Aesop's Fables
Look Before You Leap

Aesop's Moral:
Look Before You Leap

Other ways of saying it:
Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself!
Don't be too trusting.

Aesop's Fable:

The Fox and the Goat

One day, a Fox fell into a deep well and couldn't climb out.

A thirsty Goat soon came to the same well, and seeing the Fox, called down to ask whether the water was good.

Pretending to be happy (and not in despair), the Fox lavishly praised the water, saying how absolutely delicious it tasted, and encouraging the Goat to come down and join him in the well.

The Goat, thinking only of his thirst, stupidly jumped down.

As he drank, the Fox informed him of the difficulty they were both in and suggested a scheme for their common escape.

“If,” said the Fox, “you put your forefeet up on the wall and bend your head down, I will run up your back like a ramp and escape, and then I will help you out afterwards.”

The Goat agreed and so the Fox leaped upon his back. Steadying himself with the Goat’s horns, he safely reached the mouth of the well...and took off as fast as he could! (Fable continues below.)

Look before you leap! From The Æsop for Children, pictures by Milo Winter

When the Goat complained of the Fox breaking his promise, the Fox turned around and cried out, “You old Goat! If you had as many brains in your head as you have hairs in your beard, you would never have gone down without making sure there was a way back up. Only a foolish fellow exposes himself to dangers from which he has no means of escape!”

(In other words, "Look before you leap!")

The Fox and the Goat summary: One of Aesop's longer fables, this Look Before You Leap tale definitely carries a hard edge. The trusting Goat is left to suffer at the hand of the deceitful fox. But if you're trying to teach a child caution, or not to be too trusting, a hard edge is probably called for!

Still, the Fox in this telling is rather murderous. A softer telling might have the Fox at the end trying - but failing - to help the Goat escape.

You might also note Aesop's The Thirsty Pigeon, wherein a thirsty pigeon smashes into a picture of a goblet of water. The moral of that fable is Zeal Should Not Outrun Discretion. But perhaps Shakespeare put it best:

"Discretion is the better part of valor."

Look before you leap.

Jean De La Fontaine tells a more modern, rhyming version of this fable (substituting a wolf for the goat).

How to use Aesop's Fables.

More stories with morals.

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