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ClassicsOnline Home » AESOP: Fables
A collection of these enduring tales for children and adults, with entertaining music and sound effects!
The Fox and the Grapes • The Tortoise and the Hare
Androcles and the Lion • The Crow and the Pitcher
The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing and many more
Legend says that Aesop was a slave who lived in Ancient
Greece around 600 BC but there is no real record of his life or death. We don’t
even know for certain which of these fables, called Aesop’s Fables, were
actually by him.
Over the years, over the many centuries, people added to
this collection, contributing new stories and perhaps adding new aphorisms —
the short sentences that explain the moral of the tale. For many people have
found that this method of telling a short story to make a point — and help
people remember the point — is a very effective way.
In France in the 17th century, a writer named Jean de la
Fontaine produced many new fables, which told stories for his time. In America
in the 19th century, Ambrose Bierce also loved the fable, and wrote many for
his time. And in Japan, Zen Buddhist monks as learning and teaching devices
used the same method — these are called Zen stories.
But who Aesop was, we have no idea. We can imagine him as a
quiet, well-educated reflective man — tradition says he was a slave, but often
slaves were educated in Ancient Greece. Perhaps he wasn’t so quiet — because he
must have been a good storyteller. In the days of Aesop, the stories would have
been told, rather than written for others to read.
By the time these fables emerged, Ancient Greece had a
strong tradition of telling stories or poems — Homer’s famous Tales of Troy and
Odysseus were well known by the time Aesop was supposed to have lived. And the
pictures we have of storytellers on Greek vases show, very often, the
storyteller weaving his spell with the help of a harp — adding music to the
words, as we do here.
And there is no reason why the tradition of fables should
come to an end now. Anyone … everyone can add new fables to the store of
history. Even you.
Notes by Nicolas Soames
A familiar voice on Naxos AudioBooks, Anton Lesser has
played many of the principal Shakespearean roles for the Royal Shakespeare
Company and performed contemporary drama, notably The Birthday Party, by Harold
Pinter. Appearances on television include The Cherry Orchard,
The Mill on the Floss and The Politician’s Wife.
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