Book Review: The Fables of Aesop
Based on theÂ texts of L'Estrange and CroxallÂ
When my children were very young and we were homeschooling, I incorporated into our history and geography studies the folklores of the peoples we were learning. The experience renewed my love of folklore. There's something refreshing in learning about a people group from their fables, tales, and parables.
- One benefit is to see how everyday men and women connect with each other.
- Â Another benefit is to learn how their culture distinguishes them and defines them as a people.
- A third benefit is that the folklore of the region helps us understand the commonalities shared around the globe. There is a common thread that runs through all of us, and it becomes evident in the folklore.
Over the ages, tales, parables and fables have been used to convey instruction. Each is distinguished by its own special characteristics. The "tale" is a simple narration of a story, and can be either based on fact or a product of one's imagination. It may or may not have any lesson to teach to its listerners.
The "parable", on the other hand, by the use of its wording is designed to convey a hidden, secret meaning other than that contained in its words. Sometimes the parable contained a special reference to its hearer or reader. Jesus was famous for his use of parables.
The "fable" is both similar and different from tales and parables. It usually contains a short narrative. Like a parable it usually contained a hidden meaning. It usually uses the interaction of its characters to impart some great teaching or lesson. It personifies the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the trees of the wood, animals in the forest and so on to convey some moral or counsel. The writer of the fables become a great teacher and social reformer in the guise of a storyteller. The fables are often funny and make the readers laugh, while beneath the surface a great lesson is taught.
Some folklore has becomeÂ well-known over the ages and transcended national borders, perhaps because the lore plucks at our heartstrings and transcends color, nationality, creed, religions, race, prejudices, money, and politics. For whatever reason, some lore appeals to a broad spectrum of persons. Aesop's Fables, in general, are such a lore. Aesop was a real person. He lived in a time of history when people were hungry to learn, and learning was viewed as a privilege. He is believed to have lived about 600 years before Jesus was born.
Not all literature attributed to Aesop is really an invention of Aesop. Over the centuries, his collections of tales, parables and fables have been lost, re-discovered, translated to prose from verse, re-translated, bundled into other collections, revised, and printed. Many researchers have attempted to find authentic versions that can be attributed to Aesop alone, but the effort has been difficult and sometimes inconclusive.
I have a collection of Aesop's Fables in a not so ancient book, TheÂ Fables of Aesop, published in New York, by Books, Inc. It's part of a series called, "The World's Popular Classics." There's no publishing date, but the owner signed the book and dated it as 1946. I thought I would share some of the fables in this collection with you in the near future. There is also a good source online which you can find at this address.Â
The first in a series:
The Lion's Share
The Lion and several other Beasts once agreed to live peaceably together in the forest, sharing equally all the spoils of hunting. One day, a fine fat stag fell into a snare set by the Goat, who thereupon called the rest together.
The Lion divided the Stag into four parts. Taking the best piece for himself, he said, "This
is mine, of course, as I am the Lion." Taking another portion, he added, "This too is mine
by right--the right, if you must know, of the strongest." Further, putting aside the third piece, "That's for the most valiant," said he; "and as for the remaining part, touch it if you dare."
Might makes right.