De La Fontaine's Fables
The Fox and the Grapes

The Fox and the Grapes
by Jean de la Fontaine

Translated from French by Elizur Wright

Based on Aesop's fable of the same name.
(Aesop's moral: The grapes of disappointment are always sour, or It is easy to despise what you cannot get)

A fox, almost with hunger dying,
Some grapes upon a trellis spying,
To all appearance ripe, clad in
Their tempting russet skin,
Most gladly would have eat them;
But since he could not get them,
So far above his reach the vine--
'They're sour,' he said; 'such grapes as these,
The dogs may eat them if they please!'
Did he not better than to whine?

from 'How to Tell Stories to Children, And Some Stories to Tell,' by Sara Cone Bryant. Negative of original illustration.

Clarifications: Russet is a reddish-brown color.

Summary: A starving fox comes across ripe grapes beyond his reach. But rather than bemoan the fact that he can't reach them, he rationalizes that they're unfit for consumption.

In the last line, De La Fontaine asks the reader to consider whether the fox is better off lying to himself in this way or whining over the fact that he can't get to the darn grapes!

Comparison to Aesop: Aesop's version may depict a fox in somewhat less dire straits. Read George Fyler Townsend's translation of Aesop's version:

The Fox and the Grapes, by Aesop

A famished fox saw some clusters of ripe black grapes hanging from a trellised vine. She resorted to all her tricks to get at them, but wearied herself in vain, for she could not reach them. At last she turned away, hiding her disappointment and saying: "The Grapes are sour, and not ripe as I thought."

The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine

Webmaster's note: There's a delightful modern picture book adaptation of The Fox and the Grapes. Read our review of Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes.

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