Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Review: Aesop's Fables

Since February I've been finishing off each reading month with a classic of Western Literatures.  My goal is to simply get a better understanding of where our culture comes from and that's about it.  I don't have a degree in English, English Lit, or Classics (My degree is in Communications Studies (TV, Movies, Radio, Internet, etc.)) so you'll have to forgive me if I'm making connections which seem incredibly obvious to you.

So far I've read Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and found both to be interesting (if difficult) reads.  As a guy I enjoyed the constant blood and guts slaughter going on in the Iliad(seriously, a guy gets hit hard enough his "eyes fell into the dust at his feet" - and who says that horror is a new genre) as well as the many fantastic elements in the Odyssey (Sirens, Cyclops, Magical Imprisonment, etc.)

The list I'm working through can be found in Mortimer J. Adler's How to Read a Book (One of my all-time favourite books, btw), but I have made some additions.

This month for example, accruing to the original list, should be the Old Testament, but I thought that before I dive into it again (this will be my second time), I should start with Aesop.

I think that like all people I have a passing familiarity with Aesop's Fables, going in I remembered there was something about a Lion with a thorn in its paw and something about a crane and a fox being jerks to each other.  What I didn't realize was this selection of fables is actually where all sorts of modern animal-based sayings come from.  The city mouse and the country mouse was one of his, as was The boy who cried wolf.  It's from Aesop we get the saying, "Look before you leap" as well.

The edition I read was an Everyman Library Children's Classic edition, which is a 17th century translation by Roger L'Estrange.  Unlike the majority of the other classics of Western Lit I've been buying (currently through the Penguin Classics Imprint) I purchased this one through Everyman because the book looked so good - hardcover, nice feel, and was less than $20.

It was strange that every fable had an obvious Christianity-based reflection at the end (seeing as Aesop supposedly lived around 700 BCE, which puts his fables and morals well into Ancient Greek, rather than Christian morality - some of the stretches of logic to turn the understanding of his stories into a later belief structure seemed a little off to me.

Overall I'm quite glad I checked the book out, it was a lot of fun, pretty fast and continually gave me moments of "That was Aesop?  Holy cats!"  The Edition I got also includes a significant essay on the life of Aesop (which although not based on a lot of historical detail) was a very intriguing read.


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  2. So, just as a test of my moral compass, if I pulled a thorn from Sir Patrick Stewart's paw at ComicCon, then he would be obligated not to kill me out of hand later, right?