laid the gaff

The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs

The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs is one of many fables attributed to Aesop, and one that can be found in a compilation of his works cited and sourced at the bottom of this article. It is very popular, as are many of his fables, which also include The Fox and the Grapes, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and The Tortoise and the Hare.


A man and his wife had the good fortune to possess a goose which laid a golden egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it. Then, they thought, they could obtain the whole store of precious metal at once; however, upon cutting the goose open, they found its innards to be like that of any other goose.

Those who want too much lose everything


  • Greed destroys the source of good.
  • Think before you act.
  • Those who want too much lose everything.

The moral of wanting more and losing everything is similar to that of another Aesop fable called The Dog and the Bone .

While it is difficult to know for sure, the story may have been a warning against overburdening the ratio of production vs. capability within a system, such as that between population and hunting or fishing capacity. If herds are over hunted or schools are over fished, their ability to provide food for future generations can be diminished or even destroyed through extinction.

In the English language, "Killing the golden goose" has become a metaphor for any short-sighted action that may bring an immediate reward, but will ultimately prove disastrous.


  • Aesop's Fables, a new translation by V. S. Vernon Jones (London: W. Heinemann, 1912), p. 2.

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