The Dog & the Bone
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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.’
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’.
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. 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”. 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.