The fables, numbering , were originally told from person-to-person as much for entertainment purposes but largely as a means for relaying or teaching a moral or lesson. These early stories are essentially allegorical myths often portraying animals or insects e. Ultimately the fables represent one of the oldest characteristics of human life: storytelling.
The origins of the fables pre-date the Greeks. Sumerian proverbs, written some 1, years before Christ, share similar characteristics and structure as the later Greek fables. The writing style of both the earlier proverbs and the later fables were simple and direct. Neither contains many words. The situations re-counted in the stories begin with some type of incident and conclude with a punch line which would transform into the oft-recognized moral of the tale.
It is much later that writers would begin to include the moral either at the beginning of the story designed to tell the reader the purpose of the tale upfront or was added to the end to instruct the reader what the story was supposed to teach. Ultimately, the fables are designed to highlight both desired and undesirable human behaviors: what to do or what not to do.
The fables, written down in Greek between the 10thth centuries CE, may not be recorded in the exact words as when they were first told. Despite these changes, one characteristic that most of the fables share is the role of animals in the stories. The animals display human-like qualities, especially the characteristics of speech and behavior. In effect, the stories are designed to mimic human life. In order to allow the animals to appear in multiple tales and roles, Aesop did not restrict the animals to behaving in a manner generally associated with that particular animal e.
These looser characterizations allow for the animals to appear in other settings acting in different manners. The fables served as a means by which criticisms against the government could be expressed without fear of punishment. In effect, the stories served as a code by which the weak and powerless could speak out against the strong and powerful.
Additionally, the stories served to remind the weak that being clever could provide a means by which they could succeed against the powerful.
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The stories described the challenges of adulthood thus allowing young readers to engage with the characters and morals of adulthood at an early age. The stories also provided an opportunity for a measure of self-reflection. At those moments when Greeks suspected their culture or civilization was not living up to expectations, the fables provided an opportunity for a degree of self-reflection. Although humans and animals share similar traits, humans are different due to their power of reason which allows humans to make different choices about life and living.
An Eagle swooped down upon a Serpent and seized it in his talons with the intention of carrying it off and devouring it. But the Serpent was too quick for him and had its coils round him in a moment; and then there ensued a life-and- death struggle between the two. A countryman, who was a witness of the encounter, came to the assistance of the eagle, and succeeded in freeing him from the Serpent and enabling him to escape. In revenge, the Serpent spat some of his poison into the man's drinking-horn.
Heated with his exertions, the man was about to slake his thirst with a draught from the horn, when the Eagle knocked it out of his hand, and spilled its contents upon the ground. A groom used to spend whole days in currycombing and rubbing down his Horse, but at the same time stole his oats and sold them for his own profit. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.
Then the Grasshopper knew. Moral: It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.
Caribbean creole also saw a flowering of such adaptations from the middle of the 19th century onwards — initially as part of the colonialist project but later as an assertion of love for and pride in the dialect. As well as two later editions in Martinique, there were two more published in France in and and others in the 20th century. Then the start of the new century saw the publication of Georges Sylvain 's Cric? This was among a collection of poems and stories with facing translations in a book that also included a short history of the territory and an essay on creole grammar.
Versions in the French creole of the islands in the Indian Ocean began somewhat earlier than in the Caribbean.
This was published in and went through three editions. Fables began as an expression of the slave culture and their background is in the simplicity of agrarian life. Creole transmits this experience with greater purity than the urbane language of the slave-owner. Fables belong essentially to the oral tradition; they survive by being remembered and then retold in one's own words.
When they are written down, particularly in the dominant language of instruction, they lose something of their essence. A strategy for reclaiming them is therefore to exploit the gap between the written and the spoken language. One of those who did this in English was Sir Roger L'Estrange , who translated the fables into the racy urban slang of his day and further underlined their purpose by including in his collection many of the subversive Latin fables of Laurentius Abstemius.
In the centuries that followed there were further reinterpretations through the medium of regional languages, which to those at the centre were regarded as little better than slang. Eventually, however, the demotic tongue of the cities themselves began to be appreciated as a literary medium. One of the earliest examples of these urban slang translations was the series of individual fables contained in a single folded sheet, appearing under the title of Les Fables de Gibbs in This followed the genre's growth in popularity after World War II.
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The majority of such printings were privately produced leaflets and pamphlets, often sold by entertainers at their performances, and are difficult to date. In the 20th century Ben E. Perry edited the Aesopic fables of Babrius and Phaedrus for the Loeb Classical Library and compiled a numbered index by type in This book includes and has selections from all the major Greek and Latin sources.
Until the 18th century the fables were largely put to adult use by teachers, preachers, speech-makers and moralists. It was the philosopher John Locke who first seems to have advocated targeting children as a special audience in Some Thoughts Concerning Education Aesop's fables, in his opinion are. And if his memory retain them all his life after, he will not repent to find them there, amongst his manly thoughts and serious business.
If his Aesop has pictures in it, it will entertain him much better, and encourage him to read when it carries the increase of knowledge with it For such visible objects children hear talked of in vain, and without any satisfaction, whilst they have no ideas of them; those ideas being not to be had from sounds, but from the things themselves, or their pictures. That young people are a special target for the fables was not a particularly new idea and a number of ingenious schemes for catering to that audience had already been put into practice in Europe.
The Centum Fabulae of Gabriele Faerno was commissioned by Pope Pius IV in the 16th century 'so that children might learn, at the same time and from the same book, both moral and linguistic purity'. When King Louis XIV of France wanted to instruct his six-year-old son, he incorporated the series of hydraulic statues representing 38 chosen fables in the labyrinth of Versailles in the s.
In this he had been advised by Charles Perrault , who was later to translate Faerno's widely published Latin poems into French verse and so bring them to a wider audience. In this the fables of La Fontaine were rewritten to fit popular airs of the day and arranged for simple performance. The preface to this work comments that 'we consider ourselves happy if, in giving them an attraction to useful lessons which are suited to their age, we have given them an aversion to the profane songs which are often put into their mouths and which only serve to corrupt their innocence.
In Great Britain various authors began to develop this new market in the 18th century, giving a brief outline of the story and what was usually a longer commentary on its moral and practical meaning. First published in , with engravings for each fable by Elisha Kirkall , it was continually reprinted into the second half of the 19th century. First that it was printed in Birmingham by John Baskerville in ; second that it appealed to children by having the animals speak in character, the Lion in regal style, the Owl with 'pomp of phrase';  thirdly because it gathers into three sections fables from ancient sources, those that are more recent including some borrowed from Jean de la Fontaine , and new stories of his own invention.
Thomas Bewick 's editions from Newcastle upon Tyne are equally distinguished for the quality of his woodcuts. The first of those under his name was the Select Fables in Three Parts published in The work is divided into three sections: the first has some of Dodsley's fables prefaced by a short prose moral; the second has 'Fables with Reflections', in which each story is followed by a prose and a verse moral and then a lengthy prose reflection; the third, 'Fables in Verse', includes fables from other sources in poems by several unnamed authors; in these the moral is incorporated into the body of the poem.
In the early 19th century authors turned to writing verse specifically for children and included fables in their output. One of the most popular was the writer of nonsense verse, Richard Scrafton Sharpe died , whose Old Friends in a New Dress: familiar fables in verse first appeared in and went through five steadily augmented editions until The versions are lively but Taylor takes considerable liberties with the story line.
Both authors were alive to the over serious nature of the 18th century collections and tried to remedy this.
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Sharpe in particular discussed the dilemma they presented and recommended a way round it, tilting at the same time at the format in Croxall's fable collection:. It has been the accustomed method in printing fables to divide the moral from the subject; and children, whose minds are alive to the entertainment of an amusing story, too often turn from one fable to another, rather than peruse the less interesting lines that come under the term "Application". It is with this conviction that the author of the present selection has endeavoured to interweave the moral with the subject, that the story shall not be obtained without the benefit arising from it; and that amusement and instruction may go hand in hand.
Sharpe was also the originator of the limerick, but his versions of Aesop are in popular song measures and it was not until that the limerick form was ingeniously applied to the fables. This was in a magnificently hand-produced Arts and Crafts Movement edition, The Baby's Own Aesop: being the fables condensed in rhyme with portable morals pictorially pointed by Walter Crane.
Some later prose editions were particularly notable for their illustrations. Among these was Aesop's fables: a new version, chiefly from original sources by Thomas James, 'with more than one hundred illustrations designed by John Tenniel '. Notable early 20th century editions include V.
The illustrations from Croxall's editions were an early inspiration for other artefacts aimed at children. In the 18th century they appear on tableware from the Chelsea , Wedgwood and Fenton potteries, for example.
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Fables were used equally early in the design of tiles to surround the nursery fireplace. In France too, well-known illustrations of La Fontaine's fables were often used on china. In Classical times there was an overlap between fable and myth, especially where they had an aetiological function. According to the first, humans are distinguished by their rationality. Such early philosophical speculation was also extended to the ethical problems connected with divine justice. For example, it was perceived as disproportionate for an evil man to be punished by dying in a shipwreck when it involved many other innocent people.