Fables 1: Fair-weather friends
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To look at times when you find out who your real friends are.
Preparation and materials
- It is useful to know a little about the background to Aesop’s fables. Although they were written over two and a half millennia ago (and half a millennium before Jesus lived) so cannot have any direct connection with Christian teaching, they are suitable for use in assemblies for at least two reasons. First, the messages they convey are generally good guides for life. Second, the idea of a story with a twist at the end is exactly the format used by Jesus in his parables. This approach is born from traditions of listening to a storyteller, an oral tradition, which was common years ago. Children need to have experienced this tradition in order to begin to experience the full effect of the parables.
- There are several ways to approach this subject, depending on what time and resources you have available. Here are a few ideas.
– You could have a group of children act out the stories from any version of Aesop's fables. The children could mime as someone reads the fables. The fables can be found online at: www.umass.edu/aesop/index.php They are each illustrated and told in two forms – a traditional and a contemporary version – by art students.
– The stories could either be told by way of downloaded images from the site (please credit the artists) or, if you have time, by asking a group of older children to design their own pictures.
– Older children could discuss, design and perform their own modern versions of the fables.
– This could also be continued in class in follow-up work – perhaps turning into a display of different fables.
- The parable of the wedding banquet in the ‘Assembly’, Step 3, could be done as a continuation of this assembly, say, the next day, using the same style.
- Introduce Aesop by telling the children that he lived a long time ago, in the sixth century BC. He was Greek and a slave, but is now a household name because of the moral tales that he told, with animals as the characters. Each of Aesop's stories has a moral at the end. These tales are known as ‘fables’.
- Tell the children that you are going to read them one of Aesop’s fables now.
The hare with many friends
A hare was very popular with the other beasts. Everyone claimed to be her friend, but, one day, she heard the hounds approaching. She had to escape. Surely her friends would help her!
She went to the horse and asked him to carry her on his back, away from the hounds.
'Sorry,' said the horse, 'must dash. I have important work to do for my master. I'm sure one of our other friends will be able to help you.'
So off she went to the bull. The bull, however, replied, 'I am very sorry, but I have an appointment with a lady. I feel sure that our friend the goat will do what you want.'
The goat, however, feared that his back might do her some harm if he took her upon it.
So, she went to the ram and told him her difficulty. The ram replied, ‘Another time, my dear friend. I do not like to interfere on the present occasion . . . as hounds have been known to eat sheep as well as hares.'
The hare then applied, as a last hope, to the calf, who regretted that he was unable to help her, as he did not like to take the responsibility upon himself as so many older persons than himself had declined the task.
By this time, the hounds were quite near and the hare took to her heels and luckily escaped.
The moral of the story is that he who has many friends has no friends.
- The story ‘The hare with many friends’ (or ‘fair-weather friends’) has some parallels with the parable of the wedding banquet in the New Testament, in Matthew 22.1–14. A ‘parable’ is a bit like a fable, but is a story about people that illustrates a moral message. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus describes how all the guests turn down the host’s invitations. The host therefore rejects them and goes out to find humbler people from the highways and byways to come to the feast.
The parable is actually about people not accepting God's offer of the kingdom of heaven. The important message in both Aesop’s fable and Jesus’ parable is that the people who seem to be worthy may not always, in fact, be worthy.
Time for reflection
We all know what it is to be let down by our friends – or people we think of as our friends.
Help us to forgive friends who disappoint us.
Help us to know how to trust our friends and how to tell who our real friends are.
Help us to know that God loves us each as a true friend.