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1919 illustration by Milo Winter

The Ant and the Grasshopper, also known as The Grasshopper and the Ant or The Grasshopper and the Ants, is a fable attributed to Aesop, providing a moral lesson about hard work and preparation. In the numbering system established for Aesopic fables by B. E. Perry, it is number 373.[1] The fable has been retold or adapted in a number of modern works.

In its Greek original, as well as in its Latin and Romance translations, the grasshopper is in fact a cicada.

The story has sometimes been cited as an example of a Libertarian society.[2]

Contents

Synopsis

The fable concerns a grasshopper who has spent the warm months singing away while the ant (or ants in some editions) worked to store up food for winter. When winter arrives, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger, and upon asking the ant for food is only rebuked for its idleness. The story is used to teach the virtues of hard work and saving, and the perils of improvidence. Some versions of the fable state a moral at the end, along the lines of: "Idleness brings want", "To work today is to eat tomorrow is best to prepare for the days of necessity".

Ancient versions

Versions of the fable are found in the verse collections of Babrius (140) and Avianus (34), and in several prose collections including those attributed to Syntipas and Apthonius. In a variant prose form of the fable (Perry 112), the lazy animal is a dung beetle, which finds that the winter rains wash away the dung on which it feeds.

Consider also the Book of Proverbs 6:6-9, a book of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), which admonishes, "Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard!"

Modern versions

  • La Fontaine retold the story in a well known version of the 17th century.
  • "Happier" versions of the fable show the ants taking pity and giving the grasshopper some food, on the premise that turning the grasshopper away in his time of need is also morally questionable. A prime example is the 1934 animated short subject produced by Walt Disney. The Queen of the Ants decrees that the grasshopper may stay in the ant colony, but he must play his fiddle in return for his room and board. He agrees to this arrangement, and the ant tunnels become a grand ballroom where all the ants happily dance to the music of the grasshopper, who finally learns that he needs to make himself useful. Notably, this short introduced the song "The World Owes Me a Livin'", which would later become a signature tune for Goofy (Pinto Colvig, the original voice of Goofy, voices the grasshopper in this version).
  • Disney also adapted the story, less directly, in the Mickey's Young Readers Library segment Mickey and the Big Storm; in this adaptation, Donald Duck and Goofy spend the first day of a winter snowstorm playing out in the snow and don't bother to stock up on supplies. Fortunately for them, Mickey has more than enough supplies for himself and his friends.
  • The Timon and Pumbaa episode "Wide Awake in Wonderland" featured a parody of the story with Timon in the role of the grasshopper and Pumbaa as the ant.
  • Friz Freleng twice put a spin on the tale in his Warner Bros. cartoons. Porky's Bear Facts depicts Porky Pig working hard while his lazy neighbor refuses to do anything, only to suffer during winter. Foney Fables shows a brief version of the story, in which it turns out that the grasshopper has a war ration card and thus doesn't need to work.
  • In the film Things Change, Don Ameche recalls an alternate version where the grasshopper eats the ant in the end.
  • Elements of the fable were loosely adapted as part of the storyline of the Pixar film A Bug's Life. In this instance, though, there are multiple grasshoppers, and they act as Mafia-like tyrants who demand a tribute of food from the ant colony, even though the ants within far outnumber the grasshoppers.
  • The Ant and the Grasshopper was made into a song by Leon Rosselson in the 1970s. Rosselson's version reverses the intent of Aesop, using the story to rebuke the ant(and those humans with his mindset)for heartless unwillingness in letting their fellow creatures die of want and for not respecting the beauty the grasshopper brought to life in the dances he created and the love of the world he demonstrated.
  • Author Toni Morrison's 2003 children's book Who's Got Game?: The Ant or the Grasshopper? gives a new spin to the old fable, provoking a discussion about the importance of art. The grasshopper represents the artisan.
  • Villa Alegre had a bilingual animated version of the fable, with a Spanish speaking female ant and a swinging English speaking grasshopper.
  • The Leo Lionni book Frederick touches upon similar issues of art versus pragmatic preparation for hard times.
  • The song "Stalker" by the Japanese band The Pillows alludes briefly to the fable, in a line that can be translated as "A rocker working like an ant/ Are you harvesting for the winter?".
  • In the Futurama episode My Three Suns, Fry recounts the story of The Grasshopper and the Octopus as a rationalization for laziness: "All year long the grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns. And also, he got a racecar. Isn't any of this getting through to you?"
  • Lee and Herring parodied the fable on their series Fist of Fun. Richard Herring references the fable to illustrate his diligence in writing the script while Stewart Lee lazily avoids work. Lee then recites his amended fable, "The Ant and the Man", which demonstrates that tales involving animals have no bearing on human behaviour since humans are capable of rational thought and not just natural instinct.
  • The 5 November 2006 episode of Jong-Cherl Yeon's comic-book format diary, Marineblues, featured an alternate version of this fable in which the price of the grasshopper's house rises by 300 million Won after three years of lazing about, and the ant only earns 3 million Won despite working hard for three years.
  • A modern satirical version of the story, in circulation since at least 2002, has the grasshopper calling a press conference at the beginning of the winter to complain about socio-economic inequity, and being given the ant's house. This version was written in 1994 by Pittsburgh talk show guru, Jim Quinn.[3] Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin also updated the story in connection with the proposed 2008 banking rescue package.[4]
  • W. Somerset Maugham wrote a short story, published in 1960, titled "The Ant and The Grasshopper". It concerns two brothers, one of whom is a hard worker, and the other a dissolute moocher. At the end of the story, the "grasshopper" brother marries a rich widow, who promptly dies and leaves him a fortune.
  • An episode of Super Why! reworks the tale, having the Ant tell the Grasshopper that there is food atop a tall mountain, and showing the grasshopper how to get there. However, when the Grasshopper arrives, a cricket has taken the last of the food. In keeping with the Super Why! format, the "Super Readers" change the story, and the Grasshopper is then given Winterberry seeds, which grow into a holly bush resplendent with berries. The plot serves to teach a central Super Why character the value of early preparation.
  • Satirist Dave Barry has a version that ends with both the grasshopper and the ants being killed by passing Boy Scouts.
  • A strip of the webcomic Apokalips by Mike Gioia features a parody of the Ant and the Grasshopper.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Ben Edwin Perry (1965). Babrius and Phaedrus. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 487, no. 373. ISBN 0-674-99480-9.  
  2. ^ http://www.boogieonline.com/revolution/politics/activism/gifts.html Libertarian themed stories, Young Children 5-9
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]

External links








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