The oak puts up a heroic fight and, after it falls, condemns the willow's conduct as mean and cowardly.
Set 'within the commonwealth of trees', it presents the two trees as sharing in its government. When a storm 'threatens the constitution of the state', the willow cringes acquiescently while the oak goes down fighting, but will not acknowledge the willow as the ultimate victor.
Much the same point was made in Jean Anouilh 's reinterpretation of the story in There the oak asks the reed if it doesn't find La Fontaine's fable morally detestable. The reed's answer is that the limited concerns of 'we little folk' will see them better through testing times than taking the moral high ground. When once again the oak falls in the storm, the reed jeeringly asks if he had not foreseen the outcome correctly. The tree's answer to the reed's envious hatred is simply, 'But I am still an oak'.
This stems from the thinking behind another ancient emblem that appeared among the Emblesmes of Hadrianus Junius Placed before a version of "The oak and the reed" which is there told of a rowan ,  it pictures an oak whose branches are stripped by a gale and has the title "The disasters of princes are unlike those of ordinary folk". Since this is one of the rare fables without human or animal characters, the subject has been a gift to artists and illustrators.
From the earliest printed editions, the makers of woodcuts have taken pleasure in contrasting diagonals with the verticals and horizontals of the picture space, as well as the textures of the pliable reed and the sturdy tree trunk. Some variations depend on the version of the fable that is being recorded. In the version by Samuel Croxall , which was widely followed, the uprooted oak is floating downstream and enquires of a reed how it has survived the storm. The turn of the century saw a statue of the subject by Henri Coutheillas exhibited in Paris.
It is now in the Jardin d'Orsay in Limoges and contrasts a swaying female nude with the grizzled giant who is tumbles at her feet as he clutches a broken branch in his hand. During the 20th century there were a number of prints made by prominent artists. In the 20th century the fashion was for slang versions. One of the first appeared among the seven published in by Bernard Gelval  which afterwards became part of the sung repertoire of the actor Yves Deniaud. Cartoons were eventually made of these versions and released on DVD under the title The Geometric Fables ; "The oak and the reed" appeared in volume 3 of the series Les Chiffres, In a poetic version by Peter Westmore was included as the last piece in Edward Hughes' Songs from Aesop's Fables for children's voices and piano.
Two groups from Quebec have made use of the fable more recently. The deathcore band Despised Icon recorded their version on the album Consumed by your Poison in There has also been a hip hop dance version of the fable in France choreographed for three dancers by Mourad Merzouki in From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The Hares once gathered together and lamented the unhappiness of their lot, exposed as they were to dangers on all sides and lacking the strength and the courage to hold their own.
Men, dogs, birds and beasts of prey were all their enemies, and killed and devoured them daily: and sooner than endure such persecution any longer, they one and all determined to end their miserable lives. Thus resolved and desperate, they rushed in a body towards a neighbouring pool, intending to drown themselves. On the bank were sitting a number of Frogs, who, when they heard the noise of the Hares as they ran, with one accord leaped into the water and hid themselves in the depths.
Then one of the older Hares who was wiser than the rest cried out to his companions, "Stop, my friends, take heart; don't let us destroy ourselves after all: see, here are creatures who are afraid of us, and who must, therefore, be still more timid than ourselves. A Fox invited a Stork to dinner, at which the only fare provided was a large flat dish of soup.
The Fox lapped it up with great relish, but the Stork with her long bill tried in vain to partake of the savoury broth. Her evident distress caused the sly Fox much amusement. But not long after the Stork invited him in turn, and set before him a pitcher with a long and narrow neck, into which she could get her bill with ease. Thus, while she enjoyed her dinner, the Fox sat by hungry and helpless, for it was impossible for him to reach the tempting contents of the vessel.
A Wolf resolved to disguise himself in order that he might prey upon a flock of sheep without fear of detection. So he clothed himself in a sheepskin, and slipped among the sheep when they were out at pasture. He completely deceived the shepherd, and when the flock was penned for the night he was shut in with the rest. But that very night as it happened, the shepherd, requiring a supply of mutton for the table, laid hands on the Wolf in mistake for a Sheep, and killed him with his knife on the spot. A Stag, chased from his lair by the hounds, took refuge in a farmyard, and, entering a stable where a number of oxen were stalled, thrust himself under a pile of hay in a vacant stall, where he lay concealed, all but the tips of his horns.
Presently one of the Oxen said to him, "What has induced you to come in here? Aren't you aware of the risk you are running of being captured by the herdsmen?
The Mouse That Felled The Oak by Alp Mortal
When night comes I shall easily escape under cover of the dark. If the master comes, you will certainly be found out, for nothing ever escapes his keen eyes. Calling his men, he had him seized at once and killed for the table. A farmer's daughter had been out to milk the cows, and was returning to the dairy carrying her pail of milk upon her head. As she walked along, she fell a-musing after this fashion: "The milk in this pail will provide me with cream, which I will make into butter and take to market to sell.
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With the money I will buy a number of eggs, and these, when hatched, will produce chickens, and by and by I shall have quite a large poultry-yard. Then I shall sell some of my fowls, and with the money which they will bring in I will buy myself a new gown, which I shall wear when I go to the fair; and all the young fellows will admire it, and come and make love to me, but I shall toss my head and have nothing to say to them.
Down went the pail, all the milk was spilled, and all her fine castles in the air vanished in a moment!
The Dolphins quarrelled with the Whales, and before very long they began fighting with one another. The battle was very fierce, and had lasted some time without any sign of coming to an end, when a Sprat thought that perhaps he could stop it; so he stepped in and tried to persuade them to give up fighting and make friends. But one of the Dolphins said to him contemptuously, "We would rather go on fighting till we're all killed than be reconciled by a Sprat like you!
A Fox and a Monkey were on the road together, and fell into a dispute as to which of the two was the better born. They kept it up for some time, till they came to a place where the road passed through a cemetery full of monuments, when the Monkey stopped and looked about him and gave a great sigh.
The Monkey pointed to the tombs and replied, "All the monuments that you see here were put up in honour of my forefathers, who in their day were eminent men. There was once a man who had an Ass and a Lap-dog. The Ass was housed in the stable with plenty of oats and hay to eat and was as well off as an ass could be. The little Dog was made a great pet of by his master, who fondled him and often let him lie in his lap; and if he went out to dinner, he would bring back a tit-bit or two to give him when he ran to meet him on his return.
The Ass had, it is true, a good deal of work to do, carting or grinding the corn, or carrying the burdens of the farm: and ere long he became very jealous, contrasting his own life of labour with the ease and idleness of the Lap-dog. At last one day he broke his halter, and frisking into the house just as his master sat down to dinner, he pranced and capered about, mimicking the frolics of the little favourite, upsetting the table and smashing the crockery with his clumsy efforts. Not content with that, he even tried to jump on his master's lap, as he had so often seen the dog allowed to do.
At that the servants, seeing the danger their master was in, belaboured the silly Ass with sticks and cudgels, and drove him back to his stable half dead with his beating. Why could I not be satisfied with my natural and honourable position, without wishing to imitate the ridiculous antics of that useless little Lap-dog?
A Fir-tree was boasting to a Bramble, and said, somewhat contemptuously, "You poor creature, you are of no use whatever. Now, look at me: I am useful for all sorts of things, particularly when men build houses; they can't do without me then.
Once upon a time the Sun was about to take to himself a wife. The Frogs in terror all raised their voices to the skies, and Jupiter, disturbed by the noise, asked them what they were croaking about. They replied, "The Sun is bad enough even while he is single, drying up our marshes with his heat as he does. But what will become of us if he marries and begets other Suns?
A Dog and a Cock became great friends, and agreed to travel together. At nightfall the Cock flew up into the branches of a tree to roost, while the Dog curled himself up inside the trunk, which was hollow. At break of day the Cock woke up and crew, as usual. A Fox heard, and, wishing to make a breakfast of him, came and stood under the tree and begged him to come down. He'll open the door and let you in.