The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

Aesop’s Fable – The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

A MAN and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its 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 passers-by 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 what to do. They thought and they thought, till 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 till they came to Market 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 fore-feet being tied together he was drowned. 

  “That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them.


This fable was recently brought to my attention and I find it so fascinating and profound in the sense that we are all influenced by other people.  I would go even further and say that our worldviews are very heavily influenced by the interpretation of the experiences we have with other people.

I wonder if I had been born alone on an island and managed to survive to the age of 33, being completely alone the entire time, what would my view of the world look like?  Would my thoughts have even evolved to the point of trying to find meaning in my life?  Or would the meaning in my life simply be to find food and survive another day, living more of a “one day at a time” motto?   Or… would I have had some sort of profound mystical experience leading me to be spiritual and worship a Higher Power (as AA so diplomatically rephrases the term “God”)?

This is of course just a hypothetical situation that I’ll never have the answer to, but I can’t help but wonder, “Do any of us actually think purely?”  I don’t believe our thoughts are nearly as controlled by ourselves as we would like to think they are.  We are all a result of our life’s experiences and we shape our worldview uncontrollably off of these experiences.  Our worldview is a result of our interpretation of life.  But who’s to say that anyone has the correct interpretation?

If I say, “I don’t know” and go to a Pentecostal Christian they’ll say, “Oh but I know, you must go this way.”  Then I could go to a Cessationist Baptist and they would say, “No, no.  That’s not the correct way.  You must go this way.”  Then I could cross paths with a Hindu and they could tell me, “There are multiple ways, but all ways lead to Brahman.” Then I could meet a Buddhist and he might tell me, “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.  In trying to find a way, you have lost your way.”  Then finally I might cross paths with an atheist who could say, “This is all there is and you’re wasting your time looking for a way.”

And then at the end of the day I am left sitting, scratching my head, just like the boy and his father in the fable.  The problem though is that the boy and the father rather than trying to figure out for themselves what they really think, they have already been influenced by the opinion of others and are now trying to think of how they can please them all, instead of actually just going with their own intuition.  They have lost their intuition and been left in a state of confusion, which ultimately leads them to make the most foolish decision yet—to carry the donkey!

The fable ends with them losing the donkey entirely and being laughed and scoffed at by all those around them—the exact thing they were probably trying to avoid by listening to the opinion of others in the first place.  So, what was the right choice for the boy and the father to make?  Where did they first go wrong?

9 thoughts on “The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

  1. Pure Glory

    They went wrong by people pleasing. You can never please everyone. Please God first and don’t worry about the opinions of others, it only leads to confusion.

  2. rebekahbaker

    Really awesome way of looking at it…they knew what they were doing in the beginning. They knew they needed to get to the market, they had decided a way to get there and they would have found their own way just fine. They got distracted by other people though, caught up in the need to “do it right” instead of just getting there the best way they knew how. Maybe they still would have “made it” the other ways, but it wasn’t pleasant or peaceful and in the end they lost it.
    Crazy to think think that maybe everyone knows “the way” for themselves and if left alone they would find it just fine. We get so caught up though, in doing it “right” we miss the whole point of just getting there. And it does make you think how many times you might have been the person telling them they were doing it wrong…

  3. thenakedtruth2

    Well, I may suggest the man and boy took counsel from fools, and obviously did not know it. The tale had to have been written that way to have its weight, but the more excellent way would have been to include HE who was the highest of all, stooping to the lowest of all, by riding on the donkey, hiding his majesty upon a common beast of burden.

    HE would have been chided as well, but doing what is right will always have its detractors. ‘We offend all’ daily without knowing it, so yes, the man and the boy did nothing wrong, other than listening to they who were meddlers


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s