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Aug 15th 2016

The Aesop Romance, and the moral lessons for the readers

"A Wolf resolved to disguise himself in order that he might prey upon a flock of sheep without fear of detection."

I wouldn't doubt if Aesop existed at all, but his tales could be another case. It featured animals with human traits, subtly imparting moral lessons to the readers. In the case of the wolf in sheep's clothing, I first thought that the furry mammal took a huge risk. Alas, the shepherd was in a dire need of mutton. And he laid his hands on the wolf (in mistake for a sheep). The wolf might have been bummed out for his misfortune, but Aesop laid the moral lesson on the first sentence of this cryptic tale.

The wolf was doomed when he decided to cloth himself in a sheepskin. If he devoured a sheep earlier than he planned, then the daylight would betray him. (The shepherd could kill him sooner or later.) As for what could happen during the night time, Aesop made it clear that there won't be any possible scenarios. Otherwise, the moral lessons wouldn't be figured out right away. It pays to have good intention. Look before you leap. There's no escape from your fate.

As for Aesop's existence, I wouldn't doubt it. He couldn't be a product of a philosopher's imagination, as the simple tales would resonate with the slaves who made Athenian democracy alive and kicking. I couldn't see the fellow living in another city-state, as Athens was the only place (in Greece) where ideas and stories were allowed to tell and remember. This would be one of the distinctive traits of a free society.

Why must Aesop tell his stories?

It was hard to imagine philosophers taking Aesop's fables seriously. They rather speculate the universe. (The Ancient Greeks were the first to suspect the world to be a sphere.) As for the likes of Pericles, they wouldn't have any time for it. (Peace was short-lived.) And Aesop won't resemble the young Greek men who have been the subjects of Renaissance sculptors.

Oral tradition could have kept Aesop's fables from obscurity. Learned men would make sure that they were forgotten, but they won't comprise the majority of the Athenian populace. There would be some truth to the theory about Aesop's appearance. Cyrano de Bergerac could be a dashing fellow in his presence. His looks, which was far from ideal, could be another reason for the citizens to remember him. And there was no harm in telling tales involving animals. Aesop's days would be numbered if they were humans instead.

Here's a sample

What are Aesop's most popular tales? Here are five:

The Ass, the Fox, and the Lion. Betrayal will be the downfall of everyone.

The Crow and the Pitcher. Resourcefulness is a virtue.

The Fox and the Grapes. It's a universal truth that people will always find an excuse, if not pass the buck.

The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs. Learn to be contented with what you have. It's easier said than done, as greed is a human trait as well.

The Peacock and the Crane. Looks can be deceiving.

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