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

Perry 513 (Avianus 11)

The banks of a river caved in, tossing two pots into the river where they were swept away together in the raging waters. Each of the pots had been created by a different technique from a different material: one was made of poured bronze and the other was moulded clay. There was thus an uneasy alliance between the two of them, one fragile and one unbreakable, as they moved along the winding course of the wandering stream. The bronze jar solemnly promised to keep her hulking progress at a distance from the other jar, not wanting to strike and shatter her. The jar of clay, meanwhile, was afraid that the heavier object might do damage to her lighter frame, because something slight can put no trust in something superior. 'Although your words are reassuring,' the clay pot said, 'I cannot shake this fear from my soul. Whether the wave crashes me into you or you into me, in either case I will be the only victim of the catastrophe.'

Note: There is also a similar image at work in the Bible, Ecclesiasticus 13.3: 'What agreement shall the earthen pot have with the kettle? for if they knock one against the other, it shall be broken.' (For a modern instance, compare Lord Steyne's advice to Becky in Thackeray's Vanity Fair, ch. 48: 'You poor little earthenware pipkin, you want to swim down the stream along with the great copper kettles.')

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.