Aesop's Fables: The Farmer and the Snake

Translated by George Fyler Townsend

One winter a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. "Oh," cried the Farmer with his last breath, "I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel."

Moral : The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful.

Ironically, this fable, like a number of Aesop fables, resonates tragically against Aesop's legendarily tragic ending. Sent on a mission to distribute gold to the citizens of Delphi, Aesop decided to take the gold back after disputes broke out about the proper amount each Delphian was to receive. Disgusted, Aesop decided to reclaim the gold and return home. The Delphians, afraid their visitor would talk badly of them, planted a golden bowl from their temple in Aesop's bags, and then arrested him. According to author Lloyd Daly, Aesop was found guilty of sacrilege and thrown off a cliff.

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