French Language Blog

The Fable of an Out-foxed Crow Posted by on Jan 31, 2011 in Culture, Vocabulary

Combien de leçons peut-on tirer de cette fable?

(How many lessons can one draw from this fable?)

Jean de La Fontaine’s Le corbeau et le renard (The Crow and the Fox) tells the story of a literally -and even “literaturely”- “outfoxed” corbeau (crow), who was duped by the –shall we say- “cheesy lines” of a Master Fox—A precious lesson which would not be lost on the dispossessed corbeau afterwards, and which is, as La Fontaine puts it, at least worth un fromage !

* * *

* * *

Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché,

Master Crow perched on a tree

Tenait en son bec un fromage

Was holding a cheese in his beak

Maître Renard, par l’odeur alléché

Master Fox, attracted by the smell

Lui tint à peu près ce langage:

Said something along the lines of:

“Hé ! bonjour, Monsieur du Corbeau,

“Well, Hello Mister Crow!

Que vous êtes joli ! Que vous me semblez beau !

How cute you are! How beautiful you seem to me!

Sans mentir, si votre ramage

Frankly, if your voice

Se rapporte à votre plumage

Matches your plumage

Vous êtes le Phénix des hôtes de ces bois.”

You are the Phoenix of all the inhabitants of these woods.”

A ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie

To these words, the Crow is overjoyed

Et pour montrer sa belle voix

And in order to show off his beautiful voice

Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie

He opens wide his beak, lets his prey fall

Le Renard s’en saisit, et dit : “Mon bon Monsieur,

The Fox grabs it, and says: “My good Sir,

Apprenez que tout flatteur

You ought to learn that every flatterer

Vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute :

Lives at the expense of the one who listens to him:

Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute. “

This lesson, no doubt, is well worth a cheese.”

Le Corbeau, honteux et confus,

The Crow, ashamed and confused,

Jura, mais un peu tard, qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus

Swore, but a little too late, that he would not be duped again

* * *

Another animated and musical version of Lafontaine’s famous fable—with a little “personal twist” before “La Fin“!

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  1. Ali:

    Thanks a lot.

    you know we learn this poem at school.
    i mean all of us Iranian.
    but we dont know that it is from a french poet.

    i pass this email to about 1000 peple trough my email.
    we all wonderd about it.

    c’est FORMIDABLE!
    Mer30 Beaucoup.

  2. Nasrin:

    I’m Nasrin
    I’m from Iran
    It was very nice

  3. azadeh:

    je suis azadeh
    je suis iranienne
    c’etait beau…

  4. haniye:

    hi my name is haniyeh i,m very suprised because I think this poem from iran
    thanks alot for infomation
    have a good day
    oh i,m from iran bandar abbas

  5. pari:

    salute , je m`appelle Pari. I surprised, when i saw these all comment from Iranian people … I am Iranian too! and i love to speak french, but they are right because all of us learned this poem at primary school, and we didn’t know it could be French.

  6. Abdenour:

    Salut, je suis un Kabyle de l’Algérie, ben cette jolie fable ” le renard et le corbeau) je l’ai déjà lu, dans l’école mais aussi sur le net…
    je veut dire simplement que la Fontaine c’est énorme, c’est vraiment ce que il a fait….

  7. joulia joujou:


  8. Shiva:

    Bonsoir je parle un pau francais

  9. Shiva:

    Hi i am Shiva i love learning French

  10. Serge:

    C’est une bonne leçon!

  11. Hichem:

    Bonjour Ali and Pari, and thank you for your message!

    Be ready to be even more surprised:

    You probably learned this poem in Iran, not because it is originally French, but rather because it is originally Iranian.

    This fable, like many others, reached the West through the 8th century Arabic works of Persian writer Ibn Al Muqafa’ (ابن المقفع), better known in Iran as “Dadoe.”

    But that’s not all: Ibn Al Muqafa’ was in turn inspired from the ancient Indian collection of fables “Panchatantra“, known in Europe as the “Fables of Bidpai” (sometimes spelled “Pilpai”), or the “Morall Philosophie of Doni“, which were published in England a few decades before the birth of La Fontaine.

  12. Quelqu’un qui aime le francais:

    Quand j’étais petite, à l’école on avait eu besoin de mémoriser ce poème pour un épreuve. C’est longtemps que je n’ai pas vu cet histoire. Il me manquait. J’ai bien aimé le revoir.