Although they have enough, the greedy strive for more. They often thereby lose what wealth they have in store

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The ATA Chronicle   


July 2011

Although they have enough, the greedy strive for more.

They often thereby lose what wealth they have in store.

Examples of this truth are all round,

Although the best of these I’ve ever found

Comes from a fable told in days of yore.

There was a man who had no skill or trade with which

To earn his bread; and yet he had grown rich.

And each new day, his riches grew again.

His secret? Well, he had a hen

Who laid him eggs of purest gold.

Now, this would fill most other men

With happiness untold.

But not this one, oh, no!

He thought one golden egg a day was much too slow

A rate to have his riches grow.

He felt no gratitude, though much was owed,

But used his knife to reach the mother lode

Of gold within his pet.

But though he butchered her no treasure did he get.

Inside she was a normal chicken from a coop,

With innards that were fit for just one thing – a soup.

And so she lost her life for naught, his wondrous hen,

And soon her owner had to toil, like other men.           

The Frogs

W ho Begged for a

Tsar  (Russian Life Books, 2010) is a

recent book of the originals and trans-

lations of 62 of the fables of I.A.

Krylov (1769-1844), the author of

more than 200 fables written in

rhymed Russian verse. The fables

were selected and translated by Lydia

Razran Stone, with illustrations by

Katya Korobkina. Ivan Andreyevich

Krylov, all three of whose names are

accented on the second syllable, trans

lated or adapted some of his fables

from Aesop (c620-564 BC) and/or

Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695).

However, most were original with

him. Many lines from his verses have

become standard Russian aphorisms.

One fable with versions recorded by

Aesop, La Fontaine, and Krylov, as

well as by many others all around the

world, is that of “The Goose [or Hen]

Who Laid Golden Eggs.” La Fontaine’s

version is La Poule aux oeufs d’or

(“The Hen with Golden Eggs”), while

Krylov’s is 

Скупой и Курица (“The

Greedy Man and the Hen”). Krylov’s

first line, “

Скупой теряет всё, желая

всё достать” [“The greedy lose all,

wishing all to obtain”], has become a

Russian aphorism.

Here is Lydia Razran Stone’s

translation of Krylov’s entire fable,

reprinted here with the translator’s

and publisher’s kind permission:

Krylov’s Fables

Humor and Translation    Mark Herman

Herman is a librettist and translator. Submit items for future columns via e-mail to or via snail mail to Mark Herman,

1409 E Gaylord Street, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48858-3626. Discussions of the translation of humor and examples thereof are preferred, but humorous

anecdotes about translators, translations, and mistranslations are also welcome. Include copyright information and permission if relevant.

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