AESOP UPDATED – the Grasshopper and the Ant

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2mins.)

The grasshopper was enjoying the early May sunshine, playing his fiddle a bit, eating succulent new grass a bit, just enjoying life – a lot. Now and again, the grasshopper noticed an ant scurrying by but at first paid it no attention. Eventually though, he began to be a little curious and also, probably, a little irritated by this constant scurrying to and fro.

“Hey, Ant,” the grasshopper called out, the next time the busy insect passed him, “Why are you so busy? Why can’t you just enjoy life?”

The ant stopped and looked around to find out where the voice had come from.

“Ah, Grasshopper …. sorry, what did you say?”

“I asked why be so busy, why not just enjoy life?”

“Because food has to be gathered while it’s growing,” replied the ant, disbelieving anyone could be so stupid as not to know that. “And stored.”

“But Ant,” said the grasshopper indulgently, “there’s plenty of food around. No need to store it at all.”

“Yes, there’s plenty of food now, Grasshopper. But when the winter comes, hardly anything will grow. We gather the food now and store it so we won’t starve come winter.”

“Oh Ant, let winter look after itself. Now is the time to enjoy life.”

How can anyone be so stupid, thought the ant, shaking her head.

“Please yourself”, she said, hurrying on.

“Don’t worry, I will,” replied the grasshopper, striking up a merry tune.

He’ll only learn when it’s too late, thought the ant.

But she was wrong. The grasshopper began to think about the coming winter and absence of food. In between chewing the juicy grass-stems and playing tunes on the fiddle, the grasshopper went about making arrangements.

Summer turned to Autumn and Autumn turned to Winter. Most growing plants either died or went dormant. Cold winds blew through leafless branches.

Underneath the ant-hill, inside the ant-nest, it was warm and there was plenty of food, thanks to the hard work of the ant colony throughout the Summer and Autumn. The ants were enjoying their food, warmth and old stories.

A thunderous knocking announced someone at the main door. When the ants cautiously opened the door, whom should they see but the grasshopper, looking cold and hungry.

“I need some of your food,” he said. “Hunger is making me cold. And when I get cold, I get hungrier.”

“Too bad,” chorused the ants in the doorway.

“You should have listened to me in the Summer,” exclaimed one ant smugly.

“Oh, I did,” replied the grasshopper, even more smugly and let out something like a whistle, whereupon a large and aggressive crowd of blue beetles jumped out of hiding and ran for the door, overcoming the ants there in minutes. Into the the ant-nest they poured and sounds of fighting and injury could be heard within.

The blue beetles had been hiding but at the Grasshopper’s command, stormed the ant nest.

After a while, an injured but surviving ant at the doorway saw a blue beetle come staggering back out and approach the grasshopper.

“We need reinforcements, Master,” it whined. “The ants are massed and fighting hard defending their food stores. We threatened their young but they’re protecting them too.”

The grasshopper seemed unsurprised, almost as though he could have predicted that. He gave a different kind of whistle and a horde of dark green beetles poured out of hiding and into the nest. The noise of fighting grew louder and then ceased.

When the blue beetles ran into stiff resistance, the Grasshopper sent in the green beetles to finish off the opposition.

Any hope the ant had that the silence meant the elimination of the beetles was destroyed as a steady stream of beetles began to emerge, most of them carrying bundles of food.

“Lazy scum!” cried the surviving ant at the nest’s door. “You’re leaving us to starve!”

“No such thing,” scoffed the grasshopper. “If you all died of starvation, who would gather the food and store it next year? And the year after? You will probably go hungry – but you won’t starve. Not most of you anyway.”

The ant said nothing in reply, just watched the food parcels being carried out of the nest.

When they were all ready to leave, the grasshopper turned to the ant.

“No fighting next year, Ant. You just give us what you gather and we’ll give you back enough to live on and to raise new ants. No need for all that fighting, is there?”

The grasshopper turned away without a backward glance and followed the long lines of his food-carrying beetles in dark green and blue, his personal security platoon of blue beetles around him.

End.

The Grasshopper and Ants (Source image: illustration in book Aesop’s Fables, Library of Congress)

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