I will soon post an article about La Fontaine’s Preface to his first collection (Recueil) of Fables. He uses The Fox and the Goat as an example, hence the picture above. The Goat should be in the well, not the Fox. The Fox and the Goat were on friendly terms, and both entered the well to quench their thirst. The Fox climbed out of the well using the Goat’s shoulders and horns. He then preached and left without helping the Goat, his companion, escape.
The War in Ukraine
But that Fox is Vladimir Putin who invaded Ukraine for reasons that cannot justify the deaths of Ukrainians and their flight out of their country to escape. Putin’s army is also destroying public and private quarters. It could be that we are seeing the natural face of Vladimir Putin, but something may have gone very wrong. I doubt very much that he will win this war. He is also silencing Russian citizens who oppose the war. He has too few, if any, supporters. We cannot afford a Third World War,
It has been a long illness, but I have started to feel better. The pain is less severe, so I will attempt to return to normal activities.
I do not regret being vaccinated against Covid, but I could not have imagined how painful and disabling Pericarditis could be. I am now medicated, but I have not been prescribed a pain killer, except briefly, in Magog. Moreover, this illness is in its 5th month, so I suspect Pericarditis will recur.
I have been in Magog for a week but will return to Sherbrooke on 17th March 2022. Sherbrooke is home, and work must be done to my bathroom. I was asked to remove the old whirlpool bathtub because it could leak. Replacing the whirlpool tub was extremely expensive. Moreover, I must fight the Domino effect. The faucets are different; a hand shower is included. The tub surround was wood, which will not do unless the wood is treated. I considered buying an oval shower rod. But my idea was not popular. I should also replace the large vanity, the shower, and everything else, to match the tub. I must resist.
We are about to read the Preface to Jean de La Fontaine’s first collection of fables. The first collection (Recueil) consisted of six books published in 1668. The second collection, five books, was published ten years later, in 1678. In 1793, La Fontaine published his third collection, one book. He was born in 1621 and died in 1695, shortly after his third collection was published.
The apparently incoherent Preface validates Milo Winter’s illustration. Unfortunately, I have not found a picture of The Fox and the Goat by Félix Lorioux.
Milo Winter illustrated the Æsop for Children. In both Æsop’s fable and La Fontaine’s The Fox and the Goat (III.5), the Fox climbs out of the well using the shoulders and horns of the Goat. Therefore, the Goat should be inside the well.
Once again, I am writing mostly unprepared, but happy to have been vaccinated the day after I dialled the correct telephone number. The better approach is to make an appointment online. Telephone lines are busy. In other words, I was lucky.
I have not fully recovered. On Saturday, I ran a low grade fever, and I felt a little dizzy and exhausted. On Sunday, I was tired. I remain tired and my lungs hurt. However, being infected with Covid-19 is a greater evil than the side effects of the vaccine.
AstraZeneca was used. I was told that the source was safe. A poor source may have slowed down the Vaccination Campaign in some European countries, but it is not too late.
If one reads The Hare and Tortoise, Le Lièvre et la Tortue (VI, 10), one may think that the “cautious” countries wasted precious time. But there is a little godliness in human beings. La Fontaine wanted to illustrate that animals had a soul, not a human soul, but a soul. His two rats find a way of carrying their egg to safety. Animals have all the wit they need to stay alive. And, by and large, so do human beings.
The human condition is at times merciless. So, it could be that in the humbling days of Covid-19, one chooses the appropriate, i. e. reassuring, fable. Ingenuity could correct a delayed start.
The Return of the Prodigal Sonby Pompeo Batoni, (1773) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fables & Parables
When Jean de La Fontaine (8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695) published his first collection of fables, he drew his subject matter from Greek fabulist Æsop (c. 620 – 564 BCE). Interestingly, Æsop lived before Jesus of Nazareth (c. 4 BCE – c. CE/AD 30 / 33) and the prophet Mohammad (c. 570 CE – 8 June 632 CE). Yet, in the Préface to La Fontaine’s first collection of poems, 6 books, published in 1668, La Fontaine compared his fables to the parables of Jesus of Nazareth: “Truth has spoken to men in parables; and is the parable anything else than a fable? ”
And what I say is not altogether without foundation, since, if I may venture to speak of that which is most sacred in our eyes in the same breath with the errors of the ancients, we find that Truth has spoken to men in parables; and is the parable anything else than a fable? that is to say, a feigned example of some truth, which has by so much the more force and effect as it is the more common and familiar?
Ce que je dis n’est pas tout à fait sans fondement puisque, s’il m’est permis de mêler ce que nous avons de plus sacré parmi les erreurs du paganisme, nous voyons que la Vérité a parlé aux hommes par paraboles; et la parabole est-elle autre chose que l’apologue, c’est-à-dire un exemple fabuleux, et qui s’insinue avec d’autant plus de facilité et d’effet qu’il est plus commun et plus familier?
The Parable of the Prodigal Son does resemble a fable. Its narrative is “the more common and familiar.” However, despite a “more common and familiar,” exemplum, it tells the otherwise ineffable. How does one speak of love unconditional and forgiveness, which is at the core of Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings? In The Parable of the Prodigal Son, one of two brothers asks to be given his half of his father’s estate. This son then leaves home, squanders his money foolishly, and is reduced to starvation when a famine occurs. He therefore returns to his father’s home, saying that he has sinned.
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’
A lay, or secular, reading of the Parable of the Prodigal Son does point to foolish and, therefore, relatively “common” human behaviour on the part of the prodigal son. From the very beginning of La Fontaine’s fable about the two pigeons, the pigeon who has fallen prey to wanderlust is called fool enough, “assez fou.”
Two doves once cherished for each other
The love that brother has for brother.
But one, of scenes domestic tiring,
To see the foreign world aspiring,
Was fool enough to undertake
A journey long, over land and lake. The Two Doves
Deux Pigeons s’aimaient d’amour tendre. L’un d’eux s’ennuyant au logis Fut assez fou pour entreprendre Un voyage en lointain pays. Les Deux Pigeons
However, La Fontaine’s pigeon was merely tired of “scenes domestic,” which is not a sin. He suffers the consequences he was told he would suffer, except that the dreaded falcons are an eagle and that children are “pitiless” human beings who try to harm our traveler.
My heart forebodes the saddest lot
The falcons [faucons], nets Alas, it rains! The Two Doves
Je ne songerai plus que rencontre funeste, Que Faucons, que réseaux [nets]. Hélas, dirai-je, il pleut : … Les Deux Pigeons
To a large extent, the moral of The Two Pigeons is embedded in the story or exemplum. Yet, early in his fable, La Fontaine inserts a proverb, a genre that does not require a narrative or exemplum. Proverbs are related to fables and parables, but they are short, as are maxims. La Rochefoucauld wrote maxims.
L’absence est le plus grand des maux :
Non pas pour vous, cruel. … Les Deux Pigeons
This absence is the worst of ills;
Your heart may bear, but me it kills. The Two Doves
Absence was a topic discussed in the French Salons of the first half of the 17th century, by PrécieusesandPrécieux. Précieuses discussed “questions of love,” chaste love mostly. Although La Fontaine’s poem is not a disquisition on absence, he inserts a proverb in the early verses of Les Deux Pigeons: “L’absence est le plus cruel des maux [pl. of mal].” This proverb, the word “absence” in particular, introduces romantic love, which constitutes a discourse between human beings, mainly, and doves. Jean de La Fontaine’s fable is not altogether about two pigeons. Anthromorphism characterizes only one part of the fable, its beginning. (See Romance, Wikipedia.)
Ah, happy lovers, would you roam?
Pray, let it not be far from home.
To each the other ought to be
A world of beauty ever new;
In each the other ought to see
The whole of what is good and true. The Two Doves
Amants, heureux amants, voulez-vous voyager ? Que ce soit aux rives prochaines ; Soyez-vous l’un à l’autre un monde toujours beau, Toujours divers, toujours nouveau ; Tenez-vous lieu de tout, comptez pour rien le reste [.] Les Deux Pigeons
Moreover, although both our pigeons and the prodigal son have been fools, the prodigal son has sinned: “I have sinned against heaven and against you” (Luke 15:11-32), which suggests a gradation among exempla (pl.). When both pigeons are reunited, they rejoice, pigeons are pigeons, but the prodigal son confesses: “I have sinned” (Luke 15:11-32).
The Parable of the Prodigal Son features two sons, one of whom, the “good” brother, is rather miffed because his father celebrates his prodigal brother’s (the “bad” brother) return. The parable has three figures, one of whom, the father, is a wise and Christic figure, and tells the ineffable.
‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
Given that one son is miffed, La Fontaine may have been inspired by the Biblical enemy brothers or Cain and Abel, sons born to Adam and Eve, one of whom, Cain, kills his brother, Abel. (See Cain and Abel, Sophocles’ Antigone, Jean Racine’s La Thébaïde, and Jean Anouilh’s Antigone, Wikipedia.) Were it not for a wise father, the prodigal son’s brother, or “good” son, may have harboured resentment. But La Fontaine’s fable’s dramatis personae consists of two, not three, figures: Les Deux Pigeons.
Fables and parables also describes sermons. The word exemplum is usually associated with the sermons of the Middle Ages. Jacques de Vitry (Jacobus de Vitriaco c. 1160/70 – 1 May 1240), a French canon regular who rose to prominence, wrote hundreds of exempla (pl.). In the English language, John Donne (22 January 1572 – 31 March 1631) is the author of very fine sermons. But few preachers have empowered their words to the same extent as French bishop and theologian Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet.
The unexpected and suspicious death, perhaps poisoning, at the age of 26, of ‘Madame,’ Henriette d’Angleterre, 26 June 1644 – 30 June 1670, the wife of Louis XIV’s brother, called ‘Monsieur,’ was an exemplum few circumstances could equal.  In 17th-century France, the age of Louis XIV, an absolute monarch, the memento mori (remember that you have to die), nearly supplanted the carped diem (seize the day) of HoratianOdesI.XI.  How does one keep an absolute monarch humble? One approach is to remind him of his mortality, but indirectly. Louis XIV attended Madame‘s funeral and heard Bossuet’s Oraison funèbre. Bossuet also wrote the funeral oration of Louis III, Prince de Condé, 10 November 1668 – 4 March 1710, a “prince of the blood” (un prince du sang).  There is a king greater than Louis XIV. Coincidentally, or ineffably, Jean de La Fontaine ends Les Deux Pigeons suggesting that he may be too old to love:
Roses in a Glass Vase by Henri Fantin-Latour, 1873 (Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, England) (Photo credit:Venetian Red)
Contrary to Horace’s precept, to inform and to delight, or blending l’utile et l’agréable, sermons may not provide delight or pleasure, which Horace(Ars Poetica) teaches. It remains that wrapped in a story, a message is easier to convey, and to remember, than non-fiction. Gustave Doré has ‘illustrated’ the anthropomorphic nature of The Two Pigeons, (Gutenberg [EBook #50516]).
After “le reste” or “good and true,” La Fontaine speaks about himself and recalls a bergère,a shepherdess. Pastorals are a discourse on love. Salonniers and salonnières also compared themselves to shepherds and shepherdesses. The most famous bucolic or pastoral novel of 17th-century France is Honoré d’Urfé‘s L’Astrée, written in the first quarter of the 17th century and modelled on Guarini‘s Il Pastor Fido (1590). Having loved, La Fontaine writes:
J‘ai quelquefois aimé ! je n’aurais pas alors Contre le Louvre et ses trésors, Contre le firmament et sa voûte céleste, Changé les bois, changé les lieux Honorés par les pas, éclairés par les yeux De l’aimable et jeune Bergère (shepherdess) Pour qui, sous le fils de Cythère, (Kythira) Je servis, engagé par mes premiers serments. Les Deux Pigeons
Myself have loved; nor would I then,
For all the wealth of crowned men,
Or arch celestial, paved with gold,
The presence of those woods has sold,
And fields, and banks, and hillocks, which
Were by the joyful steps made rich,
And smiled beneath the charming eyes
Of her who made my heart a prize
To whom I pledged it, nothing loath,
And sealed the pledge with virgin oath. The Two Doves
Pigeons, Doves and Turtledoves
Dove, and the symbology of love
The translator of La Fontaine’s Site officiel uses the word “dove,” not pigeon. Doves are colombes and tourtelles, turtledoves. In the symbology of love, one uses the word colombe. Doves, colombes and pigeons are columbidae, but they differ from one another. Therefore, the translator of the Musée de France introduces love, romantic love, by using the word colombe, in the title of his translation. As forWalter Thornbury [EBook #50316], he translated the French pigeons using the English pigeons. It is the same word in both languages. But it should be noted that we do not have homing doves, just homing pigeons. By using pigeons, Jean de La Fontaine suggests that his columbidae will return home. He describes the pigeon as a volatile(a bird, noun) FR and volatile (adjective) FR/EN.
There is a sense in which literature (non-fiction), speaking animals in particular, always tell, to a smaller or greater extent, that which cannot be told. Anthropomorphism and zoomorphism are effective recourses, but the exemplum, and various displacements (modulations or transpositions) may also be used. In the context of our two pigeons, “L’absence est le pire des maux” seems too elevated a moral. But La Fontaine raises the curtain only to let it fall again.
Very few of his poems are specifically lyrical in character, and those few are not among his most typical. It is clear, however, that the power of La Fontaine’s lyricism depends on its displacement into the most surprising contexts.
Charles Gounod has set to music verses from Les Deux Pigeons, and sohave I (shame on me).Charles Aznavour has composed a song based on La Fontaine’s Deux Pigeons.
Les Grenouilles qui demandent un roi is the fourth fable in book three of La Fontaine’s first volume of Fables (1668) (IX.2). His second volume, containing five books, was published in 1678. The twelfth book was published in 1694, shortly before his death. The same fable is also one of Æsop’s Fables, classified as number 44 in the Perry Index(the classification of Æsop’s Fables).
Les Grenouilles qui demandent un roi tells the story of “silly and frightened” frogs who live in a democracy, but, tired of democracy, ask Jupiter for a monarch. Jupiter acquiesces. From the skies descends a peace-loving king who makes a huge noise as he lands. This king is often represented as a beam or log.
Frightened by the din, the frogs go into hiding, only to return slowly to look at the king. The peace-loving king is a beam, which is not very kingly. The frogs start jumping on the beam-king, which the king tolerates as Jupiter grumbles. The beam-king is a kindly monarch, but he does not move.
Dissatisfied, the people go back to Jupiter to ask for a king who moves. So Jupiter sends them a crane that starts eating them up. In Æsop’s telling of this fable, the crane is a stork.
In Phædrus‘ Latin translation of this fable by Æsop, a second king is sent to the frogs. It is a water snake. There is no second king in La Fontaine.
Our silly frogs complain, and Jupiter tells them, first, that they should have kept their government (a democracy), second, that they should have been pleased to be sent a gentleman-king, the beam-king, and, third, to settle for the king they have for fear of encountering a worse one, La Fontaine’s celui-ci (this one) pointing to the voracious crane.
In Æsop, as noted above, the crane is a stork.
KING LOG & KING STORK
The Frogs prayed to Jove for a king:
“Not a log, but a livelier thing.”
Jove sent them a Stork,
Who did royal work,
For he gobbled them up, did their king.
One of the morals of this fable is the eternal “Leave well enough alone,” but we are also reading a “beware-of-your-wishes-as-they-may-come-true” narrative. The moral of this fable is also a defense of the status quo, the state of affairs.
If all is well, a change is not necessary. If forewarned of possible dangers, a change may be dangerous. Knowing there are very real dangers, one does not jump into uncertainty. In a serious election, one cannot say “I’ll give him or her a chance.” Acting in such a manner reflects a somewhat flawed understanding of democracy. As I wrote above, La Fontaine calls the frogs who are not pleased with the good king log, a beam: “gent fort sotte et fort peureuse,” very silly and very frightened people.
We do not know the exact origin of this fable. Æsop retold fables told in the Near East, Middle East and India, including Buddhist tales. The most likely source is the Sanskrit Panchatantraby Vishnu Sharma, written in the 3rd century BCE. The storyteller is Pilpay or Bidpai. Bidpai’s stories were translated by Persian scholar Ibn al-Muqaffa as Kalīlah wa Dimnah. Moreover, Æsopic fables translated into Latin, by Phædrus, or Greek, by Babrius, were retold several times after Phædrus and Babrius. There are modern references to the Frogs Who Desired a King or King Log & King Stork. Under The Frogs Who desired a King, Wikipedia quotes New Zealand author James K. Baxter who wrote:
A democratic people have elected
King Log, King Stork, King Log, King Stork again.
Because I like a wide and silent pond
I voted Log. That party was defeated.
“While the mighty quarrel, the humble pay the cost.”
I chose today’s subject matter, an Aesopian fable entitled “The Frogs and the Fighting Bulls,” because it brings to mind the plight of Syrians seeking refuge in a reticent Europe.
Four million Syrians have fled their country because their homes, if they are still standing, are not habitable and their government is no longer operative. Syria is a battlefield.
Where have the Mighty been? And will the Mighty now sit at a table and do their very best to fix the problem. I fear they may be politicians first and statesmen second, if ever they become statesmen, and “let the humble pay the cost.”
My kindest regards to all of you.♥
Aesop, with a fox, from the central medallion of a kylix, c. 470 BCE; in the Gregorian Etruscan Museum, Vatican City. 600 BCE – 501 BCE (Photo credit: the Encyclopaedia Britannica)
The Perry Index of Aesopian Fables
In the Perry Index of Aesopian fables, “The Frog and the Fighting Bulls” is fable number 485 and is entitled: “The Frogs Dread the Battle of the Bulls.” Its source is Phaedrus (1st century CE) but I borrowed the text from An Argosy of Fables, 1921 (p. 130), selected by Frederic Taber Cooper(1864 – 1937) and illustrated byPaul Bransom (1885 – 1979). However, this post includes Jean de La Fontaine’s“Les Deux Taureaux et une Grenouille” and its English translation: “The Two Bulls and the Frog.”
You may remember that Phaedrus (1st century CE) is the Latin author who versified Aesop‘s fables, thereby removing them from an oral tradition. (See Oral-formulaic composition, Wikipedia). Babrius (2nd century CE) also took Aesopian fables away from oral literature but he wrote Aesop’s fables in the Greek language.
Subsequent writers of fables have used both Phaedrus and Babrius to publish Aesopian fables in Latin or Greek, or French, or English, or other languages. We are reading a translation of Phaedrus’ Latin collection, but Frederic Taber Cooper has not provided his readers with the name of a translator.
The Frogs and the Fighting Bulls
A FROG, sitting at the edge of a swamp, was watching a battle between two Bulls in an adjoining field. “Alas! what deadly danger threatens us,” he said. Another Frog, overhearing him, asked what he meant, when the Bulls were merely fighting to decide which should lead the herd, and the cattle passed their lives quite apart from the home of the Frogs. “It is true,” rejoined the first Frog, “that they are a different race and live apart from us. But whichever Bull is beaten and driven from his leadership in the woods will come to find some secret hiding place; and I fear that many of us will be trampled to pieces under his hard hoofs. That is why I say that their battle means death and destruction to us.”
Deux Taureaux combattaient à qui posséderait.
Une Génisse avec l’empire.
Une Grenouille en soupirait:
« Qu’avez-vous ? se mit à lui dire
Quelqu’un du peuple croassant.
Et ne voyez-vous pas, dit-elle,
Que la fin de cette querelle
Sera l’exil de l’un ; que l’autre, le chassant,
Le fera renoncer aux campagnes fleuries ?
Il ne régnera plus sur l’herbe des prairies,
Viendra dans nos marais régner sur les roseaux,
Et nous foulant aux pieds jusques au fond des eaux,
Tantôt l’une, et puis l’autre, il faudra qu’on pâtisse
Du combat qu’a causé Madame la Génisse. »
Cette crainte était de bon sens.
L’un des Taureaux en leur demeure
S’alla cacher à leurs dépens :
Il en écrasait vingt par heure. Hélas! on voit que de tout temps Les petits ont pâti des sottises des grands.
Two bulls engaged in shocking battle,
Both for a certain heifer’s sake,
And lordship over certain cattle,
A frog began to groan and quake.
“But what is this to you?”
Inquired another of the croaking crew.
“Why, sister, don’t you see,
The end of this will be,
That one of these big brutes will yield,
And then be exiled from the field?
No more permitted on the grass to feed,
He’ll forage through our marsh, on rush and reed;
And while he eats or chews the cud,
Will trample on us in the mud.
Alas! to think how frogs must suffer
By means of this proud lady heifer!”
This fear was not without good sense.
One bull was beat, and much to their expense;
For, quick retreating to their reedy bower,
He trod on twenty of them in an hour. Of little folks it often has been the fate To suffer for the follies of the great.
I have read several Amerindian “fairy tales.” Shapeshifting is a recurrent motif or “constant” in Amerindian tales. Shapeshifting is often a trickster’s device, but also an attempt to discover the truth and to protect oneself. It is survival through deceit, such as playing dead.
Before Sequoya (1770 – 1840), the gifted Cherokee who created a syllabary, it is reported that Amerindians could not write. Once Sequoya invented his syllabary, literacy among the Cherokee surpassed the rate of literacy among the white. Sequoya, who may have been a Métis, developed 86 syllables, borrowing from several alphabets.
According to Wikipedia, in order to convince other Cherokees to use his syllabary, he wrote down what they were saying and called his daughter, to whom he had taught the Sequoya syllabary. She read her father’s text, and Cherokees recognized that it was what they had said.
John Ross, Cherokee Chief(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sequoya moved to Oklahoma and may have done so voluntarily. But Scots-Cherokee Chief John Ross left Georgia unwillingly. Yet he organized the removal, at least part of it. He bought 12 wagons, the same wagons as the ones used to carry the white west, but each of which carried a total of 1,000 persons. I do not understand the full logistics of the removal. Some Cherokees travelled by boat, but many also walked during part of the 2,200-mile journey (3,218 km). It was a true “trail of tears.” Reports vary, but it appears 6,000 Cherokees died on their way to Oklahoma, one of whom was Chief John Ross’ first wife.
According to James Mooney, 4,000 lives were lost. (See Myths of theCherokees, Gutenberg [EBook #45634].) In all, the population was “16,542 Cherokees, 201 inter-married whites, and 1592 slaves (total: 18,335 people).” (See Cherokee Removal, Wikipedia.)
Let me return to the Cherokee’s account of a deluge. It begins with the formulaic “A long time ago:”
(A long time ago a man had a dog, which began to go down to the river every day and look at the water and howl.) This formula tends to reinforce the fictional character of a story. It happened a long time ago and, if possible, elsewhere.
The formulaic “A long time ago… ” may be James Mooney’s wording. He is the person who took the tale away from an oral tradition to insert it in a learned, i.e. written, tradition. Yet it could be that storytellers have long used this kind of wording, if only to get attention.
“House [below] built in early 19th century by John McDonald, maternal grandfather of John Ross. Now called the ‘John Ross House,’ it was occupied by Ross’ daughter and her husband, Nicholas Scales. It is located in Rossville, Georgia.” (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)
Trickster tales are the most popular Amerindian tales, but we are looking at a wider selection. For instance, James Mooneygives anaccount of the plight of Amerindians in the United States. Between 1830 and 1838, Amerindians had to leave their hunting grounds one-third of the Mississippi and settle west of the Mississippi, in geographical areas often, if not always, chosen by the government. Good land was reserved for the white.
I doubt American officials could have removed Amerindians west of the Mississippi had it not been for the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Financially, Louisiana was purchased at a low-cost to the United States’ government, yet at too high a cost to Amerindians living in the Southeast of the United States.
I have suggested that deported Acadians may have told their stories to black slaves in Georgia US. They could not leave those boats that sailed down Britain’s Thirteen Colonies. It is an honest theory, but one-third of the current contiguous United States belonged to France and French-Canadian voyageurs grew to include African-Americans and Amerindians. George Bonga, who was of American African and Objiwe descent, was a voyageur and a fur trader. He was educated in Montreal. In other words, stories could circulate quite easily. (See David Vermette, RELATED ARTICLES.)
Stith Thompson (of the Aarne-Thompson-Üther classification index) has provided insightful information regarding the manner in which North-American folklore was collected. He writes that:
“[s]ome of the Jesuit Fathers in Canada, however, interested themselves greatly in listening to such stories. They were, of course, much concerned to learn exactly what kinds of error they must combat in their attempt to convert these simple folk. But their curiosity went far beyond this immediate need, and they recorded a number of stories merely because they were interesting.”
With the activities of the Jesuit Fathers, the collecting of American Indian began.”
During their forty-one year mission in New France, from 1632 to 1673, Jesuit missionaries sent their Relations to their superiors in France. The Jesuit Relations were a yearly and detailed report of the activities of missionaries and the daily life of the people of New France. Although converting Amerindians was the main role of Jesuit missionaries, they incorporated in their Relations stories told by Amerindians. The Relations may be read online, but the text may not be complete.
In fact, we could compare the work of the Jesuits with the Brothers Grimm travels in German-language lands, collecting a past for German-speaking Europeans. It was not long before composer Richard Wagner followed in their tracks providing a nascent Germany with operas that told its epic past. Der Ring des Nibelungenis an example. But the Jesuits also transferred an oral tradition into a learned (written) tradition.
The “Noble Savage”
Stith Thompson looks upon the Jesuits as folklorists. They recorded the “folklore” of Amerindians. However, we can also associate the Jesuit Relations with the growth of the notion of the Noble Savage. We have already linked this concept with John Dryden‘s heroic play The Conquest of Granada (1672) and to the Baron de Lahontan‘sAdario. (See RELATED ARTICLES.)
It was difficult for certain Jesuits not to see in Amerindians a form of lay virtue, virtue not associated with a religion.
Stith Thompson writes that “[b]y far the best known of all American Indian creation myths is that made famous by Longfellow’s Hiawatha.” Hiawatha was a historical Iroquois” whose name was Manabozho. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft who wrote a six-volume study of American Indians in the 1850s (see Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Wikipedia), was an inspiration as well as a source to Longfellow (see Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Wikipedia). Longfellow’s sources were Ojibwe Chief Kahge-ga-gah-bowh, Black Hawk a Sauk leader and other Sauk and Fox Indians.
Thumbelina came to live with the Field-Mouse. (Gutenberg [EBook #19993])
Fairy Tales and Fables: a Page
Yesterday, I had every intention of posting a short article on Anansi, a folktale character black slaves brought to the Americas. However, I thought I should first provide a list of posts on fables and fairy tales. It turned into a lengthy process because I had not kept a list of RELATED ARTICLES for most posts on fairy tales.
The page I posted yesterday is therefore incomplete. I will add a list of fables later. I kept a record of these posts, but must add the date on which each was published. I have a list of posts of fables, but each post needs a date. It seems that posts do not exist unless they are listed.
Childhood Favorites and Fairy Stories
However, I would like to invite you to take a peek at the Project Gutenberg’s EBook#19993. It is a collection of literary works for children and it includes poems, limericks, the words to songs, and fables and fairy tales originating from several countries.
The copyright was obtained in 1909, but the book was published in 1927 by the University Society of New York. By 1927, its editors had died. These are HamiltonWright Mabie, Edward Everett HaleWilliam Byron Forbus. William Byron Forbus died in 1927. All three editors are well-known authors, but we may have forgotten them. Today is the day we remember them.
In this collection, the art work is not always attributed to a specific illustrator, which is the fate of the image featured at the top of this post, that of Thumbelina. It’s a little gem. But the illustration contains initials: O. A.. The editors have indicated that “[m]any of the illustrations in this volume are reproduced by special permission of E. P. Dutton & Company, owners of the American rights.”
Several authors are represented in this collection, including Shakespeare. However, I have chosen to end this short post using a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It’s a lullaby.
“SWEET AND LOW”
Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me:
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.
Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother’s breast,
Father will come to thee soon;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west
Under the silver moon:
Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
With warm greetings to all of you.♥
Childhood Favorites is told by LibriVox on YouTube.
The Aarne-Thompson Classification System differs from the Perry Index in that the Perry Index is a classification of Æsopic fables only. For instance, it contains Æsop’s “Fox and Crow,” but also includes La Fontaine’s “Le Renard et le Corbeau” as well as the ‘Æsopic’ “Mice in Council” and La Fontaine’s rendition, “Le Conseil tenu par les rats.”
As for the Aarne-Thompson Classification System, its scope is much wider. It is a compendium of tales that originate from various countries and are classified according to motifs, plots, and other elements. Stith Thompson’s Motif-Index of Folk-Literature is an online publication.
“[t]he Aarne–Thompson system catalogues some 2500 basic plots from which, for countless generations, European and Near Eastern storytellers have built their tales.” (See Aarne-Thompson Classification System, Wikipedia.)
An Argosy of Fables
Similarly, although it is not a classification, An Argosy of Fables is a selection of fables from varied sources, hence my mostly confirmed opinion that Frederic Taber Cooper (1864 – 1937) knew Antti Aarne’s classification, first published in 1910.
According to Wikipedia,“Frederic Taber Cooper, Ph.D., was an American editor and writer, born in New York City, he was educated at Harvard University and Columbia University. He was an associate professor of Latin and Sanskrit at New York University (1895-1902).” (See Frederic Taber Cooper, Wikipedia.)
Dr Cooper also chose translators very carefully. On page [v] of the book, the publishers of An Argosy of Fables“acknowledge the courtesy of Mr. Basil H. Blackwell, publisher of “The Masterpieces of La Fontaine” in permitting the use of Paul Hookham‘s translation of twelve fables by La Fontaine.” It is an Internet Archive publication (see Sources and Resources).
While exploring the contents of an Argosy of Fables, I found an American Indian Fable(fable 469), a Cherokee fable, that could take its beginning in the 13th-century Roman de Renart or Reynard the Fox and its many variants. It would be classified as an AT type 2, Tail-Fisher narrative. In the Roman de Renart, Ysengrin the wolf is the victim of literature’s foremost trickster, Reynard the Fox. Renart tricks Ysengrin the wolf into attaching a bucket to its tail and hanging it down a hole in the ice. The ice hardens and his tail is accidentally chopped off by attackers trying to kill him. (See Le Roman de Renart, Wikisource, p. 55, 9.)
Our Cherokee fable is entitled “How the Bear lost its Tail.” A fox convinces a bear to hold a bucket with his tail down a hole in the ice. The ice hardens and he loses his tail. The rabbit meets the same sorry fate.
The AT 2 Tail-Fisher motif also has affinities with fables and other tales where an animal gets stuck in a hole, which is the case with The Fox with the Swollen Belly(Perry Index 24). Another example is the rape of the Roman de Renart‘s Dame Hersent, the wolf Ysengrin’s wife. She gets caught in the wall of her house and Renart takes advantage of her predicament (branche II).
It is decided at the Lion’s court that Renart should be tried and Bruin is sent to get him. However, having been told he will find honey inside the opening in a tree, he puts his nose down and when the wedges are removed, closing the opening, he loses the skin off his nose escaping. His love of honey also causes Winnie-the-Pooh to eat so much that he cannot leave a house the way he went in.
One could also suggest a degree of similarity between the Tail-Fisher, AT type 2, and both the Æsopic “Fox without a tail” and La Fontaine’s “Le Renart ayant la queue coupée” (V.5). These foxes have no tail, but there is no trickster plot. In the Perry Index, these are numbered 17, but they are not AT type 2 fables. In other words, the main link between the Roman de Renart and “How the Bear lost its Tail” is the tail-fisher episode, a plot found in a Norwegian tale.
“How the Rabbit lost his Tail”(Photo credit: Google)
Yet, “How the bear lost its tail” is also, and perhaps mainly, an etiological or pourquoitale, related to “How Mr. Rabbit Lost His Fine Bushy Tail,” which isan episode included in The Tales of Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris. The title of our fable is “How the Bear lost its Tail.” In fact, the Tales of Uncle Remus also contain a “Why Brother Bear Has No Tail” (II.21, p. 199), from a motif from Le Roman de Renartor the EuropeanReynard cycle.
Just how these stories crossed the Atlantic constitutes, of course, the larger mystery.
North-American lore features trickster tales, but the trickster is not the fox. In The Tales of Uncle Remus, it is the rabbit, but the coyote is a more important American trickster. In North America, however, if an animal loses a body part, how and why matter more than other questions.
AT first all the Bears had long tails. One winter day the Bear met the Fox, who had a fine lot of Crawfish. Being hungry the Bear wanted some too: so he asked the Fox where and how he got his Crawfish. The Fox replied:
“Go and stick your tail down in the water and let it stay there until it pinches you. The more it hurts, the more fish you will have.”
This was what the Bear had in mind to do: so he proceeded down to the lake and made a hole through the ice. Sitting over it, he let his tail hang in the cold water. When it began to freeze, he felt a pain; but as he wanted to catch lots of fish, he did not stir until his tail was frozen fast in the ice. The Fox’s instructions were not forgotten: so he suddenly jumped up in the expectation of getting heaps of fish; but he merely broke his tail off near the body instead. And ever since the Bears have had short tails.
Much of the above has been said in related posts. Moreover, I have already used the video embedded at the foot of this post. But An Argosy of Fables is rather new to me and delightful. I could not resist exploring it further.
The fables listed below are not necessarily an analysis of a fable by Jean de La Fontaine (1621 – 1695). A few have been used to reflect current events.
I usually list or quote the Æsopic equivalent of a fable by La Fontaine. If so, I use the Perry Index classification, a number, of the corresponding Æsopic fable. There are many versions of Æsopic fables as they have been rewritten by several authors. Marie de France (12th century [Anglo-Norman]), Walter of England (12th century [Anglo-Norman]) and Jean de La Fontaine (17th century [French]) wrote Æsopic fables, but Jean de La Fontaine made Æsop’s fables La Fontaine’s fables.
If one is looking for versions of a fable, one’s best guide is Laura Gibbs’ Bestiaria Latina (mythfoklore.net/aesopica). I have written posts on several fables and examined elements such as how mythological animals differ from mythical animals and have named the genres in which animals are featured. See Anthropomorphism and Zoomorphism.)
The Bear and the Gardener, “L’Ours et l’amateur des jardins”
The Cat’s Only Trick, “Le Chat et le Renard” (IX.14) (The Cat and the Fox) (10 May 2013)
The Cat Metamorphosed into a Maid, by Jean de La Fontaine, “La Chatte métamorphosée en femme” (II.18) (20 July 2013)
“Le Chêne et le Roseau” (The Oak and the Reed): the Moral (I.22) (28 September 2013)
The Cock and the Pearl, La Fontaine cont’d (I.20), “Le Coq et la Perle” (I.20) (10 October 2013)
La Fontaine’s “The Fox and the Grapes,” “Le Renard et les Raisins” (III.11) (23 September 2013)
The Fox & Crane, or Stork, “Le Renard et la Cigogne” (I.18) (30 May 2013)
The Fox & Crane, or Stork (I.18) (30 September 2014)
The Frogs Who Desired a King, a Fable for our Times, “Les Grenouilles qui demandent un roi,”(III, 4) (12 November 2016)
The Frogs Who Desired a King (III.4) (18 August 2011)
The Hen with the Golden Eggs, “La Poule aux œufs d’or” (V.8) (1 June 2013)
“…the humble pay the cost” (II.4), “Les Deux Taureaux et une Grenouille,” The Two Bulls and the Frog (II.4) (29 September 2015)
The Man and the Snake, “L’Homme et la Couleuvre” (X.1) (9 November 2011)
The Miller, his Son, and the Donkey, quite a Tale, “Le Meunier, son fils et l’âne” (III.1) (16 May 2013)
A Motif: Getting Stuck in a Hole, “La Belette entrée dans un grenier,” (III.17) (16 April 2013)
Another Motif: The Tail-Fisher, “Le Renard ayant la queue coupée” (V.5) (20 April 2013)
The Mouse Metamorphosed into a Maid, by Jean de La Fontaine, “La Souris métamorphosée en fille” (II.18) (30 July 2013)
The North Wind and the Sun, “Phébus et Borée” (VI.3) (16 April 2013)
The Oak Tree and the Reed ,“Le Chêne et le Roseau,” (I.22) (28 September 2013)
“Le Chêne et le Roseau” (The Oak and the Reed): the Moral (I.22) (28 September 2013)
The North Wind and the Sun, “Phébus et Borée” (VI.3) (16 April 2013)
Fables and Parables: the Ineffable (The Two Doves, “Les Deux Pigeons”) (12 June 2018)
The Two Doves, “Les Deux Pigeons” (IX.2) (24 May 2018)
“…the humble pay the cost” (II.4), “Les Deux Taureaux et une Grenouille,” The Two Bulls and the Frog (II.4) (29 September 2015)
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, “Le Rat de ville et le Rat des champs” (I.9) (18 August 2013)
The Two Rats, the Fox and Egg: The Soul of Animals, “Les Deux Rats, le Renard, et l’Œuf” (IX. last fable) (15 May 2013)
You can’t please everyone: Æsop retold, “Le Meunier, son fils, et l’âne” (X.1) (21 March 2012)
Fables and Parables: the Ineffable (The Two Doves, “Les Deux Pigeons”) (12 June 2018)
Fables: varia (12 March 2017)
Anthropomorphism and Zoomorphism (6 March 2017)
To Inform or Delight (29 March 2013)
Texts and Classification
La Fontaine’s Fables Compiled & Walter Crane (25 September 2013)
Musée Jean de La Fontaine, Site officiel (complete fables FR/EN)
Perry Index (classification of Æsop’s Fables)
La Fontaine & Æsop: Internet Resources
Aarne-Thompson-Uther (classification of folk tales)
I’m working on doves and roses as symbols.
Love to everyone ♥
© Micheline Walker
15 June 2018