The Traveler and Fortune

A person slept by a well. Fortune, not wanting to be blamed for a drowning, saved the person from folly.

Everyone is more or less master of his own fate.

[Townsend uses a traveler for this fable. Other translations seem to favor a boy in place of the traveler. Also, see the similar fable The Ploughman and Fortune.]

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A traveler wearied from a long journey lay down, overcome with fatigue, on the very brink of a deep well. Just as he was about to fall into the water, Dame Fortune, it is said, appeared to him and waking him from his slumber thus addressed him: “Good Sir, pray wake up: for if you fall into the well, the blame will be thrown on me, and I shall get an ill name among mortals; for I find that men are sure to impute their calamities to me, however much by their own folly they have really brought them on themselves.”


Everyone is more or less master of his own fate.

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall (Fortune and the Boy)

Croxall - Fortune and the BoyA BOY was sleeping by the side of a well. Fortune saw him, and came and waked him: saying, Prithee, good Child, do not lie sleeping here; for if you should fall in, nobody would impute it to you, but lay all the blame upon me, Fortune.


Poor Fortune has a great deal thrown upon her indeed; and oftentimes very unjustly too. Those of our actions which are attended with success, though often owing to some accident or other, we ascribe, without any scruple, to some particular merit or good quality in ourselves; but when any of our doings miscarry, though probably through our own insufficiency or neglect, all the ill consequences is imputed to Fortune, and we acquit ourselves of having contributed any thing towards it. The silliest part of each sex, when they dispose of themselves indiscreetly or disadvantageously in marriage, and have nothing else to say in excuse, cry out, O there is a fate in every thing, and there is no resisting fate, &c. But these people should take notice, that, as they have a very good proverb on their side, in relation to fortune already, it is highly unreasonable in them to claim more than their share, and to ascribe the ill success of their own foolish negociations to the management of fortune. Probably, the first occasion of confining the smiles of fortune to people of this stamp more particularly, might arise from the improbability of their succeeding by any art or right application of their own. And, therefore, by an opposite rule, the wise and industrious only should be entitled to ill luck, and have it in their power to charge fortune with every loss and cross which befals them: for if, when they have concerted their measures judiciously, and been vigilant and active in their business, matters refuse still to answer expection, they must be allowed to have very hard fortune: but fools have not the least right to take hold of this handle.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection (Fortune and The Boy)

A little Boy quite tired out with play, stretched out, and fell sound asleep close to the edge of a deep well. Fortune came by, and gently waking him said, “My dear Boy, believe me, I have saved your life. If you had fallen in, everybody would have laid the blame on me; but tell me truly, now, would the fault have been yours or mine?”

Crane Poetry VisualCrane Poetry Visual (Fortune and The Boy)

Fortune and Boy

A Boy heedless slept by the well
By Dame Fortune awaked, truth to tell.
Said she, “Hadst been drowned,
‘T would have surely been found
This by Fortune, not Folly befel.”

Fortune is not answerable for our want of foresight.

Fables de La Fontainede La Fontaine (La Fortune et le jeune Enfant)

Fontaine-Fortune and ChildSur le bord d’un puits très profond
Dormoit, étendu de son long,
Un enfant alors dans ses classes:
Tout est aux écoliers couchette et matelas.
Un honnête homme, en pareil cas,
Auroit fait un saut de vingt brasses.
Près de là, tout heureusement,
La Fortune passa, l’éveilla doucement,
Lui disant: Mon mignon, je vous sauve la vie;
Soyez une autre fois plus sage, je vous prie.
Si vous fussiez tombé, l’on s’en fût pris à moi;
Cependant c’étoit votre faute.
Je vous demande, en bonne foi,
Si cette imprudence si haute
Provient de mon caprice. Elle part à ces mots.
Pour moi, j’approuve son propos.
Il n’arrive rien dans le monde
Qu’il ne faille qu’elle en réponde:
Nous la faisons de tous écots;
Elle est prise à garant de toutes aventures.
Est-on sot, étourdi, prend-on mal ses mesures;
On pense en être quitte en accusant son sort:
Bref, la Fortune a toujours tort.

1001Fortuna et Puer

Dormienti puero super os putei fertur astitisse Fortunam eumque excitasse dicendo, “Exsurge, O iuvenis, et abi hinc ocius. Novi enim genium hominum et tuum, quod si in puteum labereris, non te aut tuam secordiam, sed Fortunam incusabitis.”

Perry #174