Literature / Aesop's Fables

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Aesop.

Aesopos (Greek Αἴσωπος, shortened to Aesop in modern English) was a slave, later freedman, living somewhere in Asia Minor in the sixth century BC. If, that is, he existed at all.

But European fables — mostly Beast Fables — have a marvelous tendency to accrete onto the collections claimed to be his. Being fables, they have rather obvious morals, which are sometimes (but not always) explicitly pointed out at the end.

Aesop's most famous fables are:

  • The Grasshopper and the Ants: A grasshopper is lazy and does nothing during spring and summer, while the ants work. When winter arrives the ants survive because they harvested food and had built a warm home, while the grasshopper dies from cold and starvation.
  • The Tortoise and the Hare: A tortoise and a hare decided to hold a race. The tortoise wins because the hare fell asleep during the race and wasn't in time to cross the finish first.


These fables are the Trope Namers for:

They are also the former trope namer for Big Bad Wannabe (originally titled "Evil Frog Who Wants to Be an Ox").

Tropes in these fables:

  • Beast Fable
  • Bigger Is Better: The frog thinks so in "The Frog and the Ox".
  • Broken Aesop: "The Moon and her Mother" has the Moon's mother deny making her daughter a dress, because it could never fit her because she keeps changing size. In one accompanying illustration, the "moon" part is her head, so the dress's size shouldn't be a problem.
  • Bystander Syndrome: The attitude of the ass in "The Ass and The Old Peasant".
  • The City vs. the Country: The Country Mouse visits her friend the City Mouse. While at first impressed by his lavish lifestyle, she soon changes her mind once she learns about the cat living in the same house.
  • Cats Are Mean / King of Beasts: Lions are the king of beasts, and in Aesop's Fables they won't let you forget it.
  • Clever Crows: One tale involves a crow, dying of thirst, finding a pitcher of water with the water level just out of reach of the bird's beak. So, it uses several pebbles to raise the water level and save itself.
    • Subverted in "The Crow, the Fox, and the Cheese." The crow has a nice piece of cheese that the fox wants, so the fox resorts to flattery and coaxing to get her to "sing" which drops the cheese right in front of him. He slinks off with a full stomach and a warning to the crow to beware flatterers.
  • Consummate Liar: One of the two travelers in "The Apes and the Two Travelers", the other traveler is an inversion of this.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: The Ur-Example.
  • Dirty Coward: One of the soldiers in "The Two Soldiers and the Robber".
  • Downer Ending: A couple, such as "The Wolf and the Lamb" and "The Crab and the Fox".
  • Everything Talks: "The Two Pots".
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: The story of "The Man and the Serpent" where the man asks the serpent to put aside their differences and "forget and forgive", but the serpent rejects, saying that he will never forget the death of his son and he won't forget the loss of his tail. This leads to the lesson that "Injuries may be forgiven, but not forgotten."
  • Gender Bender: The core theme of "The Hyena and the Fox" (also titled "The Fox and the Hyena") and "The Two Hyenas". In the former, the hyena is rejected by the fox because the hyena's gender-bending nature makes it impossible for the fox to place as girlfriend or boyfriend, with the moral basically amounting to "don't be too ambiguous". In the latter uses the hyena's gender-bending nature comes into play in a dispute; the current male wants the current female to perform an "unnatural" sexual act or is abusing her, so the current female warns him to remember that eventually the tables will be turned.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The fable "The Man his Wife, and The Boy Outside", sometimes explicitly named "Adulterer and Husband". Numbered 350 in the Perry index.
  • Gladiator Games: "Androcles and the Lion"
  • Jerkass Gods: Jupiter could sometimes come off as this for example in one story where he judged the animals' children, to find out which one was most beautiful, and coldly laughed at an ape's attempt. The ape's reaction was to say that Jupiter could have his judgement but to her, her offspring was the most beautiful of all.
  • Last Second Showoff: "The Tortoise and the Hare" is the Trope Codifier.
  • Liminal Being: The bat, in one fable, took advantage of its differing traits to keep flip-flopping between the sides of the birds and the beasts when they went to war. Eventually, they made peace just long enough to unite and declare that the bat did not belong to either side, and that is why bats only come out at night.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The depiction of the fox in the various fables are often this.
  • Wicked Weasel: Since the cats hadn't arrived to Europe yet, the weasels took the roles usually reserved for the felines.

Alternative Title(s): Aesop, The Tortoise And The Hare

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