<< Home Page | Oxford (Gibbs) Index

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

Perry 393 (Syntipas 41)

Someone saw a black man from India washing himself in a river and said to him, 'You better keep still and not stir up the mud in the water, or you are never going to turn that body of yours white!'
This fable shows that nothing in this world can change its nature.

Note: The Greek word aethiops literally meant 'with a face burnt by the sun,' and was used to refer to dark-skinned peoples of both India and Africa. In the Greek prose version (Chambry 11), a man makes his Ethiopian slave sick by trying to wash off his colour. The paradox of 'washing the Ethiopian' is found in a number of Greek sources, including the proverb collections (e.g., Apostolius 1.71) and it also appears in the Bible, Jeremiah 13.23: 'Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?' (The Hebrew text here reads 'Cushite,' although the Septuagint already reads 'Ethiopian' as does Jerome's Latin Vulgate).

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.