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

Perry 90 (Chambry 117)

There was a viper who used to go to a certain spring in order to drink but he was driven away by a water-snake who was furious that the viper would not just stay on his own turf instead of encroaching on the water-snake's territory. Their dispute grew more and more fierce and finally the two of them decided to fight it out, agreeing that both the water and the land would be awarded to the winner. When the day for the fight had been decided, the frogs came to the viper and, since they hated the water-snake, they offered to be his allies and come to his aid during the battle. But when the battle began and the viper grappled with the water-snake, the frogs just sat there croaking, since they were not able to do anything else. In the end, the viper was victorious but he was furious with the frogs since they had failed to come to his aid as they had promised and, what was worse, they had sat there singing songs while he was doing battle. The frogs then said to the viper, 'But you should have known that we had nothing to offer you except the sound of our voices!'
The fable shows that when you need someone to lend a hand, mere words are no help at all.

Note: For a fable about the enmity between the frogs and the water-snake, see Fable 27.

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.