Thursday, May 15, 2008

Perry 17: Fox without a Tail

As one of the tasks preparing for my new book, Aesop’s Fables in Latin: Ancient Wit and Wisdom from the Animal Kingdom (coming soon from Bolchazy-Carducci!), I'm reviewing the different Perry numbers that will be included in that book. For each of the fables, I'm posting here a Latin version of the fable along with an illustration that can be compared/contrasted with the version in Barlow's book.

Today's fable is Perry #17, the story of the fox without a tail. At the Aesopus wiki, you can see a complete list of the versions of this fable that I have collected. This is one of my favorite Aesop's fables, because of the great way in which the fox manipulates her fellow foxes. In some versions of the story, she actually succeeds, but in other versions, the foxes see through her self-serving advice! This is not a fable attested in the classical Latin tradition, but it makes its way into the modern Latin authors, including this version in Hieronymus Osius:

De laqueo Vulpes elabens linquere caudam
Cogitur, hac trunco corpore parte fugit.
Attulit haec illi tantum iactura pudorem,
Quam sic esse, lubens mallet ut ipsa mori.
Unde sibi quaerens foedi solacia damni,
His alias Vulpes fertur adorta dolis:
Suadet ut hae pariter truncari corpora caudis,
Cetera deforment ne sibi membra, sinant.
Dedecus illa suum sic posse latere putabat,
Si vitii socium posset habere gregem.
Has quid enim indecores, onus aut quid inutile gestant
Corpora nostra, quid hac mole gravamur, ait?
Aut fatuae nobis hinc quemnam quaerimus usum,
Ni iuvet his tractis verrere pone solum?
Plura locuturam quam iunior una moratur,
Talibus huic contra vocibus ausa loqui:
Heus suasura fores meane hoc matercula nobis,
Hinc ventura tibi commoda ni qua putes?
Ne gere consiliis morem, si dantur, ut obsint
Illa tibi, utque; alios utilitate iuvent.
Saepe volent alii tibi consuluisse videri,
Quos tamen eventu teste nocere probes.

Here it is written out in segmented style to make it easier to follow, rearranging the Latin word as necessary to make the syntax more clear:

elabens de laqueo
cogitur linquere caudam;
hac trunco corpore parte.
Haec iactura
attulit illi tantum pudorem,
lubens mallet ut ipsa mori
quam sic esse.
Unde sibi quaerens
foedi solacia damni,
his dolis
alias Vulpes fertur adorta:
ut hae sinant
pariter truncari corpora caudis,
ne deforment sibi membra cetera.
Illa putabat
dedecus suum
sic posse latere,
si posset habere
gregem vitii socium.
Quid enim has indecores [caudas],
aut quid inutile onus
corpora nostra gestant;
quid hac mole gravamur?
aut quemnam usum nobis hinc
fatuae quaerimus,
ni iuvet
verrere pone solum
his tractis?
plura locuturam
iunior una moratur,
talibus vocibus
ausa huic contra loqui:
"Heus, meane matercula fores
nobis suasura hoc,
ni putes
hinc ventura tibi qua commoda?"
Ne gere morem consiliis,
si dantur,
ut obsint illa tibi
utque iuvent utilitate alios.
Saepe volent alii
tibi consuluisse videri,
quos tamen
eventu teste
nocere probes.

I like the way that it is one of the younger fox's who sees through the tricks of the older fox! Usually in Aesop it is an older animal that is able to discern danger, but here it is the old and sly fox who is outfoxed by one of her younger contemporaries!

For an illustration, here is an image from Osius which shows the foxes - it looks like the fox who has lost her tail is sitting down in embarassment!

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