I'm reading 32 of these a day, to finish by year end, and have been struck by the Solomonic wisdom they convey (about 200 years after Solomon...), and how appropos many are to character, relationship, and leadership. Take these, for example:
The Three Oxen and the Lion
There were three oxen who always grazed together. A lion had his designs upon them and wanted to eat them, but he could never get at one of them because they were always together. So he set them against each other with slanderous talk and managed to get them separated, whereupon they were isolated and he was able to eat them one after the other.
If you really want to live in safety, keep close to your friends, retain your confidence in them and challenge your enemies.
The House-ferret and the File
A house-ferret slipped into a blacksmith's workshop and began to lick the file that she found there. Now it happened that using her tongue thus, the blood flowed from it. But she was delighted, imagining that she had extracted something from the iron. And in the end she lost her tongue.
This fable is aimed at people who pick arguments with others, thereby doing harm to themselves.
The Ploughman and the Snake Who Had Killed His Son
A snake slid up to the child of a ploughman and killed it. The ploughman, demented with grief, took an axe and went to keep watch near the snake's hole. He was ready to strike it the moment it came out. The snake poked his head out and the labourer hurled his axe but missed, and instead split a nearby rock in two. Having missed, he was in great fear that the snake would take his revenge on this attack by striking him with his fangs. So he attempted to appease it. But the snake replied: 'Neither of us can pretend to any good feelings, neither I when I see the gouge you have made in the rock, nor you when you look at the tomb of your child.'
This fable shows that great hatred does not lend itself to reconciliation.
The Dolphins, the Whales and the Gudgeon
Some dolphins and some whales were engaged in battle. As the fight went on and became desperate, a gudgeon [small fish] poked his head above the surface of the water and tried to reconcile them. But one of the dolphins retorted: 'It is less humiliating for us to fight to the death between ourselves than to have you for a mediator.'
Similarly, certain nobodies think they are somebody when they interfere in a public row.