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Aesop's Fables

Aesop's Fables

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Image:Aesopnurembergchronicle.jpg
Aesop, as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartmann Schedel. Here he is shown wearing 15th century German clothing

Aesop's Fables or Aesopica refers to a collection of fables credited to Aesop (620560 BC), a slave and story-teller who 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. 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.

Apollonius of Tyana, the 1st century AD philosopher, is 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. (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Book V:14)

Contents

Aesop

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Aesop (from the Greek ΑἴσωποςAisopos), famous for his fables, was a slave who lived mid-sixth century BC, in Ancient Greece. The place of Aesop's birth was and still is disputed: Thrace, Phrygia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Samos, Athens, Sardis and Amorium all claimed the honour. Little is 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.

Origins

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 1st 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. Ben E. Perry, one of the foremost authorities on Aesopic fable, argued for the second possibility in his book Babrius and Phaedrus. In his introduction he wrote: "In the entire Greek tradition there is not, so far as I can see, a single fable that can be said to come either directly or indirectly from an Indian source; but many fables or fable-motifs which make their first appearance in Greek or Near Eastern literature are found later in the Panchatantra and other Indian story-books, including the Buddhist Jatakas."[1]

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.[2]

Image:Caxton-Fables.png
Picture from Caxton's edition

On March 26 1484, William Caxton, the first printer of books in English, printed a version of Aesop's Fables.[1]. An example of the fables in Caxton's collection follows:

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Caxton's version was brought up to date by Sir Roger L'Estrange in 1692. However, the most reproduced modern English translations were made by Rev. George Fyler Townsend (18141900). 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

  • Portuguese missionaries arriving in Japan at the end of the 16th century introduced Japan to this story. A Latin edition was translated into romanized Japanese. The title was Esopo no Fabvlas and dates to 1593. This was soon followed by a fuller translation into a three-volume kanazōshi entitled Template:Nihongo sometime between 1596 and 1624.

Adaptations

  • Bill Cosby portrayed the story-teller in a 1971 children's program titled Aesop's Fables.

List of some fables by Aesop

Image:Crowandsheese.jpg
Russian sculpture of the crow in "The Fox and the Crow" fable

Aesop's most famous fables include:

See also

Notes

  1. Ben E. Perry, "Introduction", p. xix, in Babrius and Phaedrus (1965)
  2. D.L. Ashliman, "Introduction", p. xxii, in Aesop's Fables (2003)
  3. Préface aux Fables de La Fontaine

Sources

External links

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Wikisource
Wikisource has original text related to this article:

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ia:Fabulas de Esopo mk:Езопови басни ja:イソップ寓話 no:Æsops fabler pl:Bajki Ezopa pt:Fábulas de Esopo zh:伊索寓言

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