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Æsop and Bid pai. The type of fable in mind in the above account is that known as the Æsopic, a brief beast-story in which the characters are, as a rule, conventionalized animals, and which points out some practical moral. The fox may represent crafty people, the ass may represent stupid people, the wind may represent boisterous people, the tortoise may represent plodding people who “keep everlastingly at it." When human beings are introduced, such as the Shepherd Boy, or Androcles, or the Travelers, or the Milkmaid, they are as wholly conventionalized as the animals and there is never any doubt as to their motives. Æsop, if he ever existed at all, is said to have been a Greek slave of the sixth century B.C., very ugly and clever, who used fables orally for political purposes and succeeded in gaining his freedom and a high position. Later writers, among them Demetrius of Phalerum about 300 B.C. and Phaedrus about 30 A.D., made versions of fables ascribed to Æsop. Many writers in the Middle Ages brought together increasing numbers of fables under Æsop's name and enlarged upon the few traditional facts in Herodotus about Æsop himself until several hundred fables and an elaborate biography of the supposed author were in existence. Joseph Jacobs said he had counted as many as 700 different fables going under Æsop's name. The number included in a present-day book of Æsop usually varies from 200 to 350. Another name associated with the making of fables is that of Bidpai (or Pilpay), said to have been a philosopher attached to the court of some oriental king. Bidpai, a name which means "head scholar," is a more shadowy figure even than Æsop. What we can be sure of is that there were two centers, Greece and India, from which fables were diffused. Whether they all came originally from a single source, and, if so, what that source was, are questions still debated by scholars.
Modern fabulists. Modern fables are no more possible than a new Mother Goose or a new fairy story. For modern times the method of the fable is “at once too simple and too roundabout. Too roundabout; for the truths we have to tell we prefer to speak out directly and not by way of allegory. And the truths the fable has to teach are too simple to correspond to the facts in our complex civilization." No modern fabulist has duplicated in his field the success of Hans Christian Andersen in the field of the nursery story. A few fables from La Fontaine, a few from Krylov, one or two each from Gay, Cowper, Yriarte, and Lessing may be used to good advantage with children. The general broadening of literary variety has, of course, given us in recent times many valuable stories of the symbolistic kind. Suggestive parablelike or allegorical stories, such as a few of Hawthorne's in Twice Told Tales and Mosses from an Old Manse, or a few of Tolstoy's short tales, are simple enough for children.
The use of fables in school. "Not all fables are good for educational purposes. There is, however, plenty of room for choice, and those that present points of view no longer accepted by the modern world should be eliminated from the list. Objections based on the unreality of the fables, their “unnatural natural history,” are hardly valid. Rousseau's elimination of fables from his scheme of education in Emile is based on this objection and on the further point that the child will often sympathize with the wrong character in the story, thus going astray in the moral lesson. Other objectors down to the present day simply echo Rousseau. Such a view does little
justice to the child's natural sense of values. He is certain to see that the Frog is foolish in competing with the Ox in size, and certain to recognize the common sense of the Country Mouse. He will no more be deceived by a fable than he will by the painted clown in a circus.
v The oral method of presentation is the ideal one. Tell the story in as vivid a form as possible. In the earlier grades the interest in the story may be a sufficient end, but almost from the beginning children will see the lesson intended. They will catch the phrases that have come from fables into our everyday speech. Thus, "sour grapes," "dog in the manger," "to blow hot and cold," "to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs," "to cry ‘Wolf!'" will take on more significant meanings. If some familiar proverb goes hand in hand with the story, it will help the point to take fast hold in the mind. Applications of the fable to real events should be encouraged. That is what fables were made for and that is where their chief value for us is still manifest. Only a short time need be spent on any one fable, but every opportunity should be taken to call up and apply the fables already learned. For they are not merely for passing amusement, nor is their value confined to childhood. Listen to John Locke, one of the "hardest-headed" of philosophers: “As soon as a child has learned to read, it is desirable to place in his hands pleasant books, suited to his capacity, wherein the entertainment that he finds might draw him on, and reward his pains in reading; and yet not such as should fill his head with perfectly useless trumpery, or lay the principles of vice and folly. To this purpose I think Æsop's Fables the best, which being stories apt to delight and entertain a child, may yet afford useful reflections to a grown man, 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."
The best Æsop collection for teachers and and the boy of course cried out “Wolf!
pupils alike is The Fables of Æsop, edited Wolf!" still louder than before. But by Joseph Jacobs. It contains eighty-two this time the villagers, who had been selected fables, including those that are fooled twice before, thought the boy was most familiar and most valuable for chil- again deceiving them, and nobody stirred dren. The versions are standards of what
to come to his help. So the Wolf made such retellings should be, and may well
a good meal off the boy's flock, and when serve as models for teachers in their pres
the boy complained, the wise man of the entation of other short symbolic stories. The introduction, “A Short History of the village said: Æsopic Fable," and the notes at the end "A liar will not be believed, even when he of the book contain, in concise form, all speaks the truth.” the practical information needed. The
206 text of the Jacobs versions was the one
THE LION AND THE MOUSE selected for reproduction in Dr. Eliot's Harvard Classics. Nos. 205, 206, 207, 208, Once when a Lion was asleep a little 209, 213, and 233 in the following group Mouse began running up and down upon are by Mr. Jacobs. The other Æsopic him; this soon wakened the Lion, who fables given are from various collections of placed his huge paw upon him and the traditional versions. Almost any of the opened his big jaws to swallow him. many reprints called Æsop are satisfactory "Pardon, o King,” cried the little for fables not found in Jacobs. Perhaps | Mouse; "forgive me this time; I shall the one most common in recent times is that made by Thomas James in 1848,
never forget it. Who knows but what I which had the good fortune to be illus- may be able to do you a good turn some trated by Tenniel. The versions are brief of these days?” The Lion was so tickled and not overloaded with editorial "filling." at the idea of the Mouse being able to
help him, that he lifted up his paw and 205
let him go. Some time after the Lion THE SHEPHERD'S BOY
was caught in a trap, and the hunters, There was once a young Shepherd Boy who desired to carry him alive to the who tended his sheep at the foot of a King, tied him to a tree while they went mountain near a dark forest. It was
in search of a wagon to carry him on. rather lonely for him all day, so he | Just then the little Mouse happened to thought upon a plan by which he could pass by, and seeing the sad plight in get a little company and some excitement. which the Lion was, went up to him He rushed down towards the village call- and soon gnawed away the ropes that ing out “Wolf! Wolf!" and the villagers bound the King of the Beasts. “Was came out to meet him, and some of them I not right?" said the little Mouse. stopped with him for a considerable Little friends may prove great friends. time. This pleased the boy so much
207 that a few days afterwards he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came
THE CROW AND THE to his help. But shortly after this a
PITCHER Wolf actually did come out from the A Crow, half-dead with thirst, came forest, and began to worry the sheep, I upon a Pitcher which had once been full
of water; but when the Crow put its “Bigger, Father, bigger," was the reply. beak into the mouth of the Pitcher he So the Frog took a deep breath, and found that only very little water was blew and blew and blew, and swelled left in it, and that he could not reach and swelled and swelled. And then he far enough down to get at it. He tried | said: “I'm sure the Ox is not as big and he tried, but at last had to give up
But at this moment he burst. in despair. Then a thought came to Self-conceit may lead to self-destruction. him, and he took a pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took
209 another pebble and dropped it into the
THE FROGS DESIRING Pitcher. Then he took another pebble
A KING and dropped that into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped Frogs were living as happy as could that into the Pitcher. Then he took be in a marshy swamp that just suited another pebble and dropped that into them; they went splashing about, caring the Pitcher. Then he took another for nobody and nobody troubling with pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher. them. But some of them thought that At last, at last, he saw the water mount this was not right, that they should have up near him; and after casting in a few a king and a proper constitution, so more pebbles he was able to quench his they determined to send up a petition thirst and save his life.
to Jove to give them what they wanted. Little by little does the trick.
“Mighty Jove,” they cried, “send unto
us a king that will rule over us and keep 208
us in order.” Jove laughed at their THE FROG AND THE OX
croaking, and threw down into the "Oh, Father," said a little Frog to the swamp a huge Log, which came down big one sitting by the side of a pool, -- kersplash -- into the water. The Frogs “I have seen such a terrible monster! were frightened out of their lives by the It was as big as a mountain, with horns commotion made in their midst, and all on its head, and a long tail, and it had rushed to the bank to look at the horhoofs divided in two."
rible monster; but after a time, seeing “Tush, child, tush," said the old that it did not move, one or two of the Frog, “that was only Farmer White's boldest of them ventured out towards Ox. It is n't so big either; he may be the Log, and even dared to touch it; a little bit taller than I, but I could still it did not move. Then the greatest easily make myself quite as broad; just hero of the Frogs jumped upon the Log you see.” So he blew himself out, and and commenced dancing up and down blew himself out, and blew himself out. upon it; thereupon all the Frogs came “Was he as big as that?" asked he. and did the same; and for some time
“Oh, much bigger than that,” said the Frogs went about their business every the young Frog.
day without taking the slightest notice Again the old one blew himself out, of their new King Log lying in their and asked the young one if the Ox was midst. But this did not suit them, so as big as that.
they sent another petition to Jove, and said to him: “We want a real king; one “Do as you like, my good friend; eat that will really rule over us.” Now this all you want and have your fill of good made Jove angry, so he sent among them things, but you will be always in fear of a big Stork that soon set to work gobbling your life. As for me, poor Mouse, who them all up. Then the Frogs repented have only corn and wheat, I will live when too late.
on at home in no fear of any one." Better no rule than cruel rule.
The city mouse lives in a house;
The garden mouse lives in a bower; He's friendly with the frogs and toads,
And sees the pretty plants in flower. The city mouse eats bread and cheese;
The garden mouse eats what he can; We will not grudge him seeds and stocks,
Poor little timid furry man.
A Field Mouse had a friend who lived in a house in town. Now the Town Mouse was asked by the Field Mouse to dine with him, and out he went and sat down to a meal of corn and wheat.
"Do you know, my friend," said he, “that
you live a mere ant's life out here? Why, I have all kinds of things at home. Come, and enjoy them."
So the two set off for town, and there the Town Mouse showed his beans and meal, his dates, too, and his cheese and fruit and honey. And as the Field Mouse ate, drank, and was merry, he thought how rich his friend was, and how poor he was.
But as they ate, a man all at once opened the door, and the Mice were in such a fear that they ran into a crack.
Then, when they would eat some nice figs, in came a maid to get a pot of honey or a bit of cheese; and when they saw her, they hid in a hole.
Then the Field Mouse would eat no more, but said to the Town Mouse,
The most famous use of this fable in literature
is found in the Satires of the great Roman poet Horace (B.C. 65-8). He is regarded as one of the most polished of writers, and the ancient world's most truthful painter of social life and manners. Horace had a country seat among the Sabine hills to which he could retire from the worries and distractions of the world. His delight in his Sabine farm is shown clearly in his handling of the story. The passage is a part of Book II, Satire 6, and is in Conington's translation. Some well-known appearances of this same fable in English poetry may be found in Prior and Montagu's City Mouse and Country Mouse and in Pope's Imitations of Horace.