In my search for Classic Children’s Books written pre-1960 I thought I couldn’t get much earlier than this one. It came free with Kindle, and who am I to ignore it?
I was somewhat interested in the Introduction, explaining the difference between a story, a parable and a fable, and also noting that “Aesop’s” fables included those by other writers, both before Aesop and much later. It is a collection of wise words from many cultures, really. It was difficult to know whether the stories, or paragraphs, as most of them were, came from ancient times or mediaeval ones. Does it matter? Well, it would be nice to know which category the most boring ones fell into!
Boring? Well, yes. At two to three homilies per page, it gets a bit boring. Some of the tales get repetitive, too. The Tortoise and the Hare, probably one of the best known of Aesop’s Fables, appears fairly early in this collection, and is practically a summary. A few are funny and a few remind you of people you know. I liked this one:
The Mischievous Dog
A DOG used to run up quietly to the heels of everyone he met, and to bite them without notice. His master suspended a bell about his neck so that the Dog might give notice of his presence wherever he went. Thinking it a mark of distinction, the Dog grew proud of his bell and went tinkling it all over the marketplace. One day an old hound said to him: “Why do you make such an exhibition of yourself? That bell that you carry is not, believe me, any order of merit, but on the contrary a mark of disgrace, a public notice to all men to avoid you as an ill-mannered dog.”
Notoriety is often mistaken for fame.
Translated by George Fyler Townsend. Aesop’s Fables (p. 28). Amazon Digital Services, Inc..
This sort of book is not meant to be read, though. It is meant to be dipped into. A few stories at a time, or one at night for bedtime reading, give you just enough to ponder. I think getting a version of the best ones, illustrated, would be more fun though.
My verdict: disappointing.