The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

Written by Aradhita Saraf (Weloquent)

A man and his son were once going with their donkey to market. As they were walking along by his side a countryman passed them and said, "You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?"

So the man put the boy on the donkey, and they went on their way.

But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said, "See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides."

So the man ordered his boy to get off and got on himself. 

But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other, "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along."

Well, the man didn't know what to do, but at last, he took his boy up before him on the donkey. 

By this time they had come to the town, and the passersby began to jeer and point at them. The man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at.

The men said, "Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours -- you and your hulking son?"

The man and boy got off and tried to think about what to do. They thought and they thought, until at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them until they came to a bridge, when the donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the donkey fell over the bridge, and his forefeet being tied together, he was drowned.


My grandmother narrated this Aesop’s Fable to me when I was at the advent of making a perplexing decision. Through the story I learnt the following lifelong lessons:-

1. It is impossible to please everyone. 

Make a list of people whose opinions matter to you, and keep the list short. First ensure your actions will leave you satisfied, and then work towards making as many of the people in the list happy with what you do. 

2. Making mindful decisions can go a long way. 

Resort to well-thought out decisions instead of making impulsive ones that you may end up regretting later. Create a pros and cons list to weigh the impact of your decision/action and proceed with whichever option gives you more advantages. 

3. Stick with your conscience, and with what seems ethical.

More often than not, actions that align with our moral compass are those that we grow to cherish. Instead of keeping in mind what the larger “society” will think of us for treading on a certain path, think about how you will impact your environment around you. Will you cause physical suffering to animals, nature, fellow human beings? Is your action legally correct? Does your decision have harmful side-effects? 

4. Own your decisions, and don’t regret them.

The most important lesson that this story teaches us is to trust ourselves for having done what is best for us. Have faith, learn from your mistakes, and evolve to make better and smarter decisions.