Aesop’s Fables – Most Famous Fables To Read Online

What better way to learn some lifelong lessons and morals than to read stories about the adventures of your favorite animals Aesop’s fables are entertaining, witty, and often humorous and they will surely leave your kid with something to ponder about.   

Our elaborate collection of Aesop’s fables short stories is the perfect bedtime story fix for you and your child to let your imaginative juices flow. So be it a cultural myth or a legend, or just a simple funny tale of your favorite fuzzy fellow, run through all your favorite bedtime stories for a few magical moments. 

Aesop’s Short Stories with Moral Quotes 

1. The Ox and Frogs

On the outskirts of town, there once was a pool of water. Many frogs large and small used to live in and around the pool. They would hide under fronds and hop onto lotus leaves large as dishes. 

Every evening, cattle would return to their homes raising dust sky high. The ground would shake under the frogs and the cattle seemed like monsters to the trembling frogs. Their croaking would stop till the cattle passed. 

One evening, a tired and thirsty ox waded into the pool. As he walked into the pool he did not realize that a little frog had gotten squished under his hoof. The little frog’s friends hopped away croaking loudly. 

After the ox left, the little frogs approached a large old frog. They sobbed, “We saw a large monster today. It killed our friend.” 

“Monster? A large one! Was it bigger than me, little ones?” 

“Way bigger than you!” 

The frog puffed himself up in annoyance and snapped, “This big?” 

“No, much bigger,” claimed the frogs. 

“You have not lost your tails yet, you tadpoles! Everything seems large to you,” croaked the old frog. 

Now the little frogs laughed out loud, “We may be young and small, uncle, but you cannot ever be as big as that monster.” 

This enraged the old frog. He puffed himself up and spread his front legs and puffed out his chest. But this time he had gone too far. He burst into pieces as the little frogs looked on in horror. 

Moral: Not all creatures can become as great as they think

2. Belling the Cat

Long ago, on a farm in a faraway land there lived a tomcat. The plump cat walked on padded feet. It would sit on bales of hay or upon a loft or a window and pounce on mice when they least expected it. 

One day, as the cat slept on the branch of a tree, the mice held a meeting in the barn. They discussed many ideas to escape from the cat or get rid of it but could not decide on anything. Finally, a young mouse piped up, “Why don’t we tie a bell around the cat’s neck? This way, we will know at all times where he is and run away when it approaches.” 

All the mice cheered aloud and slapped his back to congratulate him on such a bright idea. 

Just then, a wise old mouse said, “The young one’s idea is excellent. All I want to know is, ‘Who will bell the cat?’” 

All the mice looked at each other. No one dared approach the cat. Suddenly, a shadow loomed in the doorway. The mice scampered away. The cat licked its lips and walked into the barn. 

Moral: It is easy to propose impossible remedies

3. The Town Mouse and Country Mouse

A mouse lived in the fields in the countryside. Her cousin lived in a mansion in a town. One afternoon Town Mouse reached the field in the village where her cousin lived. Country Mouse was deep in a tunnel, biting into a juicy turnip, when she heard her cousin’s loud squeak, “Yoo-hoo, cousin!” 

Country Mouse took a big bite from the turnip and with that in her mouth, she ran to greet her cousin. Town Mouse’s whiskers trembled as her cousin came near. She said, “Sister, for God’s sake, put that stinking radish away!” 

Country Mouse immediately dropped the piece of turnip. She hugged her cousin and took her into a burrow. It was dark and a little damp and for dinner, they only had carrots, radish, and water. Town Mouse sniffed and nibbled and sat to one side. She said, “Sister, why don’t you visit me? I eat cheese and cake and drink milk and cream. My house is warm and well-lit.” 

Country mouse agreed. The next morning, the sisters set off for the house in town. By the time they reached, they found the remains of a feast on the table. Country Mouse’s eyes widened. She drooled. She slowly sneaked up to the plate full of muffins. Her cousin was right next to her. Then they heard a loud miaow and scampered to a hole in the wall.  

This continued through the day. Every time they sneaked out to eat, they were interrupted. They finally snatched a short meal in the evening. Town Mouse kept saying, “Sister, this is the thrill of living in town. And each day is different and we do have special food each day, each meal even!” 

Country Mouse nodded and said, “To each their own, sister. Thrilling as your life surely is, I prefer my life in the countryside. I will go back early tomorrow morning.” 

Moral: Better beans and bacon in peace than cake and ale in fear

Read more stories with moral lessons.

4. Sour Grapes

Do you know where the phrase “sour grapes” comes from? Well, here’s the story that gave birth to it. 

A grapevine had clung to a tall tree. It had borne juicy fruit, but they hung from high branches. Parrots and other birds would nibble at the fruit. Some juicy bits would fall on the ground below. Over time, the ground under the vine turned a mushy purple. 

One day a fox passed that way. He was hungry. The smell of the rotting grapes on the ground made him light-headed. He sniffed at the bits of the grapes that had fallen that very morning. He ate some and liked the taste. 

He jumped up, but could not reach the grapes. He walked back and took a running jump. Nope! The grapes were hanging from a rather high branch. The fox tried a few more times but in vain. 

He sighed, “The grapes must be sour. Why should I make more effort for such grapes?” 

He walked away with a bowed head and grumbling tummy.  

So every time when someone stops short of making effort and says a goal is not worth achieving, others snort, “sour grapes”.

Moral: It is easy to despise what you cannot get

5. The Wicked Wolf

An old wolf that could no longer hunt, found a dead deer in the jungle. He was hungry and greedy and afraid that the lion that killed the deer might come back soon. He gobbled up large chunks of meat, till a large bone stuck in his throat. 

He let out a long loud howl. He roamed left and right and asked for help but who in their right mind would put their head in a wolf’s mouth! 

Finally, the wolf met a young crane and promised her a big reward if she took out the bone. The greedy young crane decided to help. With her long beak and neck, she easily pulled out the bone. The wolf promptly turned around and started to leave. 

The crane said, “Hello, hello, what’s going on? Where’s my reward?” 

The wolf said, “Reward? Didn’t I just give it to you? How many animals put their neck in the mouth of a wolf and live to tell the tale? I have spared your life. Isn’t that the greatest reward?” He laughed and left. 

Too late, the crane understood that the wicked never fulfill their promises. 

Moral: Never trust the wicked

6. The Lion and the Mouse

Snore! Snore! …Roar!  

Lion, who had been asleep moments ago, had woken up with a start and roared. His huge paws had landed on a tiny animal that squeaked in terror. As he peered under his paws he saw a frantic mouse. He growled, “How dare you skip and jump all over me, you idiot! I will crush you!” 

“Sorry. Sorry, your majesty! Please spare me. I was running away from an eagle that swooped down on me. I never meant to disturb you.” 

The lion lifted his paw. The mouse bowed and said, “Thank you, your majesty. Who knows, maybe one day I might be of some help to you.” 

The lion roared with laughter. The thought that he might need the help of a mouse, amused him. The mouse ran away fearfully; the lion’s laughter was so loud! 

Later in the week, the jungle was filled with the loud roars of an angry lion. Animals ran helter-skelter. The little mouse recognized the sound. It was the same lion who had let him go. He bravely moved towards the roars. Soon he reached the clearing in the jungle where the lion was caught in a net and thrashing about. The more he threw his hands and feet, the more tangled the net became. 

The mouse gently tugged the lion’s fur to get his attention. The lion peered. The tiny mouse said, “Please stay still, your majesty. Let me repay my debt.” 

Soon the mouse had gnawed away the ropes and the lion was free. The lion thanked the mouse and said, “Thank you, friend. You have taught me that no creature is too small to help another,” 

Moral: No creature is too small or useless

7. The Conceited Gnat

A bull was grazing in the field. A gnat buzzed about its head and finally landed on its horn. After resting for a bit the gnat buzzed about the bull’s ear. The bull shook his head to be rid of the buzzing. 

The gnat said, “I am sorry, bull. I was tired and sat on your horn.” 

The bull kept chomping on the grass. The gnat buzzed around some more. The bull did not respond. The gnat said, “Bull, I know you can hear me. I sat on your horn for so long. You carried my weight. You are glad to see me leave, aren’t you?” 

The bull snorted, “Weight? What weight? I didn’t even know you were there!” 

The gnat again sat on the bull’s horn and addressed the bull aloud. The gnat’s words didn’t reach the bull’s ears. The gnat again flew to the bull and said, “ What about this time? You must have felt my weight this time.” 

The bull said, “Perhaps, small minds are the most conceited. Why else will a gnat expect a bull to feel its weight?” 

The gnat flew away shamefacedly. 

Moral: Conceit leaves you no wisdom and respect

8. The Ungrateful Travelers

Long, long ago two weary travelers decided to lie down under a tree. After a while, they felt rested. The two stretched and sat down to have lunch. When they opened their boxes they realized they didn’t have much food left. They looked up at the tree to see if it had any fruit. Unfortunately, there was no fruit. One of the travelers said, “What an awful tree! It bears no fruit.” 

The other replied, “What’s the use of a tree that bears no fruit?” 

Suddenly, they heard a booming voice, “Ungrateful wretches! Lying in my shade, listening to the songs of the birds in my branches, you fell asleep. You woke up refreshed and hungry. Is it my fault that you have no food in your boxes? How am I to blame if this is not the season when I bear fruit? Truly unfortunate are you that you do not count your blessings, or appreciate what you get!” 

The two men realized they were wrong and walked away deep in thought. 

Moral: Count your blessings and don’t look for faults in others.

Find some more Famous Bedtime Stories on our website

9. Beware the Flatterer

Once a morning found a happy grasshopper singing away in a loud voice. He was interrupted by a loud hoot. Startled, he slipped and fell from the branch. He hopped back up and looked around. He saw two large golden eyes in a hole in the trunk of the tree. He gulped and said, “Hello! Was that you?” 

The eyes slowly moved into the light. The eyes belonged to a large owl. It blinked in the sunlight and said, “I am sleepy after a long night of work. Could you please sing somewhere else?” 

The grasshopper replied, “No. I don’t think so. It’s not like you own the tree or the sunlight. You must learn to share.” 

The owl couldn’t see very well in the bright light and knew it wasn’t any good asking the grasshopper to stop singing. In a sweet voice, he said, “Well, since your voice is so sweet, and you insist on singing, let me offer you some warm tea. Your throat must be parched with so much singing. Come. Hop in.” 

The grasshopper was pleased with the owl’s praise. He hopped in. The owl promptly gobbled up the grasshopper and went back to bed. One must learn to distinguish between praise and flattery. 

Moral: Flattery can destroy you

10. Mighty Oak and Humble Reeds

A tall oak stood next to a pool in the jungle. It would look at its reflection in the pool and raise its head up higher in its pride. In and around the pool were thin reeds. The reeds would bend the way the wind blew. The oak would look at them disdainfully. He would say, “Look at me and learn. I never bow down, no matter how strong the wind. You must learn to follow my example.” 

The reeds would say, “Nature has made each creature different from the other. Your way is to brave storms and ours to bow to the slightest wind.” 

The oak would scold them, “Silly grass! You must become strong like me.” 

One day the reeds said, “Mighty oak, mark our words, one day you will meet your match. You will pay for your pride.” 

Months later, there was a strong gale. The oak fought it for hours but finally gave up and was uprooted. It fell among the reeds in the pool. The reeds survived as they had bent to the winds. 

Moral: Being flexible and accommodating provides the recipe for long-term success.

11. The Smart Crow

It was a warm summer’s day. The earth was cracked. Plants were wilting. Dogs panted all day long and herds of cows looked for the shade of trees. Among many thirsty birds, a crow flew around looking for water. 

As the crow reached a dried well, he saw a few pitchers. He perched himself on the mouth of one pitcher after another. He finally saw the glint of the sun on what seemed like water. But the water was at the very bottom of the pitcher. 

How the crow wished he were a stork! If only he had a long neck and an equally long beak! He sat sadly on the mouth of the pitcher and wondered how he could reach the water.  

Suddenly, he had an idea. He picked up pebbles that lay around in the dust and kept dropping them into the pitcher till the water rose high enough for him to be able to slake his thirst. 

Moral: where there is a will there is a way

12. Two Goats

Two frisky young goats were playing on hills facing each other. Between the hills was a fast-flowing river. The only way to cross the river was to go across the trunk of an old oak that acted as the bridge.  

By afternoon, the goats had both wandered to this bridge. As luck would have it, both of them decided to step on the bridge at the same time. The bridge was so narrow that there was no way the two goats could walk past each other. But neither goat wanted to give in. 

They were young. They had just started knocking heads with others in their herd and here was a ready-made way for them to prove who was stronger. So neither goat backed down. They kept pushing each other and locked horns. 

Suddenly, one of the goats slipped and took the other with it. Had they only been wise enough to give way, they would not have fallen to their deaths. 

Moral: Arrogance can lead to a drastic impact

13. The Fox and the Boar

Now everyone knows that foxes are cunning creatures. One day one of their numbers saw a boar sharpening its tusks. The sly fox, ever happy to make fun of others, decided to make fun of the boar. 

As the fox neared the boar, he suddenly dropped to the ground, looked around, and sniffed the air. The boar did not seem to take notice. It kept rubbing its tusks on the trunk of a tree. 

The fox sneaked up to him and whispered, “I don’t see anyone around here. Why are you sharpening your tusks?” 

“Danger doesn’t come with a warning, my friend. It’s not like a lion will wait for me to sharpen my tusks, so I can defend myself.” 

The fox tucked his bushy tail between his legs and left in a hurry. After all, it is not every day that a boar proves himself to be smarter than a fox! 

Moral: Dangers don’t come with a warning, so keep preparing yourself for the worst

14. The Picky Heron

Dawn saw many waterbirds gathered at a lake. There were storks, cranes, herons, and ibises. Turtles padded into the water with a soft splash. Crocodiles pulled themselves onto the banks, to sun themselves.  

A heron stood aloof amidst all this activity. He did not care for the small fry, snails, and slugs that the other birds were gobbling up. He stood on one leg and patiently waited for bigger fish to swim past. Even when a trout swam past, the heron took no notice. He would rather have something bigger. “I am only peckish now; not hungry. I will wait for a big fish like a bass,” he told himself. 

Hours passed, the sun rose higher in the sky. Fish, big and small moved from the shallows to deeper water. The heron had grown hungry, famished really, but there were no fish to be found! 

He finally began poking in the mud and was rewarded with some tiny snails. He thanked God for the little he got and resolved never to be so fussy again. 

Moral: Don’t be too choosy

15. Tit for Tat

Mr. Fox always claimed that he was smarter than all other creatures. No one could ever accuse him of being humble. He went about playing pranks on others and making fun of them. 

One winter afternoon, Mr. Fox spotted Mr. Stork hunting in a pool. He smiled to himself. He had always enjoyed making fun of Mr. Stork’s long neck and bill. He decided to take it one step further and play a prank on him. To do so, he invited Mr. Stork to dinner. 

Mr. Stork was surprised at Mr. Fox’s unusually pleasant behavior. Yet, he accepted the invitation and reached in time for dinner. Dinner was served on beautiful china plates. Mr. Fox smirked at the expression on his guest’s face and slurped and gulped down the fish soup. Mr. Stork could only dip the tip of his beak in the soup. Yet, he did not complain. Indeed he thanked his host and left. 

A few days later, he invited Mr. Fox for dinner. Mr. Fox duly arrived and was served a broth that smelled heavenly. But poor Mr. Fox could not eat any because the broth had been served in a tall beaker. Mr. Stork had an amused twinkle in his eyes as he noticed his guest’s discomfort. 

Mr. Fox could not contain himself and spluttered, “Such… such uncouth behavior, Stork! You invite me to dinner and serve food in cutlery unsuited to me. How dare you?” 

Mr. Stork replied, “Why Mr. Fox, I thought you of all creatures could take a joke. After all, wasn’t it you who had played a similar joke on me not long ago?” 

Mr. Fox walked away with his head bowed.  

Moral: Be ready for the things you do to come back to you.

16. The Stag’s Reflection

Stag’s antlers grow from scratch each year. It is as if every year Nature gifts a new crown to stags. One morning a stag drinking water saw the reflection of his antlers in the clear water of the pool. He was awestruck. His antlers lent him an air of majesty.  

As the stag stood admiring his reflection he noticed his legs. In comparison to his antlers, his legs seemed to look weak, ridiculous even. He was thus lost in his thoughts when the scent of a leopard wafted towards him. He swiftly ran deeper into the jungle. Behind him, the leopard had given chase. 

The stag outpaced the leopard. But as luck would have it his antlers got stuck in the thorny branches of a tree. It struck him that the very legs he thought ugly had almost saved him and the antlers he was proud of had landed him in trouble. Too late, the panther caught and made a meal of the stag. Often, we admire the ornamental and scorn the useful. 

Moral: All that glitters is not gold

17. The Fox and Rooster

Rooster yawned. The sun was about to set. One last loud cry and he would go to sleep. He stood on the topmost branch of a tree and let out a loud, “Cock-a-doodle-doo”!  

Rooster settled down to sleep. He had to wake up with the crack of dawn after all. But from the corner of his eye, he noticed a movement. Was it Snake or Mongoose? Maybe he should roost somewhere else. 

Rooster opened his eyes wide, shook off his sleep, and stood up. He soon noticed Fox standing at the bottom of the tree. Fox cried, “Hello, Rooster! Have you heard the news? The families of all creatures have declared a truce. No animal shall hunt the other. We can truly be friends now. Come, let me embrace you.” 

Rooster was worried. He could not fly too far and there were no other trees in sight. Fox was definitely trying to trick him. But then he struck upon a plan. He said, “Look who goes there, Fox. From up here, I can see a pack of dogs coming this way. They seem to be picking up a scent. Perhaps… hey, you aren’t leaving, surely? Won’t you embrace them?” 

Fox said, “I would love to, but then might not have received the news yet. So long!” 

Rooster smiled under his feathers and let out a cry of victory. Then he settled himself to rest. He had outfoxed Fox after all! 

Moral: Never trust the wicked

18. A Fox and a Goat

Fox was walking by swishing his bushy tail when he tripped and fell into an old, disused well. He thought he could jump out if he tried but his efforts were in vain. 

Later that day a thirsty goat came that way. He looked into the well and spotted Fox. He said, “Fox, is there any water at the bottom of the well?” 

“Sure there is. The water is cool and sweet. Come, have a taste,” replied Fox. 

Goat jumped in. Before he knew it, Fox had jumped on Goat’s back and out of the well. Goat realized he had been tricked. He cried, “Fox, help me. I didn’t know the well is so deep. I can’t come out without help.” 

Fox laughed, “Silly Goat, you should look before you leap.” Then he left. 

Moral: Never trust the advice of someone in difficulties

19. Fox and Leopard

Fox and Leopard had just polished off a big meal. They took to licking their paws and showing off their shining fur and long whiskers.  

Leopard bragged, “Look at these rosettes on my skin and this velvety fur. And my tail, not short and bushy like yours, ha, haha!” 

Fox knew he was not as strong as Leopard. He did not boast about his glossy red fur or bushy tail. But no one could beat Fox’s sarcastic tongue. He said, “You truly are a handsome brute, Leopard. But what I lack in beauty I make up for in brains. But then, not everyone can have everything, right?” 

Fox slunk away before Leopard could decipher his words. Have you done so? 

Moral: Not everyone gets everything in this world

20. Frog and Mouse

Young Mouse packed his belongings and set off on an adventure. He wanted to travel, see new places and meet new creatures. He was skipping through bushes, whiskers quivering, eyes twinkling when he spotted Old Frog. 

Frog hailed him, “Hello there, young Mouse! Where are you off to?” 

“I am off on an adventure, Old Frog,” said Mouse. 

“Adventure? Why I could take you on one! Do you see those lilies and lotus at the middle of the pond? It’s an island. I could take you there,” offered Old Frog. 

The mouse was excited. He asked, “How, Sir? I am not a good swimmer and I can’t jump that far.” 

Old Frog smirked, “I will take you. I will bind your leg to mine with a reed. This way we can be together and I will not let you drown little one.” 

Mouse happily accepted the offer, bit off a reed, and tied his leg to that of Old Frog. 

The two waded in. As they went deeper into the water, Frog dove down. Mouse screamed and struggled but finally drowned. This was Frog’s design all along. He surfaced to take a breath. 

Right then a kite swooped down on Mouse, floating on the surface of the water. The frog was still tied to Mouse by the reed, so he too couldn’t escape. One must always remember, “He who digs a pit for others, falls in himself.” 

Moral: Digging a pit for others would make you fall in it

List of Aesop Fables Collection By Popularity – Scroll For More Fables

Aesop’s Fables – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Who Was Aesop? 

Aesop, who was an ancient Greek slave is known as the founder or originator of ‘Aesop’s fables. While there are discrepancies about his origins, some suggest that he was in fact from Ethiopia, as his name strikes similarity to the word ‘Aethiop’. Whether he was an Ethiopian or Greek slave isn’t clear, but he was, later on, set free. 

He became one of the most famous storytellers of all time and renowned for collecting fables. While he was not the author of all of these, a lot of them were passed down through his oral narration. 

How many Aesop’s fables are there? 

Written and narrated by Aesop, a Greek slave, ‘Aesop’s fables are a collection of world-famous moral stories which popularized during the middle of the 6th century BCE. There are 725 tales in total and they were initially narrated to people for entertainment and leisure but there was always an underlying moral principle or lesson associated with them. 

What Is The Definition Of Fable? 

The origins of the word fable can be followed back to Latin words, ‘fibula’ and ‘fari’. Fibula man’s ‘a story’, while fari means ‘to speak’. As a literary device, a fable serves the purpose of being a short moral-some story. 

In literature, fables are educative writings that follow the story of some animals. In terms of prose, fables usually also include narratives of nature, plants, and personifications of inanimate objects so that they may inculcate a moral lesson. 

What is a moral of Aesop Fable Story? 

There is no single moral that the fables serve to teach, but each story has its own teachings. Honesty, trust, humbleness, not being arrogant and so much more are taught through these stories. Sometimes the moral or understanding of the stories goes a lot deeper than what meets the eye.  

Some popular morals include: 

  • “A bird in hand is better tha two in the bush” 
  • “A man is known by the company he keeps” 
  • “Beauty is only skin deep” 
  • “Better a certain enemy than a doubtful friend” 

What Are Main Characteristics Of Aesop’s Fables?

  • Fables tend to include a moral. 
  • They usually base on animals being the central characters. 
  • A lot of times animals, elements of nature and plants are personified and given human like characteristics and dialogue in the story, 
  • They tend to use symbolism to elaborate on short comings of humans by attributing them to the characters in the stories. 
  • Often tend to be humorous and entertaining, so that they stick with the reader. 

What Is The Main Purpose Of Fable?

Primarily, fables are written to instill moral lessons in the readers. Because they usually employ, animals or other inanimate characters, a lot of human shortcomings or faults are attributed to these characters, which strategically dissociates the audience but at the same time makes a case for moral reflection of ourselves. They often take up a satirical hue and serve didactic purposes in modern times. 

At What Year, Aesop’s Fables Were Printed First? 

The first illustrated copy of Aesop’s fables dates back to around 1461, which was published in Germany’s Bamberg. In English, the first copy appeared in around 1484, by William Caxton, who translated the tales from the French copy by J Rousset (1482). 

What are the fables about or for what reason Aesop fables are told? 

In modern times, Aesop’s fables are increasingly popular amongst children. However, they were not initially intended for kids. A lot of the fables were actually satire or criticism aimed towards the socio-political dynamic of the time that they originated.  

While a lot of the fables do revolve around animal characters all of them are not. One famous story is called “the belly and the members. It revolves around how the arms and feet intend on turning against the belly, who they believe get all the food that they work so hard to get. So, they decide that they would ensure the belly remains empty, only to realize that they are weakened in the act too! 

Another popular one, called ‘the fox and the stork’ intends to teach us the lesson that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. The story is about a fox who incites a stork for dinner but serves in shallow bowls so that the stork is unable to eat. But the stork teaches him a lesson by inviting him and serving in long vessel dishes making it impossible for the fox to eat. The story ends on the note that: “he that beguiles others/is often beguiled himself”. 

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