Gateway to the Classics: Fables from Afar by Catherine T. Bryce
Fables from Afar by  Catherine T. Bryce


The Elephant and The Ape

An elephant named Grand Tusk had for his friend an ape named Nimble.

One day Grand Tusk said proudly: "Behold me! See how big and strong I am!"

"It is better to be big and strong than quick and clever," said Grand Tusk.

"Not so," answered Nimble. "It is better to be quick and clever than big and strong."

So they began to quarrel.

"Do not let us quarrel," said Nimble. "Let us go to Dark Sage and ask him to settle the matter."

"Agreed!" said Grand Tusk, and off they ran.

Now, Dark Sage was a wise old owl who lived in the darkest corner of an old tower.

Dark Sage listened to all Grand Tusk and Nimble had to say; then he said: "You must do just as I bid. Then I shall tell you which is better."

"Agreed!" said Grand Tusk.

"Agreed!" said Nimble.

"Then," said Dark Sage, "cross yonder river and bring me the mangoes that grow on the great tree beyond."

Off went Grand Tusk and Nimble; but when they came to the stream, which was very wide and deep, Nimble was afraid.

"Oh, I never can cross that river!" he cried. "Let us go back."

But Grand Tusk laughed and said: "Didn't I tell you it is better to be big and strong than to be quick and clever? I can easily swim across the river."

So he took Nimble up with his trunk and put him on his broad back, and swam across in a short time.


Soon they came to the mango tree. It was very tall. Grand Tusk could not even touch the mangoes with his long trunk; nor could he break down the tree to gather the fruit.

"I can't get the mangoes," he said. "The tree is too high. We shall have to go back without any."

Then Nimble laughed and said: "Didn't I tell you it is better to be quick and clever than big and strong? I can easily climb this tree."

Up the tree sprang Nimble and soon threw down a whole basketful of ripe mangoes. Grand Tusk picked them up, and the two friends crossed the river as before.

When they came again to Dark Sage, Grand Tusk said, "Here are your mangoes. Now tell us which is better—to be big and strong or to be quick and clever?"

Dark Sage answered, "I should think you would know that yourself. You crossed the river, and Nimble gathered the fruit. Sometimes it is better to be big and strong, and sometimes it is better to be quick and clever. Each thing in its place is best."

"That is true," answered Grand Tusk.

"Just so," said Nimble.

Then away they went, and from that day were better friends than ever before.

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  |  Next: A Dumb Witness
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2020   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.