly a story that has suffered some confusing loss in content: a snake bites a farmer's son (the reason for this attack is not explained), and the farmer strikes the snake. The farmer later attempts to make his peace with the snake (the reason again is not explained), but the snake says that they can never forget their former grievances. In Perry 573, the story begins with the snake bestowing wealth on the man, but the man decides to kill the snake in case the snake might withdraw his favors. The snake survives the attack and kills the man's son in revenge. The man then wants to make peace with the snake but the snake replies as in the other story, that there can never be trust between them again. In an ancient Indian folktale, the snake bestows wealth on the man, but the greedy son attempts to get all the wealth at once, which is why the snake kills the boy; the father then attacks the snake in anger, and is rebuffed by the snake when he attempts a reconciliation.

Perry 573: Caxton 2.10 [English]
Perry 573: Gibbs (Oxford) 74 [English]
Perry 573: Steinhowel 2.10 [Latin, illustrated] Mannheim University Library
Perry 573: Ademar 65 [Latin]
Perry 573: Rom. Anglicus 115 [Latin]
Perry 573: Walter of England 30 [Latin]

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.