Although the fables themselves did not originate from folk tradition but rather from a particular, skilled storyteller, they nevertheless reflect a wisdom important for understanding certain lessons in everyday living. These lessons do not prescribe ethical actions by which one may improve one’s character and be judged a good person. Rather, more often they offer advice to help the reader secure a safe future—a future marked by fewer mistakes in judgment. In this way, the animal protagonists may represent the worst of human nature and suggest the ramifications of such behavior on one’s personal fortune. In the popular fable of “The Fox and the Grapes,” for example, a hungry fox who fails to jump high enough and reach the tantalizing fruit above snidely concludes in his frustration that the grapes must be sour. The fable thus satirizes the less industrious who would rather find fault in challenging tasks rather than work harder for a worthy profit.
Often, the fables describe a contest between two animals of different species and character. The famous fable of “The Hare and the Tortoise,” for example, illustrates and recommends the benefit of being steady in one’s attitude toward life and success. Often in the fables, scores are evened between two protagonists. In these cases, the motive may be turnabout or revenge: The fable of “The Fox and the Crane” provides an excellent example of this simple aspect of human nature. In other cases, the motive may be repayment for a previous act of kindness. Perhaps the best-known example of this lesson is the fable of “The Lion and the Mouse,” in which the former spares the life of his little suppliant and later finds the act repaid in full when the mouse gnaws...
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“The Ant and the Grasshopper” is one of Aesop’s immortal fables which aim to teach readers of the world’s immortal lesson: Work and strive to prepare for what the future holds. The Grasshopper, who was boastful of what he had during the sunny days, knew nothing but to scorn the industrious Ant who did everything to save up for the rainy days. Thus, when the unexpected rainy days came, the Grasshopper was left with nothing but an empty stomach and a gloomy weather. Over the years, people have understood the Ant in its act of denying the Grasshopper any kind of help. They have accepted the Ant’s behavior as the right thing to do in order for the Grasshopper to learn its lesson. However, the Ant’s refusal to help the arrogant Grasshopper during the latter’s time of need poses the moral question of whether it is just or not. Hence, this suggests that, even though the fable was accepted by many as story which teaches a moral lesson, the Ant who is regarded as a good-natured character also appears to be a greedy and heartless creature.
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By refusing to give food and shelter during the rainy days to the Grasshopper, the Ant may have achieved its goal of teaching the former a lesson. Hence, after enduring such an ordeal, the Grasshopper may indeed learn to save food and work harder for the next rainy days to come. However, considering the fact that the Grasshopper was in great need, it would only be logical to question whether the Ant has been morally correct in his choice of refusing to lend any help to the starving Grasshopper. The Holy Bible provides numerous accounts and parables about the act of giving, even to enemies. The Holy Scripture emphasizes the many stories of selfless acts and random kindness as well as the importance of these acts in understanding the value of caring for another.
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For instance, Ecclesiastes 5:10-15 states, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (New International Version). This verse tells a lot about how selfishness leads to materialism and covetousness. In the fable, the Grasshopper can be regarded as a relatively happy creature that deals with the present but unfortunately does not care about the future. On the other hand, the Ant appears to be the more prepared and hard-working creature. However, the Ant had everything for the rainy days while the Grasshopper had nothing. The story never said anything about the Grasshopper being abusive; that is why there were not enough bases for the Ant to be very selfish. Also, the mere experience of the Grasshopper not having anything for the rainy days already taught him a lesson, so why did the Ant had to refuse of helping the starving Grasshopper still?
Aligning the essence of the story with what the modern world experiences today, it seems that this fable poses a great significance in what the people are going through financially and economically. For example, in a survey of 38 countries conducted by the ACNielsen in 2008, the United States, which is one of the richest nations in the world, ranked number one above all nations whose people do not tend to save up (qtd. in Whelehan 1). Ironically, countries like the Philipines, India, Mexico, and Thailand are among the top countries whose people are generous enough to have high saving rates even though these countries are relatively poorer compared to the U.S. (ACNielsen qtd. in Whelehan 1). This current reality implies that more often than not, it is the wealthy people who tend to be more laid back in saving up since they are the people who usually have everything in excess.
Conversely, the poor and the more needy have already experienced enough hardship that they tend to be more protective of what they have in order to be prepared in case the future brings something which can challenge their survival. In this context, the fable of “The Ant and The Grasshopper” reflects a reality that indeed, the wealthier a person gets, the more carefree and less watchful of the future he or she tends to become. On the other hand, the more challenged and needy a person gets, the more industrious he or she becomes. Nevertheless, this does not stand as a valid and moral reason why the Ant had to be selfish instead chose to turn its back on the needy Grasshopper. While life may have taught the Ant to protect what he has, it appears to be unjust to close a door for someone who is in great need when the Ant appears to have more than enough of what he needs to survive for the rainy days while the Grasshopper does not have any.
Being industrious never justifies the act of selfishness because selfishness and greed have never produced any good and kind deed. Saving enough can greatly help when the stormy days come, but will the acts of “not giving” and “not helping” justify the act of being diligent? There has never been a scripture, philosophy, or saying that justifies that thought. Indeed, the Ant appears to be the luckier one during the rainy days, and the happy-go-lucky Grasshopper learned his lessons by having nothing during the bad weather. However, if people, especially parents, would read this timeless tale closely and focus on the Ant who denied the carefree Grasshopper any form of help when the latter needed it the most, they should contemplate on whether the Ant’s act of refusing to help the needy Grasshopper is a good lesson to teach their children. Does being industrious make a person righteous that his or her refusal to help the needy can be justified? Is being diligent a better value to learn than being accommodating, if not selfless? Or did good old Aesop just failed to include that moral point in his fable? Considering the aforementioned thoughts, one thing is for certain: Although time has proven the moral essence of being diligent and hardworking in this fable of “The Ant and The Grasshopper,” it failed to take into account the immorality of deliberate acts of greed and selfishness, something the story seemed to have overlooked when the hardworking Ant refused to lend even a bit of help to the starving Grasshopper.
- New International Version Bible. International Bible Society.
- Whelehan, Barbara. “The Ant vs. The Grasshopper, What Are You?.” ReliefSpecialist. Property and Wealth Solutions Information Centers, Inc.