The Crow and The Pitcher

A thirsty crow wanted water from a pitcher. He filled it with pebbles to raise the water level to drink. Clever!

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Aesop For ChildrenAesop For Children

Crow and Pitcher

Milo Winter (1919)

In a spell of dry weather, when the Birds could find very little to drink, a thirsty Crow found a pitcher with a little water in it. But the pitcher was high and had a narrow neck, and no matter how he tried, the Crow could not reach the water. The poor thing felt as if he must die of thirst.

Then an idea came to him. Picking up some small pebbles, he dropped them into the pitcher one by one. With each pebble the water rose a little higher until at last it was near enough so he could drink.


In a pinch a good use of our wits may help us out.

Eliot-JacobsEliot/Jacobs Version

A Crow, half-dead with thirst, came upon a Pitcher which had once been full of water; but when the Crow put its beak into the mouth of the Pitcher he found that only very little water was left in it, and that he could not reach far enough down to get at it. He tried, and he tried, but at last had to give up in despair. Then a thought came to him, and he took a pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher. At last, at last, he saw the water mount up near him, and after casting in a few more pebbles he was able to quench his thirst and save his life.


Little by little does the trick.

Taylor RhymesJefferys Taylor

Taylor - Crow and Pitcher 0095You must know, that a crow
Felt inclin’d, when she’d dined,
For some drink, being thirsty and hot;
But puddle or pool, her fever to cool.
Within twenty miles there was not

Then said she, “Woe is me!
Surely I must soon die,”
When lo! she espied, at a distance,
A pitcher or jug, alias pipkin or mug,
Which promised the needed assistance.

A propos” said the crow,
“Now I think I shall drink,

And I shall be there in a minute;”
But alas! for the bird, still her draught was deferr’d,
For scarcely a cup-full was in it.

“How provoking! I’m choaking!”
Said she; “but let’s see!

Sure I’ve thought of a project to gain it;
With stones from my bill the deep jug I will fill;
Then the water will rise, till my thirst it supplies.”
—She did so, and so did obtain it.

Had this two-legged thing been as stupid as many,
Though dying for drink she would not have got any;
For the good that in life one most commonly gains,
Arrives not by luck, but by using one’s brains.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Crow and Pitcher

Ernest Griset (1874)

A Crow, ready to die with thirst, flew with joy to a Pitcher hoping to find some water in it. He found some there, to be sure, but only a little drop at the bottom, which he was quite unable to reach. He then tried to overturn the Pitcher, but it was too heavy. So he gathered up some pebbles, with which the ground near was covered, and, taking them one by one in his beak, dropped them into the Pitcher. By this means the water gradually reached the top, and he was able to drink at his case.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A crow perishing with thirst saw a pitcher, and hoping to find water, flew to it with delight. When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could think of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain. At last he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the water within his reach and thus saved his life.


Necessity is the mother of invention.

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall

Croxall - Crow and PitcherA CROW, ready to die with thirst, flew with joy to a Pitcher, which he beheld at some distance. When he came, he found water in it indeed, but so near the bottom, that with all his stooping and straining, he was not able to reach it. Then he endeavoured to overturn the Pitcher, that so at least he might be able to get a little of it. But his strength was not sufficient for this. At last, seeing some pebbles lie near the place, he cast them one by one into the Pitcher; and this, by degrees, raised the water up to the very brim, and satisfied his thirst.


Many things which cannot be effected by strength or by the vulgar way of enterprising, may yet be brought about by some new and untried means. A man of sagacity and penetration, upon encountering a difficulty or two, does not immediately despair; but if he cannot succeed one way, employs his wit and ingenuity another; and, to avoid or get over an impediment, makes no scruple of stepping out of the path of his forefathers. Since our happiness, next to the regulation of our minds, depends altogether upon our having and enjoying the conveniences of life, why should we stand upon ceremony about the methods of obtaining them, or pay any deference to antiquity upon that score? If almost every age had not exerted itself in some new improvements of its own, we should want a thousand arts, or at least many degrees of perfection in every art, which at present we are in possession of. The invention of any thing which is more commodious for the mind or body, than what they had before, ought to be embraced readily, and the projector of it distinguished with a suitable encouragement. Such as the use of the compass, for example, from which mankind reaps much benefit and advantage, and which was not known to former ages. When we follow the steps of those who have gone before us in the old beaten track of life, how do we differ from horses in a team, which are linked to each other by a chain or harness, and move on in a dull heavy pace, to the tune of their leader’s bells? But the man who enriches the present fund of knowledge with some new and useful improvement, like a happy adventurer at sea, discovers, as it were, unknown land, and improves an additional trade into his own country.

Crane Poetry VisualCrane Poetry Visual

Crow and Pitcher

How the cunning old Crow got his drink
When ’twas low in the pitcher, just think!
Don’t say that he spilled it!
With pebbles he filled it,
Till the water rose up to the brink.

Use your wits.

1001Cornix et Urna

Sitibunda cornix reperit urnam aqua plenam, sed erat urna profundior quam ut exhauri a cornice possit. Conatur igitur vano molimine aquam effundere, sed non valet. Lectos igitur ex arena lapillulos iniectat. Hoc modo aqua levatur et cornix bibit.


Necessitas est ingenii mater.

Perry #390