The fox, who appears the most frequently of all the animals in Aesop’s fables. Although usually representing cunning, deceit, or treachery, the fox also occasionally serves as a more general figure when a basic representative of humanity is needed. Although the fox is often successful because of his trickery, he should not be seen as a hero in the traditional sense. The fox’s slyness usually is accompanied by cowardice, disloyalty, greed, or dishonesty. These negative qualities often prove to be the fox’s undoing at the end of the story. In “The Swollen Fox,” for example, the fox cleverly crawls into the hollow of an oak to eat the food left there by a group of shepherds. He ends up being too clever for his own good, however, because the meal renders him too fat to escape by the same route that he had used to enter.
The ass, who represents stupidity and frequently is either killed or ridiculed in the fable. In “The Ass in the Lion’s Skin,” for example, this character frightens other animals by wrapping himself in the skin of a dead lion. When his own foolishness leads him to bray rather than roar, he reveals his true nature and becomes the laughingstock of the other animals. In “The Ass in Office,” the ass carries the statue of a god on his back in a religious procession. When all the people of the city bow down in reverence before the statue, the ass foolishly believes that he is the one being...
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