Book Review: “Aesop’s Fables”

The mythic world of Aesop’s Fables is a morbid one packed to the brim with Gods and talking animals who provide through their misfortunes: lessons on morality, the benefits of hard work and honesty, and the importance of a keen eye. This book contains 284 fables, all of which are attributed to Aesop, a storyteller who may have been Greek or Ethiopian, or may have never actually existed in the first place. But, whether or not a man named Aesop actually lived and breathed, someone or many someones left behind nearly 300 tales that are still highly relevant and influential on pop culture today, i. e. “The Hare and The Tortoise”, “The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse”, and “The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg”.

“Aesop’s Fables” is somewhat of a compilation. Each fable is around 50 to 300 words in length and hardly fill up half a page in the book, these stories are basically ancient examples of flash fiction with deep meaning. I could run through and analyze every 284 fables, but that would result in a mega blog post that would come out to be longer than the book itself. Instead I wrote down 20 fables while I was sitting down and reading this book, so I could condense my analysis of this incredible book to my favorite stories from it. I was writing the rough draft for this post and realized that 20 fables is too much as well. I condensed it down to just 5 fables, I highly recommend buying this book for the remaining 279 stories you are missing out on.

The first story that stuck out to me was “The Bat and The Weasels”, a story in which a bat first gets captured by a weasel who says he exclusively dines on birds. The bat is just like “Hey man are you blind I am obviously a mouse with wings!”, to which the weasel is just like “Oh right my apologies you can leave.” The some time later he gets captured by a second weasel who is like “I eat mice and you are obviously a mouse.”, to which the bat replies, “I am actually a bird.” Then the second weasel lets him go. The moral of this story is to “Look and see which way the wind blows before you commit yourself.”, which can be applied to 21st century life in social situations quite fluently. I just found the story to be pretty humorous and witty, which made it one of my favorites.

This next one, “Mercury and The Woodman”, really made me think. This is the first occurrence of dozens in which a Roman god meddles with life in the world of Aesop. In this story, a Woodman was cutting down a tree and he drops his ax into the river. He goes over to retrieve it when Mercury appears out of the water and asks him if he lost his ax. The Woodman says yes he did, so Mercury dives under the water and brings a golden ax to it’s surface and asks The Woodman if it is his ax, to which the Woodman honestly replies no. Mercury dives back under and brings up an ax of solid silver, and The Woodman still says the ax is not his. This time, Mercury brings up his real ax and The Woodman agrees it is his ax. Mercury was so pleased with The Woodman’s honesty, so he gifted him all three axes, the gold, the silver, and his missing one. The Woodman runs off overjoyed and spreads the story. Another Woodman hears about this and goes to the river and “accidentally” drops his ax in the river. Mercury appears and asks the Woodman if the solid gold ax is his, to which The second Woodman replies “Yes!”. Mercury is so disgusted at the dishonesty in the second woodman that he keeps all three axes. The moral of this story is that “Honesty is the best policy”. Throughout my reading of this book I never forgot this story, it is so meaningful and is a prime example of what this fantastic book has to offer you.

This third story showcases how surreal fables can get with their personification. “The North Wind and The Sun” is a story about a verbal dispute between the Sun and The North Wind about who is more powerful. They see a traveler who is walking about with a cloak over his body. The North Wind goes first and lets out a massive gust of wind with all of his ability towards the cloaked man. The cloaked man only wrapped himself tighter in his cloak and kept on his journey. The Sun had his turn and simply made his rays brighter and hotter. The traveler pulls his cloak off and puts it away, continuing on his journey, making the Sun the winner of the argument. The moral here is that in most cases, “Persuasion is more effective than force.” Humanity to this day, nearly three thousand years into the future, still has an issue with valuing force over persuasion and wit. I was stunned by the brilliance of this story and I think I will always remember it’s message.

This next story, “The Shepherd’s Boy and The Wolf”, is more commonly known under a different name, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. Everyone should know this one as it is often recited to this day. A boy thinks it is funny to run out into the woods and play pranks on the villagers by shouting “Wolf! Wolf!” as if he were in danger. When the villagers would arrive, no wolf would be present, only the boy laughing at them. One day the boy actually does stumble across a wolf in the wilderness. He cries “Wolf!” for help, but everyone is fed up with him, so they do not come to him when he needs serious help because they think he is just joking. The wolf then goes around and kills all of the boy’s father’s sheep and runs off without penalty. The moral here of course, “You cannot believe a liar even when he tells the truth.” It was not so much that I loved this story it was completely shell shocked at the outcome because I have heard it many times before. I put this in this review because everyone likes this story for the most part and probably was not aware that it was an fable by Aesop.

Again, another story that everyone has heard, “The Hare and The Tortoise”. Basically, if you do not know it, a hare (rabbit), makes fun of a tortoise for being slow, and the tortoise gets ticked off and says that he could beat the hare in a race. So a fox goes in and sets up a race course and the two start the race. Of course, the hare speeds ahead and makes it near the end of the track and decides to take a nap out of pure cockiness that he will when. The hare oversleeps though and the Tortoise ends up crossing the finish line before the Hare. The moral, “Slow and steady wins the race.”, is one that gets thrown around a bit. I don’t necessarily disagree with that statement, I just think it depends on who is running the metaphorical race. If you had a more modest hare, then the hare would have most likely won the race by a long shot. The real message is to not be so cocky and take things as they are in my opinion.

I would highly recommend you buy this book if you are a fan of mythology, philosophical fiction, fairy tales, flash fiction, etc. I love Aesop’s Fables, it captivated me from the moment I began reading it. It is remarkable in the way that it personifies animals and the elements in a way that accurately captures the positive and negative aspects of humanity in it’s entirety. You have creatures like the fox, the cat, and the wolf, who are vicious, remorseless and deceitful. Creatures like the lion, the stag, and the bull, rely on brute force, loyalty, and intimidation to achieve their desires. You also have the more wimpy and pathetic creatures like the ass, the cock, the goat, the sheep, and the monkey, who tend to be victims of misfortune in Aesop’s Fables. I also feel like the best stories lie at the beginning of the book (In my addition anyways, the Barnes and Nobles Classics pictured above.), that is not to say the ones near the end suck, they are still very good and very enjoyable, they just fall short after about 150 fables in compared to some of the really good ones at the beginning. While some fables are just too short and meh, the good outweigh the bad, and this is a book filled with humor, wit, deceit, intelligence, and value, that I highly recommend in terms of enjoyment and meaning. There is so much to take away here.

Publication Date: This book is Ancient, Aesop allegedly lived from 620 BC to 564 BC, and he never wrote his stories down, they were transmitted verbally.

Genres: Fable, Mythology, Philosophy, Fiction.

i. e. 9.7/10


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