Chinese Folktales

7. The Fox and The Raven

THE fox is a past master of flattery and cunning. One day he saw a raven settling on a tree, with a piece of meat in its beak. The fox sat down under the tree, looked up to the raven and began to praise him.

‘Your colour,’ he began, ‘is pure black; that shows that you have the wisdom of Lao-tse who knows how to preserve his obscurity. The manner in which you feed your mother proves that your filial piety equals Master Chung’s solicitude for his parents. Your voice is harsh and Strong; that shows that you possess the courage of king Hsiang who turned his enemies to flight by the mere sound of his voice. You are indeed the king of birds.’

The raven was delighted to hear this and said: ‘You’re too kind! ‘

And before he knew it he had dropped the piece of meat from his opened beak.

The fox caught it, ate it up, laughed and said: ‘Remember this, my friend: Whenever anyone sings your praises without cause you may be sure he is after something.’