The Courageous Flea, by Mark Twain

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose misapplication of the word.”

Consider the flea! Incomparably the bravest of all the creatures of God, if ignorance of fear were courage.

Whether you are asleep or awake he will attack you, caring nothing for the fact that in bulk and strength you are to him as are the massed armies of the earth to a sucking child; he lives both day and night and all days and nights in the very lap of peril and the immediate presence of death, and yet is no more afraid than is the man who walks the streets of a city that was threatened by an earthquake ten centuries before.

When we speak of Clive, Nelson and Putnam as men who “didn’t know what fear was,” we ought always to add the flea – and put him at the head of the procession.

– Mark Twain, The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson

Image: National Library of Medicine