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

Perry 337 (Babrius 106)

There was a lion who strove to emulate the best sort of life lived in human society. He made his home inside a spacious den and tried to show genuine kindness to all those whom he recognized as the elite beasts of the mountain. His den often hosted a large crowd of such animals, who gathered together in a company and treated one another with civility. The lion would befriend and entertain them according to the rules of hospitality, placing before each of his guests their favourite dish, made with ingredients that the lion knew would give them pleasure. There was a fox who lived with the lion as his friend and companion, and the two of them were very happy together. Meanwhile, an elderly monkey served as the carver at the feasts, distributing the portions of meat to the lion's guests at dinner. Whenever there was a guest who was not one of the regular party, the monkey would set before him the same portion which he offered his master, namely, the quarry that the lion had seized in his latest hunting expedition. On these occasions, the fox received leftovers from the day before, and less than her usual portion. One day the lion happened to notice that the fox was pointedly refusing to speak and that she refrained from the meat served at dinner. The lion asked her what was the matter. 'My wise fox,' said the lion, 'speak to me as you used to do! Cheer up and take part in the banquet, my dear.' But the fox said, 'O lion, best among all the species of beasts, I am sick at heart and deeply worried. It is not only the present situation that distresses me; I am also saddened by things which I see are yet to come. If some new guest arrives with every passing day, one after the other, this will become a matter of custom and soon I will not even have leftover meat for my dinner.' The lion was amused and smiled a lion's smile. 'Blame the monkey for all that,' he said. 'It is his fault, not mine.'

Note: For an even more elaborate account of the friendship between the lion king and his companion, the fox, see Fable 600.

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.