The Ant and the Grasshopper

fables of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 280A,
Perry Index number 373,
and similar stories about work, reward, and charity,
compiled and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2016

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

Proverbs 6:6-8


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Contents

  1. The Fable of the Ant and of the Sygalle [Cigala, Grasshopper] (Aesop, Caxton, 1484).

  2. An Ant and a Grasshopper (Anianus, L'Estrange, 1692).

  3. An Ant Formerly a Man (Aesop, L'Estrange, 1692).

  4. The Ant and the Grasshopper (Aesop, Croxall, 1775).

  5. The Ant and the Grasshopper (Aesop, Bewick, 1818).

  6. The Ant and the Grasshopper (Aesop, James, 1848).

  7. The Ant and the Grasshopper (Aesop, Jacobs, 1894).

  8. The Grasshopper and the Ants (Aesop, Jones, 1912).

  9. The Grasshopper and the Ant (La Fontaine, 1668).

  10. The Grasshopper and the Ant (Ambrose Bierce, 1899).

  11. The Ants and the Grasshopper (Ambrose Bierce, 1899).

  12. The Story of the Little Red Hen (USA, 1874).

  13. Links to related sites.

The Fable of the Ant and of the Sygalle [Cigala, Grasshopper]

Aesop (Caxton, 1484)

It is good to purveye him self in the somer season of such thynges / wherof he shall myster and have nede in wynter season / As thow mayst see by this present fable / of the sygalle / whiche in the wynter tyme went and demaunded of the ant somme of her Corne for to ete /

And thenne the ant sayd to the sygall / what hast thow done al the somer last passed / And the sygalle ansuerd / I have songe /

And after sayd the ante to her / of my corne shallt not thou nonef have / and yf thow hast songe alle the somer / danse now in wynter /

And therfore there is one tyme for to doo some labour and werk / And one tyme for to have rest / For he that werketh not he doth no good / shal have ofte at his teeth grete cold and lacke at his nede /




An Ant and a Grasshopper

Anianus (L'Estrange, 1692)

As the ants were airing their provisions one winter, up comes a hungry grasshopper to 'em, and begs a charity. They told him that he should have wrought in summer, if he would not have wanted in winter.

"Well," says the grasshopper, "but I was not idle neither; for I sung out the whole season."

"Nay then," said they, "you shall e'en do well to make a merry year on't, and dance in winter to the tune that you sung in summer."

The moral:

A life of sloth is the life of a brute; but action and industry is the bus'ness of a great, a wife, and a good man.

Reflexion:

Here's a reproof to men of sensuality, and pleasure. The moral preaches industry, and beats down sloth, and shews that after-wit is nothing worth. It must be an industrious youth that provides against the inconveniencies, and necessities of old age; and he that fools away the one, must either beg or starve in the other.

"Go to the ant thou sluggard," says the wise-man, which in few words summs up the moral of this fable.

'Tis hard to say of laziness, or luxury, whether it be the more scandalous, or the more dangerous evil. The very soul of the slothful, does effectually but lie drowzing in his body, and the whole man is totally given up to his senses: whereas the profit and the comfort of industry, is substantial, firm, and lasting; the blessings of security and plenty go along with it, and it is never out of season.

What's the grasshopper's entertainment now, but a summer's song? A vain and an empty pleasure?

Let it be understood, however, that we are not to pass avarice upon the world under the title of good husbandry, and thrift, and under that cover to extinguish charity by not distributing the fruits of it. We are in the first place, to consult our own necessities, but we are then to consider in the second place that the necessities of our neighbours have a Christian right to a part of what we have to spare. For the common offices of humanity are as much duties of self-preservation, as what every individual contributes to its own well-being. It is, in short, the great interest and obligation of particulars, to advance the good of the community.

The stress of this moral lies upon the preference of honest labour to idleness; and the refusal of relief, on the one hand, is intended only for a reproof to the inconsiderate loss of opportunity on the other. This does not hinder yet, but that the ants, out of their abundance, ought to have reliev'd the grasshopper in her distress, though 'twas her own fault that brought her to't. For if one man's faults could discharge another man of his duty, there would be no longer any place left for the common offices of society.

To conclude, we have our failings, every mother's child of us, and the improvidence of my neighbour must not make me inhumane. The ant did well to reprove the grasshopper for her slothfulness; but she did ill then to refuse her a charity in her distress.




An Ant Formerly a Man

Aesop (L'Estrange, 1692)

The ant, or pismire, was formerly a husbandman that secretly filch'd away his neighbour's goods and corn and stor'd all up in his own barn. He drew a general curse upon his head for't, and Jupiter, as a punishment, and for the credit of mankind, turn'd him into a pismire; but this change of shape wrought no alteration, either of mind or of manners; for he keeps the same humour and nature to this very day.

The Moral:

That which some call good husbandry, industry, and providence, others call raking, avarice, and oppression: So that the vertue and the vice in many cases are hardly distinguishable but by the name.




The Ant and the Grasshopper

Aesop (Croxall, 1775)

In the winter season, a commonwealth of ants was busily employed in the management and preservation of their corn; which they exposed to the air, in heaps, round about the avenues of their little country habitation.

A grasshopper, who had chanced to outlive the summer, and was ready to starve with cold and hunger, approached them with great humility, and begged that they would relieve his necessity, with one grain of wheat or rye.

One of the ants asked him, how he had disposed of his time in summer, that he had not taken pains, and laid in a stock, as they had done.

"Alas, gentlemen," says he, "I passed away the time merrily and pleasantly, in drinking, singing, and dancing, and never once thought of winter."

"If that be the case," replied the ant, laughing, "all I have to say is, that they who drink, sing, and dance in summer, must starve in winter."

The Application:

As summer is the season of the year in which the industrious and laborious husbandman gathers and lays up such fruits as may supply his necessities in winter; so youth and manhood are the times of life which we should employ and bestow in laying in such a stock of all kind of necessaries, as many suffice for the craving demands of helpless old age.

Yet notwithstanding the truth of this, there are many of those which we call rational creatures, who live in a method quite opposite to it, and make it their business to squander away in a profuse prodigality, whatever they get in their younger days: as if the infirmity of age would require so supplies to support it; or, at least, would find them administered to it in some miraculous way.

From this fable we learn the admirable lesson, never to lose any present opportunity of providing against the future evils and accidents of life. While health and the flower and vigour of our age remain firm and entire, let us lay them out to the best advantage; that when the latter days take hold of us, and spoil us of our strength and abilities, we may have a store moderately sufficient to subsist upon, which we laid up in the morning of our age.




The Ant and the Grasshopper

Aesop (Bewick, 1818)

A commonwealth of ants, having, after a busy summer, provided everything for their wants in the winter, were about shutting themselves up for that dreary season, when a grasshopper in great distress, and in dread of perishing with cold and hunger, approached their avenues, and with great humility begged they would relieve his wants, and permit him to take shelter in any corner of their comfortable mansion.

One of the ants asked him how he had disposed of his time in summer, that he had not taken pains and laid in a stock, as they had done.

"Alas! my friends," says he, "I passed away the time merrily and pleasantly, in drinking, singing, and dancing, and never once thought of winter.

"If that be the case," replied the ant, "all I have to say is this: that they who drink, sing, and dance in the summer, run a great risk of starving in the winter."

Application:

As summer is the season in which the industrious laborious husbandman lays up his supplies for the winter, so youth and manhood are the times of life which we should employ in laying in such a stock as may suffice for helpless old age; yet there are many whom we call rational creatures, who squander away in a profuse prodigality, whatever they get in their younger days, as if the infirmity of age would require no supplies to support it, or at least would find them administered to it in some miraculous way.

From this fable we learn this admirable lesson, never to lose the present opportunity of fairly and honestly providing against the future evils and accidents of life; and while health and the vigour of our faculties remain firm and entire, to lay them out to the best advantage; so that when age and infirmities despoil us of our strength and abilities, we may not have to bewail that we have neglected to provide for the wants of our latter days: for it should always be remembered, that "a youth of revels breeds an age of care," and that temperance in youth lays the foundation of health and comfort for old age.




The Ant and the Grasshopper

Aesop, James, 1848

On a cold frosty day an ant was dragging out some of the corn which he had laid up in summer time, to dry it. A grasshopper, half-perished with hunger, besought the ant to give him a morsel of it to preserve his life.

"What were you doing," said the ant, "this last summer?"

"Oh," said the grasshopper, "I was not idle. I kept singing all the summer long."

Said the ant, laughing and shutting up his granary, "Since you could sing all summer, you may dance all winter."

Winter finds out what summer lays by.




The Ant and the Grasshopper

Aesop (Jacobs, 1894)

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. Then the grasshopper knew:

It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.




The Grasshopper and the Ants

Aesop (Jones, 1912)

One fine day in winter some ants were busy drying their store of corn, which had got rather damp during a long spell of rain. Presently up came a grasshopper and begged them to spare her a few grains, "For," she said, "I'm simply starving."

The ants stopped work for a moment, though this was against their principles. "May we ask," said they, "what you were doing with yourself all last summer? Why didn't you collect a store of food for the winter?"

"The fact is," replied the grasshopper, "I was so busy singing that I hadn't the time."

"If you spent the summer singing," replied the ants, "you can't do better than spend the winter dancing."

And they chuckled and went on with their work.




The Grasshopper and the Ant

Jean de La Fontaine

A grasshopper gay
Sang the summer away,
And found herself poor
By the winter's first roar.
Of meat or of bread, Not a morsel she had!
So a begging she went,
To her neighbour the ant,
    For the loan of some wheat,
    Which would serve her to eat,
Till the season came round.
    "I will pay you," she saith,
    "On an animal's faith,
Double weight in the pound
Ere the harvest be bound."
    The ant is a friend
    (And here she might mend)
    Little given to lend.
"How spent you the summer?"
    Quoth she, looking shame
    At the borrowing dame.
"Night and day to each comer
    I sang, if you please."
    "You sang! I'm at ease;
For 'tis plain at a glance,
Now, ma'am, you must dance."



The Grasshopper and the Ant

Ambrose Bierce

One day in winter a hungry grasshopper applied to an ant for some of the food which they had stored.

"Why," said the ant, "did you not store up some food for yourself, instead of singing all the time?"

"So I did," said the grasshopper. "So I did; but you fellows broke in and carried it all away."




The Ants and the Grasshopper

Ambrose Bierce

Some members of a legislature were making schedules of their wealth at the end of the session, when an honest miner came along and asked them to divide with him.

The members of the legislature inquired: "Why did you not acquire property of your own?"

" Because," replied the honest miner, "I was so busy digging out gold that I had no leisure to lay up something worth while."

Then the members of the legislature derided him, saying: "If you waste your time in profitless amusement, you cannot, of course, expect to share the rewards of industry."




The Story of the Little Red Hen

Children's Story, USA

About twenty-five years ago my mother told me the story of the little red hen. She told it often to me at that time; but I have never heard it since. So I shall try to tell it to you now from memory:

There was once a little red hen. She was scratching near the barn one day, when she found a grain of wheat.

She said, "Who will plant this wheat?"

The rat said, "I won't." The cat said, "I won't." The dog said, "I won't." The duck said, "I won't." And the pig said, "I won't."

The little red hen said, "I will, then."

So she planted the grain of wheat. After the wheat grew up and was ripe, the little red hen said, "Who will reap this wheat?"

The rat said, "I won't." The cat said, "I won't." The dog said, "I won't." The duck said, "I won't." And the pig said, "I won't."

The little red hen said, "I will, then."

So she reaped the wheat. Then she said, "Who will take this wheat to mill to be ground into flour?"

The rat said, "I won't." The cat said, "I won't." The dog said, "I won't." The duck said, "I won't." And the pig said, "I won't."

The little red hen said, "I will, then."

So she took the wheat to mill. When she came back with the flour, she said, "Who will make this into bread?"

The rat said, "I won't." The cat said, "I won't." The dog said, "I won't." The duck said, "I won't." And the pig said, "I won't."

The little red hen said, "I will, then."

So she made it into bread. Then she said, "Who will bake this bread?"

The rat said, "I won't." The cat said, "I won't." The dog said, "I won't." The duck said, "I won't." And the pig said, "I won't."

The little red hen said, "I will, then."

When the bread was baked, the little red hen said, "Who will eat this bread?"

The rat said, "I WILL." The cat said, "I WILL." The dog said, "I WILL." The duck said, "I WILL." And the pig said, "I WILL."

The little red hen said, "No, you WON'T, for I am going to do that myself."

And she picked up the bread and ran off with it.




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Revised March 17, 2016.