Once, All the Animals Spoke the Same Language: Aesop’s Frog and Mouse Tales

We’ve been working on a text, translation and commentary of the Homeric Batrakhomuomakhia (“Battle of Frog and Mice”). Some of the themes, part of the plot, and even some specific instances of diction are shared with the Aesopic fable of the mouse and the frog. Below are two versions:

Aesop, Fabula 302

“There was a time when all the animals spoke the same language. A mouse who was on friendly terms with a frog invited him to dinner and led him into a storehouse of his wealth where he kept his bread, cheese, honey, dried figs and all of his precious things. And he said “Eat whatever you wish, Frog.” Then the Frog responded: “When you come visit me, you too will have your fill of fine things. But I don’t want you to be nervous, so I will fasten your foot to my foot.” After the Frog bound his foot to the mouse’s and dragged him in this way, he pulled the tied-up mouse into the pond. While he drowned, he said “I am being killed by you, but I will be avenged by someone still alive!” A bird who saw the mouse afloat flew down and seized him. The frog went aloft with him too and thus, the bird slaughtered them both.
A wicked plot between friends is thus a danger to them both”

ΜΥΣ ΚΑΙ ΒΑΤΡΑΧΟΣ
ὅτε ἦν ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα, μῦς βατράχῳ φιλιωθεὶς ἐκάλεσεν αὐτὸν εἰς δεῖπνον καὶ ἀπήγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς ταμιεῖον πλουσίου, ὅπου ἦν ἄρτος, τυρός, μέλι, ἰσχάδες καὶ ὅσα ἀγαθά, καί φησιν „ἔσθιε, βάτραχε, ἐξ ὧν βούλει.” ὁ δὲ βάτραχος ἔλεγε• „ἐλθὼν οὖν καὶ σὺ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἐμπλήσθητι τῶν ἀγαθῶν μου. ἀλλ’ ἵνα μὴ ὄκνος σοι γένηται, προσαρτήσω τὸν πόδα σου τῷ ποδί μου.” δήσας οὖν ὁ βάτραχος τὸν πόδα τοῦ μυὸς τῷ ἑαυτοῦ ποδὶ ἥλατο εἰς τὴν λίμνην ἕλκων καὶ τὸν μῦν δέσμιον. ὁ δὲ πνιγόμενος ἔλεγεν• „ἐγὼ μὲν ὑπό σου νεκρωθήσομαι, ἐκδικήσομαι δὲ ὑπὸ ζῶντος.” λούππης δὲ θεασάμενος τὸν μῦν πλέοντα καταπτὰς ἥρπασεν. ἐφέλκετο οὖν σὺν αὐτῷ καὶ ὁ βάτραχος καὶ οὕτως ἀμφοτέρους διεσπάραξεν.
ὅτι ἡ τῶν φίλων πονηρὰ συμβουλὴ καὶ ἑαυτοῖς κίνδυνος γίνεται.

Variant from the Life of Aesop G.

“Once when all the animals spoke the same languages, a mouse who was friends with a frog invited him to dinner and led him into a storehouse of his wealth where he kept every type of bread, meat, cheese, olive and dried figs. Then he said “eat”. Since he was so well received, the frog said “come also and dine with me so that I might treat you well.” He led him to the pond and said ‘Swim” and the mouse responded “I don’t know how to swim” and the frog said “I will teach you.” Then, after binding his foot to the mouse’s foot with cord he dragged the mouse. And the mouse while drowning said “I will get vengeance on you still living when I am a corpse.” While he said these things, the frog went under and drowned him. As the mouse lie in the water and the frog swam on a crow snatched the mouse who was still bound to the frog. After he ate the mouse, he killed the frog. This is how the mouse got vengeance on the frog. In the same way, when I die, I will be the death of you. For the Lydians, the Babylonians and nearly the rest of Greece will harvest the fruit of my death.”

“ὅτε ἦν τὰ ζῷα ὁμόφωνα, μῦς φιλιάσας βατράχῳ ἐκάλεσεν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ δεῖπνον καὶ εἰσήγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς ταμιεῖον πλούσιον πάνυ, ἐφ’ ᾧ ἦν ἄρτος, κρέας, τυρός, ἐλαῖαι, ἰσχάδες• καί φησιν ‘ἔσθιε.’ καλῶς ληφθεὶς ὁ βάτραχός φησιν ‘ἐλθὲ καὶ σὺ παρ’ ἐμοὶ δειπνήσων, ἵνα σε καλῶς λάβω.’ ἀπήγαγεν δὲ αὐτὸν εἰς λίμνην καί φησιν ‘κολύμβησον.’ ὁ δὲ μῦς• ‘κολυμβῆσαι οὐκ ἐπίσταμαι.’ ὁ βάτραχος• ‘ἐγώ σε διδάξω.’ δήσας τε λίνῳ τὸν πόδα τοῦ μυὸς πρὸς τὸν ἴδιον πόδα [ἔδησεν] <ἥλατο εἰς τὴν λίμνην> καὶ τὸν μῦν ἔσυρεν. ὁ δὲ μῦς πνιγόμενος εἶπεν ‘νεκρὸς ὢν ζῶντά σε ἐκδικήσω.’ ταῦτα εἰπόντος αὐτοῦ καταδὺς ὁ βάτραχος ἔπνιξεν αὐτόν. κειμένου δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τοῦ ὕδατος καὶ ἐπιπλέοντος, κόραξ ἥρπασεν τὸν μῦν σὺν τῷ βατράχῳ συνδεδεμένον, καταφαγὼν δὲ τὸν μῦν ἐδράξατο καὶ τοῦ βατράχου. οὕτως ὁ μῦς τὸν βάτραχον ἐξεδίκησεν. ὁμοίως κἀγώ, ἄνδρες, ἀποθανὼν ὑμῖν μόρος ἔσομαι• καὶ γὰρ Λύδιοι, Βαβυλώνιοι, καὶ σχεδὸν ἡ ῾Ελλὰς ὅλη τὸν ἐμὸν καρπί-
σονται θάνατον.”

According to this Life of Aesop, Aesop tells this story to the Delphians when they tell him that they will throw him from a cliff.

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