The Elephant and the Ass



The ass is known as a stubborn creature but he has a greater vice to wit stubbornness but a byproduct. The root of his stubbornness is laziness.

There was once an ass as crafty as any serpent. He had a great head for business so he and his herd settled in a fertile plain to grow crops where the horses and elephants graze.


Ass knew he had to find a way to get others to toil, sow and harvest on his herd’s behalf. Help could be hired and there were plenty hard working horses in need of work. But hiring help would cost more hay than he was willing to part with and would, frankly, be too honest. The asses could subdue the locals and force them into slavery but war was far too noble and brave an occupation for an ass. Besides, the last thing the asses wanted was to have elephants as combatants.

Ass had to use the assets he had acquired in his thrift to free himself from any form of toil. Considering his assets he realized that he possessed something that negated the need of any virtues; this great asset was wealth. With it, asses can avoid war, labor and procure for themselves even greater wealth. With wealth, you see, there is then no need of trivial things like bravery, honesty, nobility.

Therefore, with a fraction of what it would cost to maintain a staff of draft horses, Ass enlisted the lions to go into the next valley and capture some hippos for slaves. “Without sharp tooth or claw,” the Ass explained, “they should make manageable slaves.”

The pride took the first installment of their pay and set out to track down hippos. The first hippo they captured was the chief of his heard and about as shrewd and subtle as Ass.

“Don’t take us for slaves!” The chief persuaded. “We are far too clumsy for work out of the water.”

“I care nothing of your abilities.” Said the Lion.

“Why don’t you allow us to fill Ass’s order for you?” argued the Hippo. “We have cousins that are far better suited for work in the field. We will capture our cousins and sell them to you. You can sit in the shade and fill Ass’s order without lifting a claw.”

Hippo had well appealed to Lion’s own desire to reap where he has not sown. So Lion agreed.

“They must be without sharp tooth or claw!” added Lion as Hippo was released.

Hippo made swift reply, “Yes! Our cousins are as strong as we and more sure footed on land. Neither do they have sharp tooth or claw!”

The pride of lions returned to the herd of asses with news of the arrangement and an assurance, “The hippos will deliver or be delivered!”

After a few days, the hippos came bearing their cousins to the lions. The Lion looked them over and laughed, “Well, they are all you said they would be! No claw or sharp tooth; strong and sure footed. You hippos have kept your bargain.”

Soon thereafter, the pride of snickering lions delivered the slaves to their new masters. Ass came out to inspect his new possession. There was a moment of silent shock broken only by the giggles of the pride. With reserved aggravation, Ass addressed the Lion, “Did no one notice the three foot horns atop his head?”

“Claws or Teeth. Those were your words!” rebutted Lion with a growl that dared Ass to offer further objection.

Ass was too cowardly to argue so he turned over the final potions of the lion’s share.

The asses filed away at the rhino’s horns but could not file away their nobility. They broke the rhinos’ wills but could never break their spirit.

One day the heard of stately elephants returned from a distant watering hole and saw the rhinos working the fields.

“What are you rhinos doing in our valley?” asked Elephant.

“Working the asses’ fields.”

“That is no work for you.” Elephant replied. “And these are not his fields. How much does Ass pay you?”

“We are his slaves.” Rhino answered.

“A rhino should never be enslaved; especially to an ass!” asserted Elephant.

With this the stately elephants began to stomp, march and trumpet. Soon, the rhinos and horses joined in until their marching sounded like thunder and the earth quaked exceedingly.

When the asses heard the commotion they hid themselves in the linen closets of their homes. The elephants demanded they come out, however, or they would trample down their homes.

Though the asses feared the mobs they did not want to lose their homes. They mustered the courage to come out. But some of them hid themselves under the white sheets of their linen closets as they came.

“Freedom! Freedom!” The stampede demanded.

“They are our property!” Ass answered. “We paid for them!”

“Let’s trample down their crops!” shouted Elephant.

“This is unjust! The fields are our livelihood!” Ass pleaded.

It was then that Elephant named their terms. “Free the rhinos and we will leave you your wealth!”

The asses acquiesced and liberated the rhinos. The rhinos remained in the valley, however, and this produced a great imbalance. With elephants, asses, horses and rhinos all grazing in the same grassland, food became scarce. Eventually they all became beholding to Ass’ wealth.

“Here me horses and rhinos!” Ass shouted. “It is the titan appetites of the elephants that brought us to this famine! We asses are doing the best we can to ration the wealth of the plain. If you would stand with us we can compel the elephants to give us half of every tree the fall! We Asses will distribute to you their labor!”

The beasts of the valley consented with one accord. The rhinos and horses joined with the asses to coerce the elephants into giving half their wealth to the dependent herds.

So it was that Ass found a new way to enslave the rhinos and all others who yielded their minds to his cunning. The elephants were also enslaved by the consensus of the majority.