Page:The Fables of Æsop (Jacobs).djvu/19

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A SHORT HISTORY

OF THE

ÆSOPIC FABLE


MOST nations develop the Beast-Tale as part of their folk-lore, some go further and apply it to satiric purposes, and a few nations afford isolated examples of the shaping of the Beast-Tale to teach some moral truth by means of the Fable properly so called.[1] But only two peoples independently made this a general practice. Both in Greece[2] and in India we find in the earliest literature such casual and frequent mention of Fables as seems to imply a body of Folk-Fables current among the people. And in both countries special circumstances raised the Fable from folklore into literature. In Greece, during the epoch of the Tyrants, when free speech was dangerous, the Fable was largely used for political purposes. The inventor of this application or the most prominent user of it was one Æsop, a slave at Samos whose name has ever since been connected with the Fable. All that we know about him is contained

  1. E.g. Jotham's Fable, Judges ix., and that of Menenius Agrippa in Livy, seem to be quite independent of either Greek or Indian influence. But one fable does not make Fable.
  2. Only about twenty fables, however, are known in Greece before Phædrus, 30 A.D. See my Caxton's Æsop, vol. 1 pp. 26-29. for a complete enumeration.