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The Cat and the Fox,  by John Rae
The Cat and the Fox, by John Ray

Gutenberg’s Æsop: EBook #19994

The translation I used for Jean de La Fontaine‘s (8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695) ‟The Cat and the Fox,” is Gutenberg’s EBook #19994 entitled The Æsop for Children and illustrated by Milo Winter (7 August 1888 – 1956).   I made a mistake.  I scrolled down to page 88 and found a fable entitled ‟The Cat and the Fox.” Usually, Æsop’s cat and fox fable is entitled ‟The Fox and the Cat.”  I have not found the name of the translator of Gutenberg’s The Æsop for Children, but the correct illustration is the following by Milo Winter.  In order to read Gutenberg’s translation of Æsop, click on ‟The Cat and the Fox.”

Le Chat et le Renard, by Milo Winter

Le Chat et le Renard, by Milo Winter

Gutenberg’s Jean de La Fontaine: EBook #24108

The Gutenberg project is preparing an EBook edition of Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables in French: EBook #17941.  However, its current translation of fables by La Fontaine is Gutenberg EBook #24108, translated by William Trowbridge Larned and its illustrator is John Ray‘s.  EBook #24108 is entitled Fables in Rhyme for Little Folks, from the French of La Fontaine and it is a selection of La Fontaine’s fables.  One can read W. T. Larned’s translation of Le Chat et le Renard (IX, 14, 1678) by clicking on The Cat and the Fox.

I have corrected the blog I posted on 10 May 2013, but have posted the semicircular picture again, at the top of this post, giving credit to its illustrator: John Ray.  However, there are three more illustrations by John Ray, the last of which is Reynard the Fox‘s tombstone.


La Fontaine translated by Robert Thomson

William Trowbridge Larned translated Gutenberg’s EBook #24108, a selection of Jean de La Fontaine’s fables and this selection includes the ‟The Cat and the Fox,” by La Fontaine.  However, there are several translations on La Fontaine’s fables one of which is by Robert Thomson (19th century).  One can access Thomson’s translation of 10 of La Fontaine 12 books of fables by using the Château Thierry site, named after La Fontaine’s house: http://www.la-fontaine-ch-thierry.net/fablanglais.htm and the lafontaine.net: http://www.lafontaine.net/index.php are excellent sources of information on La Fontaine: the fables, the illustrators, the translators, etc.

Retellings and Translations of La Fontaine

Retelling and translating La Fontaine is a major endeavour.  According to Wikipedia, with respect to mastery of the French language, Jean de La Fontaine has only been surpassed by Victor Hugo, but barely.  There may be simplified and more modern retellings of La Fontaine’s fables, but I know of none.  I would have to access a catalogue of current children’s literature rooted in La Fontaine.  But I will not investigate the matter.

As for translating La Fontaine, it is also very difficult.  A literal translation is almost impossible.  One has to rewrite La Fontaine.   Moreover, one is faced with instances of intertextualité.  These are difficulties Robert Thomson encountered when he translated The Cat and the Fox.

An Instance of Intertextuality (EN)

The term may seem daunting, but intertextualité (FR) occurs when a text refers to another text.  For instance, La Fontaine calls both the cat and the fox ‟Tartufs” and ‟archipatelins.”  The name ‟archipatelins” is a reference to the anonymous Farce de Maître Pierre Pathelin.  Maître Pierre Pathelin is a lawyer.  La Fontaine was not very kind to lawyers.

As for Tartuffe, shortened in La Fontaine so a syllable could be removed[i], it is the title of a play by Molière (baptised January 15, 1622 – February 17, 1673), first performed in 1664.  After Tartuffe premiered, further performances were cancelled by Louis XIV, a supporter and friend of Molière.  In all likelihood, Louis was following the advice of the Archbishop of Paris, Paul Philippe Hardouin de Beaumont de Péréfixe.  It was written and performed in 1667, but the dévots, probably members of the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, remained hostile.  There was a third and final revision of Tartuffe, performed in 1669.  The full title of the play is Tartuffe ou l’Imposteur: the Impostor.  

The world has many impostors, but Tartuffe, the eponymous main character of the play, uses false devotion to defraud a tyrannical pater familias.  This is the mask, the faux-dévot, Renart uses to escape a death sentence.  In William Trowbridge Larned‘s translation, Gutenberg’s EBook #24108, the fox is called Reynard.  It is also called Reynard in Robert Thomson’s translation.  As for La Fontaine, his fox is ‟le renard” spelled with a ‘d’ rather than a ‘t,’ as in the Roman de Renart, but his cat and fox are like ‟nice little saints,” going on a ‟pilgrimage.”  (‟Comme beaux petits saints, S’en allaient en pèlerinage”.)  The translators give us an indication of the popularity of Reynard the Fox.  But there is filiation between Renart, who pretends he is leaving for the Crusades, and our cat and fox, ‟nice little saints” off on a ‟pilgrimage.”

So our Gutenberg’s EBook #24108, is a translation and adaptation, by W. T. Larned, of a selection of fables written by La Fontaine and illustrated by John Ray.  To read the text, click on The Cat and the Fox.

As for our EBook #19994, it seems an anonymous translation and adaptation of fables by Æsop.  However the translator could be G. F. Townsend.  There is or will be a Gutenberg publication of Æsop by Townsend, but it isn’t EBook #19994.  My own Æsop is a translation and adaptation by G. F. Townsend.

Fortunately, the mistake I made did not affect my brief interpretation of the fable about the cat and the fox.  However, it had to be corrected and my readers had to know the post was as accurate as it could be.


[i] (C’é/ taient/ deux/ vrais/ Tar/ tufs,// deux/ ar/ chi/ pa/ te/ lins.) = 12 feet (pieds).  We have an alexandrin with a césure // after 6 pieds.  Alexandrine verses have twelve pieds.

EBook #19994 Æsop The Cat and the Fox (EN)
EBook #24108 La Fontaine The Cat and the Fox (EN)
http://www.la-fontaine-ch-thierry.net/fablanglais.htm Robert Thomson (EN)
http://www.lafontaine.net/index.php La Fontaine (FR)
http://www.mythfolklore.net/aesopica/ is my main Æsopica site
The image below is by Milo Winter 
title_thMicheline Walker©
May 12, 2013
Für Elise
Ivo Pogorelić (piano)