Aesopic fable, probably derived from the Indian collection The Panchatantra. A milkmaid was on her way to market, carrying a pail of milk on the top of her head. As she walked along the road in the early morning she began to turn over in her mind what she would do with the money she would receive for the milk. “I shall buy some hens from a neighbor,” said she to herself, “and they will lay eggs every day which I shall sell to the pastor’s wife. And with the egg money I’ll buy myself a new frock and ribbon. Green they shall be, for green becomes my complexion best. And in this lovely green gown I will go to the fair. All the young men will strive to have me for a partner. I shall pretend that I do not see them. When they become too insistent I shall disdainfully toss my head—like this.”
As the milkmaid spoke she tossed her head back, and down came the pail of milk, spilling all over the ground. And so all of her imaginary happiness vanished, and nothing was left but an empty pail and the promise of a scolding when she returned home. Moral: Do not count your chickens before they are hatched. La Fontaine’s version of the fable is perhaps the best known. The Frenchman derived the work from Bonaventure des Periers’s Contes et Nouvelles, which in turn derived it from other sources.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante