Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
592. THE CLOWN, THE FARMER AND THE PIG
Perry 527 (Phaedrus
In their groundless favouritism, people often make mistakes; they
stand behind a judgment made in error until the actual fact of the matter
later compels them to regret their choice.
There was a certain wealthy man, a prominent citizen, who was about to
sponsor a public entertainment. He invited anyone who had some novelty
to perform, promising to pay them a fee. Professional performers came
to compete for public acclaim, and among them was a clown who was well
known for his sophisticated sense of humour. He said that he had a type
of spectacle that had never been performed in any theatre before. The
rumour spread throughout the city, sparking the public's interest. Theatre
seats that had recently been left empty were now not enough for the gathering
crowd. After the clown came out by himself on the stage, with no equipment
and no assistants, a hush of anticipation silenced the spectators. Then
the clown suddenly lowered his head towards his chest and imitated the
sound of a little pig. The sound was so true to life that the audience
maintained that there must be a real little pig concealed under his cloak
and they demanded that it be shaken out. But when the cloak was shaken
out, it proved to be empty, so they lavished the clown with praise and
he left the stage to resounding applause. A country bumpkin saw what had
happened and said, 'By gosh, I can do better than that!' He immediately
promised that he would do the same thing, only better, the following day.
The crowd grew still larger and favouritism had already swayed their perception;
you could tell that they had not come to watch the performance so much
as to make fun of it. The two men came out onto the stage. The clown squealed
as he had done the day before, provoking the audience's applause and shouts
of approval. Now it was the turn of the country bumpkin, who pretended
to conceal a little pig beneath his clothes -- and this time there really
was a hidden pig, although of course the audience had not found anything
under the clown's cloak at the previous performance. The man then pulled
the ear of the real pig that was hidden in his clothes, producing an authentic
squeal of pain. The audience shouted that the clown had given a far more
realistic performance and they were prepared to drive the country bumpkin
off the stage. But he then pulled the actual pig from inside his cloak
and showed it to the audience, denouncing their gross error with incontrovertible
evidence. 'Here you go!' he said. 'This little pig proves what kind of
judges you are!'
Note: This story is best known as 'Parmeno's pig' (e.g., Plutarch,
Symposiastic Questions 5.1).
Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura
Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.