You might know me as the author of the children’s book series, Night Buddies, but did you know that I am also a huge history fanatic? I got my B.A. in ancient history from UNC Chapel Hill, and have made it one of my hobbies ever since.
Being a lifelong learner of ancient history means that I’ve been able to read some of the greatest classics our world still reveres today. For instance, everybody knows what the Fables are like, right? Very short little tales with explicit morals and talking animals. You know the one about the tortoise and the hare, surely? About slow and steady beats fast and flighty? How about the country mouse and the city mouse? Where the country mouse discovers grand living isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
Okay, maybe I’ll show you one you don’t know. It’ll only take a minute—
The Dog and the Sheep
A Dog sued a Sheep for a debt he claimed the Sheep owed him, and he called on a Kite and a Wolf to be the judges.
Without asking any questions, they both decided right away that the Sheep was wrong and the Dog was right. Then the three of them tore the Sheep apart and ate him before he had been given a chance to say a word.
The Point: It’s sad, but it’s true, that honesty and right sometimes haven’t a chance against cruel force.
See how short? But it does the job, right? Did you know there are 101 of these things? At least in my translation, and there may have been even more 2,500 years ago.
It turns out, Aesop may even be a Fable himself!
That’s because he may or may not have existed. One story has him an Ethiopian slave they called “the Ethiop,” or Aesop. Plutarch says he was an advisor to King Croesus of Lydia (d. 546 BC). And Herodotus (a famous Greek historian) has him a slave of Iadmon, a 6th century Samian. But scholars tend to think Aesop was no more than a name used to tie together all the animal tales floating around at the time.
What really blows me away about the Fables is the truly advanced state of 6th century Greek literature and science. With the mighty exceptions of Homer and Archilochus (ca. 680-645 BC), the Greeks were just getting started. Their temples were still made of wood, and their male statues were those stiff kouroi that all looked alike. The “Golden Age” with Sophocles and Euripides and Plato and Phidias wasn’t for more than 100 years. But despite this, the stories written during this time period resonated with people so deeply that we still know them by heart to this day.
Whether you’re trying to teach your children patience, kindness, fairness, or any number of things, there is a Fable to be told, and there are sometimes even children’s editions of compilations of the Fables if you want to get your kids to read the ancient stories themselves!
Do you have a favorite Fable? Let me know in the comments below!