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Aesop | The Lion and the Mouse

Aesop | The Lion and the Mouse

From Aesop’s Fables
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Aesop (c. 620 – 564 BCE)
A Lion lay asleep in the forest, his great head resting on his paws. A timid little Mouse came upon him unexpectedly, and in her fright and haste to get away, ran across the Lion’s nose. Roused from his nap, the Lion laid his huge paw angrily on the tiny creature to kill her.
“Spare me!” begged the poor Mouse. “Please let me go and some day I will surely repay you.”
The Lion was much amused to think that a Mouse could ever help him. But he was generous and finally let the Mouse go.
Some days later, while stalking his prey in the forest, the Lion was caught in the toils of a hunter’s net. Unable to free himself, he filled the forest with his angry roaring. The Mouse knew the voice and quickly found the Lion struggling in the net. Running to one of the great ropes that bound him, she gnawed it until it parted, and soon the Lion was free.
“You laughed when I said I would repay you,” said the Mouse. “Now you see that even a Mouse can help a Lion.”

The story may have Ancient Egyptian roots. A nearly identical tale was told by Thoth to Hathor in one myth.

The Scottish poet, Robert Henryson, made it the central poem in his Morall Fabillis in a version of the fable written in the 1480s. In Henryson’s version the author widens the mouse’s plea, introducing serious themes like politics, law and justice.

Pop culture references

  • In The Simpsons episode “Blood Feud“ (1991), Homer tells the story to Bart, replacing Hercules in place of the mouse.
  • For the PBS series, The Big Blue Marble (1974-83), a cartoon of this fable was made. It follows the story exactly, but adds an epilogue describing the mouse falling into a trap and the lion refusing to help him.
  • The fable was adapted to film in 1966, The Bear and the Mouse, by the National Film Board of Canada.

The Lion and the Mouse
Lithograph in black pencil on cream-coloured background (1844) | John Doyle (1797 – 1868)


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