The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs

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  • Topic: Aesop's Fables, Fable, Jean de La Fontaine
  • Pages : 2 (576 words )
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  • Published : August 16, 2011
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Avianus and Caxton tell different stories of a goose that lays a golden egg, where other versions have a hen, as in Townsend: "A cottager and his wife had a Hen that laid a golden egg every day. They supposed that the Hen must contain a great lump of gold in its inside, and in order to get the gold they killed it. Having done so, they found to their surprise that the Hen differed in no respect from their other hens. The foolish pair, thus hoping to become rich all at once, deprived themselves of the gain of which they were assured day by day. In early tellings, there is sometimes a commentary warning against greed rather than a pithy moral. This is so in Jean de La Fontaine's fable of La Poule aux oeufs d'or (Fables V.13), which begins with the sentiment that 'Greed loses all by striving all to gain' and comments at the end that the story can be applied to those who become poor by trying to outreach themselves. It is only later that the morals most often quoted today began to appear. These are 'Greed oft o’er reaches itself' (Joseph Jacobs, 1894) and 'Much wants more and loses all' (Samuel Croxall, 1722). It is notable also that these are stories told of a goose rather than a hen. The English idiom, sometimes shortened to "Killing the golden goose", derives from this fable. It is generally used of a short-sighted action that destroys the profitability of an asset. Caxton's version of the story has the goose's owner demand that it lay two eggs a day; when it replied that it could not, the owner killed it. The same lesson is taught by Ignacy Krasicki's fable of "The Farmer": A farmer, bent on doubling the profits from his land,

Proceeded to set his soil a two-harvest demand.
Too intent thus on profit, harm himself he must needs:
Instead of corn, he now reaps corn-cockle and weeds.
There is another variant on the story, recorded by Syntipas ([[Perry Index 58) and appearing in Roger L'Estrange's 1692 telling as "A Woman and a Fat Hen" (Fable 87): A good Woman had...
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