Fables: A Storyteller from Africa
“Very, very brief stories told to teach practical lessons about life are called fables. The word fable comes from the Latin word fabula which means ‘a telling’.
The great teller of fables was Aesop, who is thought to have been an African held as a slave in Greece. According to some authorities, his name comes from the Greek word Ethiope, meaning “sunburned face.” Aesop lived from about 620 to 560 BC, and he is supposed to have been physically deformed.
He certainly had an extraordinary imagination. Aesop created tales, usually used for political purposes, in which animals behaved like human beings. In Aesop’s fables, animals are good and bad, smart and stupid. Some people say that Aesop won is freedom because he provided so many sarcastic stories for his master to use against his political opponents.
Aesop told his fables aloud. Other people repeated what they had heard Aesop tell, and in that way his fables survived to be handed down over centuries. A version of the fables was written down by a Greek scribe, but for a thousand years the manuscript was lost. Not until 1844 was a copy found in a monastery, [a building or buildings occupied by a community of monks living under religious vows].
The fable’s very practical lesson is called a moral. Aesop let his listeners guess at his stories’ morals, but today the morals have usually written out at the ends of the stories.
Though Aesop is the most famous fabulist, fables were being told in India and China many years before Aesop’s time.” [From Elements of Literature, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc. Austin 1993, page 590.]
The Hare and the Tortoise
The Fox and the Grapes
The Ant and the Grasshopper
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