Aesop, or Æsop (from the Greek Αἴσωπος Aisopos), known only for his fables, was by tradition a slave of African descent who lived from about 620 to 560 BC in Ancient Greece. Aesop's Fables are still taught as moral lessons and used as subjects for various entertainments, especially children's plays and cartoons. Aesop wrote thousands of fables, his most famous fable is the lion and the mouse.
Nothing was known about Aesop from credible records. The tradition was that he was at one point freed from slavery and that he eventually died at the hands of Delphians. In fact, the obscurity shrouding his life has led some scholars to deny his existence altogether.
His most famous fable in America is a parable of the tortoise and the hare. In this story, a rabbit challenges a tortoise to a race. The rabbit is sure of its victory and as a result, depending on the version of the story, in some way completes the race slower than the turtle. Often, the hare takes a nap or takes too many breaks. The persistent tortoise, despite being slower, wins because it persevered.
The fables remain a popular choice for moral education of children today. Many stories included in Aesop's Fables, such as The Fox and the Grapes (from which the idiom "sour grapes" was derived), The Tortoise and the Hare and The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf (also known as The Boy Who Cried Wolf), are well-known throughout the world.
- Caxton, John, 1484. The history and fables of Aesop, Westminster. Modern reprint edited by Robert T. Lenaghan (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1967).
- Bentley, Richard, 1697. Dissertation upon the Epistles of Phalaris... and the Fables of Æsop. London.
- Jacobs, Joseph, 1889. The Fables of Aesop: Selected, Told Anew, and Their History Traced, as first printed by William Caxton, 1484, from his French translation
- i. A short history of the Aesopic fable
- ii. The Fables of Aesop
- Handford, S. A., 1954. Fables of Aesop. New York: Penguin.
- Perry, Ben E. (editor), 1965. Babrius and Phaedrus, (Loeb Classical Library) Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965. English translations of 143 Greek verse fables by Babrius, 126 Latin verse fables by Phaedrus, 328 Greek fables not extant in Babrius, and 128 Latin fables not extant in Phaedrus (including some medieval materials) for a total of 725 fables.
- Temple, Olivia and Robert (translators), 1998. Aesop, The Complete Fables, New York: Penguin Classics. (ISBN 0-14-044649-4)
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