The Fox and the Stork

The Fox and the Stork, also known as The Fox and the Crane, is one of Aesop's fables and is first recorded in the collection of Phaedrus. It is numbered 426 in the Perry Index.[1]

The fable and its usesEdit

The 1884 fountain design by Catalan sculptor Eduard Batiste Alentorn [es] in Barcelona

A fox invites the stork to eat with him and provides soup in a bowl, which the fox can lap up easily; however, the stork cannot drink it with its beak. The stork then invites the fox to a meal, which is served in a narrow-necked vessel. It is easy for the stork to access but impossible for the fox. The moral drawn is that the trickster must expect trickery in return and that the golden rule of conduct is for one to do to others what one would wish for oneself.

The fable has been illustrated since the Middle Ages in Europe. One of the earliest depictions is on the top of a column on the north side of the cloisters in the Collegiata di Sant'Orso in Aosta. In the Romanesque style of the 12th century, both the fox's[2] and the stork's[3] tricks are shown on different sides. While medieval and early Renaissance pictorial convention allowed composite designs the episodes of the two meals both appeared in the same design. Thereafter, only one could appear, and it was usually the stork's revenge that was depicted. However, since the 19th century some artists have been returning to composite designs.[4]

One exception in the applied arts occurred when both episodes were included among the 39 hydraulic statues built for the Versailles labyrinth that was constructed for Louis XIV to further the Dauphin's education.[5] A similar solution is provided by the suggestive sculptures in the square of Barzy-sur-Marne, where the two animals are juxtaposed at right angles and the meal is left to the viewer's imagination.[6] A different solution was chosen by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in his depiction of Netherlandish Proverbs (1559). The saying 'The fox and the crane entertain each other' had come to mean that tricksters look out for their own advantage, so the two are pictured at the centre of the painting seated before their preferred receptacle.

The story's popularity was further assured after it appeared in La Fontaine's Fables (I.18).[7] It then began to be applied on a number of domestic items, including buttons,[8] firebacks,[9] snuff graters, household china and tiles,[10] and on wallpaper.[11] Among the artists who have chosen it as a subject are Frans Snyders (about 1650),[12]Jan van Kessel, senior (1661),[13] Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1747)[14] and his son Jacques-Charles,[15] Hippolyte Lecomte,[16] and Philippe Rousseau (1816–1887).[17] It also features on the right-hand side of Gustav Klimt's "The Fable" (1883). There the fox is accompanied by two storks, one of which has a frog in its beak – in reference to the fable of The Frogs Who Desired a King.[18] In the contemporary fountain sculpture by the Catalan Eduard Batiste Alentorn (1855–1920) in Barcelona's Parc de la Ciutadella, the frustrated fox kicks over the tall vessel, from which the fountain's water pours.

In the 20th century, Le Renard et la Cigogne figured in the series of medals illustrating La Fontaine's fables cast by Jean Vernon (1940)[19] and Marc Chagall made it Plate 9 in his etchings of them (1952).[20] Among European musical settings was one by Louis Lacombe (op. 72, 1875). Later it appeared as the first piece in Andre Asriel's 6 Fabeln nach Aesop (1972).[21] In 1995 it was among the seven in Catalan translation that the composer Xavier Benguerel i Godó set for recitation with orchestral accompaniment.[22]

The fable has also appeared on postage stamps illustrating La Fontaine's fables. These include the 35 franc air mail stamp issued by Dahomey in 1995 to commemorate the tricentenary of his death,[23] the 170 forint stamp issued as part of a set by Hungary in 1960,[24] and a Monaco commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the fabulist's birth.[25]


  1. ^ "". Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  2. ^ Wikimedia
  3. ^ Wikimedia
  4. ^ See Laura Gibb's collection of book illustrations
  5. ^ Bibliothèque nationale de France scan of Charles Perrault's description of the Labyrinth
  6. ^ Champagne Fay site
  7. ^ English translation
  8. ^ Creighton University website
  9. ^ Harmonie du Logis
  10. ^ "Examples in the collection of the Victorian & Albert Museum". 25 August 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  11. ^ "". Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  12. ^ Wikimedia
  13. ^ Česky. "". Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  14. ^ "". Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  15. ^ "". 30 May 2010. Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  16. ^ "". Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  17. ^ Artnet
  18. ^ "". Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  19. ^ V Coins
  20. ^ Contemporary Art Holdings
  21. ^ There is a performance on You Tube
  22. ^ "Available on YouTube". Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  23. ^ "". Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  24. ^ "". 1 December 1960. Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  25. ^ "". Retrieved 18 January 2012.

External linksEdit

  Media related to The fox and the stork at Wikimedia Commons

  • 15th–20th century book illustrations online