Take care never to be foxed by a fish

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The Independent Online

Today, I am bringing you three little fables for our times.

Today, I am bringing you three little fables for our times.

The fox and the grapes

Once upon a time, a hungry fox tried to jump up and eat some grapes. And after a while he did manage to reach them and eat some, but not only were they sour, they were also covered in pesticides, so the fox became very ill. When he recovered, he took the farmer to court and was awarded a large amount of compensation.

Moral: Never steal from anyone you can't sue later.

The fish that could talk

Once there was a fisherman who went fishing and caught a large fish, of great beauty and appetising appearance. And the fisherman said: "I shall surely get a good price for this in the market."

But to his surprise the fish spoke and said: "Do not sell me in the market! Throw me back in the sea and I shall make it worth your while by granting you three wishes!"

The fisherman thought about this, then shook his head.

"You must take me for a fool," he said. "I have heard many tales of men who were granted three wishes, and in every case they bitterly regretted it, for they always made the mistake of wishing for things they did not want or need.

"No, I think a talking fish is much more valuable than anything I could wish for. I will take you to the king and he will reward me."

So he went to the royal palace and was ushered into the king's presence.

"Is this the fish that talks?" said the king.

"This is the fish that talks," said the fisherman.

"Let him talk," said the king.

"Talk, fish," said the fisherman.

But the fish would say nothing.

"You talked to me yesterday!" said the fisherman angrily. "What's got into you today?"

And still the fish said nothing. And the king began to get impatient. So the fisherman decided to use up one of his precious wishes.

"I wish that you would talk to His Majesty," said the fisherman.

"It's a bit late to start making wishes!" said the fish.

"You only got the three wishes if you threw me back in the sea. You didn't do that. So, no wishes!"

"There you are!" said the fisherman. "He talks! Just as I said he could!"

"Very interesting," said the king. "Leave him with me and come back later!"

And when the fisherman came back, the king offered him a bag of gold for the fish. The fisherman said the fish was worth much more than that.

"I wish people would understand that kings don't haggle!" said the king angrily.

"Okay, I'll take the gold," said the fisherman.

"Oh, damnation!" said the king.

For of course what had happened was that the king had meanwhile thrown the fish back in the sea to get his three wishes, and he had just wasted the first one.

Moral: Always have a business plan ready.

The empress and the nightingale

Late one night, the empress looked out of her window, to savour the fragrance arising from her dark, silent garden. Silent except for the song of one nightingale.

The nightingale sang beautifully, and then stopped. And sang again, and stopped. And then sang again, a heartrending series of melodies, which came and went in the jewelled night air, until the empress sent for a maid, and whispered in her ear.

And the maid went to talk to the sentry, and the sentry roused the huntsman, and the huntsman went out into the garden, and there was a single shot.

Then the nightingale did not sing again, and the empress leant out and enjoyed the silent night air once more.

Moral: It is not clever to do too many encores, however good you are.