A leopard was bragging about the beauty of his spots when a fox came up saying how much more beautiful his mind was. Neither liar really won.
Liars and boasters will undo themselves.
[These versions are not exactly the same fable, but are similar enough to be included on the same page.]
Aesop For Children
A Fox and a Leopard, resting lazily after a generous dinner, amused themselves by disputing about their good looks. The Leopard was very proud of his glossy, spotted coat and made disdainful remarks about the Fox, whose appearance he declared was quite ordinary.
The Fox prided himself on his fine bushy tail with its tip of white, but he was wise enough to see that he could not rival the Leopard in looks. Still he kept up a flow of sarcastic talk, just to exercise his wits and to have the fun of disputing. The Leopard was about to lose his temper when the Fox got up, yawning lazily.
“You may have a very smart coat,” he said, “but you would be a great deal better off if you had a little more smartness inside your head and less on your ribs, the way I am. That’s what I call real beauty.”
A fine coat is not always an indication of an attractive mind.
The fox and the Leopard disputed which was the more beautiful of the two. The Leopard exhibited one by one the various spots which decorated his skin. But the Fox, interrupting him, said, “And how much more beautiful than you am I, who am decorated, not in body, but in mind.”
The Leopard one day, in the hearing of the Fox, was very loud in the praise of his own beautifully spotted skin. The Fox thereupon told him that, handsome as he might be, he considered that he himself was yet a great deal handsomer. “Your beauty is of the body,” said the Fox; “mine is of the mind.”
THE Leopard, one day, took it into his head to value himself upon the great variety and beauty of his spots, and truly he saw no reason why even the Lion should take place of him, since he could not show so beautiful a skin. As for the rest of the wild beasts of the forest, he treated them all, without distinction, in the most haughty, disdainful manner. But the Fox, being among them, went up to him with a great deal of spirit and resolution, and told him, that he was mistaken in the value he was pleased to set upon himself; since people of judgment were not used to form their opinion of merit from an outside appearance, but by considering the good qualities and endowments with which the mind was stored within.
How much more heavenly and powerful would beauty prove, if it were not so frequently impaired by the affectation and conceitedness of its possessor? If some women were but as modest and unassuming as they are handsome, they might command the hearts of all that behold them. But nature seemed to foresee, and has provided against such an inconvenience, by tempering its greatest master-pieces with a due proportion of pride and vanity: so that their power, depending upon the duration of their beauty only, is like to be but of a short continuance; which, when they happen to prove tyrants, is no small comfort to us; and then, even while it lasts, will abate much of its severity by the allay of those two prevailing ingredients. Wise men are chiefly captivated with the charms of the mind; and whenever they are infatuated with a passion for any thing else, it is generally observed that they cease, during that time at least, to be what they were; and are indeed looked upon to be only playing the fool. If the fair ones we have been speaking of have a true ascendant over them, they will oblige them to divest themselves of common sense, and to talk and act ridiculously, before they can think them worthy of the least regard. Should one of these fine creatures be addressed in the words of Juba,
‘Tis not a set of features nor complexion,
The tincture of a skin that I admire,
Beauty soon grows familiar to the lover,
Fades in his eye, and palls upon the sense.
The virtuous Marcia towers above her sex.
True, she is fair, oh, how divinely fair!
But still the lovely maid improves her charms
With inward greatness, unaffected wisdom,
And sanctity of manners.——–
The man that should venture the success of a strong passion, upon the construction she would put upon such a compliment, might have reason to repent of his conduct.
Thomas Bewick (The Leopard and The Fox)
The Leopard, one day, took it into his head to value himself upon the great variety and beauty of his spots, and truly he saw no reason why even the Lion should take place of him, since he could not shew so beautiful a skin. As for the rest of the wild beasts of the forest, he treated them all without distinction in the most haughty and disdainful manner. But the Fox being among them, went up to him with a great deal of spirit and resolution, and told him that he was mistaken in the value he was pleased to set upon himself, since people of judgment were not used to form their opinion of merit from an outside appearance, but by considering the good qualities and endowments with which the mind was stored within.
Wise men are chiefly captivated with the beauty of the mind, rather than that of the person; and whenever they are infatuated with a passion for any thing else, it is generally observed that they cease, during that time at least, to be what they were, and indeed are only considered to be playing the fool. It too often happens that women of remarkable beauty are so fully satisfied with their outward excellencies, that they totally neglect the improvement of their minds; not considering that it is only a combination of mental and personal charms that can entitle them to be ranked as Nature’s greatest ornaments. Unmindful of this, however, they are too apt to consider beauty as the only thing requisite in their sex; and since they are endowed with it in such an eminent degree, they look down with disdain on females less happy in personal charms. Beauty has undoubtedly great influence over the hearts of mankind, but when it is overrun with affectation and conceit, their admiration will soon be turned into disgust; while women of more ordinary persons, but blessed with good sense and good humour, will captivate the hearts of worthy men, and more effectually secure their constancy.
L’Estrange version (A Fox and A Crocodile)
There happen’d a contest betwixt a fox and a crocodile, upon the point of bloud and extraction. The crocodile amplify’d wonderfully upon his family, for the credit of his ancestors. Friend (says the fox, smiling upon’t) there will need no herald to prove your gentility; for you carry the marks of your original in your very skin.
Great boasters and lyars have the fortune still some way or other to disprove themselves.
Vulpes et Pardus
Vulpes et pardus de pulchritudine concertabant et, pardo suam pellem versicolorem extollente, vulpes, cum suam praeponere non possit, dicebat pardo, “At quanto ego sum speciosior et quam longe formosior, quae non corpus, sed animum versicolorem et variis notis insignem sortita sum!”