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Aesops fables retold - The donkey and his shadow

Updated on May 11, 2013

Aesops fables - Interesting insights

The Aesops fables are among the better known of a large number of ancient stories and fables and many of us would have read some or the other stories from the famous collection of Aesops fables. Though these stories and fables may appear to be quite simple and small often they offer interesting insights into human behavior and present important morals that both children and grown-ups would do well to practice.The story of the donkey and his shadow (titled a bit differently in the original version) is one such interesting tale that we can learn from.

Here is the story of the donkey and his shadow retold

Aesops fables retold - The donkey and his shadow
Aesops fables retold - The donkey and his shadow

The donkey and his shadow

Ravi lived in a small village. Once he needed to go to the nearby town. Since it was several miles away and it was a hot day Ravi decided to hire a donkey to ride on. He went to the only donkey owner in the village and asked him his terms to rent him his donkey.

The donkey owner said, "I can rent you my donkey for 3 hours - you can go to the town and come back in that time - It will cost you Rs. 50/-. I shall come and lead the donkey, you can ride on the donkey."

"Alright, said Ravi - it is a deal. Let us start."

So they set off for the town, Ravi riding on the donkey and the donkey owner leading the donkey.

It was the middle of the day and the noonday sun shone at its brightest. After a while Ravi couldn't stand the heat. He felt like he was being baked! He looked around to see if there were any trees he could shelter under, but there was nothing in sight at all. So he stopped the donkey and hopped off it. He thought he would rest a while in the shadow of the donkey!

Now, the donkey owner was feeling very hot too and even more tired since he was walking (whereas Ravi was riding on the donkey). He too got the bright idea of relaxing in the shadow of the donkey.

Both of them tried to move into the shadow of the donkey, but unfortunately there wasn't enough 'shadow' for two. They started arguing as to who should benefit from the shadow!

"Remember our agreement," shouted Ravi. "I have hired the donkey. Obviously that means the shadow is mine for the duration of the hire! Move away, I have paid good money for this!"

The donkey owner screamed, "I don't recall the shadow as being part of our agreement. I have certainly hired out the donkey to you, there was no mention of hiring out the shadow. Therefore of course, I retain rights over the shadow!"

"What nonsense," yelled Ravi. "The donkey and its shadow are inseparable. If I have hired the donkey, no doubt I get the shadow too!"

"What a foolish generalization," cried the donkey owner. "If you are not going to be bound by the letter of the agreement, then why have one at all."


And meanwhile what about the donkey. It stood patiently for a while. But seeing that the donkey owner had let go if it and was deep in his argument with Ravi, the donkey ran away, of course taking his shadow with it.

The donkey owner and Ravi were stranded in the middle of nowhere - with neither donkey nor shadow!

The moral of the story

In arguing over the shadow we often forget the substance. This is a moral that several of us can relate to. Many times when we look back we realize that we have, like the two gentlemen above, been arguing or fighting for the 'shadow' rather than the 'substance'.

Kids may enjoy this video - the story of the lion and the mouse (another of Aesops fables)

Video of a short moral story for kids - the story of the thirsty crow

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