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Episode for Families: Aesop’s Fables

Enjoy the fundamental wisdom of Aesop’s Fables in this episode, produced especially for younger audiences.


Narrator: How about a story? Just sit back, relax, and get ready to listen, because it's Story Time at the Met.

Once upon a time in the great forest, a lion lay down under a tree to take a nap. Soon a mouse came scurrying past. By mistake, the mouse ran over the lion's nose. The lion awoke and snatched up the mouse to crush him.

"Please don't eat me!" cried the mouse. "Let me go, and I promise one day, I'll return your kindness."

The lion laughed at the thought that this tiny mouse might help him. He tossed the mouse away, went back to sleep, and forgot all about it.

Not long afterward, the lion fell into a hunter's net. The lion roared until the mouse appeared. He gnawed through the ropes with his sharp, little teeth and set the lion free.

This story is called a fable. Many fables have talking animals, like "The Lion and the Mouse." A fable usually teaches a moral, or a lesson, about the way people should behave. In the fable of "The Lion and the Mouse" the moral is: "A little friend can be a great friend, indeed."

This fable is more than 2,500 years old. It comes from ancient Greece, and may have been told by a legendary storyteller named Aesop. You may have heard some of Aesop's Fables, like "The Tortoise and the Hare" or "The Fox and the Grapes." Here's an Aesop's fable you may not know. It's called "The Frogs Asking for a King."

Once upon a time, the frogs decided that they should have a king to rule over them. So they sent a message to Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, and asked him to send them a king. Zeus knew that the frogs didn't need a king, but to make them happy, he took a log and threw it down from the sky and it landed in the middle of the frog pond.

The frogs hid in the water until the waves died down. Then they peeked out and saw that the log—their king—wasn't moving. Slowly they swam toward it, waiting for the log to move or speak. Eventually the bravest of the frogs jumped up and sat on the log.

Now the frogs realized that their king had no power at all. So they sent another message to Zeus, saying, "Send us a real king." The god grew angry at this complaint so he sent a stork to rule over the frogs.

Of course, storks are birds that live around the water. They have long, pointed bills for catching food, like fish and frogs. So the stork, as king, gobbled up all of the frogs. The moral is: "It's better to have a harmless ruler than a cruel one."

You can see pictures of "The Frogs Wanting a King" and of "The Lion and the Mouse" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. They're in the European Decorative Art galleries. Look for a wooden cabinet made in Italy in the 1600s called the pietre dure cabinet. It's covered with colored pictures made of pietre dure, or hard stone. These pictures illustrate stories from ancient Greece and Rome, like the Greek myth of Orpheus, the first musician. You’ll also see pictures from Aesop's Fables, like the two we've heard today. And this one, called "The Fox and the Stork":

The fox invited the stork to her house for supper. When the stork got there, the fox served soup in a large, flat bowl. The stork dipped the tip of his long bill into the soup, but it was too shallow for him to drink a drop. The fox smiled as she lapped up all of the soup. But the stork didn't complain. In fact, he invited the fox to his house for supper. So the next night, the fox sat down at the stork's table and the stork served food in a deep jar with a long, narrow neck. He could dip his beak in and eat, but the fox couldn't reach. Now it was her turn to go home hungry.

What do you think is the moral of this fable? What lesson does "The Fox and the Stork" teach us? Think about it and put it into your own words.

Well, that's it. Thanks for listening today to Story Time at the Met.

This has been an Antenna Audio production.

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