Title: Aesop’s Fable - Listening can save your life
Plot: The Bat and the Weasels
Hey, welcome back!
Today I’ll be reviewing Aesop's second Fable. For your convenience, I use the same introduction in all of the Aesop episodes, which you can skip either by going to chapter 2 or advancing the audio to the <> minute mark.
However this won’t be a typical review. Aesop wrote 77 fables that consume about 18 pages. There’s no scenario where reading them all in one sitting would be interesting.
Aesop was born in 620 BC. He was a Greek storyteller who was 56 years old when he died. None of his writings survived. However, this might be because Greece had an oral tradition. References to Aesop are in the writings of Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch. And his fables were so popular that they are still told to this day. I bet you even know one: I’ll give you ten seconds to guess which one it might be: the tortoise and the hare.
Meaning that if you buy or read the book of Aesop’s fables online what you are really reading is a collection of all of his known stories that were collected and placed into a book for him, but not by him. He is so well respected that we remembered his name and gave him the credit, anyway. That’s pretty outstanding and worthy of a five star rating.
The best audience is children. All of his fables are short lessons designed to teach us about life. Or if you're a school teacher, perhaps, you could teach your class one fable a day. Certainly adults would benefit from these stories as well, they'd be good for public speakers in the right context. And though he's no comedian, sometimes he is a little bit funny.
The neat thing about Aeosop's fables is I view them as infinitely expandable because he based them on animals. We are all familiar with animals and so I will do two things in this podcast: I'll read you a handful of his fables and then I'll show you how you can combine them and re-combine them to get the most out of them. Something, I believe Jesus Christ himself did, in the Bible.
I am inclined to believe that Jesus Christ was familiar with his fables, and leveraged them, as a teaching tool. Because recalling that Aesop was born in 620 BC, and that the name Jesus Christ itself is actually a Greek name resulting from Alexander the Great conquering the world. Odds are good that either Jesus knew those fables, and used them as a teaching tool designed to appeal to the culture of the day, or that he coincidentally independently decided to do exactly the same thing that Aesop did.
One could argue that God gave Aesop the idea in the first place, so I'm not suggesting that Jesus lacked originality. But rather that it would seem Jesus was not only educated, but that he leveraged his knowledge of culture to reach the people.
I have already told you everything you need to know about the book. You know that it’s ancient, it’s short, you know how it was written, who wrote it and when these stories were made and what it contains.
Some of them are funny. All of them are short.
Some of them are funny. All of them are short.
Unpacking these fables isn't necessarily about being right, but rather about demonstrating the value of mining these things for all they're worth.
Let’s dive in. First I’ll read the parable and then I’ll unpack it. And I think that example, will explain to you the value in doing this exercise.
Today I’ll be reviewing Aesop’s 2nd Fable: The Bat and the Weasels. Here it is:
The Bat and the Weasels
A Bat who fell upon the ground and was caught by a Weasel pleaded to be spared his life. The Weasel refused, saying that he was by nature the enemy of all birds. The Bat assured him that he was not a bird, but a mouse, and thus was set free. Shortly afterwards the Bat again fell to the ground and was caught by another Weasel, whom he likewise entreated not to eat him. The Weasel said that he had a special hostility to mice. The Bat assured him that he was not a mouse, but a bat, and thus a second time escaped.
It is wise to turn circumstances to good account.
Okay, that's the whole fable. I told you they were short.
I appreciate the subtlety of this story. It's almost too subtle. Because we can enjoy the resourcefulness of the bat without properly adopting the behavior that set him free. I certainly could see a younger version of myself doing exacly that because I have done that. I'll explain:
Though the first weasel set mice free, the second one wanted to eat them.
I know I have made the mistake in life, where I learned from the first situation and immediately and anxiously rushed to apply it to every situation. In my youth, had I been the bat, I would have assumed the second weasel would feel the same as the first, and I would have blurted out that the same thing that saved me the first time. I would have said, I'm no bat, I'm a mouse. And the second weasel would've promptly eaten me. And so the thing this bat had going for him is that he first prompted a conversation that caused the weasel to reveal the conditions under which he would be set free. He stimulated a conversation that would reveal the information that he needed to know. And he listened and used the information to great effect.
But there's one more level of subtley to this story that's easy to miss. And that is the fact that the bat weasled out of being eaten twice. Even if the weasel understood what the bat was doing, he would have to admire the way that this bat maneuvered. And so I can imagine Aesop grinning and chuckling as he crafted a clever little story that if one takes the time to consider carefully, is kind of funny. The bat was acting like a weasel.
Even though we're talking about animals here, part of human nature is to gravitate to people who are like us. The moment we realize they are, it becomes harder to do them harm.
And so the bat was wise enough not only to listen, but to emulate the behavior of his enemy, in such a way that he endeared himself to him.
And what I especially admire about this fable is that it has a nice contrast to the fable about the wolf and the lamb, which is part 1 of this series. Even for those of you who have heard that message, if you go back and listen to it again, after this one, you can see where the lamb went wrong. And for those of you who haven't heard that podcast the lamb got eaten. The lamb's mistake was that he was having an intellectual conversation with the wolf who really only wanted to eat him. And so while the lamb won the debate, it cost him his life. And debates are like that. I'm careful about debating people, because in a debate someone wins and the other person loses, and the loser isn't real happy about it. Sometimes they lash out, other times you lose a friend, but I've wandered off track just a little here.
What is rather fascinating about Aesop's fables is that they have a sort of infinite depth to them. Meaning that like with this one, after we finish discecting it for all it's worth, we can then contrast it with another one and get so much more out of them.
And so that's all folks! This is Tom Bradford, signing off. For now.
Y'all come back now. Ya hear?