Page:The Fables of Æsop (Jacobs).djvu/21
SHORT HISTORY OF THE ÆSOPIC FABLE
the Fables were associated with the name of a mythical sage, Kasyâpa. These were appropriated by the early Buddhists by the simple expedient of making Kasyâpa the immediately preceding incarnation of the Buddha. A number of his itihâsas or Tales were included in the sacred Buddhistic work containing the "Jâtakas or previous-births of the Buddha, in some of which the Bodisat (or future Buddha) appears as one of the Dramatis Personas of the Fables ; the Crane, e.g., in our Wolf and Crane being one of the incarnations of the Buddha. So, too, the Lamb of our Wolf and Lamb was once Buddha ; it was therefore easy for him—so the Buddhists thought—to remember and tell these Fables as incidents of his former careers. It is obvious that the whole idea of a Fable as an anecdote about a man masquerading in the form of a beast could most easily arise and gain currency where the theory of transmigration was vividly credited.
The Fables of Kasyâpa, or rather the moral verses (gathas) which served as a memoria technica to them, were probably carried over to Ceylon in- 241 B.C. along with the Jātakas. About 300 years later (say 50 A.D.) some 100 of these were brought by a Cingalese embassy to Alexandria, where they were translated under the title of " Libyan Fables" (????? ???????), which had been earlier applied to similar stories that had percolated to Hellas from India ; they were attributed to "Kybises." This collection seems to have introduced the habit of summing up the teaching of a Fable in the Moral, corresponding to the gatha of the Jatakas. About the end of the first century A.D. the Libyan Fables of "Kybises" became known to the Rabbinic school at Jabne, founded by