Beginner II

The Deer and his Reflection


Surrounded by the forest, there was a crystal-clear lake. The deer stepped into the shallow of the lake to drink some water. While drinking, he saw himself mirrored in the clear water. He proudly admired his graceful antlers but he was very ashamed of his spindling legs.

"How can it be," he sighed, "that my legs are such ugly when I have so lovely antlers."

Suddenly, the deer sensed something. He scented something in the distance. It was a lion approaching. The deer jumped and ran through the forest. The lion began to chase the deer. The deer ran as fast as his legs allowed him to. But, his antlers were caught in the branches of the trees that slowed the deer down. As a result of it, the lion overtook the deer.

As the deer was fallen down, he thought to himself, "How ashamed I am of myself for despising my legs that would have saved me had it not been for the useless antlers that I glorified about."

ASL storytelling
Illustration by Harrison Weir, John Tenniel, Ernest Griset,, Aesop's Fables, 1881. Published by WM. L. Allison, New York.


If you would like to submit your view or interpretation, email through the link in the footer below.

"What is most truly valuable is often underrated." -- Aesop

"We often make much of the ornamental and despise the useful." -- Aesop for Children

"You should be grateful for what you have as it may serve you better than what you are most proud of." -- Walt B., Jan 31, 2020 (email).

ASL Grammar

Learn a few grammar tips.

Gloss: forest-scape

This is the setting of the story that the narrator establishes in the beginning of the story. She signs trees (noun) and then "distributes" them in the space. She holds her left, passive hand as she signs water (noun) below...

Gloss: water [descriptive phrase: shape, smooth, crystal]

It is still a part of the setting. A lake is surrounded by the woods (forest). Notice how the narrator's left (passive) hand shows a different location for the woods and the lake. Her left hand is located in a specific space for the woods; as soon as she is done signing water with her dominant hand, her passive hand moves closer when she signs lake-round. It is the water's or lake's classifier (pronoun-like).

The classifier of the lake remains in the same position or space while she signs a few adjectives smooth, glossy. In other word, "crystal". Also her facial expression conveys some grammatical information.

Gloss: walk, (legs) dip-in (lake)

After learning a base word for "walk" in the ASL dictionary, a learner probably would notice different handshapes of the sign "walk" for a rooter, a bull, and such. A signed word can be inflected to different meanings (e.g. the handshape of a rooster's feet, a horse's feet, and so on).

There are two different handshapes in this video clip. The first part of this video clip describes the walk of the deer. The handshape is a classifier of the deer's hooves. The second part shows a "dip-in" of the deer's legs dipping into the shallow lake. The movement of the hands and the facial expression also are integrated.

Gloss: deer's face leaning over to drink

The narrator's right dominant hand is a classifier for the deer's face. It "leans over" (verb or action). Next, she signs drink. At the same time, her left hand in its passive role remains in the same place which remains to refer to the deer.

Gloss: see, mirror

The signed base for "mirror" is inflected or modified to describe a mirror-like reflection in the lake.

Gloss: ix-loc lion walk

The narrator points to a specific space where the lion is located. Then she signs lion (noun) and describes the verb or action (walk) of the lion. Again, notice another handshape of the walk that is different from the others above. It is a classifier that represents the lion's feet. It does not directly describes the lion's feet but the overall essence of the lion. It is an adverb of the verb (walk). The facial expression and posture also convey information (in the form of adjectives and adverbs).

Gloss: lion approaching

Remember that a classifier can also function as a pronoun. Notice that the narrator switches from the lion's feet (a classifier that represents the lion) to the deer's feet (another classifier that represents the deer). This immediate change is also known as a "cut", one of the techniques in cinematic vocabulary in ASL storytelling.

After the switch or cinematic "cut", the index finger (right, dominant hand) is a classifier that represents the lion. The way it moves describes the approach of the lion towards the deer. The left passive hand (fist) along with the facial expression describes the deer (who is afraid and/or nervous).

Gloss: deer running away

The narrator shows a transition of the way the deer moves from jumping in fear to a few paces (or steps in walking or running), and then running hard.

Gloss: antlers getting tangled in the branches

The narrator signs the nouns antlers and trees/branches first which then become a classifier afterward. Both the antlers and the branches have the same handshape of the classifier in this video clip. They are nicely complementary. How does one know which is the antlers or the branches? Hint: palm orientation.

The way the narrator moves her hands (antlers) and her posture in a loose circular path (especially in the last part of this video clip) means that the deer is in struggle and maybe confusion or shock.

Related posts

Also see The Peacock and the Crane: a fable.

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Expressing needs and wants

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Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.