The Dog & the Bone

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Dog and the Bone” is a fable ascribed to Aesop that counsels being content with what one has.

Illustration by Wenceslas Hollar to Ogilby’s Aesop’s Fables (1673-5


In Aesop’s story, a dog carrying a bone over a bridge looks down into the water and sees its own reflection. Taking it for another dog carrying a better bone, the dog opens its mouth to bark at the “other” and in doing so drops its own bone into the river. The moral, according to John Lydgate‘s versified Isopes Fabules, is that the one ‘Who all coveteth, oft he loseth all.’[1]

In the version by Jean de la Fontaine (VI.17) the dog attacks its reflection and falls into the water. As he struggles to swim to shore, he relaxes his grip on the bone and loses both ‘shadow and substance’.[2]

The similar lesson about greed is taught in Buddhist scripture by the Kalayamutthi Jataka in which a monkey with a handful of peas drops one and, in trying to retrieve it, drops all the others too.[3] The lesson drawn there is that This is what fools of little wit are wont to do; they spend a pound to win a penny.

Yet another Indian variation on the theme is Bidpai‘s story of “The Fox and the Piece of Meat”.[4] A fox on its way home with a piece of meat catches sight of some chickens and decides to hunt one of them down. A boy on watch chases him off and when he returns to where he has left the meat he finds a kite has flown off with it.


2 responses to “The Dog & the Bone

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    January 17, 2013 at 4:27 am

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  2. Negative Nancy

    March 14, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    A cyclist approaching a stop sign see his reflection in a puddle and feels compelled to race against it, but then he is going too fast to stop at the stop sign and is run over by a UPS truck driver in a hurry.


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