A painting of a frog flexing his muscles before a mighty ox.

The Frogs & the Ox (Aesop’s Fables)

The Frogs & the Ox is one of Aesop’s lesser-known fables. As a father who lifts weights, I empathize with this poor frog. The moral of the story stabs so deep into my heart that it pierces my ego.

I’ve retold the story in my own words, but I’ve kept the moral true to the original.

The Fable

In the heart of an ancient forest, beside a reedy pool, there lived a family of frogs. These gentle creatures cherished their peaceful lives, hopping about in the marshy grass and basking in the warmth of the sun. Their existence was undisturbed, until the day the Ox arrived.

The Ox, a giant beast of raw strength and power, ventured down to the pool to quench his thirst. He came heavily into the water, oblivious to the tiny lives cowering beneath him. After he had drunk his fill, he turned to leave, crushing a young frog beneath his colossal hoof.

The old Frog, the patriarch of the family, soon noticed the absence of the little one. Concerned, he turned to his remaining offspring and inquired about their missing sibling.

A chorus of tiny voices echoed back, painting a terrifying image of the tragedy. “A great giant,” cried one, “stepped on little brother with one of his enormous feet!”

“Big, was he?” The old Frog asked, puffing himself up to match the alleged size of the beast. “Was he as big as this?”

The little frogs shook their heads vehemently, their eyes wide with fear. “Oh, much bigger!” they exclaimed.

Undeterred, the old Frog puffed himself up even more. “He could not have been bigger than this,” he said defiantly. But the little frogs stood firm in their account, insisting that the beast was much, much bigger.

Frustrated and determined, the old Frog began to puff himself out more and more, trying to match the monstrous size that his children had described. His body swelled to impressive proportions, his muscles stretching and straining. Yet, he did not stop, driven by a misguided desire to show his children that no creature could ever be larger than their father.

But nature has its boundaries, and the old Frog had grossly overstepped his. In his stubborn denial and blind pursuit of supremacy, he pushed herself too far. And all at once, with a tragic pop, he burst.

The pond fell silent, save for the gentle lapping of water against the reeds. The little frogs were left in stunned silence, their lesson learnt. In their tiny hearts, they vowed never to underestimate the vastness of the world again, or the creatures that roamed it.

The Moral & the Meaning

The Frogs and the Ox is about the folly of comparing oneself to others. The original moral is that the poor man perishes when he attempts to imitate the rich or powerful. That’s the statement Aesop concluded the fable with.

I like to think there’s a second moral. It seems that the frog fell into the trap so many young men fall into. Too many “enhanced” bodybuilders perish at a young age. Perhaps had the frog stayed natural, he would have survived.

Similar Fables & Folktales

If you liked the Frogs and the Ox, you’d probably like Aesop’s other fables. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Two Wishes is another of Aesop’s lesser-known fables.
  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a classic for a reason. I think there’s more than one moral lesson to draw from it.
  • Belling the Cat is a medieval fable that’s similar enough to Aesop’s fables that people often think he wrote it.

If you want to go further beyond Aesop, I recommend The Farmer, the Snake, and the Heron. It’s an African fable with an interesting moral lesson.

Juan Artola Miranda

I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. My friends know me by the name of my father's father, but that name grew into something bigger, my writing reaching tens of millions of readers. It was too strong for me to control. Artola Miranda is the name of my mother's mother. It's a better name for a fabulist.

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