The Italian author Laurentius Abstemius wrote 100 fables based on popular idioms and proverbs of the day. One of them concerns some fish thrown live into a frying pan of boiling fat. One of fish urges its fellows to save their lives by jumping out, but when they do so they fall into the burning coals and curse it’s bad advice. The fabulist concludes: ‘This fable warns us that when we are avoiding present dangers, we should not fall into even worse peril.
The tale was included in Latin collections of Aesop’s fables from the following century onwards. The first person to adapt it into English was Roger L’Estrange in 1692. He was followed shortly after by the anonymous author of Aesop at Oxford, in whose fable “Worse and Worse” the fish jump ‘Out of the Frying-Pan, into the Fire’ by a collective decision.