The Bat, Birds, and The Beasts

A Bat could not choose sides in a potential war. When peace came, neither side would accept him.

He that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends.

Eliot-JacobsEliot/Jacobs Version

A great conflict was about to come off between the Birds and the Beasts. When the two armies were collected together the Bat hesitated which to join. The Birds that passed his perch said: “Come with us”; but he said: “I am a Beast.”

Later on, some Beasts who were passing underneath him looked up and said: “Come with us”; but he said: “I am a Bird.”

Luckily at the last moment peace was made, and no battle took place, so the Bat came to the Birds and wished to join in the rejoicings, but they all turned against him and he had to fly away. He then went to the Beasts, but soon had to beat a retreat, or else they would have torn him to pieces. “Ah,” said the Bat, “I see now, “He that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends.”

Aesop For ChildrenAesop For Children

The Birds and the Beasts declared war against each other. No compromise was possible, and so they went at it tooth and claw. It is said the quarrel grew out of the persecution the race of Geese suffered at the teeth of the Fox family. The Beasts, too, had cause for fight. The Eagle was constantly pouncing on the Hare, and the Owl dined daily on Mice.

It was a terrible battle. Many a Hare and many a Mouse died. Chickens and Geese fell by the score—and the victor always stopped for a feast.

Now the Bat family had not openly joined either side. They were a very politic race. So when they saw the Birds getting the better of it, they were Birds for all there was in it. But when the tide of battle turned, they immediately sided with the Beasts.

When the battle was over, the conduct of the Bats was discussed at the peace conference. Such deceit was unpardonable, and Birds and Beasts made common cause to drive out the Bats. And since then the Bat family hides in dark towers and deserted ruins, flying out only in the night.


The deceitful have no friends.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

The birds waged war with the Beasts, and each were by turns the conquerors. A Bat, fearing the uncertain issues of the fight, always fought on the side which he felt was the strongest. When peace was proclaimed, his deceitful conduct was apparent to both combatants. Therefore being condemned by each for his treachery, he was driven forth from the light of day, and henceforth concealed himself in dark hiding-places, flying always alone and at night.

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall (The Birds, the Beast, and the Bat)

Croxall - Birds, Beast and BatONCE upon a time, there commenced a fierce war between the Birds and the Beasts; when the Bat, taking advantage of his ambiguous make, hoped, by that means, to live secure in a state of neutrality, and save his bacon. It was not long before the forces on each side met, and gave a battle; and, their animosities running very high, a bloody slaughter ensued. The Bat, at the beginning of the day, thinking the birds most likely to carry it, listed himself among them; but kept fluttering at a little distance, that he might the better observe, and take his measures accordingly. However, after some time spent in the action, the army of the beasts seeming to prevail, he went entirely over to them, and endeavoured to convince them, by the affinity which he had to a Mouse, that he was by nature a Beast and would always continue firm and true to their interest. His plea was admitted, but, in the end, the advantage turning completely on the side of the Birds, under the admirable conduct and courage of their general, the Eagle; the Bat, to save his life, and escape the disgrace of falling into the hands of his deserted friends, betook himself to flight: and ever since, skulking in caves and hollow trees all day, as if ashamed to show himself, he never appears till the dusk of the evening, when all the feathered inhabitants of the air are gone to roost.


Whittingham - Birds, Beasts and Bat

C. Whittingham (1814)

For any one to desert the interest ef his country, and turn renegade, either out of fear, or any prospect of advantage, is so notoriously vile and low, that it is no wonder if the man, who is detected in it, is for ever ashamed to see the sun, and to show himself in the eyes of those whose cause he has betrayed. Yet, as there is scarce any vice, even to be imagined, but there may be found men who have been guilty of it, perhaps there have been as many criminals in the case before us, as in any one particular besides, notwithstanding the aggravation and extraordinary degree of its baseness. We cannot help reflecting upon it with horror; but, as truly detestable as this vice is, and must be acknowledged to be by all mankind, so far as those that practise it from being treated with a just resentment by the rest of mankind, that, by the kind reception they afterwards meet with, they rather seem to be encouraged and applauded, than despised and discountenanced for it.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Once upon a time a fierce war was waged between the Birds and the Beasts. The Bat at first fought on the side of the Birds, but later on in the day the tide of battle ran so much in favour of the Beasts, that he changed 0ver, and fought on the other side. Owing mainly, however, to the admirable conduct and courage of the Eagle, the tide once more and finally turned in favour of the Birds. The Bat, to save his life and escape the shame of falling into the hands of his deserted friends fled, and has ever since; skulked in caves and hollow trees, coming out only in the dusk, when the Birds are gone to roost.

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

Upon a desperate and doubtful battel betwixt the birds and the beasts, the bat stood neuter, ’till she found that the beasts had the better on’t, and then went over to the stronger side. But it came to pass afterward (as the chance of war is various) that the birds rally’d their broken troups, and carry’d the day; and away she went then to t’other party, where she was try’d by a council of war as a deserter; stript, banish’d, and finally condemn’d never to see daylight again.


Trimming in some cases, is foul, and dishonest; in others, laudable; and in some again, not only honest, but necessary. The nicety lies in the skill of distinguishing upon cases, times, and degrees.

Crane Poetry VisualCrane Poetry Visual


Beast or Bird

A Beast he would be, or a bird,
As might suit, thought the Bat: but he erred.
When the battle was done,
He found that no one
Would take him for friend at his word.

Between two stools you may come to the ground.

1001Vespertilio Perfidus

Bellum gerebant volucres cum quadrupedibus, et fortuna belli erat diu anceps, modo his, modo illis victoriam reportantibus. Vespertilio, qui securitatem fidei anteponebat, ad eas quae superaverant se conferebat; inter aves avem se esse profitebatur, inter quadrupedes murem. Cum pacem fecissent aves et quadrupedes, fraus utrique generi apparuit; damnatus igitur ab utrisque refugit, atque ex eo tempore noctu tantummodo evolabat.

Perry #566