For thousands of years, people have been sharing Aesop’s fables to prove a point or teach a moral. Find our favorite tales to share with students, plus get ideas and free printable Aesop’s fables for the classroom!
Get the full text of each fable as a free printable to use with your students by filling out the form.
What are Aesop’s fables?
According to legend, Aesop was an enslaved man living in Greece around 600 BCE. He was famed as a storyteller and shared dozens of short tales with listeners, each with a moral message about right and wrong or explaining some facet of human behavior. For a long time, Aesop’s fables were passed on as part of oral tradition. Eventually, the fables were written down, with new ones added that had become part of the collection.
Many of Aesop’s fables use animals as the main characters, making these tales especially relatable to children. They’re also very short, usually making their point in just a paragraph or two. Some of the morals don’t hold up as well today, especially those about “knowing your place” or “not trying to be friends with your betters.” But most are still applicable to our current society, and so these fables live on.
How can teachers use Aesop’s fables in the classroom?
There are many ways to use Aesop’s fables with your students, no matter what age. For younger students, they make excellent short reading passages. You can use them to teach sequencing, reading comprehension, and more reading skills.
You can do a lot more with these tales, though. Try some of these ideas:
- Guess the moral: Read the story with students, and have them identify the moral.
- Act them out: Have students write a short skit and act out one of Aesop’s fables for the class.
- Give examples: Try to find real-life examples of stories or experiences that have similar morals.
- Write a story: Tell another short story with the same moral.
- Points of view: Rewrite a fable from another character’s point of view, and see if it changes the moral of the story.
- Compose a poem: Turn a fable into a poem, or even a song.
- Debate the moral: Ask students to decide whether the moral is still relevant in today’s world.
- Extend the story: Use the fable as a starting point, and write a longer story fleshing out the characters and their experiences.
- Examine the characters: Look at the animals chosen as characters in a specific fable. Would the story change if the animals were different?
- Illustrate the fable: Draw a picture to go along with the story.
- Create a comic strip: Illustrate the fable as a graphic story in several panels.
- Try a STEM challenge: Use stories like “The Crow and the Pitcher,” “The Bundle of Sticks,” or “Belling the Cat” to design a STEM challenge for students.
List of Aesop’s Fables for the Classroom
Here’s a selection of some the most popular of Aesop’s fables, ones that have stood the test of time with morals that are still relevant today. For the full text of Aesop’s fables, visit the links and grab the free printables!
The Fox and the Grapes
Moral: We often belittle what we cannot have.
When a fox is unable to reach some beautiful grapes hanging from a high branch, he consoles himself by saying the grapes were probably sour anyway. (This is why we say it’s “sour grapes” when someone is bitter about something they don’t have.)
Get the printable: The Fox and the Grapes
The Lion and the Mouse
Moral: It always pays to be kind.
A lion spares a mouse’s life in exchange for the mouse’s promise to help the lion if he’s ever in trouble. Later, the mouse finds the lion caught in a trap and frees him by chewing on the ropes.
Get the printable: The Lion and the Mouse
The Owl and the Grasshopper
Moral: Don’t be taken in by insincere flattery.
A sleepy owl is irritated by a singing grasshopper who refuses to quiet down. She praises his singing and lures him in, then gobbles him up.
Get the printable: The Owl and the Grasshopper
The Thirsty Crow
Moral: A little thought can help solve almost any problem.
A crow wishes to drink water from a pitcher, but the water is too low and the opening too narrow. So the crow drops in pebbles until the water reaches the top, and then takes a drink.
Get the printable: The Thirsty Crow
The Tortoise and the Hare
Moral: Slow and steady wins the race.
When a tortoise challenges a hare to a race, the hare is sure he’ll win by a mile. But the overconfident hare lies down to take a nap, and the tortoise passes him by.
Get the printable: The Tortoise and the Hare
The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Moral: People who deceive may come to harm through their own lies.
When a wolf dresses as a sheep to lure away trusting lambs, he finds himself in trouble when the shepherd mistakes him for a sheep.
Get the printable: The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
The Dog and His Reflection
Moral: When you’re greedy, you can lose what you already have.
A dog carrying a bone sees his reflection in the water. He thinks he sees a dog with a bigger bone and jumps into the water to get it, losing the bone he already had.
Get the printable: The Dog and His Reflection
The Fox and the Crow
Moral: Beware of insincere flattery.
A fox tricks a crow into dropping a delicious piece of cheese by flattering her until she starts to sing.
Get the printable: The Fox and the Crow
The Bundle of Sticks
Moral: There is strength in numbers.
A man challenges his quarreling sons to break single sticks, which is easy, or a bundle of sticks all at once, which none of them is able to do.
Get the printable: The Bundle of Sticks
Belling the Cat
Moral: Coming up with a good idea may be easy, but putting it into action is much harder.
A group of mice brainstorm ways to outsmart a cat. One mouse suggests hanging a bell around the cat’s neck so they can hear it coming, but no one wants to volunteer for the job.
Get the printable: Belling the Cat
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
Moral: It’s better to live simply and safely than to take great risks for things you don’t need.
A town mouse looks down on a country mouse for her simple life. When the country mouse comes to town, she finds fancier food, but there’s danger around every corner.
Get the printable: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
The Ants and the Grasshopper
Moral: There’s a time for work and a time for play.
A grasshopper mocks a group of ants for storing away food instead of playing in the summer sun. But the ants know the grasshopper will be sorry come winter.
Get the printable: The Ants and the Grasshopper
The Two Goats
Moral: Don’t let stubbornness lead you into misfortune.
Two goats refuse to take turns crossing a narrow log over a chasm, and instead meet in the middle and fall into the roaring stream far below.
Get the printable: The Two Goats
The Hungry Heron
Moral: Don’t be too picky, or you might not get anything at all.
A heron refuses to eat any smaller fish, holding out for a huge one. But then they all swim away, leaving him with nothing.
Get the printable: The Heron
The Fox and the Goat
Moral: Look before you leap.
A fox falls into a well, then tricks a goat into jumping in too. The fox jumps on the goat’s back and escapes, leaving the goat behind.
Get the printable: The Fox and the Goat
The Boy and the Filbert Nuts
Moral: Don’t attempt to do too much at once.
A boy tries to get nuts from a container, but grabs too many and can’t get his fist out because it’s too full of nuts.
Get the printable: The Boy and the Filbert Nuts
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Moral: If you lie, you might not be believed even when you tell the truth.
A shepherd boy tricks the villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking the sheep. When the wolf actually does show up, the villagers ignore his real cries for help.
Get the printable: The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Sheep and the Pig
Moral: It’s easy to be brave when you’re not in real danger.
A group of sheep make fun of a squealing pig being carried away, but the pig points out that he’s going to the butcher, while the sheep are only carried off to be sheared.
Get the printable: The Sheep and the Pig
The Boys and the Frogs
Moral: What’s fun for you might hurt someone else.
A group of boys skipping stones across a pond are surprised when some frightened frogs speak up and ask them to stop.
Get the printable: The Boys and the Frogs
The Leap at Rhodes
Moral: Actions speak louder than words.
A man who boasts about a massive leap he once made is challenged to prove his story by jumping once again.
Get the printable: The Leap at Rhodes
The Birds, the Beasts, and the Bats
Moral: Don’t be a fair-weather friend.
When the birds and the beasts battled, the bats took the side of whoever was winning at the time. Later, the birds and the beasts both decided to drive out the bats for their deceit.
Get the printable: The Birds, the Beasts, and the Bats
The Rooster and the Jewel
Moral: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
A rooster scratching in the dirt for corn is annoyed when he finds a precious jewel instead, because he cannot eat the jewel.
Get the printable: The Rooster and the Jewel
The Travelers and the Sea
Moral: Don’t get carried away by hopes before you know the truth.
Two people walking along the shore see something floating out at sea. They imagine it to be a ship full of treasures, but when it reaches shore, it’s just a log.
Get the printable: The Travelers and the Sea
The Wolf and the Lion
Moral: What you win unfairly, you may lose unfairly.
A wolf steals a lamb from a flock, but a lion steals it from him before he can eat it. When the wolf complains, the lion points out he’s no worse than the wolf himself.
Get the printable: The Wolf and the Lion
The Bear and the Bees
Moral: It’s better to bear a small injury in silence than take revenge and endure a much greater one.
A bee stings a bear trying to get at its honey. The bear gets angry and tears apart the hive, provoking the bees into stinging him over and over.
Get the printable: The Bear and the Bees
The Dog in the Manger
Moral: Don’t begrudge others what you can’t have or use yourself.
A dog lying in a manger (feed box) refuses to let the cows eat the hay, even though the dog himself doesn’t want or need it.
Get the printable: The Dog in the Manger
The Cat, the Rooster, and the Young Mouse
Moral: Don’t judge people by appearance alone.
A young mouse meets a rooster and a cat for the first time, and decides the rooster is more dangerous due to his pointed beak and the bright-red comb on his head.
Get the printable: The Cat, the Rooster, and the Young Mouse
The Peacock and the Crane
Moral: It’s better to value something useful over something beautiful.
A peacock brags about his beautiful colors, but the plain-colored crane simply flies off high and far away—something the peacock cannot do.
Get the printable: The Peacock and the Crane
The Goose and the Golden Egg
Moral: Greed can cause you to lose what you already have.
A man has a goose who lays a golden egg each day. But he wants to get rich faster, so he cuts the goose open, killing it and losing all future eggs.
Get the printable: The Goose and the Golden Egg
The Milkmaid and Her Pail
Moral: Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
A milkmaid dreams of all the things she’ll buy with the money from her pail of milk, including eggs for hatching young chickens. But then she drops the bucket and spills the milk, and her dreams are dashed.
Get the printable: The Milkmaid and Her Pail
Moral: Possessions are only worth what we make of them.
A man buries his money in the garden instead of spending it, but a thief digs it up and steals it. A passerby notes that he might as well just bury rocks in the garden if he’s not going to spend the money.
Get the printable: The Miser
Two Travelers and a Bear
Moral: Beware a friend who deserts you when you’re in trouble.
Two men meet a bear in the forest. One climbs up a tree, leaving the other to face the bear alone. Both survive, but the man on the ground knows he can no longer trust his friend.
Get the printable: Two Travelers and a Bear
The Cat and the Old Rat
Moral: Don’t be fooled by the same person twice.
A group of mice is fooled by a cat over and over, but a wise old rat knows better than to trust him.
Get the printable: The Cat and the Old Rat
The Fighting Roosters and the Eagle
Moral: Pride goes before a fall.
Two roosters fight to see who’s the strongest, but when the winner stands on the roof to proclaim his victory, an eagle swoops in and carries him away.
Get the printable: The Fighting Roosters and the Eagle
The Gnat and the Bull
Moral: Sometimes we’re not as important as we think we are.
A gnat rests on a bull’s horn for a few minutes. He apologizes to the bull for the inconvenience, and the bull says he hadn’t even noticed the gnat was there.
Get the printable: The Gnat and the Bull
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