The bear and the bee

Have you heard of Jean de La Fontaine‘s Fables? He used animals to depict various characters and everyday situations and draw a moral story from it all. I had to memorise quite a few of them when I was at school, and I wonder whether they’re still part of the French curriculum. Xavier sent me this amusing "modern fable with a twist", snapped in Paddington and which reminds me of La Cigale et la Fourmi. I wonder what La Fontaine would have thought of it.
Once upon a time there was a Bear and a Bee
Who lived in a wood and were the best of friends.
All summer long the Bee collected nectar from morning to night
While the Bear lay on his back basking in the long grass.
When the winter came the Bear realized he had nothing to eat
And thought to himself:
"I hope that busy little Bee
Will share some of his honey with me".
But the Bee was nowhere to be found
He had died of a stress induced coronary disease.

Check out this great site with English translations of lots of the fables.
A lot of La Fontaine’s verses have become common expressions in French:
Rien ne sert de courir ; il faut partir à point.
Un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l’auras.
La méfiance est mère de la sûreté.
Tout flatteur vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute.
Il ne faut jamais vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué.

(Can someone with more time and talent than me help with the translation?)

By |2006-01-31T10:43:20+00:00January 31st, 2006|Culture|5 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Krista February 4, 2006 at 11:35 pm

    Slow and steady wins the race.
    One in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    Better safe than sorry.
    I honestly can’t think of an English equivalent – quite the contrary: Flattery will get you NOWHERE.
    Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
    Any other translators out there got any better ideas about flattery?

  2. effisk February 6, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    Every flatterer lives at the expense of him who listens to him.
    I have seen the Engish translation a couple of times but I can’t think of any equivalent of English origin.

  3. Hastiin Hoozdo February 10, 2006 at 6:45 am

    “Every flatterer lives off those who listen to him”, sounds better in English. That, however, is a more literal translation.
    Interesting stuff… 🙂
    Hastiin H

  4. Ben August 23, 2006 at 8:02 am

    This was done by a graffiti artist named Banksy. He works throughout the UK.

  5. céline August 23, 2006 at 8:09 am

    Thanks Ben, fantastic stuff.

Comments are closed.