Describe the different personalities of the north wind and the sun in Aesop's Fables.

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plcramer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Aesop's fable "The North Wind and the Sun," two forces of nature make a bet to determine who has the most power. From this premise alone, we see that both the North Wind and the Sun can be characterized as competitive and powerful.

The pair determine that whoever can make a sailor take off all his clothes first wins. The North Wind goes first and attempts to blow the man's clothes off with a mighty gale. Through this choice in strategy, we can see that the North Wind represents force. It doesn't work, however, as the sailor merely wraps himself up tighter in his coat, and the North Wind gives up, proving that though the North Wind may be characterized as strong and forceful, he is not particularly persistent. He is a quitter, so to speak.

The Sun, on the other hand, takes a less direct, gentler approach. Where the North Wind was blustery and aggressive, the Sun is more passive, shining bright and hot from afar until the sailor gets so hot he strips off his clothes to go for a swim. In a sense, the Sun works "smarter not harder" and thus wins the day.

Aesop's moral, that "Persuasion is better than Force," perfectly encapsulates the difference between these two characters. The Sun is persuasion personified, while the North Wind is force. Aesop's argument is that approaching a problem with persuasion and cunning, like the Sun does here, is a better method than just barreling into it with all your might and hoping that will work, like the North Wind.

gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The north wind and the sun both aim for the same thing: to show that they are strong, but they go about this in different ways, as illustrated in their contest to remove the coat from a traveller going down the road.

The wind blows as strongly as it can, to try and tear the coat off by brute force, but the traveller resists this, and only wraps his coat more tightly around himself. Then it is the turn of the sun:

Then the sun came out from behind a cloud and began to shine down upon the traveller with his power. The traveller felt the sun's genial warmth, and as he grew warmer and warmer he began to loosen his coat. Finally, he was forced to take it off altogether.

The sun, then, succeeds where the wind had failed, by exerting gentle pressure, 'genial warmth' rather than a show of brute strength. The sun is more subtle and persuasive than the wind, which relies on sheer power. By being more gentle and patient, the sun is also more effective. The moral is that persuasion is better than force.

This particular Aesop's fable is somewhat unusual in that it features personified forces of nature rather than animals, but its moral is probably one of the best-known.