Aesop's Fables

Aesop's Fables


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Aesop's Fables by Michael Hague, Aesop

"Please, O King," cried the Mouse, "spare me this time and I shall never forget your kindness. Someday I may be able to repay you." The Lion was so amused by this idea that he let the poor creature go.

In sixth-century Greece, it is said, there lived a slave named Aesop who was renowned for his brilliant storytelling. The collection of sly, witty fables that bears his name continues to delight readers of all ages. Michael Hague has selected his favorite fables and illustrated them with beautiful paintings in the style that has made his work so popular.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805063158
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 10/15/1999
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 32
Sales rank: 786,976
Product dimensions: 8.03(w) x 9.97(h) x 0.10(d)
Age Range: 4 - 8 Years

About the Author

Michael Hague lives with his family in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Read an Excerpt

Aesop, according to legend, was born either in Sardis, on the Greek island of Samos, or in Cotiaeum, the chief city in a province of Phrygia, and lived from about 620 to 560 B.C. Little is known about his life, but Aristotle mentioned his acting as a public defender, and Plutarch numbered him as one of the “Seven Wise Men.” It is generally believed he was a slave, freed by his master because of his wit and wisdom. As a free man, he went to Athens, ruled at that time by the tyrant Peisistratus, an enemy of free speech. As Aesop became famous for his fables, which used animals as a code to tell the truth about political injustice, he incurred the wrath of Peisistratus. Eventually, Aesop was condemned to death for sacrilege and thrown over a cliff. Later, the Athenians erected a statue in his honor. In about 300 B.C., Demetrius Phalereus of Athens made the first known collection of Aesop’s fables, which then spread far beyond the Greek world.

Jack Zipes is a professor of German at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of several books of fairy tales, including Breaking the Magic Spell and Don’t Bet on the Prince. He is also the editor of several volumes of fairy tales, including Beauties, Beasts and Enchantment: Classic French Fairy Tales, The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, The Fairy Tales of Frank Stockton, and Arabian Nights.

Sam Pickering teaches English at the University of Connecticut. He has written seventeen books, fourteen of which are collections of essays. His most recent books are Waltzing the Magpies, an account of a year he and his family spent in Western Australia, and The Best of Pickering, both published by the University of Michigan Press.

A Note on the

Text and Illustrations

This edition of Aesop’s Fables is based on the Reverend Thomas James’s Aesop’s Fables: A New Version, Chiefly from Original Sources (New York: Robert B. Collins, 1848). While adapting this version of the fables, I consulted numerous other nineteenth-century translations and made various changes in keeping with the traditional plots. As has been the custom with translators and adapters of Aesop’s fables, I have taken a good deal of poetic license at times. Since Mr. James’s style is somewhat archaic, I have used a more modern American idiom in adapting them and have occasionally conceived new morals so that the fables might ring more “true” to the situation of the contemporary reader.

The illustrations are from Fables de La Fontaine illustrated by J.J. Grandville (Paris: H. Fournier, 1838). Grandville was a pseudonym for Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard (1803–1847). Born in Nancy, he arrived in Paris during the 1820s and soon made a name for himself as a lithographer and political caricaturist. He was especially interested the theater and animals and was known for incorporating political satire into his complex and fastidious drawings. During the 1830s he turned to book illustration and composed 120 woodcuts for La Fontaine’s fables, which were largely based on Aesop’s work; he caused quite a stir by turning many of the animals into types of human beings. In doing this, Grandville’s figures often appear grotesque and have a surreal quality to them. The distinction between beast and human is blurred, or rather, Grandville’s keen eye captures stunning similarities between humans and animals that often make humans appear in a ridiculous light. In addition, Grandville takes pains to give a clear indication of the social status of the figures through their clothing and behavior to comment on the French mores of his time. There are many emblematic references to urban life in Paris, and in this respect Grandville was one of the first artists to address modern problems of the city and industrialization. Grandville also illustrated the Fables de S. Lavalette (1841) and theFables de Florian (1842), two minor French fabulists, in the same unique manner and is considered one of the greatest interpreters of Aesop’s fables (through La Fontaine) for the modern age.



Little is known about Aesop, except that he lived in Greece, probably between 600 and 500 B.C. Happily for readers, scribblers can rarely resist adorning empty biographies with tales—appropriate in Aesop’s case, since generations have celebrated him as the archetypal storyteller. “What Aesop was by birth,” Nathaniel Crouch wrote in 1737, “authors don’t agree, but that he was of a mean condition, and his person deformed to the highest degree, is what all affirm: he was flat-nos’d, hunch-back’d, bloober-lip’d, jolt-headed: his body crooked all over, big-belly’d, badger-legg’d, and of a swarthy complexion. But the excellency and beauty of his mind made a sufficient atonement for the outward appearance of his person.” Add that he stuttered terribly, quite a handicap for a philosophic raconteur, and Aesop becomes a man delightful to discover on the page, no matter the quality of his mind.

Fictional accounts of Aesop’s life usually relate that he was sold as a slave in Ephesus. Later, in Samos, he behaved like Solomon, his wisdom reconciling the irreconcilable. After accusing magistrates at Delos of tomfoolery and corruption, however, he met a stony end. A gold cup pilfered from the shrine to the Oracle having been planted in his baggage, he was convicted of sacrilege and tossed “head-long from a high rock.” The moral being, I suppose, the wages of tale-telling will out.

In the literary underworld, lie and truth twine fruitfully together through generations, spawning page after page. Crouch lifted his life from the introduction of Roger L’Estrange’s famous collection of some five hundred fables published in 1692. In his collection published in 1722, Samuel Croxall took L’Estrange to task, declaring, “There were never so many blunders and childish dreams mixt up together, as are to be met with in the short compass of that piece.” Knowing “the little trifling circumstances” of Aesop’s life, Croxall said, was insignificant, “whether he was a slave or a freeman, whether handsome or ugly. He has left us a legacy in his writings that will preserve his memory clean and perpetual among us.”

Croxall also got matters wrong. Aesop told but did not write down fables. Much as The Thousand and One Nightsis a miscellany of stories drawn from diverse cultures stretching from Egypt to China, so the origins of Aesop’s fables are various, all editions being mongrel blends of tales taken from countries around the Mediterranean and to the east.


Excerpted from "Aesop's Fables"
by .
Copyright © 2004 Sam Aesop.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

The Ant and the Grasshopper
The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
The Jackdaw and the Pigeons
The Belly and the Members
The Lion and the Four Bulls
The Goatherd and the She-Goat
The Fox and the Stork
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
The Cock and the Jewel
The Serpent and the Man
The Travelers and the Plane Tree
The Eagle and the Arrow
The Two Crabs
The Fox and the Woodman
The Lark and Her Young Ones
The Wolf and the Watchdog
The Dog and His Shadow
The Old Man, His Son and the Ass
The Fox and the Lion
The Leopard and the Fox
Minerva's Olive
The Countryman and the Snake
The Wolf and the Kid
"The Young Mouse, the Cock and the Cat"
The Vain Jackdaw
Belling the Cat
The Covetous Man
The One-Eyed Doe
The Cock and the Fox
The Hare and the Tortoise
Jupiter's Two Wallets
The Stag Looking into the Pool
The Old Woman and the Doctor
The Gnat and the Bull
The Boy and the Figs
Socrates and His Friends
The Wolf and the Ass
The Crow and the Pitcher
The Mule Laden with Corn and the Mule Laden with Gold
The Fox and the Goat
The Kid and the Wolf
The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg
Mercury and the Woodman
The Wolf and the Crane
The Boys and the Frogs
The Hare and the Hound
The Ape and the Dolphin
The Goat and the Lion
The Ploughman and Fortune
The Fox and the Ass
The Cats and the Mice
The Peacock and the Crane
The Man and the Lion
The Old Hound
The Two Travelers
The Ass and the Little Dog
The Fox and the Grapes
The Fox in the Well
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Hart and the Vine
The Sow and the Wolf
The Frog and the Ox
The Lion and the Mouse
The Stag and the Fawn
The Hen and the Fox
The Farmer and the Eagle
The Dove and the Ant
The Mischievouse Dog
The Ass Laden with Salt and with Sponges
The Goatherd and the Goats
The Farmer and His Sons
The Horse and the Lion
"The Ass, the Lion and the Cock"
"The Lion, the Tiger and the Fox"
The Fortune-Teller
The Oak and the Reeds
The Fox and the Mask
The Sick Lion
Hercules and the Wagoner
The Travelers and the Bear
The Falconer and the Partridge
The Wind and the Sun
The Lion, the Fox, and the Ass
The Fox and the Crow
The Wanton Calf
The Old Man and His Sons
The Satyr and the Traveler
The Maid and the Pail of Milk
The Frogs Asking for a King
The Farmer and The Stork
The Dog in the Manger
The Boasting Traveler

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Jonathan Kent's reading revives the original oral tradition, and his voices for the animal characters make the little stories entertaining as well as enlightening." —-AudioFile

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