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Author
Title
eBook formatHardcover, (torrent)En
PublisherRizzoli
File size1 Mb
GanreClassics
Release date 01.08.1991
ISBN9780847813643
Pages count32
Book rating4.04 (78492 votes)
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AESOP'S ECHOES

It is amazing how so many popular references and common senses are found here. Aesop finds his echoes throughout the high flying philosophers and through the earthy grandmothers, not only engrafted into the literature of the civilized world, but familiar as household words in daily conversation of peoples, across borders. It is all pervading. And to top it off, such great pleasure too.

Wisdom, and simplicity, and entertainment - through unforgettable stories - what more could be asked?

Aesop: The Origins

The most famous of Greek poets, Aesop was born about the year 620 B.C., by birth a slave. He was owned by two masters in succession, and won his freedom from the latter, as a reward for his learning and wit.



As a freedman in the ancient republics of Greece, Aesop now had the privilege and the permission to take an active interest in public affairs; and Aesop, raised himself to a position of high renown - a political ambassador of sorts. In his desire alike to instruct and to be instructed, he travelled through many countries. And in his discharge of his commissions, is said to have, by the narration of some of his wise fables, reconciled the inhabitants of those cities to the administration of their times.



Here we can detect and understand some of the common themes that run through these fables - those of keeping to one’s appointed place/station, the utility of inherent strengths which might not be easily visible and of the perils of overreaching.

These, and other, but still few, simple strands of wisdom is reinforced again and again in different situations - which is the essence of the craft of a fabulist.

Aesop: The Fabulous Fabulist

The Fable, like any Tale, will contain a short but real narrative; it will seek, like any Parable, to convey a hidden meaning, but by the skillful introduction of fictitious characters; and it will always keep in view, as its high prerogative, and inseparable attribute, the great purpose of instruction, and will necessarily seek to inculcate some moral maxim, social duty, or political truth.

And yet, even when trying to realize profound human truths through itself, it so conceals its design under the disguise of fictitious characters, by clothing with speech the animals of the field, the birds of the air, the trees of the wood, or the beasts of the forest, that the reader shall receive advice without perceiving the presence of the adviser.



Thus the superiority of the counsellor, which often renders counsel unpalatable, is kept out of view, and the lesson comes with the greater acceptance when the reader is led, unconsciously to himself, to have his sympathies enlisted in behalf of what is pure, honorable, and praiseworthy, and to have his indignation excited against what is low, ignoble, and unworthy. 



This format also required the fabulist to keep a unity of character throughout - The introduction of the animals as characters should be marked with an unexceptionable care and attention to their natural attributes, and to the qualities attributed to them by universal popular consent. The Fox should be always cunning, the Hare timid, the Lion bold, the Wolf cruel, the Bull strong, the Horse proud, and the Ass patient, even as they are made to depict the motives and passions of men.



Aesop’s fables achieve this unity and consistency so throughly that now they have passed into popular consciousness. Indeed, we can even assert that these animals, as we know them today, were created in these Fables!

Aesop: The Companion

Aesop's Fables are valuable companions. These stories pack much distilled wisdom in them and can be employed with great effect. It is said that a few good stories are better moral equipment than the best tracts of philosophers.

Even Socrates is mentioned by Plato as having employed his time while in prison, awaiting the return of the sacred ship from Delphos which was to be the signal of his death, in turning some of these fables into verse from what he had committed to memory over his long lifetime.

Socrates, like Aesop, understood that we are all moralists, seeking the human judgements that inform ours, and other’s actions. But morality forced down by edict can be very forbidding. This forbidding notion of morality was what inspired the philosopher Bertrand Russell to remark that the Ten Commandments ought to come with the sort of rubric which is sometimes to be found on examination papers of ten questions: ‘Only six need be attempted’.

It is noteworthy that Socrates tried to emulate in his own teaching method the technique of the great fabulist - of letting the listener arrive at his own conclusions, or at any rate, avoiding the biggest pitfall any teacher can fall into - of being perceived as a moral superior.

In how Socrates shaped up as a teacher, we can very well see why the most earthy and yet the loftiest of philosophers considered Aesop’s fables to be masterpieces, a constant source of companionship and teaching - and also a manual on teaching well.

We would be well served to do the same.

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