Friday, November 2, 2012

Aesop's Fables

Well, this was, without a doubt, the easiest read in the series!  It was 45 pages of paragraph-long stories about animals.  It almost seemed like a vacation.  It was so easy, in fact, that I am finding it extremely difficult to write about!

I was struck by how political the morals of the stories seem to be.  Indeed, the introduction states that it is thought that these were written as social commentary in a time when speaking overtly on such matters might be dangerous.  I found this to be perfect reading for election season.

Some of the stories are familiar, all of the stories contain a moral at the end, almost all of which are accepted common wisdom.  These phrases make up so much of our language, our thought, our civilization: "Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear", "Plodding wins the race", "Destroy the seed of evil, or it will grow up to your ruin", "There is always someone worse off than yourself", "Gratitude is the sign of noble souls."  I, for one, feel that young people ought to fill their heads with these books of ancient wisdom in palatable form, to allow all these stories to permeate their being.

Of course, there is also the wealth of cultural universal images throughout this work.  From the frogs dancing on their log-king, to the tortoise and the hare, the ass in a lion's skin, the dog with a bone reflecting in the still pond, the fox and the grapes, the ants and grasshopper, and so forth, these are images that recur so often in our shared culture.  So often I have found it pleasurable and profitable to read the originals of well known memes.  So often they are much richer than what's been passed down second hand (and, I might add, so often they are so much darker!  But more on that when we hit the Grimm's).

I relished the experience of reading these fables.  My hypothetical child would read them (and I plan to lobby to have my actual grandson read them).  That is, however, about all I have to say about them.  Which seems fitting.


  1. There's quite a hard-nosed morality running throughout these tales reflecting the harshness of early civilization, no mention of forgiveness anywhere but lots of gloating about the consequences of folly.

  2. Yes! I anticipate delving a little more into the harshness and no-longer shared morality when I come to comment on Grimm's. I was amazed at "One bad turn deserves another" and that sort of thing. Also the many stories where people and animals end up dying or being horribly maimed sort of grates against my Christian morality. I suppose I can't expect that of Aesop, but I wonder what Jacob and Wilhelm would have to say for themselves.