Aesop's fables

  • Designer / Maker

    Designed by Clement Heaton (1824-82)

    Manufactured by Minton (1793-1968)

  • Detail

    Painted earthenware

    65 x 49.3 cm (inc. frame)

    English (Stoke-on-Trent), circa 1880

  • Fables and Notes

    The numbering below mainly taken from Ésope Fables, Texte Établi et Traduit par Émile Chambry, Paris, 1927.  Descriptions, top left to bottom right:

    The Hares and the Frogs (no. 191)

    The hares were so frightened by other animals that they did not know where to go. As soon as any animal approached them, they jumped up and ran; but, as they neared the banks of a lake, a colony of frogs – frightened in their turn – scattered and jumped into the water.

    The Frog Doctor and the Fox (no. 69)

    A frog climbed out of the water and croaked to the world that he was a great physician and could cure all ills. A fox, sitting on the bank, asked why, if he was such a great physician, he did not cure his own blotchy skin and bulging eyes.

    The Tortoise and the Hare (no. 352)

    A hare mocked a tortoise for being so slow; the tortoise challenged him to a race to prove otherwise. The hare was amused and accepted: he was soon far out of sight and, as the tortoise lumbered along, he confidently stopped and slept, only to be overtaken by the tortoise, who continued at his steady pace to win the race.

    The Eagle and the Fox (not in Chambry, but noted by Edward Perry in his so-called ‘Perry Index’, no. 1)

    An eagle and a fox became friends: the eagle made her nest at the top of a tree and the fox made a den in the undergrowth beneath. The fox went out foraging for food, and the eagle, also in need, swooped down on the fox cubs and fed them to her own young. The fox, on return, was powerless to take revenge. Soon after, the eagle picked up some meat roasting o a sacrificial altar and inadvertently took a cinder with it.  The cinder, fanned by the breeze, set her nest on fire and roasted the fledglings, who fell to the ground to be eaten by the fox.

    The Fox and the Stork (Perry, no. 426)

    A fox invited as stork to supper and served soup in a flat dish, knowing that he could lap this up easily and that the stork, with its narrow bill, would be unable to eat. The stork, in return, invited the fox and served supper in a narrow-necked urn, allowing him to eat comfortably, and leaving the fox without any chance of eating any supper.

    The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (not listed in Chambry or Perry)

    A certain wolf could not get enough to eat. One night, he found a sheep’s skin that had been cast aside, so he dressed in the skin and went into the pasture with the sheep: soon a lamb was following him & was quickly despatched. That evening, the wolf entered the fold with the flock; but it happened that the shepherd fancied mutton broth and went into the fold, where the first he laid hands on and killed was the wolf.

    The Thirsty Pigeon (not listed in Chambry or Perry)

    A pigeon, oppressed by excessive thirst, saw a goblet of water painted on a signboard, and flew towards it. Crashing into it she fell to the ground, and was caught by one of the bystanders.

    The Frogs who Desired a King (Chambry, no. 66)

    A group of frogs asked Zeus to send them a king. He threw down a log, which terrified them as it landed in their pond, but they were soon clambering all over it and making fun of their king. So they made a second request for a real king, and were sent a heron (a water snake in the original version), which proceeded to eat them. Once more the frogs appealed to Zeus, who said that they must face the consequences of their request.

    The Wolf and the Heron (Chambry, no. 224)

    A wolf had been feasting greedily and a bone became stuck in his throat. He asked a heron, with its long bill, to help him and offered a handsome reward. The crane was uneasy but obliged, putting her bill down the wolf’s throat and removing the bone. She then asked for her reward, to which the wolf replied that the reward was to take her head out of his mouth it being bitten off.

    The Crow and the Pitcher (Perry, no, 390)

    In a spell of dry weather, a thirsty crow found a pitcher with a little water in it. But the pitcher was high with a narrow neck, and the bird could not reach the water, so picking up some small pebbles, he dropped them into the pitcher one by one until the water rose and he could have a drink.

    The Two Pots (Chambry, no. 354)

    As two pots metal and clay were floating along in the water, the metal pot asked the clay pot to stay close, but the clay pot declined fearing breakage.

    The Fox and the Grapes (Chambry, no. 32)

    A fox spied some grapes hanging from a vine and wanted to eat them; but however hard he tried, he could not reach them. Rather than admit defeat, he went away saying they were undesirable.


    For a twenty-four-tile panel, including some tiles depicting the same fables, see Fine Art Society, The Aesthetic Movement and the Cult of Japan, 1972, no.218; that set acquired from H. Blairman & Sons, June 1999 (private collection).

    A further selection of Clement Heaton tiles depicting scenes from Aesop’s Fables is in the collection of the Jackfield Tile Museum.