'The Old Man and his Sons', an illustration by John Vernon Lord
in Aesop's Fables, Jonathan Cape, 1989, page 9.
The Old Man and his Sons
AN old Man had many Sons, who were often quarrelling and differing with one another. When the Father had exerted his authority, and us’d other Means in order to reconcile them, and all to no purpose, at last he had recourse to this Expedient;
He order’d his Sons to be call’d before him, and a short Bundle of Rods to be brought; and then commanded them one by one to try if, with all their Might and Strength, they could any of them break it. They all tried, but to no purpose; for the rods being closely and compactly bound up together, it was impossible for the Force of Man to do it. After this the Father order’d the Bundle to be untied, and gave a single Rod to each of his Sons, at the same time bidding him try to break it. Which when each did with all imaginable Ease, the Father address’d himself to them to this Effect.
O my Sons, behold the Power of Unity! For if you, in like manner, would but keep your selves strictly conjoin’d in the Bonds of Friendship, it could not be in the Power of any Mortal to hurt you. But when once the Ties of brotherly Affection are dissolv’d, how soon do you fall to pieces, and are liable to be violated by every injurious Hand that affaults you!
Moral: Union is strength, divided we fall.
Text: Samuel Croxall (146, 1722).
Selected Parallels: Babrius 47. La Fontaine 4/18. L’Estrange 62. Chambry 86. Perry 53. Daly 53. TMI J1021.
The fable is also suggested in the Bible, 'Ecclesiastes' 4:12 - 'And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a three strand cord is not easily broken'.