, as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartmann Schedel. Here he is shown wearing 15th century German clothing
The Aesop's Fables refers to a collection of fables credited to Aesop (620—560 BC), a slave and story-teller that lived in Ancient Greece. Aesop's Fables have become a blanket term for collections of brief fables, usually involving personified animals. The fables remain a popular choice for moral education of children today. There are many stories included in Aesop's Fables, such as The Fox and the Grapes (from which the idiom "sour grapes" was derived), The Tortoise and the Hare, The North Wind and the Sun and The Boy Who Cried Wolf, are well-known throughout the world. In the 3rd century AD Apollonius of Tyana, the 1st century AD philosopher recorded as having said about Aesop:
- ...like those who dine well off the plainest dishes, he made use of humble incidents to teach great truths, and after serving up a story he adds to it the advice to do a thing or not to do it. Then, too, he was really more attached to truth than the poets are; for the latter do violence to their own stories in order to make them probable; but he by announcing a story which everyone knows not to be true, told the truth by the very fact that he did not claim to be relating real events.
- And there is another charm about him, namely, that he puts animals in a pleasing light and makes them interesting to mankind. For after being brought up from childhood with these stories, and after being as it were nursed by them from babyhood, we acquire certain opinions of the several animals and think of some of them as royal animals, of others as silly, of others as witty, and others as innocent. —Life of Apollonius of Tyana, book v.14.
Aesop (from the Greek Αἴσωπος — Aisopos), famous for his fables, was a slave who lived between 620 and 560 BC in Ancient Greece. The place of Aesop's birth is uncertain — Thrace, Phrygia, Ethiopia, Samos, Athens and Sardis all claim the honour. Little was known about him from credible records, except that he was at one point freed from slavery and that he eventually died in Delphi. In fact, the obscurity shrouding his life has led some scholars to deny his existence altogether.
According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the fables were invented by a slave named Aesop who lived in Ancient Greece during the 6th century BC. While some suggested that Aesop did not actually exist, and that the fables attributed to him are folktales of unknown origins, Aesop was indeed mentioned in several other Ancient Greek works – Aristophanes, in his comedy The Wasps, represented the protagonist Philocleon as having learnt the "absurdities" of Aesop from conversation at banquets; Plato wrote in Phaedo that Socrates whiled away his jail time turning some of Aesop's fables "which he knew" into verses; and Demetrius of Phalerum compiled the fables into a set of ten books (Lopson Aisopeion sunagogai) for the use of orators, which had been lost. There was also an edition in elegiac verse by an anonymous author, which was often cited in the Suda.
The first extensive translation of Aesop into Latin was done by Phaedrus, a freedman of Augustus in this first century AD, although at least one fable had already been translated by the poet Ennius. Avianus also translated forty two of the fables into Latin elegiacs, probably in the 4th century AD.
The collection under the name of Aesop's Fables evolved from the late Greek version of Babrius, who turned them into choliambic verses, at an uncertain time between 3rd century BC and 3rd century AD. In about 100 BC, Indian philosopher Syntipas translated Babrius into Syriac, from where Andreopulos translated back to Greek, since original Greek scripts had all been lost. Aesop's fables and the Panchatantra share about a dozen tales, leading to discussions whether the Greeks learned these fables from Indian storytellers or the other way, or if the influences were mutual.
In the 9th century, Ignatius Diaconus, created a version of fifty-five fables in choliambic tetrameters, into which stories from Oriental sources were added, ultimately mutated from the Sanskrit Panchatantra. From these collections the 14th-century monk Maximus Planudes compiled the collection which has come down under the name of Aesop.
In 1484, William Caxton, the first printer of books in English, printed a version of Aesop's Fables, which was brought up to date by Sir Roger L'Estrange in 1692. An example of the fables in Caxton's collection follows:
| ||Men ought not to leue that thynge whiche is sure & certayne / for hope to haue the vncertayn / as to vs reherceth this fable of a fyssher whiche with his lyne toke a lytyll fysshe whiche sayd to hym / My frend I pray the / doo to me none euylle / ne putte me not to dethe / For now I am nought / for to be eten / but whanne I shalle be grete / yf thow come ageyne hyther / of me shalt thow mowe haue grete auaylle / For thenne I shalle goo with the a good whyle / And the Fyssher sayd to the fysshe Syn I hold the now / thou shalt not scape fro me / For grete foly hit were to me for to seke the here another tyme. || |
The most reproduced modern English translations were made by Rev. George Fyler Townsend (1814 – 1900). Ben E. Perry, the editor of Aesopic fables of Babrius and Phaedrus for the Loeb Classical Library, compiled a numbered index by type. The edition by Olivia Temple and Robert Temple, titled The Complete Fables by Aesop, although the fables are not complete here since fables from Babrius, Phaedrus and other major ancient sources have been omitted. More recently, in 2002 a translation by Laura Gibbs was published by Oxford World's Classics, entitled Aesop's Fables. This book includes 359 fables and has selections from all the major Greek and Latin sources.
Aesop's Fables in other languages
- Towards the end of the 17th century, the French fables of French poet Jean de la Fontaine were partly inspired by the Aesop's Fables, although he acknowledges that the greatest part of them is inspired by the original Sanskrit version.
- Around 1800, the fables were adapted and translated into Russian by the Russian fabulist Ivan Krylov.
- The first translation of Aesop's Fables into Chinese was made in 1625. It included thirty-one fables conveyed orally by a Belgian Jesuit missionary to China named Nicolas Trigault and written down by a Chinese academic named Zhang Geng. There have been various modern-day translations by Zhou Zuoren and others.
- Jean de la Fontaine, the French poet, took his inspiration from the Aesop's Fables to write his Fables Choisies (1668).
- American cartoonist, Paul Terry began his own series of cartoons called Aesop's Film Fables in 1921. In 1928, the Van Beuren Studio took hold of the series. It ended in 1933.
- Brazilian dramatist Guilherme Figueiredo wrote a play The Fox and the Grapes (A raposa e as uvas) (1953) about Aesop's life. It was staged many times in the world's best theaters.
- The Smothers Brothers, an American musical-comedy team, released a comedy album titled Aesop's Fables The Smothers Brothers Way in 1965. Seven of Aesop's more famous fables and morals are related in the album.
- A humorous interpretation of Aesop's fables can be found in the cartoon television series "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" in the segments titled "Aesop and Son."
List of some fables by Aesop
The fable Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
is used in this World War II Soviet propaganda poster to allude to German treachery in Operation Barbarossa.
Aesop's most famous fables include:
- The Ant and the Grasshopper
- The Boy Who Cried Wolf
- The Crow and the Pitcher
- The Dog and the Bone
- The Dog in the Manger
- The Frog and the Ox
- The Frogs Who Desired a King
- The Fox and the Grapes
- The Fox and the Crow
- The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs
- The Lion and the Mouse
- The North Wind and the Sun
- The Scorpion and the Frog
- The Tortoise and the Hare
- The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
- The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
- ^ D.L. Ashliman, "Introduction", p. xxii, in Aesop's Fables (2003)
- Caxton, John, 1484. The history and fables of Aesop, Westminster. Modern reprint edited by Robert T. Lenaghan (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1967).
- Bentley, Richard, 1697. Dissertation upon the Epistles of Phalaris... and the Fables of Ęsop. London.
- Jacobs, Joseph, 1889. The Fables of Aesop: Selected, Told Anew, and Their History Traced, as first printed by William Caxton, 1484, from his French translation
- i. A short history of the Aesopic fable
- ii. The Fables of Aesop
- Handford, S. A., 1954. Fables of Aesop. New York: Penguin.
- Perry, Ben E. (editor), 1965. Babrius and Phaedrus, (Loeb Classical Library) Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965. English translations of 143 Greek verse fables by Babrius, 126 Latin verse fables by Phaedrus, 328 Greek fables not extant in Babrius, and 128 Latin fables not extant in Phaedrus (including some medieval materials) for a total of 725 fables.
- Temple, Olivia and Robert (translators), 1998. Aesop, The Complete Fables, New York: Penguin Classics. (ISBN 0-14-044649-4)
- Bryn Mawr Classical Review, with Aesop bibliography
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
- Aesopica.net: Over 600 English fables, plus Caxton's Aesop, Latin and Greek texts, Content Index, and Site Search.
- An online collection for children, some Aesopic fables and other stories (links to Aesop's Fables). See also Preface to Aesop's Fables
- Free audiobook of Aesop's Fables from LibriVox
- 1947 Hare and Tortoise film at Internet Archive (public domain).
- Stories that have been called "modern Aesop Fables"
- An example of comparison with Panchatantra
- Full Librivox Audio Book Catalog of Downloadable .iso CDs - some have Aesop's Fables
- Ancient Greek literature
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