Fables of Aesop, The | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in September 2018 with all known ATU Classifications. Aesop Fables have Perry classification numbers which have been included in the End Notes to each of the tales. They were also used in the ATU field when no ATU classification was available for a fable. Note that Aesop as an author and Greece as the geographic location for these fables are loose categorizations due to the murky nature of Aesop's Fables in general. Read the Introductory materials to this collection to learn more. For convenience, Aesop and Greece have been used in the classifications for convenience despite the inaccuracies involved.

Wolf and the Crane, The

A WOLF had been gorging on an animal he had killed, when suddenly a small bone in the meat stuck in his throat and he could not swallow it. He soon felt terrible pain in his throat, and ran up and down groaning and groaning and seeking for something to relieve the pain. He tried to induce every one he met to remove the bone. “I would give anything,” said he, “if you would take it out.” At last the Crane agreed to try, and told the Wolf to lie on his side and open his jaws as wide as he could. Then the Crane put its long neck down the Wolf’s throat, and with its beak loosened the bone, till at last it got it out.

“Will you kindly give me the reward you promised?” said the Crane.

The Wolf grinned and showed his teeth and said: “Be content. You have put your head inside a Wolf’s mouth and taken it out again in safety; that ought to be reward enough for you.”

Gratitude and greed go not together.


(Ro. i. 8).

Phaedrus, i. 8. Certainly Indian. Occurring as the Javasakuna Jataka, in which Buddha tells the story of a Lion and a Crane to illustrate the ingratitude of the wicked. The Jataka concludes: "The master, having given the lesson, summed up the Jataka thus: At that time the Lion was Devadatta [the Buddhist Judas], and the Crane was I myself." This is a striking example how the Indian doctrine of the transmigration of souls could be utilised to connect a great moral teacher with the history of the fable. In the same way Buddha is represented as knowing the Wolf and Lamb fable, because he had been the Kid of the original.

In my History of the Aesopic Fable I have selected the "Wolf and the Crane" for specially full treatment; and my bibliography of its occurrences runs to over a hundred numbers, pp. 232-234. The Buddhistic form of the fable first became known to Europe in 1691 in De La Loubere's Description of Siam. It had undoubtedly reached the ancient world by two different roads: (a) As a Libyan fable which was included by Demetrius of Phaleron in his Assemblies of Aesopic Fables, circa 300 B.C., from whom Phaedrus obtained it; (b) as one of the "Fables of Kybises," brought from Ceylon to Alexandria, c. 50 A.D. This form, which still retains the Lion, was used by a Rabbi, Jochanan ben Saccai, c. 120 A.D., to induce the Jews not to revolt against the Romans; this is found in the great Rabbinical Commentary on Genesis, Bereshith Rabba, c. 64.

It has been conjectured that the tradition of the Ichneumon picking the teeth of the Crocodile (Herod, ii. 68) was derived from this fable, which has always been very popular. The Greeks had a proverb, " Out of the Wolf's mouth." The fable is figured on the Bayeux tapestry (see frontispiece to my History).

SurLaLune Note

Perry 156

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Wolf and the Crane, The
Tale Author/Editor: Aesop
Book Title: Fables of Aesop, The
Book Author/Editor: Aesop & Jacobs, Joseph
Publisher: Macmillan & Co.
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1902
Country of Origin: Greece
Classification: ATU 76: The Wolf and the Crane

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