Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Aesop’s Fables can be useful for teaching children particular moral lessons. Many of them have been translated into versions that can be easily understood by young children. I especially like the Aesop’s Fables for Children book published in 1919, which includes beautiful illustrations by Milo Winter. The Project Gutenberg offers an online version which I use as my main source for material, along with these other sites:
Aesop Tales Reading Comprehension Worksheets:
The following is a collection of some of the more popular fables as compiled from the websites noted above:
A Council Of Mice:
A group of mice, frustrated by the constant dangers of a cat, met in council to determine a solution to their tiring challenge. They discussed, and equally rejected, plan after plan. Eventually, a very young mouse raised up on his hind legs, and proposed that a bell should be hung around the cat’s neck. “What a splendid idea!” they cried. “Excellent suggestion!” “Oh yes, that would very well warn of the cat’s presence in time to escape!” They were accepting the proposal with great enthusiasm and applause, until a quiet old mouse stood up to speak. “This is, indeed, a very good suggestion and would no doubt solve our problems,” he said, “Now, which one of us will put the bell around the cat’s neck?”
Lesson: Having a good idea is not enough; you have to put it into action
Ant And The Grasshopper:
In a field one Summer’s day, a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. “Why not come and chat with me,” said the grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?” “I am helping to lay up food for the Winter,” said the ant, “and recommend you to do the same.” “Why bother about Winter?” said the grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present.” But the ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the Winter came the grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the Summer. The grasshopper realized how foolish he had been.
Lessons: It is best to prepare for the days of necessity; There’s a time for work and time for play; Don’t leave for tomorrow what you should do today
Boy Who Cried Wolf:
There once was a boy who kept sheep not far from the village. He would often become bored and to amuse himself he would call out, “Wolf! Wolf,” although there was no wolf about. The villagers would stop what they were doing and run to save the sheep from the wolf’s jaw. Once they arrived at the pasture, the boy just laughed. The naughty boy played this joke over and over until the villagers tired of him. One day while the boy was watching the sheep, a wolf did come into the fold. The boy cried and cried, “Wolf! Wolf!” No one came. The wolf had a feast of sheep that day.
Lesson: No one believes a liar even when he’s telling the truth
Boys And The Frogs:
Some boys were playing one day at the edge of a pond in which lived a family of frogs. The boys amused themselves by throwing stones into the pond so as to make them skip on top of the water. The stones were flying thick and fast and the boys were enjoying themselves very much; but the poor frogs in the pond were trembling with fear. At last one of the frogs, the oldest and bravest, put his head out of the water, and said, “Oh, please, dear children, stop your cruel play! Though it may be fun for you, it means death to us!”
Lesson: Always stop to think whether your fun is causing harm to others; We should not take pleasure at the expense of others
City Mouse And Country Mouse:
A country mouse invited his cousin who lived in the city to come visit him. The city mouse was so disappointed with the sparse meal which was nothing more than a few kernels of corn and a couple of dried berries. “My poor cousin,” said the city mouse, “You hardly have anything to eat! I do believe that an ant could eat better! Please do come to the city and visit me, and I will show you such rich feasts, readily available for the taking.” So the country mouse left with his city cousin who brought him to a splendid feast in the city’s alley. The country mouse could not believe his eyes. He had never seen so much food in one place. There was bread, cheese, fruit, cereals, and grains of all sorts scattered about in a warm cozy portion of the alley. The two mice settled down to eat their wonderful dinner, but before they barely took their first bites, a cat approached their dining area. The two mice scampered away and hid in a small uncomfortable hole until the cat left. Finally, it was quiet, and the unwelcome visitor went to prowl somewhere else. The two mice ventured out of the hole and resumed their abundant feast. Before they could get a proper taste in their mouth, another visitor intruded on their dinner, and the two little mice had to scuttle away quickly. “Goodbye,” said the country mouse, “You do, indeed, live in a plentiful city, but I am going home where I can enjoy my dinner in peace.”
Lesson: A modest life with peace and quiet is better than a richly one with danger and strife
Fighting Roosters And The Eagle:
Once there were two roosters living in the same farmyard who could not bear the sight of each other. At last one day they flew up to fight it out, beak and claw. They fought until one of them was beaten and crawled off to a corner to hide. The rooster that had won the battle flew to the top of the hen-house, and, proudly flapping his wings, crowed with all his might to tell the world about his victory. But an eagle, circling overhead, heard the boasting chanticleer and, swooping down, carried him off to his nest. His rival saw the deed, and coming out of his corner, took his place as master of the farmyard.
Lesson: Pride goes before a fall
Fox And The Leopard:
A fox and a leopard, resting lazily after a generous dinner, amused themselves by disputing about their good looks. The leopard was very proud of his glossy, spotted coat and made disdainful remarks about the fox, whose appearance he declared was quite ordinary. The fox prided himself on his fine bushy tail with its tip of white, but he was wise enough to see that he could not rival the leopard in looks. Still he kept up a flow of sarcastic talk, just to exercise his wits and to have the fun of disputing. The leopard was about to lose his temper when the fox got up, yawning lazily. “You may have a very smart coat,” he said, “but you would be a great deal better off if you had a little more smartness inside your head and less on your ribs, the way I am. That’s what I call real beauty.”
Lessons: Inner beauty and an attractive mind is more valuable than a fine coat/good looks
Fox And The Monkey:
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. “You pretend to be our king,” he said, “and cannot even take care of yourself!” Shortly after that, another election among the animals was held.
Lesson: The true leader proves himself by his qualities
Frog And The Mouse:
A young mouse in search of adventure was running along the bank of a pond where there lived a frog. When the frog saw the mouse, he swam to the bank and croaked: “Won’t you pay me a visit? I can promise you a good time if you do.” 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. He tied the mouse’s leg to his own with a tough reed. 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.
Lesson: Those who seek to harm others often come to harm themselves
Goose With The Golden Egg:
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.
Lesson: Those who have plenty and want more lose all they have
Hare And The Tortoise:
A hare was making fun of the tortoise one day for being so slow. “Do you ever get anywhere?” he asked with a mocking laugh. “Yes,” replied the tortoise, “and I get there sooner than you think. I’ll run you a race and prove it.” 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.
Lesson: Don’t think yourself better than someone else or you might get embarrassed; Slow and steady is sometimes best
Hares And The Frogs:
Hares, as you know, are very timid. The least shadow, sends them scurrying in fright to a hiding place. Once they decided to die rather than live in such misery. But while they were debating how best to meet death, they thought they heard a noise and in a flash were scampering off to the warren. On the way they passed a pond where a family of frogs was sitting among the reeds on the bank. In an instant the startled frogs were seeking safety in the mud. “Look,” cried a hare, “things are not so bad after all, for here are creatures who are even afraid of us!”
Lesson: However unfortunate we may think we are there is always someone worse off than ourselves
Lark And Her Young Ones:
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. “This wheat is now ready for reaping,” said the farmer. “We must call in our neighbors and friends to help us harvest it.” 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. “Do not be frightened, children,” said the mother lark. “If the farmer said he would call in his neighbors and friends to help him do his work, this wheat will not be reaped for a while yet.” A few days later, the wheat was so ripe, that when the wind shook the stalks, a hail of wheat grains came rustling down on the young larks’ heads. “If this wheat is not harvested at once,” said the farmer, “we shall lose half the crop. We cannot wait any longer for help from our friends. Tomorrow we must set to work, ourselves.” When the young larks told their mother what they had heard that day, she said: “Then we must be off at once. 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.
Lesson: Self-help is the best help
Lion And The Mouse:
Once when a lion was asleep a little mouse began running up and down upon him; this soon wakened the lion, who placed his huge paw upon him, and opened his big jaws to swallow him. “Pardon, O King,” cried the little mouse. “Forgive me. If you let me go, I shall never forget it. I promise to repay your kindness one day.” The lion was so tickled at the idea of the mouse being able to help him, that he lifted up his paw and let him go. Some time after, the lion was caught in a trap and the hunters tied him to a tree while they went in search of a wagon. Just then the little mouse happened to pass by, and seeing the sad plight in which the lion was, went up to him and soon gnawed away the ropes that bound him. “You see.” said the little mouse. “Even a little mouse like me can help the King of Beasts.”
Lessons: Little friends may prove great friends; An act of kindness is never wasted
Milkmaid And Her Pail:
A milkmaid was going to market one day, carrying her milk in a pail on her head. As she went along she began calculating what she would do with the money she would get for the milk. “I’ll buy some fowls from Farmer Brown,” said she, “and they will lay eggs each morning, which I will sell to the Parson’s wife. With the money that I get from the sale of these eggs I’ll buy myself a new dimity frock and a chip hat; and when I go to market, won’t all the young men come up and speak to me! Polly Shaw will be that jealous; but I don’t care. I shall just look at her and toss my head like this. As she spoke she tossed her head back, the pail fell off it, and all the milk was spilt. So she had to go home and tell her mother what had occurred.
Lesson: Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched
A peacock was very unhappy with his ugly voice, and he spent most of his days complaining about it. “It is true that you cannot sing,” said the fox, “But look how beautiful you are!” “Oh, but what good is all this beauty,” moaned the dishearten bird, “with such an unpleasant voice!” “Oh dear,” said the fox, “Each one has its special gift. You have such beauty, the nightingale has his song, the owl has his eyes, and the eagle his strength. Sadly, even if you had an eloquent voice, you’d find another thing to complain about!.”
Lessons: Be content with who you are; One cannot be best at everything; Do not envy the gifts of others; Having the right attitude is important in life
Two travellers, walking in the noonday sun, sought the shade of a widespreading tree to rest. As they lay looking up among the pleasant leaves, they saw that it was a Plane Tree. “How useless is the Plane!” said one of them. “It bears no fruit whatsoever, and only serves to litter the ground with leaves.” “Ungrateful creatures!” said a voice from the Plane Tree. “You lie here in my cooling shade, and yet you say I am useless! Thus ungratefully, O Jupiter, do men receive their blessings!”
Lesson: Our best blessings are often the least appreciated
Stag And His Reflection:
A stag, drinking from a crystal spring, saw himself mirrored in the clear water. He greatly admired the graceful arch of his antlers, but he was very much ashamed of his spindling legs. “How can it be,” he sighed, “that I should be cursed with such legs when I have so magnificent a crown.” At that moment he scented a panther and in an instant was bounding away through the forest. But as he ran his wide-spreading antlers caught in the branches of the trees, and soon the panther overtook him. Then the stag perceived that the legs of which he was so ashamed would have saved him had it not been for the useless ornaments on his head.
Lesson: We often make much of the ornamental and overlook the useful
Two Travelers And A Bear:
Two men were traveling in company through a forest, when, all at once, a huge bear crashed out of the brush near them. One of the men, thinking of his own safety, climbed a tree. 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. It must have been true, for the bear snuffed at the man’s head awhile, and then, seeming to be satisfied that he was dead, walked away. The man in the tree climbed down. “It looked just as if that bear whispered in your ear,” he said. “What did he tell you?” “He said,” answered the other, “that it was not at all wise to keep company with a fellow who would desert his friend in a moment of danger.”
Lessons: Misfortune is the test of true friendship; Never trust a friend who leaves you when you need it most
Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing:
A wolf found great difficulty in getting at the sheep owing to the vigilance of the shepherd and his dogs. But one day it found the skin of a sheep that had been flayed and thrown aside, so it put it on over its own pelt and strolled down among the sheep. The lamb that belonged to the sheep, whose skin the wolf was wearing, began to follow the wolf in the sheep’s clothing; so, leading the lamb a little apart, he soon made a meal off her, and for some time he succeeded in deceiving the others and enjoying hearty meals.
Lesson: Appearances can be deceiving