A small act of kindness is often received with enormous gratitude, as this fable teaches.
A lion once lay sleeping in the forest when a group of mice were frolicking merrily. One fell on the lion causing him to awake abruptly. The lion snatched the poor mouse enraged. But the mouse cried, “Spare my life!” for he hadn’t strayed near the sleeping lion intentionally. He had been playing with the other mice and they had all quite forgotten themselves. The lion reflected and came to the conclusion that a small imposition from a little mouse was nothing to get excited about, so he let the creature go. The mouse promptly ran away in gratitude.
A few days later the lion fell into the net of a hunter. When he realized his end was near, he roared and bellowed and howled. Soon, the little mouse heard him, came running and gazed on the accident that had befallen the lion. But when the mouse recognized the lion he said “I will reward your prior kindness to me.” And he immediately began to gnaw on the ropes and break the knots of the netting, so that the lion was soon free and could return to the forest.
Aesop’s Fable No. 19: Tale of the Viper and the File
Moral: This fable teaches caution in handling sharp-toothed objects.
A hungry viper went to a smithy’s forge, where he found a sharp-toothed file, which he promptly began to gnaw upon. The file spoke to the little snake: “Oh you silly one! What are you doing? Do you want to ruin your teeth completely? Don’t you know that I, with my sharp little teeth, can destroy the strongest, hardest iron? And you want to gnaw on me? One can only laugh at such false starts!
(Pablo Picasso, Weeping Woman with Handkerchief, 1937)
Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 150: The Old Beggar Woman
There once lived an old woman, surely you have seen this type of person begging?
When the old woman went out crying for alms, if she received something, she said to her benefactor, “May God give you your just reward.” Now the beggar woman arrived at the door of a rapscallion, a young chap warming himself by the fire. The fellow greeted the woman friendly enough and asked why the woman stood at the door shivering. “Come here, old mother and warm your bones.” She approached the fire but came too close so that her old rags began to burn, but she did not notice what had happened. The youth stood quietly, and saw it all. He should have done something! Even if he didn’t have any water, then he should have cried bitter tears so forcefully, that two watery streams flowed from his eyes to quench the fire.