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Useful weblinks: The Sun and the North Wind

  • This fable focuses on a contest of strength between the Sun and the North Wind. Contests of strength have been popular throughout history (see, for instance, the vicious pankration competition of Ancient Greece) and are still popular today.
  • Students have probably arm-wrestled before and many sports are based on a competition of strength and ability (e.g. the 100m sprint or discus).
  • Some people take these competitions very seriously. There is even a ‘world’s strongest man’ (and, more recently, a ‘world’s strongest woman’) competition!
  • What is interesting about this fable is that the Sun wins the competition not through force or strength but through gentle, warming rays.
  • This beautifully illustrated limerick version of the fable is from the book Baby's Own Aesop (Walter Crane, Illustrator).
  • Milo Winter (1886-1956) illustrated many of Aesop’s fables. For this tale he created two illustrations: the attempt of the North Wind and the attempt of the Sun.
  • Here is a fun line drawing of the fable - suitable for colouring by some learners.
  • The moral message of this fable has been interpreted in several ways:
    • It may be saying that strength isn’t necessarily physical – intelligence is a strength too. This was perhaps most famously proven in the ancient tradition of the argument over who would inherit Achilles’ armour after his death. The two contesters were Ajax (known for his physical prowess) and Odysseus (known for his intelligence) and, famously, Odysseus wins. Ovid writes an account of the argument in Book XIII of his MetamorphosesAjax’s speech and Odysseus’/Ulysses’ speech and the outcome.
    • Or the moral could be that gentle persuasion is better than force. This beautifully made animation, which uses a sketch-book and paints, sums up the ‘fairly obvious moral’ thus: cold strength may win battles in the short-term but warmth wins minds.
    • The moral may even be interpreted as advising us to show love and kindness to everyone. The creator of this animation of the fable – which has an adult narrator and children playing the sun and the wind – interpreted it this way.
    • Beautiful pastel drawings have been used in this animated version of the fable, which leaves the moral message unspoken.