This is puzzling. Birds of prey have been celebrated by many human cultures down the ages. But they can also attract irrational hostility. It has taken the illegal shooting of Heather, a radio-tagged hen harrier that had become a conservation mascot to schoolchildren who were following online her journeys across the country, to bring this most dramatic and beautiful class of birds back into positive focus.
A week later someone shot a hen harrier in Kerry, and happened to choose the very bird of prey whose adventures have been followed, on henharrierireland. The shooter was clearly not thinking of the many people in the county dependent on wildlife tourism. Nor does the shooter represent the majority of farmers, who enjoy seeing nature flourish on their land. Certainly, the relationship between nature and farming is complex, and has been poorly handled by successive governments.
10 great children's books about birds
Ministers pay lip service to EU conservation targets while grossly underfunding the agencies, such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service, tasked with implementing them. If we start to think that the key issue is birds versus people, we are all losers. But if Healy-Rae overstates current problems, he is tapping into a legitimate frustration felt by many marginal farmers. Partly because of cutbacks after the crash, far too few of them were able to avail of the payments incentivising nature-friendly farming in the special protection areas designated for hen harriers and other species.
When our marginal farmers abandon holdings that are often no longer commercially viable, scrubland usually quickly dominates the mosaics of habitats that birds such as the hen harrier need to survive and that farmers used to keep open. There is surely something encouraging about this mutual dependence between our own and other species. If our society wants nature conservation it should pay for it.
The good news is that the shooting of Heather is a wild aberration today. Persecution of raptors by gamekeepers, and then habitat loss, plus the use of lethal pesticides by farmers, were once so common that most of our larger birds of prey became extinct.
The shooting of a bird of prey
We lost the red kite centuries ago, and both golden and white-tailed eagles were gone by We very nearly lost the buzzard, the peregrine falcon and the hen harrier in the decades that followed. When I was a boy, in Co Wicklow in the s, I was lucky to see four raptor species excluding owls in the course of a year. Now I often see five species in a single day — seven if I put my boots on. The banning of the most lethal agricultural poisons has enabled the dramatic recoveries of the buzzard and the peregrine; habitat shifts have helped the still tenuous return of the hen harrier; and red kites and both eagle species have been reintroduced, although with varying degrees of success.
There is a place where you can easily witness this raptor recovery for yourself, in one of its most spectacular manifestations.
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Stand on the bridge in Avoca, Co Wicklow, an hour before sunset on any clear winter evening and you should see up to 50 red kites, resplendent in russet and ermine plumage, displaying communally before they roost for the night. Richard Mabey credits such a display, in his poignant Nature Cure , with helping him overcome depression.
A Heron was walking sedately along the bank of a stream, his eyes on the clear water, and his long neck and pointed bill ready to snap up a likely morsel for his breakfast. The clear water swarmed with fish, but Master Heron was hard to please that morning. As the sun rose, the fish left the shallow water near the shore and swam below into the cool depths toward the middle. The Heron saw no more fish, and very glad was he at last to breakfast on a tiny Snail.
One bright evening as the sun was sinking on a glorious world a wise old Cock flew into a tree to roost. Before he composed himself to rest, he flapped his wings three times and crowed loudly.
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But just as he was about to put his head under his wing, his beady eyes caught a flash of red and a glimpse of a long pointed nose, and there just below him stood Master Fox. But he had a queer, fluttery feeling inside him, for, you know, he was very much afraid of the Fox. Just think of it!
I simply cannot wait to embrace you! Do come down, dear friend, and let us celebrate the joyful event. The Dogs are friends of yours now! Besides, I have a very important errand that I had almost forgotten about. The Cock smiled as he buried his head in his feathers and went to sleep, for he had succeeded in outwitting a very crafty enemy.
A Dog asleep in a manger filled with hay, was awakened by the Cattle, which came in tired and hungry from working in the field. But the Dog would not let them get near the manger, and snarled and snapped as if it were filled with the best of meat and bones, all for himself. The Cattle looked at the Dog in disgust. Now the farmer came in. When he saw how the Dog was acting, he seized a stick and drove him out of the stable with many a blow for his selfish behavior. A hungry Wolf spied a Goat browsing at the top of a steep cliff where he could not possibly get at her. Please listen to me and come down!
Here you can get all you want of the finest, tenderest grass in the country. But I know you! One day as an Ass was walking in the pasture, he found some Grasshoppers chirping merrily in a grassy corner of the field. He listened with a great deal of admiration to the song of the Grasshoppers. It was such a joyful song that his pleasure-loving heart was filled with a wish to sing as they did.
Is there any special food you eat, or is it some divine nectar that makes you sing so wonderfully? Try some and see. A Mule had had a long rest and much good feeding. He was feeling very vigorous indeed, and pranced around loftily, holding his head high. A Fox fell into a well, and though it was not very deep, he found that he could not get out again. After he had been in the well a long time, a thirsty Goat came by.
The Goat thought the Fox had gone down to drink, and so he asked if the water was good. There is more than enough for both of us. The thirsty Goat immediately jumped in and began to drink. The foolish Goat now saw what a plight he had got into, and begged the Fox to help him out. But the Fox was already on his way to the woods. A very young Mouse, who had never seen anything of the world, almost came to grief the very first time he ventured out.
And this is the story he told his mother about his adventures. One of them had a very kind and gracious look, but the other was the most fearful monster you can imagine. You should have seen him. He walked about restlessly, tearing up the ground with his toes, and beating his arms savagely against his sides. The moment he caught sight of me he opened his pointed mouth as if to swallow me, and then he let out a piercing roar that frightened me almost to death.
Can you guess who it was that our young Mouse was trying to describe to his mother? It was nobody but the Barnyard Cock and the first one the little Mouse had ever seen. He had thick, velvety fur, a meek face, and a look that was very modest, though his eyes were bright and shining. As he looked at me he waved his fine long tail and smiled. Under his kindly appearance, he bears a grudge against every one of us. As for the Cat, he eats us. So be thankful, my child, that you escaped with your life, and, as long as you live, never judge people by their looks.
A Wolf had been prowling around a flock of Sheep for a long time, and the Shepherd watched very anxiously to prevent him from carrying off a Lamb.
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But the Wolf did not try to do any harm. Instead he seemed to be helping the Shepherd take care of the Sheep. At last the Shepherd got so used to seeing the Wolf about that he forgot how wicked he could be. But when he came back and saw how many of the flock had been killed and carried off, he knew how foolish to trust a Wolf. A Peacock, puffed up with vanity, met a Crane one day, and to impress him spread his gorgeous tail in the Sun.
I am dressed in all the glory of the rainbow, while your feathers are gray as dust! But the Peacock stood where he was among the birds of the barnyard, while the Crane soared in freedom far up into the blue sky. Some Cranes saw a farmer plowing a large field. When the work of plowing was done, they patiently watched him sow the seed. It was their feast, they thought. So, as soon as the Farmer had finished planting and had gone home, down they flew to the field, and began to eat as fast as they could.
The Farmer, of course, knew the Cranes and their ways. He had had experience with such birds before. He soon returned to the field with a sling. But he did not bring any stones with him. He expected to scare the Cranes just by swinging the sling in the air, and shouting loudly at them. At first the Cranes flew away in great terror. But they soon began to see that none of them ever got hurt. They did not even hear the noise of stones whizzing through the air, and as for words, they would kill nobody.
At last they paid no attention whatever to the Farmer. The Farmer saw that he would have to take other measures. He wanted to save at least some of his grain. So he loaded his sling with stones and killed several of the Cranes. This had the effect the Farmer wanted, for from that day the Cranes visited his field no more.
A rich old farmer, who felt that he had not many more days to live, called his sons to his bedside. Do not on any account part with the estate that has belonged to our family for so many generations. Somewhere on it is hidden a rich treasure. I do not know the exact spot, but it is there, and you will surely find it. Spare no energy and leave no spot unturned in your search. The father died, and no sooner was he in his grave than the sons set to work digging with all their might, turning up every foot of ground with their spades, and going over the whole farm two or three times.
No hidden gold did they find; but at harvest time when they had settled their accounts and had pocketed a rich profit far greater than that of any of their neighbors, they understood that the treasure their father had told them about was the wealth of a bountiful crop, and that in their industry had they found the treasure. Two Pots, one of brass and the other of clay, stood together on the hearthstone. One day the Brass Pot proposed to the Earthen Pot that they go out into the world together. But the Earthen Pot excused himself, saying that it would be wiser for him to stay in the corner by the fire.
The least shock is sure to shatter me! If we should happen to meet anything hard I will step between and save you. So the Earthen Pot at last consented, and the two set out side by side, jolting along on three stubby legs first to this side, then to that, and bumping into each other at every step. The Earthen Pot could not survive that sort of companionship very long.
They had not gone ten paces before the Earthen Pot cracked, and at the next jolt he flew into a thousand pieces. There was once a Countryman who possessed the most wonderful Goose you can imagine, for every day when he visited the nest, the Goose had laid a beautiful, glittering, golden egg.
The Countryman took the eggs to market and soon began to get rich. But it was not long before he grew impatient with the Goose because she gave him only a single golden egg a day. He was not getting rich fast enough. Then one day, after he had finished counting his money, the idea came to him that he could get all the golden eggs at once by killing the Goose and cutting it open. But when the deed was done, not a single golden egg did he find, and his precious Goose was dead.
Two Bulls were fighting furiously in a field, at one side of which was a marsh. An old Frog living in the marsh, trembled as he watched the fierce battle. It turned out as the Frog had said. The beaten Bull was driven to the marsh, where his great hoofs crushed the Frogs to death. A little hungry Mouse found his way one day into a basket of corn.
He had to squeeze himself a good deal to get through the narrow opening between the strips of the basket. But the corn was tempting and the Mouse was determined to get in. When at last he had succeeded, he gorged himself to bursting. Indeed he he became about three times as big around the middle as he was when he went in. At last he felt satisfied and dragged himself to the opening to get out again. But the best he could do was to get his head out. So there he sat groaning and moaning, both from the discomfort inside him and his anxiety to escape from the basket.
You will have to stay there till you feel just like you did when you went in.
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Good night, and good enough for you. A Farmer walked through his field one cold winter morning. On the ground lay a Snake, stiff and frozen with the cold. The Farmer knew how deadly the Snake could be, and yet he picked it up and put it in his bosom to warm it back to life. The Snake soon revived, and when it had enough strength, bit the man who had been so kind to it. The bite was deadly and the Farmer felt that he must die.
As he drew his last breath, he said to those standing around:. A Stag had fallen sick. He had just strength enough to gather some food and find a quiet clearing in the woods, where he lay down to wait until his strength should return. One cold stormy day a Goatherd drove his Goats for shelter into a cave, where a number of Wild Goats had also found their way. The Shepherd wanted to make the Wild Goats part of his flock; so he fed them well. But to his own flock, he gave only just enough food to keep them alive.
When the weather cleared, and the Shepherd led the Goats out to feed, the Wild Goats scampered off to the hills. A young fellow, who was very popular among his boon companions as a good spender, quickly wasted his fortune trying to live up to his reputation. Then one fine day in early spring he found himself with not a penny left, and no property save the clothes he wore. Just then a Swallow flew by, twittering merrily, and the young man, thinking summer had come, hastened off to a clothes dealer, to whom he sold all the clothes he wore down to his very tunic. A few days later a change in weather brought a severe frost; and the poor swallow and that foolish young man in his light tunic, and with his arms and knees bare, could scarcely keep life in their shivering bodies.
A Cat was growing very thin. As you have guessed, he did not get enough to eat. One day he heard that some Birds in the neighborhood were ailing and needed a doctor. The Birds peeped out, and Dr. Cat, with much solicitude, asked how they were. He would be very happy to give them some medicine. We are very well, thank you, and more so, if you only keep away from here. There was once a Dog who was very fond of eggs. He visited the hen house very often and at last got so greedy that he would swallow the eggs whole.
One day the Dog wandered down to the seashore. There he spied an Oyster. A man who lived a long time ago believed that he could read the future in the stars. He called himself an Astrologer, and spent his time at night gazing at the sky. One evening he was walking along the open road outside the village. His eyes were fixed on the stars.
He thought he saw there that the end of the world was at hand, when all at once, down he went into a hole full of mud and water. There he stood up to his ears, in the muddy water, and madly clawing at the slippery sides of the hole in his effort to climb out. His cries for help soon brought the villagers running. As they pulled him out of the mud, one of them said:. This may teach you to pay more attention to what is right in front of you, and let the future take care of itself.
A Lion had been watching three Bullocks feeding in an open field. He had tried to attack them several times, but they had kept together, and helped each other to drive him off. The Lion had little hope of eating them, for he was no match for three strong Bullocks with their sharp horns and hoofs.
But he could not keep away from that field, for it is hard to resist watching a good meal, even when there is little chance of getting it. Then one day the Bullocks had a quarrel, and when the hungry Lion came to look at them and lick his chops as he was accustomed to do, he found them in separate corners of the field, as far away from one another as they could get. It was now an easy matter for the Lion to attack them one at a time, and this he proceeded to do with the greatest satisfaction and relish.
A poor Woodman was cutting down a tree near the edge of a deep pool in the forest. It was late in the day and the Woodman was tired. He had been working since sunrise and his strokes were not so sure as they had been early that morning. Thus it happened that the axe slipped and flew out of his hands into the pool. The Woodman was in despair. The axe was all he possessed with which to make a living, and he had not money enough to buy a new one.
As he stood wringing his hands and weeping, the god Mercury suddenly appeared and asked what the trouble was. The Woodman told what had happened, and straightway the kind Mercury dived into the pool. When he came up again he held a wonderful golden axe. Mercury laid the golden axe on the bank and sprang back into the pool.
This time he brought up an axe of silver, but the Woodman declared again that his axe was just an ordinary one with a wooden handle. Mercury dived down for the third time, and when he came up again he had the very axe that had been lost. The poor Woodman was very glad that his axe had been found and could not thank the kind god enough. The happy Woodman returned to his home with his treasures, and soon the story of his good fortune was known to everybody in the village.
Now there were several Woodmen in the village who believed that they could easily win the same good fortune. They hurried out into the woods, one here, one there, and hiding their axes in the bushes, pretended they had lost them. Then they wept and wailed and called on Mercury to help them. And indeed, Mercury did appear, first to this one, then to that. To each one he showed an axe of gold, and each one eagerly claimed it to be the one he had lost. But Mercury did not give them the golden axe.
Oh no! Instead he gave them each a hard whack over the head with it and sent them home. And when they returned next day to look for their own axes, they were nowhere to be found. A young Mouse in search of adventure was running along the bank of a pond where lived a Frog. When the Frog saw the Mouse, he swam to the bank and croaked:.
The Mouse did not need much coaxing, for he was very anxious to see the world and everything in it. But though he could swim a little, he did not dare risk going into the pond without some help. The Frog had a plan. Then into the pond he jumped, dragging his foolish companion with him.
The Mouse soon had enough of it and wanted to return to shore; but the treacherous Frog had other plans. He pulled the Mouse down under the water and drowned him. But before he could untie the reed that bound him to the dead Mouse, a Hawk came sailing over the pond. Seeing the body of the Mouse floating on the water, the Hawk swooped down, seized the Mouse and carried it off, with the Frog dangling from its leg.
Thus at one swoop he had caught both meat and fish for his dinner. A Crab one day grew disgusted with the sands in which he lived. He decided to take a stroll to the meadow not far inland. There he would find better fare than briny water and sand mites. So off he crawled to the meadow. But there a hungry Fox spied him, and in a twinkling, ate him up, both shell and claw. The Eagle could not reach the Serpent, neither with beak nor claws. Far into the sky he soared trying to shake off his enemy. A Countryman chanced to see the unequal combat. In pity for the noble Eagle he rushed up and soon had loosened the coiling Serpent and freed the Eagle.
The Serpent was furious. He had no chance to bite the watchful Countryman. The Countryman now went on toward home. Becoming thirsty on the way, he filled his horn at a spring, and was about to drink. There was a sudden rush of great wings. A certain Wolf could not get enough to eat because of the watchfulness of the Shepherds. But one night he found a sheep skin that had been cast aside and forgotten. The next day, dressed in the skin, the Wolf strolled into the pasture with the Sheep. Soon a little Lamb was following him about and was quickly led away to slaughter.
That evening the Wolf entered the fold with the flock. But it happened that the Shepherd took a fancy for mutton broth that very evening, and, picking up a knife, went to the fold. There the first he laid hands on and killed was the Wolf. A Bull once escaped from a Lion by entering a cave which the Goatherds used to house their flocks in stormy weather and at night. It happened that one of the Goats had been left behind, and the Bull had no sooner got inside than this Goat lowered his head and made a rush at him, butting him with his horns.
As the Lion was still prowling outside the entrance to the cave, the Bull had to submit to the insult. A Beetle once begged the Eagle to spare a Hare which had run to her for protection. But the Eagle pounced upon her prey, the sweep of her great wings tumbling the Beetle a dozen feet away. Not one did she spare. Next year the Eagle built her nest far up on a mountain crag; but the Beetle found it and again destroyed the eggs. In despair the Eagle now implored great Jupiter to let her place her eggs in his lap. There none would dare harm them.
Now the Beetle told the reason for her action, and Jupiter had to acknowledge the justice of her cause. For so Jupiter commanded. An old Lion, whose teeth and claws were so worn that it was not so easy for him to get food as in his younger days, pretended that he was sick. He took care to let all his neighbors know about it, and then lay down in his cave to wait for visitors. And when they came to offer him their sympathy, he ate them up one by one. The Fox came too, but he was very cautious about it.
The Lion replied that he was very ill indeed, and asked the Fox to step in for a moment. But Master Fox very wisely stayed outside, thanking the Lion very kindly for the invitation. Pray tell me, how do your visitors find their way out again? A Lion and a Man chanced to travel in company through the forest. They soon began to quarrel, for each of them boasted that he and his kind were far superior to the other both in strength and mind. Now they reached a clearing in the forest and there stood a statue.
It was a representation of Heracles in the act of tearing the jaws of the Nemean Lion. The King of Beasts is like wax in our hands! It would have been quite a different scene had a Lion made it! There was once an Ass whose Master also owned a Lap Dog. This Dog was a favorite and received many a pat and kind word from his Master, as well as choice bits from his plate. Every day the Dog would run to meet the Master, frisking playfully about and leaping up to lick his hands and face.
All this the Ass saw with much discontent. Though he was well fed, he had much work to do; besides, the Master hardly ever took any notice of him. So one day he left his stable and clattered eagerly into the house. Finding his Master seated at the dinner table, he kicked up his heels and, with a loud bray, pranced giddily around the table, upsetting it as he did so. But his weight upset the chair, and Ass and man rolled over together in the pile of broken dishes from the table. The Master was much alarmed at the strange behavior of the Ass, and calling for help, soon attracted the attention of the servants.
When they saw the danger the Master was in from the clumsy beast, they set upon the Ass and drove him with kicks and blows back to the stable. There they left him to mourn the foolishness that had brought him nothing but a sound beating. A Milkmaid had been out to milk the cows and was returning from the field with the shining milk pail balanced nicely on her head. As she walked along, her pretty head was busy with plans for the days to come. The butter I make I will take to market, and with the money I get for it I will buy a lot of eggs for hatching.
How nice it will be when they are all hatched and the yard is full of fine young chicks. All the young men will come over to speak with me—but I shall very quickly send them about their business! As she thought of how she would settle that matter, she tossed her head scornfully, and down fell the pail of milk to the ground. A Goat strayed away from the flock, tempted by a patch of clover. The Goatherd tried to call it back, but in vain. It would not obey him. A Miser had buried his gold in a secret place in his garden. Every day he went to the spot, dug up the treasure and counted it piece by piece to make sure it was all there.
He made so many trips that a Thief, who had been observing him, guessed what it was the Miser had hidden, and one night quietly dug up the treasure and made off with it. When the Miser discovered his loss, he was overcome with grief and despair. He groaned and cried and tore his hair. There in that hole? Why did you put it there? Why did you not keep it in the house where you could easily get it when you had to buy things?
It is worth just as much to you as the treasure you lost! There was once a Wolf who got very little to eat because the Dogs of the village were so wide awake and watchful. He was really nothing but skin and bones, and it made him very downhearted to think of it. One night this Wolf happened to fall in with a fine fat House Dog who had wandered a little too far from home. The Wolf would gladly have eaten him then and there, but the House Dog looked strong enough to leave his marks should he try it. So the Wolf spoke very humbly to the Dog, complimenting him on his fine appearance.
Why, you have to fight hard for every bite you get. Follow my example and you will get along beautifully. In return you will get tidbits of every kind, chicken bones, choice bits of meat, sugar, cake, and much more beside, not to speak of kind words and caresses. The Wolf had such a beautiful vision of his coming happiness that he almost wept.
A chain! A Fox, swimming across a river, was barely able to reach the bank, where he lay bruised and exhausted from his struggle with the swift current. Soon a swarm of blood-sucking flies settled on him; but he lay quietly, still too weak to run away from them. They have taken all they can hold. If you drive them away, another greedy swarm will come and take the little blood I have left.
A Bat blundered into the nest of a Weasel, who ran up to catch and eat him. The Bat begged for his life, but the Weasel would not listen. Every Mouse I catch, I am going to eat! Can Mice fly? Why, I am only a Bird! Please let me go! The Weasel had to admit that the Bat was not a Mouse, so he let him go. But a few days later, the foolish Bat went blindly into the nest of another Weasel. This Weasel happened to be a bitter enemy of Birds, and he soon had the Bat under his claws, ready to eat him.
Why, all Birds have feathers! I am nothing but a Mouse. An old Toad once informed all his neighbors that he was a learned doctor. In fact he could cure anything. The Fox heard the news and hurried to see the Toad. He looked the Toad over very carefully. But just take a look at yourself, and then try some of your own medicine. If you can cure yourself of that blotchy skin and that rheumatic gait, someone might believe you.
Otherwise, I should advise you to try some other profession. A Fox that had been caught in a trap, succeeded at last, after much painful tugging, in getting away. But he had to leave his beautiful bushy tail behind him. For a long time he kept away from the other Foxes, for he knew well enough that they would all make fun of him and crack jokes and laugh behind his back.
But it was hard for him to live alone, and at last he thought of a plan that would perhaps help him out of his trouble. He called a meeting of all the Foxes, saying that he had something of great importance to tell the tribe. When they were all gathered together, the Fox Without a Tail got up and made a long speech about those Foxes who had come to harm because of their tails. This one had been caught by hounds when his tail had become entangled in the hedge. That one had not been able to run fast enough because of the weight of his brush.
Besides, it was well known, he said, that men hunt Foxes simply for their tails, which they cut off as prizes of the hunt. With such proof of the danger and uselessness of having a tail, said Master Fox, he would advise every Fox to cut it off, if he valued life and safety. When the poor Fox Without a Tail turned around, there arose such a storm of jeers and hooting, that he saw how useless it was to try any longer to persuade the Foxes to part with their tails. There was once a Dog who was so ill-natured and mischievous that his Master had to fasten a heavy wooden clog about his neck to keep him from annoying visitors and neighbors.
He was not able to impress anyone. Do you want everybody to know what a disgraceful and ill-natured Dog you are? A Butterfly once fell in love with a beautiful Rose. And so, when he fluttered near and told how he loved her, she blushed rosily and said yes. After much pretty love-making and many whispered vows of constancy, the Butterfly took a tender leave of his sweetheart. I wish he had stung you! You carried on scandalously with Mr. Bumble Bee and you made eyes at every single Bug you could see.
Once a Cat and a Fox were traveling together. As they went along, picking up provisions on the way—a stray mouse here, a fat chicken there—they began an argument to while away the time between bites. And, as usually happens when comrades argue, the talk began to get personal. Why, I know a whole sackful of tricks! In an instant the Cat was up a tree, hiding among the leaves. But the Fox had so many plans for escape he could not decide which one to try first.
He dodged here and there with the hounds at his heels. He doubled on his tracks, he ran at top speed, he entered a dozen burrows,—but all in vain. The hounds caught him, and soon put an end to the boaster and all his tricks. A Lion had grown very old. His teeth were worn away.
His limbs could no longer bear him, and the King of Beasts was very pitiful indeed as he lay gasping on the ground, about to die. Now a Boar spied him, and rushing at him, gored him with his yellow tusk. A Bull trampled him with his heavy hoofs. Even a contemptible Ass let fly his heels and brayed his insults in the face of the Lion. One moonlight evening as Master Fox was taking his usual stroll in the woods, he saw a number of Pheasants perched quite out of his reach on a limb of a tall old tree. The sly Fox soon found a bright patch of moonlight, where the Pheasants could see him clearly; there he raised himself up on his hind legs, and began a wild dance.
The Pheasants stared giddily. They hardly dared blink for fear of losing him out of their sight a single instant. Now the Fox made as if to climb a tree, now he fell over and lay still, playing dead, and the next instant he was hopping on all fours, his back in the air, and his bushy tail shaking so that it seemed to throw out silver sparks in the moonlight.
And when the Fox began his performance all over again, so dazed did they become, that they lost their hold on the limb, and fell down one by one to the Fox. Two Men were traveling in company through a forest, when, all at once, a huge Bear crashed out of the brush near them. The other, unable to fight the savage beast alone, threw himself on the ground and lay still, as if he were dead. He had heard that a Bear will not touch a dead body. A Porcupine was looking for a good home. At last he found a little sheltered cave, where lived a family of Snakes.
He asked them to let him share the cave with them, and the Snakes kindly consented. The Snakes soon wished they had not given him permission to stay. His sharp quills pricked them at every turn, and at last they politely asked him to leave. And to save their skins, the Snakes had to look for another home. At a great meeting of the Animals, who had gathered to elect a new ruler, the Monkey was asked to dance.
This he did so well, with a thousand funny capers and grimaces, that the Animals were carried entirely off their feet with enthusiasm, and then and there, elected him their king. The Fox did not vote for the Monkey and was much disgusted with the Animals for electing so unworthy a ruler.
One day he found a trap with a bit of meat in it. Hurrying to King Monkey, he told him he had found a rich treasure, which he had not touched because it belonged by right to his majesty the Monkey. The greedy Monkey followed the Fox to the trap. As soon as he saw the meat he grasped eagerly for it, only to find himself held fast in the trap. The Fox stood off and laughed. Early one morning a hungry Wolf was prowling around a cottage at the edge of a village, when he heard a child crying in the house.
Surprised but delighted at the prospect of so delicious a meal, the Wolf settled down under an open window, expecting every moment to have the child handed out to him. But though the little one continued to fret, the Wolf waited all day in vain. The Wolf shall not get you. No, no! Daddy is watching and Daddy will kill him if he should come near! Just then the Father came within sight of the home, and the Wolf was barely able to save himself from the Dogs by a clever bit of running.
A jar of honey was upset and the sticky sweetness flowed out on the table. The sweet smell of the honey soon brought a large number of Flies buzzing around. They did not wait for an invitation. No, indeed; they settled right down, feet and all, to gorge themselves. The Flies were quickly smeared from head to foot with honey.
Their wings stuck together. They could not pull their feet out of the sticky mass. And so they died, giving their lives for the sake of a taste of sweetness. An Eagle sat high in the branches of a great Oak. She seemed very sad and drooping for an Eagle. A Kite saw her. I am so strong I can carry away an Ostrich in my talons as if it were a feather! The Eagle accepted the Kite immediately. But after the wedding, when the Kite flew away to find something to eat for his bride, all he had when he returned, was a tiny Mouse. One day a Stag came to a Sheep and asked her to lend him a measure of wheat.
The Sheep knew him for a very swift runner, who could easily take himself out of reach, were he so inclined. So she asked him if he knew someone who would answer for him. I know the Wolf! He takes what he wants and runs off with it without paying. As for you, you can use your legs so well that I should have little chance of collecting the debt if I had to catch you for it! Once upon a time a severe plague raged among the animals. Many died, and those who lived were so ill, that they cared for neither food nor drink, and dragged themselves about listlessly. At last the Lion decided to call a council.
When all the animals were gathered together he arose and said:. Therefore, the most guilty one of us must be offered in sacrifice. Perhaps we may thus obtain forgiveness and cure for all. I admit that I have been very greedy and have devoured many sheep. They had done me no harm. I have eaten goats and bulls and stags. To tell the truth, I even ate up a shepherd now and then. But I think it best that each one confess his sins as I have done.
Then we can decide in all justice who is the most guilty. Can it be a crime to eat sheep, such stupid mutton heads? No, no, your majesty. You have done them great honor by eating them up. All the animals applauded the Fox loudly. Then, though the Tiger, the Bear, the Wolf, and all the savage beasts recited the most wicked deeds, all were excused and made to appear very saint-like and innocent.
A great uproar among the beasts interrupted him. Here was the culprit who had brought misfortune on all of them! What a horrible crime it was to eat grass that belonged to someone else! It was enough to hang anyone for, much more an Ass. Immediately they all fell upon him, the Wolf in the lead, and soon had made an end to him, sacrificing him to the gods then and there, and without the formality of an altar.
Much irritated, he very loudly and boastfully declared that he would catch the thief and punish him as he deserved. The Shepherd suspected a Wolf of the deed and so set out toward a rocky region among the hills, where there were caves infested by Wolves. But before starting out he made a vow to Jupiter that if he would help him find the thief he would offer a fat Calf as a sacrifice.
The Shepherd searched a long time without finding any Wolves, but just as he was passing near a large cave on the mountain side, a huge Lion stalked out, carrying a Sheep. In great terror the Shepherd fell on his knees. To find the thief I offered to sacrifice a fat Calf. Now I promise you a full-grown Bull, if you but make the thief go away! A Dog, to whom the butcher had thrown a bone, was hurrying home with his prize as fast as he could go. As he crossed a narrow footbridge, he happened to look down and saw himself reflected in the quiet water as if in a mirror. But the greedy Dog thought he saw a real Dog carrying a bone much bigger than his own.
If he had stopped to think he would have known better. But instead of thinking, he dropped his bone and sprang at the Dog in the river, only to find himself swimming for dear life to reach the shore. At last he managed to scramble out, and as he stood sadly thinking about the good bone he had lost, he realized what a stupid Dog he had been. The Hare was much amused at the idea of running a race with the Tortoise, but for the fun of the thing he agreed.
So the Fox, who had consented to act as judge, marked the distance and started the runners off. The Hare was soon far out of sight, and to make the Tortoise feel very deeply how ridiculous it was for him to try a race with a Hare, he lay down beside the course to take a nap until the Tortoise should catch up.
The Tortoise meanwhile kept going slowly but steadily, and, after a time, passed the place where the Hare was sleeping. But the Hare slept on very peacefully; and when at last he did wake up, the Tortoise was near the goal. The Hare now ran his swiftest, but he could not overtake the Tortoise in time.
A store of honey had been found in a hollow tree, and the Wasps declared positively that it belonged to them. The Bees were just as sure that the treasure was theirs. The argument grew very pointed, and it looked as if the affair could not be settled without a battle, when at last, with much good sense, they agreed to let a judge decide the matter.
So they brought the case before the Hornet, justice of the peace in that part of the woods. When the Judge called the case, witnesses declared that they had seen certain winged creatures in the neighborhood of the hollow tree, who hummed loudly, and whose bodies were striped, yellow and black, like Bees. Such evidence did not help Judge Hornet to any decision, so he adjourned court for six weeks to give him time to think it over. When the case came up again, both sides had a large number of witnesses. An Ant was first to take the stand, and was about to be cross-examined, when a wise old Bee addressed the Court.
If it is not decided soon, the honey will not be fit for anything. I move that the Bees and the Wasps be both instructed to build a honey comb. Then we shall soon see to whom the honey really belongs. The Wasps protested loudly. Wise Judge Hornet quickly understood why they did so: They knew they could not build a honey comb and fill it with honey.
The honey belongs to the Bees. A Lark made her nest in a field of young wheat. As the days passed, the wheat stalks grew tall and the young birds, too, grew in strength. Then one day, when the ripe golden grain waved in the breeze, the Farmer and his son came into the field. The young Larks in their nest close by were much frightened, for they knew they would be in great danger if they did not leave the nest before the reapers came. When the Mother Lark returned with food for them, they told her what they had heard.
We cannot wait any longer for help from our friends. Tomorrow we must set to work, ourselves. When a man decides to do his own work and not depend on any one else, then you may be sure there will be no more delay. There was much fluttering and trying out of wings that afternoon, and at sunrise next day, when the Farmer and his son cut down the grain, they found an empty nest. There was once a Cat who was so watchful, that a Mouse hardly dared show the tip of his whiskers for fear of being eaten alive. That Cat seemed to be everywhere at once with his claws all ready for a pounce.
At last the Mice kept so closely to their dens, that the Cat saw he would have to use his wits well to catch one.
So one day he climbed up on a shelf and hung from it, head downward, as if he were dead, holding himself up by clinging to some ropes with one paw. When the Mice peeped out and saw him in that position, they thought he had been hung up there in punishment for some misdeed. Very timidly at first they stuck out their heads and sniffed about carefully. But as nothing stirred, all trooped joyfully out to celebrate the death of the Cat. Just then the Cat let go his hold, and before the Mice recovered from their surprise, he had made an end of three or four. Now the Mice kept more strictly at home than ever.
But the Cat, who was still hungry for Mice, knew more tricks than one. Rolling himself in flour until he was covered completely, he lay down in the flour bin, with one eye open for the Mice. Sure enough, the Mice soon began to come out. To the Cat it was almost as if he already had a plump young Mouse under his claws, when an old Rat, who had had much experience with Cats and traps, and had even lost a part of his tail to pay for it, sat up at a safe distance from a hole in the wall where he lived.
Whatever it is, it is wisest to keep at a safe distance. One bright morning as the Fox was following his sharp nose through the wood in search of a bite to eat, he saw a Crow on the limb of a tree overhead. This was by no means the first Crow the Fox had ever seen. What caught his attention this time and made him stop for a second look, was that the lucky Crow held a bit of cheese in her beak. The Crow, her head cocked on one side, watched the Fox suspiciously. But she kept her beak tightly closed on the cheese and did not return his greeting.
What a beautiful form and what splendid wings! Such a wonderful Bird should have a very lovely voice, since everything else about her is so perfect. Could she sing just one song, I know I should hail her Queen of Birds. Listening to these flattering words, the Crow forgot all her suspicion, and also her breakfast. She wanted very much to be called Queen of Birds. But where are your wits? A Traveler had hired an Ass to carry him to a distant part of the country. The owner of the Ass went with the Traveler, walking beside him to drive the Ass and point out the way.
The road led across a treeless plain where the Sun beat down fiercely. So intense did the heat become, that the Traveler at last decided to stop for a rest, and as there was no other shade to be found, the Traveler sat down in the shadow of the Ass. Now the heat had affected the Driver as much as it had the Traveler, and even more, for he had been walking.
Wishing also to rest in the shade cast by the Ass, he began to quarrel with the Traveler, saying he had hired the Ass and not the shadow it cast. One day, a long time ago, an old Miller and his Son were on their way to market with an Ass which they hoped to sell. They drove him very slowly, for they thought they would have a better chance to sell him if they kept him in good condition. As they walked along the highway some travelers laughed loudly at them. The most stupid of the three is not the one you would expect it to be. Get down, and let the old man ride. Though the Miller was not tired, he made the boy get down and climbed up himself to ride, just to please the Merchants.
At the next turnstile they overtook some women carrying market baskets loaded with vegetables and other things to sell. They had no sooner started out again than a loud shout went up from another company of people on the road. They look more able to carry the poor creature, than he to carry them. The Miller and his Son quickly scrambled down, and a short time later, the market place was thrown into an uproar as the two came along carrying the Donkey slung from a pole.
A great crowd of people ran out to get a closer look at the strange sight. The Ass did not dislike being carried, but so many people came up to point at him and laugh and shout, that he began to kick and bray, and then, just as they were crossing a bridge, the ropes that held him gave way, and down he tumbled into the river. The poor Miller now set out sadly for home. By trying to please everybody, he had pleased nobody, and lost his Ass besides.
A Dove saw an Ant fall into a brook. The Ant struggled in vain to reach the bank, and in pity, the Dove dropped a blade of straw close beside it. Clinging to the straw like a shipwrecked sailor to a broken spar, the Ant floated safely to shore. Soon after, the Ant saw a man getting ready to kill the Dove with a stone.
But just as he cast the stone, the Ant stung him in the heel, so that the pain made him miss his aim, and the startled Dove flew to safety in a distant wood. A long time ago a Man met a Satyr in the forest and succeeded in making friends with him. But one cold winter evening, as they were walking homeward, the Satyr saw the Man blow on his fingers. When they reached home the Man prepared two bowls of porridge. These he placed steaming hot on the table, and the comrades sat down very cheerfully to enjoy the meal. A fellow that blows hot and cold in the same breath cannot be friends with me!
Mother Goat was going to market one morning to get provisions for her household, which consisted of but one little Kid and herself. Strangely enough, a Wolf was lurking near and heard what the Goat had said. So, as soon as Mother Goat was out of sight, up he trotted to the door and knocked.