“Lions regularly team up with asses. There’s a fox somewhere too…”
Genre: Fantasy, Classic, Animals, Age: All
Do you ever think that some stories are familiar, but you can’t pinpoint where you’ve read them before? Reading Aesop’s Fables is like stumbling into that experience over and over again.
(The Crow and the Pitcher)
Of course, as the book’s introduction is quick to point out, Aesop didn’t really *write* these stories, he merely collected them. This version from Wordsworth contains around 250 short tales, which feature anthropomorphic characters and situations that make them cross paths. Each story is a quick read, taking roughly three minutes to read at most, and I found myself finishing the book in a couple of days, since I was using it for light reading before bedtime.
There’s nothing amazingly complex about the experience, since each story starts and finishes with few plot-points. For someone used to reading long, epic fantasy books, this was such a refreshing experience and almost a mental cleanse; I could stay with the characters for a few minutes, and then abandon them, and only take the central message forward.
(The Dog and his Shadow)
Strangely enough, I felt that some of the stories felt condensed and had details missing, even though this edition is meant to be completed and unabridged. Maybe at some point I’ve read an expanded version of these stories? It certainly felt like some dialogue or padding was missing. The “missing content” feeling doesn’t detract too much from this edition though.
From amusing stories, to sobering moral tales, these stories are so ingrained in our thought-process and language that it makes you think about how these stories have shaped the way we view things as ethical, moral, or justice.
Many of the stories feature similar characters; lions, asses, and foxes make frequent appearances, but it becomes evident that they are meant to be different creatures. The situations are so surreal, and yet completely relatable. There’s precious few human characters, but using animals works well in distancing the reader in judging *people*, and rather makes them focus on the *situations* instead.
(The Man and the Satyr)
Sometimes the stories feature a proverb that has emerged from the tale. Reading through the book, it’s interesting how some of these proverbs contradict each other, and also, interesting to see how many you actually know. Some are completely obvious: “Slow and steady wins the race, “A man is known by the company he keeps” and so on, but there are plenty of obscure ones.
Overall, I would recommend this edition to both children and adults. There is enough simplicity and underlying complexity, to make this a worthy read. The language inside isn’t too difficult, and the pace of each story is good that readers can move from one story to another without mental fatigue. Out of the 250 stories, there are some that will be incredibly familiar, and this gives off a feeling that some dialogue or padding is missing, but it doesn’t affect the book too much.
(The Fox and the Grapes)
This edition is paperback, and though there are other hardback editions available, the stories might not be the same, or even in the same order. It also has a ridiculously cartoonish cover, making it feel like a children’s book.
However, the best part about getting any Wordsworth edition is that it’s super-cheap to collect them all, the regular editions are around £1.99 or cheaper. The paper quality is decent, and they usually include all associated illustrations. In this edition, there are some great black and white illustrations by Arthur Rackham.
Rated – 3/5 Short stories, great for children and adults.
Aesop’s Fables is £1.99 for 208 pages.