The Gnat and The Lion

A Gnat boasted he beat a Lion by stinging his face while the Lion tore his skin trying to get at the Gnat. Later the Gnat got caught in a web and was eaten.

No matter how you brag, you can be undone.

Aesop For ChildrenAesop For Children

Lion and Gnat

Milo Winter (1919)

“Away with you, vile insect!” said a Lion angrily to a Gnat that was buzzing around his head. But the Gnat was not in the least disturbed.

“Do you think,” he said spitefully to the Lion, “that I am afraid of you because they call you king?”

The next instant he flew at the Lion and stung him sharply on the nose. Mad with rage, the Lion struck fiercely at the Gnat, but only succeeded in tearing himself with his claws. Again and again the Gnat stung the Lion, who now was roaring terribly. At last, worn out with rage and covered with wounds that his own teeth and claws had made, the Lion gave up the fight.

The Gnat buzzed away to tell the whole world about his victory, but instead he flew straight into a spider’s web. And there, he who had defeated the King of beasts came to a miserable end, the prey of a little spider.


The least of our enemies is often the most to be feared.

Pride over a success should not throw us off our guard.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A gnat came and said to a Lion, “I do not in the least fear you, nor are you stronger than I am. For in what does your strength consist? You can scratch with your claws and bite with your teeth as a woman in her quarrels. I repeat that I am altogether more powerful than you; and if you doubt it, let us fight and see who will conquer.” The Gnat, having sounded his horn, fastened himself upon the Lion and stung him on the nostrils and the parts of the face devoid of hair. While trying to crush him, the Lion tore himself with his claws, until he punished himself severely. The Gnat thus prevailed over the Lion, and, buzzing about in a song of triumph, flew away. But shortly afterwards he became entangled in the meshes of a cobweb and was eaten by a spider. He greatly lamented his fate, saying, “Woe is me! that I, who can wage war successfully with the hugest beasts, should perish myself from this spider, the most inconsiderable of insects!”

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

A lively and impudent Gnat was daring enough to attack a Lion, whom he so enraged by stinging the most sensitive parts of his nose, eyes, and ears, that the beast. roared in anguish, and, maddened with pain, tore himself cruelly with his claws. All the attempts of the Lion to crush the Gnat were in vain, and the insect returned again and again to the charge. At last the poor beast lay exhausted and bleeding upon the ground. The Gnat, hovering over the spot, and sounding a tiny trumpet note of triumph, happened to come in the way of the delicate web of a Spieler, which, slight as it was, was enough to stop him in his career. His efforts to escape only fixed him more firmly in the toils, and he who had vanquished the Lion became the prey of the Spider.

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

As a lyon was blustering in the forrest, up comes a gnat to his very beard, and enters into an expostulation with him upon the points of honour and courage. What do I value your teeth, or your claws, says the gnat, that are but the arms of every bedlam slut? As to the matter of resolution; I defy ye to put that point immediately to an issue. So the trumpet sounded and the combatants enter’d the lists. The gnat charged into the nostrils of the Iyon, and there twing’d him, till he made him tear himself with his own paws. And in the conclusion he master’d the lyon. Upon this, a retreat was sounded, and the gnat flew his way: but by ill-hap afterward, in his flight, he struck into a cobweb, where the victor fell a prey to a spider. This disgrace went to the heart of him, after he had got the better of a lyon to be worsted by an insect.


‘Tis in the power of fortune to humble the pride of the mighty, even by the most despicable means, and to make a gnat triumph over a lyon: wherefore let no creature, how great or how little soever, presume on the one side, or despair on the other.

1001Culex et Leo

Culex ad leonem volat, et leoni ita dicit, “Ego te non timeo. Tu non fortior es quam ego. Quid est tuum robur? Tu laceras unguibus; tu mordes dentibus; hoc quoque femina facit. Nos hic pugnabimus. Ego victor ero!” Culex tuba signum pugnae dat; tum proelium committunt. Culex nares leonis pungit. Circa nares cutis est tenera, nullae enim comae ibi sunt; hic culex vulnera dat. Vulnera leonem angunt. Leo unguibus suos nares dilaniat. Dolor leonem vincit. Tandem clementiam rogat et victoriam culici dat. Inde culex victor avolat. Sed araneae vincula fugam impediunt, et aranea victorem comedit. Culex haec extrema verba edit, “Heu! Ego regem animalium vici, nunc me vilissimum animal devorat?”

Perry #255