Aesop’s stories have been around a long time, some 2500 years.
There are so many different stories about Aesop, about the
only thing everyone agrees on is that he was born around 620
Some say Aesop was a Phrygian, others say he was not. It is
known that he did live on the island of Samos for some time
as a slave. Some stories say he was deformed and misshapen,
an ugly man who could not speak. One story says that the goddess,
Isis, gave Aesop the gift of speech for his kindness in helping
one of her priestesses who had lost her way. Whatever be true,
it seems that he was a man of great wit and his name became
legendary for telling clever little animal tales when discussing
and negotiating and making points and comments.
Aesop’s wisdom so delighted one of his masters that the
slave was given his freedom. His storytelling became so popular
that he was in demand in courts throughout Greece. Aesop's
truths, however, disturbed some people so much that they plotted
to put an end to him. One story says that they put a golden
goblet among his belongings, making it look as if he had stolen
it. He was then put in prison, later to be thrown from a cliff
Another story says that Aesop was heard to utter a prophetic
story as he was hurled off the cliff - a story that told of
famine and pestilence. And so it came to pass and many of
the people of that town died from hunger and disease.
Aesop died, but the stories lived on. From mouth to mouth,
country to country, culture to culture they traveled, changing,
but staying the same.
The collection of stories that we call Aesop’s Fables
actually come from a variety of other sources. One famous
collection of animal fables is the Pańchatantra, a Buddhist
collection of fables written in Sanskrit in the 3rd century
There was once a king who had three sons who did not want
schooling! Teacher after teacher was tried, but with no success.
Along came a wise old man named Vishnu Sharman, and he knew
what to do with those boys! He took those boys and told them
stories. The stories were mostly of birds and animals that
dealt with topics like: the loss of friends, the winning of
friends, waging war, loss or gains, ill-considered gains.
In this way, in just six months, the princes had learned the
art of practical life. A life in which security, prosperity,
friendship and good learning combined to produce happiness.
These stories, divided into 5 books, became the Pańchatantra.
Many, if not most of these stories can be recognized as ‘Aesop’s
Other stories came from the Jatakas. These are Buddha’s
stories. Buddhists believe that the Buddha was reborn many
times on Earth; sometimes as a king, sometimes as a peasant,
sometimes as an animal. Like the Pańchatantra, these animal
stories found in the collection of Aesop’s Fables are
told to teach good principles.
These stories traveled in translations, and translations
of translations, into Persian, Arabic, and Hebrew and finally
in the 13th century, into Latin. Once available in Latin,
these Eastern fables became widely known in Europe under the
title of Fables of Bidpai.
The writing of fables was revived in France during the 17th
century by the French Poet, Jean de la Fontaine. He wrote
rhymed versions (over a 26 year period), and added many of
It has been said that Aesop only created but a few of the
fables, but he is still regarded as the greatest storyteller
of all times, and thus all fables are almost always attributed
can’t tell the same story once - not even twice. Zen Proverb
Thompson, Stith The Folktale
Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend,
edited by Maria Leach The Pańchatantra. The Book of India’s Folk Wisdom,
translated by Patrick Olivelle
Demi, Buddha Stories.
Aesop, the Complete Fables, translated by Oliva and Robert