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.
The cover of la Comtesse de Ségur‘s Les Deux Nigauds(The Two Silly Kids) is shown above, illustrated by Félix Loriaux. It has been on my bookshelves for about 70 years. It is a book intended for children written by La Comtesse de Ségur (1 August 1799 – 8 February 1874). La Comtesse de Ségur was Russian by birth. Sophie Rostophchine’s father, Count Fyodor Rostopchin, Saint Petersburg, reportedly set Saint Petersburg ablaze when Napoléon invaded Russia, in 1812. Rostopchin was accused of arson. La Comtesse and her family left Russia in 1814. They were aristocrats and, given her marriage to le Comte de Ségur, Sophie Rostopchine became a French countess. My copy shows Innocent, brother to Simplicie, wearing green pants and an olive jacket. The colours on photographs may not correspond to the original image. Lorioux is known for his use of colour. La Comtesse de Ségur‘s most famous book was Les Malheurs de Sophie (Sophie’s Misadventures), published in 1858.
Studies & Employment
Félix Lorioux (1872–1964) was born in Angers. He studied at l’École des beaux-arts de Paris, not knowing what he would design. First, it would be cars, publicity for cars, but he would work as an illustrator. He was employed by Hachette, a French publishing house, and became a notorious illustrator. Lorioux befriended Walt Disney, who hired Lorioux to illustrate Mickey and The Silly Symphony. Lorioux and Walt Disney parted ways in 1934. (See Félix Lorioux, Wikipedia). It may be that Félix Lorioux did not wish to move to the United States. By 1934, La Bande dessinée, often known as the Comics, quickly developed in France and Belgium, and thousands of Japanese prints flooded Europe. A man of his time. Félix Lorioux was therefore influenced by le Japonisme, Japanese woodblock prints, and Art nouveau. Moreover, illustrations were required when the fashion industry blossomed. They adorned La Gazette du Bon Ton and, later, fashion magazines. Artists also made posters, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is our best example. As for interior designers, they also became more numerous. Consummate artist Bernard Boutet de Monvel, of the Boutet de Monvel dynasty, was often employed by affluent citizens of Manhattan. Bernard Boutet de Monvel died in the Azores in the plane crash that also took the life of violinist Ginette Neveu and boxer Marcel Cerdan, Édith Piaf‘s lover. Finally, Félix Florioux was first employed by Citroën, a car company. Félix Lorioux lived in a world where design and publicity were combined and where design mattered. Cars are designed. So are aeroplanes. Moreover, the Arts and Crafts Movement swept the globe, bringing art to humbler homes.
Félix Lorioux illustrated a large number of books. However, we will start by focusing on his illustrations of the Fables of Jean de La Fontaine (8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695). His first fable is La Cigale et la Fourmi(The Cicada and the Ant).
La Cigale, ayant chanté Tout l’été, Se trouva fort dépourvue Quand la bise fut venue. Pas un seul petit morceau De mouche ou de vermisseau. Elle alla crier famine Chez la Fourmi sa voisine, La priant de lui prêter Quelque grain pour subsister Jusqu’à la saison nouvelle. Je vous paierai, lui dit-elle, Avant l’août, foi d’animal, Intérêt et principal. La Fourmi n’est pas prêteuse; C’est là son moindre défaut. Que faisiez-vous au temps chaud ? Dit-elle à cette emprunteuse. Nuit et jour à tout venant Je chantais, ne vous déplaise. Vous chantiez ? j’en suis fort aise : Et bien! dansez maintenant.
The gay cicada, full of song All the sunny season long, Was unprovided and brought low, When the north wind began to blow; Had not a scrap of worm or fly, Hunger and want began to cry; Never was creature more perplexed. She called upon her neighbour ant, And humbly prayed her just to grant Some grain till August next; “I’ll pay,” she said, “what ye invest, Both principal and interest, Honour of insects –and that’s tender.” The ant, however, is no lender; That is her least defective side; “But, hark ye, pray, Miss Borrower,” she cried, “What were ye doing in fine weather?” “Singing . . . nay, ! look not thus askance, To every comer day and night together.” “Singing! I’m glad of that; why now then dance.”
It is a little early to comment, but I must close this post. Loriaux’s illustrations of the fables of Jean de La Fontaine are anthropomorphic. Animals inhabiting fables are humans in disguise and, by and large, they are likeable, especially if the readers are children. Children who cannot read will be told about and shown an improvident animal and may say the animal is short-sighted or “silly.” However, they are unlikely to identify with the cicada or grasshopper. She should have prepared for the cold days of winter. Yet, children may prefer the improvident animal to a brighter companion. They do not like to be scolded when they make foolish mistakes and may not like the moral of our fable. It is located after the exemplum. This makes it an epimythium. The moral is a promythium if it precedes the myth or exemplum. The moral may also be the fable itself. In La Fontaine, ignoring the consequences of a certain action is a prominent lesson.
Le Buffon des enfants
Buffon, however, was not an illustrator. Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (7 September 1707 – 16 April 1788) was a French naturalist, mathematician, cosmologist, and encyclopédiste. (See George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, Wikipedia.) His animals are depicted faithfully. However, in illustrations of animals intended for children, animals be may be turned into humans. They may wear clothes, carry a watch or an umbrella, and seem disguised. Children are often attracted to camouflaged but recognizable animals. They may also expect the lion to be king and the fox to play his archetypal work as a trickster. Moreover, illustrators may give animals whose beak is long a longer beak and animals whose eyes are large, more prominent eyes, as do cartoonists. Illustrating le Comte de Buffon would not yield detailed portraits of animals who have made a mistake. It would be Le Buffon des enfants(Buffon for Children).
This conversation will be continued.
One can no longer copy texts contained in the Château-Thierry site. So, I have been very careful and I thank my colleagues.
Batany, Jean, Scène et Coulisses du « Roman de Renart », Paris : Sedes (1989). Ziolkowski, Jan, Talking Animals: Medieval Latin Beast Poetry 750-1150. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press (1993). Zipes, Jack (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2000).
Beast fables have been told or written since the dawn of times and in various societies. The same is true of beast epics, that may be called Beast fables. Ironically, colonialism, one of the darker moments in the history of mankind, led to the discovery of some of the world’s most fundamental texts. Many of these were discovered during the British Raj and many were beast fables, such as the Panchatantra and the Hitopadesha.Scholars learned Sanskrit and translated the masterpieces of India. The Bahgavad Gita, which is not a beast fable, was translated into English by Sir Charles Wilkins. Itwas Mahatma Ghandi‘s “spiritual dictionary.” (See Bahgavad Gita, Wikipedia.)
However, beast literature begins with Vishnu Sharma‘s Sanskrit Panchatantra. Recent scholarship has situated the creation of the Panchatantra between 1,200 BCE and the 3rd century BCE. Given that the Panchatantra is probably rooted in an extremely old oral tradition, I doubt that it was written before the 3rd century BCE. The Panchatantra‘s sage is Bidpai or Pilpay and the purpose of the Panchatantra is the education of the prince, or worldly wisdom. These books are referred to as mirrors for princes. Seventeenth-century French fabulist Jean de La Fontaine used eleven tales Panchatantra tales were used by 17th-century French fabulist Jean de La Fontaine.
The best-known Arabic analog of the Panchatantra is the work of Persian scholar Ibn al-Muqaffa’. His translation and adaptation of the Panchatantra (meaning: five books) is entitled Kalīlah wa Dimnah, dated 750 CE. Other earlier translations or analogs were published, one of which is Borzūya‘s Middle Persian (Pahlavi) Kalīlah wa Dimnah, dated 570 CE. That translation is lost. Vishnu Sharma’s Panchatantra also inspired the Hitopadesha, a text where beasts and animals interact. It was translated into English by Charles Wilkins. The sage in the Panchatantra and Kalīlah wa Dimnah is Bidpai, or Pilpay. French Orientalist G. Gaulmin‘s Livre des lumières, ou la Conduite des roys was published in 1644, several years after The Morall Philosophie of Doni (English, 1570). Both books were the Fables of Pidpai. (See Panchatantra and Anton Francesco Doni, Wikipedia.)
La Fontaine’s source, however, was 17th-century French Orientalist Gilbert Gaulmin, the author of the Livre des lumières, ou la Conduite des roys (The Book of Lights or the Conduct of Kings).(See Panchatantra, Wikipedia.) La Fontaine’s first collection of fables reflects Æsop. But his second collection (books 7 to 11), published in 1778, was influencedby Orientalist Gilbert Gaulmin’s 1644 Livre des lumières, ou la Conduite des roys. La Fontaine acknowledges indebtness to Pilpay: “Seulement, je dirai par reconnaissance que j’en dois la plus grande partie à Pilpay, sage Indien” (Only, out to gratitude, I will say that I owe most of my fables to Pilpay, an Indian sage” (Avertissement. II.7).
The Oral and the Learned Tradition
I wrote about the “oral tradition” elsewhere and mentioned it above. Æsop’s fables were transmitted orally from generation to generation, as would be the case with the Sanskrit Panchatantra. Æsop’s fables did not enter literature until Latin author Phædrus, who lived in the 1st century CE, published a written collection of Æsop’s fables, as did the Greek-speaking author Babrius (2nd century CE). Once Æsop’s fables were in written form, they had entered a “learned” tradition, but could nevertheless be retold, just as fairy tales could be retold.
La Fontaine’s sources
Several collections of Æsop’s Fables were based on either Phaedrus or Babrius or both. Jean de La Fontaine used a 1610 Latin collection of Æsop‘s Fables, entitled Mythologia Æsopica, put together by Isaac Nicolas Nevelet. However, before publishing his second collection of fables, in 1678, which contains L’Ours et l’amateur des jardins (The Bear and the Gardener), La Fontaine had become familiar with Gilbert Gaulmin 1644 Le Livre des lumières, ou la Conduite des roys, a collection of Bidpai’s fables (Pilpay)can be read it is entirety by clicking on the link (Gallica BnF). Bidpai is a sage whose fables were learned by future kings. He is the sage in the Sanskrit Panchatantra and Persian (Arabic) Kalīlah wa Dimna. His wisdom is worldly wisdom, as noted above.
The Panchatantra. An illustration from a Syrian edition dated 1354. The rabbit fools the elephant king by showing him the reflection of the moon (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)
Æsop, Æsopic & Æsopian
Æsopic, Lybistic & Sybaritic
In recent years, much has been written about fables and beast epics. As a result, scholars now point to differences between Æsop’s fables. The term Æsopian refers to an oblique language. It was first used by Russian satirist Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin (27 January 1826 – 10 May 1889). As for Æsopic, it may refer to Æsop’s fables. One can speak of Æsopic fables.
Æsopic however has another meaning. It refers to fables that feature animals only. Fables that mix animals and human beings, such as La Fontaine’s L’Ours et l’amateur des jardins, and Æsop’s “The Bald Man and the Fly,” are called Libystic. In ancient Greece, if a fable’s dramatis personae were humans only, the fable was called Sybaritic.
Isidore of Seville
Isidore of Seville (c. 560 – 4 April 636), an eminent Father of the Church and the author of Etymologiae (origins), divided fables into Æsopic (animals) and Libystic (beasts and human beings). Isidore’s Etymologiae could be considered an aetiological text consistent with the teachings of the Church.
Fables are either Æsopic or Libystic. Æsopic fables are those in which dumb animals are imagined to have spoken with each other, or in which the speakers are things which have no soul, as cities, trees, mountains, rocks, and rivers. In contrast, Libystic fables are those in which there is verbal interchange of men with animals with men. (Etymologiae 1.40.2) 
The consensus, however, is that fables are inhabited mainly by talking animals whose words may be dismissed, but have nevertheless been heard. The Church took an interest in the origins of animals. There had to be a Christian account of the creation of animals, so members of the clergy were at times naturalists. All animals had been put aboard Noah’s Ark but, in children’s literature, the Hebrew/Christian Unicorn missed the boat.
Animals belonging to the Medieval Bestiary are allegorical. They are not talking animals, except “en son langage.” They are allegorical rather than anthropomorphic animals.
Physiologus, Adam nomme les animaux (Adam names the animals) Cambrai, vers 1270-1275 Douai, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 711, fol. 17 (Photo credit:BnF) (click)
The Components of a Fable
The fable is a story, an exemplum, andthe moral is the distinguishing element of fables. The moral may be an epimythium and follow the example, or story. It may alsoprecede the story, in which case it is called the promythium. However, some fables do not have a moral, except the exemplum itself. Finally, one can give a fable a moral other than the moral ascribed by the fabulist.
Love to everyone ♥ ____________________
 See a review of Sir Charles North‘s The Morall Philosophy of Doni (Project Muse, University of Toronto.)
 Jan M. Ziolkowski, Talking Animals: Latin Beast Poetry, 750 – 1150 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), pp. 18-19.
The sites listed below may be very useful. Posts about a particular fable may contain classification or cataloging information, but not necessarily. The Project Gutenberg has published very fine collections of Æsop’s Fables, including illustrations. La Fontaine is also online, most successfully. These collections are old, but they are the classics.
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)
It has been difficult for me write this past week. My computer is not working normally. Letters jump around and so do paragraphs. I may have to schedule a very early Christmas.
However, all is not lost. Anansi, the folktale figure brought to the Americas by black slaves is not featured at the top of this post but that is my choice. I think it is more appropriate to read other Amerindian folk tales first. North America’s aboriginal people are its Amerindians.
This illustration is one of Paul Bransom‘s finest. Notice, in particular, the colour of the leaves. Mr Bransom uses a mauve instead of making the leaves a darker green. As for the composition, we have a diagonal line, a feature of Japanese prints, those that inspired American artist Mary Cassatt (22 May 1844 – 14 June 1926), Vincent van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890), and other artists and collectors. Japonisme swept Europe and was at times combined with Art Nouveau elements. In Paul Bransom’s illustration, the crane intersects the diagonal line horizontally.
As for the fable, it resembles “The Tortoise and the Hare” (Le Lièvre et la Tortue, La Fontaine VI.10). There is a race. The girl will marry the winner, which she expects will be the humming-bird. He seems the faster bird. We learn however that the crane can fly at night.
The ending surprises everyone. The crane is the winner, but the girl says she will not marry. If any character has been fooled, it could be the girl.
The Humming-bird and the Crane
THE Humming-bird and the Crane were both in love with the same pretty girl. She preferred the Humming-bird, who was as pleasing to look at as the Crane was awkward. But the Crane was so persistent that in order to get rid of him she finally told him that he must challenge the other bird to a race and that she would marry the winner. The Humming-bird was so swift—almost like a flash of lightning—and the Crane so slow and heavy, that she felt sure the Humming-bird would win. She did not know that the Crane could fly at night.
They agreed to start at her house and fly around the circle of the world, back to the starting point. And the one who came in first should win the girl. When the word was given, the Humming-bird darted off like an arrow and was out of sight in a moment, leaving his rival to follow heavily behind. He flew all day, and when evening came and he stopped to roost for the night, he was far ahead. But the Crane flew steadily all night long, passing the Humming-bird soon after midnight, and going on until he came to a creek, where he stopped to rest about daybreak. The Humming-bird woke up in the morning and flew on again thinking how easily he would win the race. But when he reached the creek, there he found the Crane, spearing tadpoles with his long bill for breakfast. The Humming-bird was much surprised and wondered how this could have happened; but he flew swiftly by and soon left the Crane once more out of sight.
The Crane finished his breakfast and again started on; and when evening came he still kept on as before. This time it was not yet midnight when he passed the Humming-bird sleeping on a limb; and in the morning he had finished his breakfast before the other came up. The next day he gained a little more; and on the fourth day he was spearing tadpoles for dinner when the Humming-bird passed him. On the fifth and sixth days it was late in the afternoon before the Humming-bird overtook him; and on the seventh morning the Crane was a whole night’s travel ahead. He took his time at breakfast and then fixed himself up spick and span at the creek, arriving at the starting-point about the middle of the morning. When the Humming-bird at last came in, it was afternoon and he had lost the race. But the girl declared that she would never have such an ugly fellow for a husband, so she stayed single.
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.
Le Roman de Renart. Noble le Lion, (Bibliothèque nationale de France BnF [br. Va])
BEAST EPICS AND FABLES
Generally speaking, European beast literature consists of two genres: fables and beast epics, or mock-epics. Fables are short, but epics are very long. Le Roman de Renart is a beast epic, but it contains the story of a Crow, Tiécelin or Tiercelin, who is led to sing (chanter) by a cunning Sir Fox,andloses his living. Jean Batany calls the various fables “parcellaires” and the entire beast epic, or fabliau, “unitaire.”[i] In short, beast epics are frame-stories (outer stories) that join shorter stories (inner stories).
One of our WordPress colleagues added the expression “to eat crow” to my “crowing.” As it turns out, Mr Boehner, Sir Fox, may well be “eating crow,” and the expression “to eat crow,” may be rooted in “The Fox and the Crow.” So, it is possible that “The Fox and Crow” shaped the English language to a greater extent than I suspected and that it may have done so because of the wide dissemination of beast literature in both fables, popular collections of fables, and various epic poems we will name Reynard the Fox stories, an umbrella term. So we have another curtain to raise.
Where fables are concerned, there exist several sources.[ii] However, we could begin with Marie de France[iii] who was born in Normandy but then lived in England. She is French literature’s first, chronologically, important woman writer. Her collection of fables contains a “Fox and Crow” narrative, entitled “Del corbel e del gupil,” that may predate the Ysopet-Avionnet, but not necessarily.[iv]The Ysopet-Avionnet dates back to the period during which the goupil became a renard,whichmay explain why her Fox is named gupil. Marie lived in the 12th century and retold 103 ‘Æsopic’ fables, her “Fox and Crow” being the 13th.
In the Ysopet-Avionnet, our fable is entitled “Du Renart et du Corbel” and is fable number 15. Foxes used to be called goupils, but as of 1250 approximately, the success of the Roman de Renart led to the “goupil” being renamed “renart.” In other words, the part became the whole, so to speak, as in a synecdoche, a figure of speech, hence its “Fox and Crow” being entitled “Du Renart et du Corbel.”
The Ysopet-Avionnet, a widely-used medieval grammar book, contains a “Fox and Crow,” the above-mentioned “Du Renart et du Corbel,” a translation of the Latin “De Vulpe [fox] et Corvo,” fable number 15 in theYsopet-Avionnet(p. 73).[v] Avianus (Avionnet) lived in the 4th century CE, and he wrote in Latin. However, “Du Renart et du Corbel” is not one of the 18 fables Flavius Avianus contributed to the Ysopet-Avionnet. It is one of the 64 fables attributed to a Romulus.
(Please click on the small images to enlarge them.)
Reynard (Reinardus) was born in the Ysengrimus and attributed to Nivardus of Ghent. Nivardus is a latinizedversion of Nivard. The Ysengrimus is a very long poem: 6,574 lines of elegiac couplets. It was translated into English by Jill Mann and is still available (see Jill Mann). The pioneer, however, was John Voigt who translated the Ysengrimus into German. Ysengrimus was the Wolf and Reinardus, the Fox. In French, Ysengrimus is Ysengrin and in English, he is Isengrim. Renart is Reynard.
The Roman de Renart (1170-1250)
The French Roman de Renart was written between 1170 and 1250. Pierre de Saint-Cloud was its first author, but it has other authors: Richard de Lison, the Prêtre de la Croix en Brie, and others. Beginning with the Ysengrimus, beast epics were written not only as mock-epics, but also as satires of a greedy Church.
Le Roman de Renart contains 27 narratives and 2,700 octosyllabic verses (eight syllables). These are joined into clusters called “branches.” The central theme is the fierce competition between the Fox, who uses ruse or “engin” (ingenuity), and the Wolf, who uses brutal force and is forever hungry. It eats ham mainly, but has been caught eating lamb. Other animals featured in the Roman de Renart are Bruin the Bear, Tibert the Cat, Tiercelin or Tiécelin the Crow, Hersent the She-Fox (Isengrim’s wife), Chantecler the Cock, etc. For a reading, in French, of the Roman de Renart’s “Fox and Crow” episode, one may visit the Bibliothèque nationale de France. It may be that the site is in English as well as French, but I have yet to discover a translation.[v]
England, the Netherlands and Germany
The Roman de Renart then migrated to other lands, the Netherlands in particular. But it also moved to Germany. It was hugely successful in both the Netherlands and German-language states. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is the author of Reineke Fuchs(1793). But the Brothers Grimm also wrote Reynard stories.
Reynard in Georgia, the United States
In North-America, Reynard inhabits Joel Chandler Harris‘ (9 December 1848 – 3 July 1908) Tales of Uncle Remus. However, in The Tales of Uncle Remus, our trickster, the Fox, is replaced by the Rabbit. The traditional North-American trickster is the Coyote.
AN ANTI-SEMITIC REYNARD
Title credit: About Reynard the Fox. (Nederland Film, 1943) Courtesy Nederland Filmmuseum (frame enlargement Ole. Schepp).[vi]
Robert van Genechten (25 October 1895 – 13 December 1945) produced an anti-Semitic version of Reynard the Fox, entitled Van den vos Reynaerde. He was a collaborator.At the end of World War II, Genechten was condemned to death, but committed suicide in his cell to avoid the humiliation of a public and ritualistic execution.
There are so many Reynard stories and, consequently, so many “Fox and Crow” fables that it could argued successfully that expressions featuring linguistic elements such as “to eat crow,” “crowing,” “faire chanter” and, by extension, “chantage” (blackmail) originate in “The Fox and the Crow” and Le Corbeau et le Renart. “The Fox and the Crow,” however, is a transcultural text. Related narratives can be found in Ibn al-Muqaffa‘s KalilahwaDimnaand,earlier, inthe SanskritPanchatantra.
Meanwhile in Washington: The Deceiver Deceived
Farcesbles vs Fa
However, allow me to return briefly to a Washington reading of “The Fox and Crow.” In fables, the birthplace of proverbs, among other forms, the crow ends up eating humble pie, or “eating crow.” In farces, however, the deceiver is deceived, le trompeur trompé. In fables, one can be fooled; Sir Crow opens his mouth and loses the cheese. But Mr Boehner, as Sir Fox, did not succeed in making Sir Crow, President Obama, “crow.” It could be said, therefore, that the shutdown of the American government was not only senseless and far too costly, but that it was… a farce!
[i]Jean Batany, Scène et Coulisses [wings] du « Roman de Renart » (Paris : Sedes, 1989), pp. 48-49.[ii] For a more complete list, see Æsopica: http://www.mythfolklore.net/aesopica/[iii] Harriet Spiegel, editor and translator, The Fables of Marie de France (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000 ).
[iv]They may have been written at approximately the same time.[v] The Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) has a lovely site on the Roman de Renart. “Roman” does not mean novel, it points to the language, “le roman,” in which the text was written. Click on:
From that point of view, i. e. the importance of enchantment in the life of a troubled child, it is perhaps best that the wounded child read fairy tales as opposed to fables, fables being a lesson or didactic.
Puss in Boots is a fairy tale and is therefore a fantasy rather than a lesson. In fact, in an earlier re-telling of the story, Puss licks away the third son’s acne. That’s marvelous. As well, Puss befriends the third son. According to Bettelheim “being befriended by [an animal]” is among those “events” that can “lead to great things” (p. 73).
As for fables, animal fables, as I have just noted, they may fail the troubled child in that they teach lessons. Fables are considered didactic. I cannot disagree with Dr Bettleheim, but let us reflect on the differences between fables and fairy tales.
Although the morality is not always expressed explicitly, fables are lessons. At times, the example, or exemplum, suffices in conveying the moral. Usually, however, the morality is placed at the beginning or at the end of the “story.”
However, although fables have a moral, I believe we could argue
first, that the use of animals as protagonists (characters) shields children from too rude a lesson. Besides, if the King is not a lion, similarly, children are not grasshoppers;
second, that the re-teller (author) of a fable tells a story and that, however real a story may appear, it is still a “story.” It therefore should not have too direct an impact on children, including unhappy children.
In fact, making a story seem real is difficult. Roland Barthes calls the device used to make a story real “un effet de réel.” Now, if creating an “effet de réel” is not easy, when animals talk, the universe of fables and animal fairy tales may well be more hermetic, or distant, than that of fairy tales featuring persons. If such is the case, a troubled child is not likely to be harmed by reading fables instead of fairy tales.
In other words, animal fables are a particularly oblique (dire sans dire) or indirect narrative, which may indeed be a factor in their seeming less “real.” Most of us have heard children commenting that the clumsy animal protagonist of a story they have read is, indeed, rather clumsy. They, the children, would never leap without first looking. So children tend to dissociate themselves not only from animals, but also from a fictitious dramatis personæ (the cast).
Indirection is a dépaysement. Bettelheim writes that “the fairy tale’s happy ending occurs in fairyland, a country that we can visit only in our minds” (p. 133). He is writing, in other words, that fairyland is an “elsewhere,” (un ailleurs) and that we, including children, know that it is. So it would be difficult for the child to identify fully with the denizens of fairyland, particularly if the cast is made up of animals. Animals automatically create a barrier between the story and the reader. It would seem that dépaysement, or feeling you are in another world, is greater when animals, rather than humans, are used as characters in a story.
Animal fairy tales may well be more distancing, or more “otherwordly,” than fairy tales featuring human beings. If Puss is made to wear boots, I believe there is a motivation to introduce an element of magic in the fairy tale. The storyteller confirms we are in fairyland, not to mention that real animals do not talk national languages.
Yet, if animals create a dépaysement, they are also like honey to a bear (or is it a bee?). Animals catch the attention of children. Children like animals. It would be my opinion that we must take into account the Horatian (8 December 65 BCE – 27 November 8 BCE) prodesse et delectare (Ars poetica). Fables instruct and delight, and vice versa. If there is fantasy in fairy tales, fables delight while instructing. So the difference between the two genres may not be that important.
Johann Amos Comenius (28 March 1592 – 4 November 1670) was particularly concerned with pleasing the child. As you know children’s books are usually illustrated which is also consistent with the Horatian “to instruct and delight.” Now, if fables are written so they provide instruction while giving pleasure, the illustrations might well enhance the pleasure.
In a sense, my choice of Malcolm Arthur’s and Fred Marcellino ’s re-telling of Puss in Boots[ii] had very much to do with the illustrations. In fact, I bought the book and showed it to my students to underline the importance of illustrations. They are pleasurable and therefore condition the child’s mind, and the adult’s.
Finally, fairy tales may not be overtly moralizing, but some, if not most, contain a lesson. The third son of the miller did not look beyond appearances. He didn’t see that the cat he had inherited was a person in disguise and very clever.
As well, the third son had the good fortune of watching a very smart cat, a cat who knows how to be successful and takes his master from rags to riches without the intervention of magic. The text does not indicate whether or not he received magical bottes de sept lieues. Yet, the cat’s ingenuity has been the foremost agent of change. Besides, the cat himself has changed.
Marcellino’s last illustration, shows a portrait of Puss dressed like an aristocrat, which underscores his having been successful, successful to the point of being less of a cat and more of a human We are told, moreover, that Puss no longer eats mice, except for sport, i.e. humans hunt. So two mice, standing on the floor, are looking at the picture admiringly. It is as though they could recognize that Puss himself had risen while making the miller’s third son a prince.
In fact, Puss deserves nearly all the praise in making his master an aristocrat. One therefore wonders what the third son would do without his cat.
P. S. The video I had placed at the end of this post has been removed. It consisted of illustrations of fairy tales by Adrienne Ségur. These are available online. Please click on the word illustrations.
The current video tells the story of the fairy tale. It does not mention Italian authors Francesco Straparola‘s (c. 1480 – c. 1557) Il piacevoli notti (The Facetious Nights) (1550–1553) and Giambattista Basile‘s (1566 – 23 February 1632) Lo cunto de li cunti overo lo trattenemiento de peccerille, orIl Pentamerone. It does not mention Charles Perrault, but refers to the 17th-century in France. Fairy tales are the product of Salons.
[i] (New York : Vintage Books and Random House: 1989 ).
[ii] Charles Perrault, Malcolm Arthur, translator, and Fred Marcellino, illustrator, Puss in Boots (New York: Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1990).
Under the reign of Louis XIV (1638-1715), the Sun-King, Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695) published twelve books of fables. The first book was published in 1668; the second, in 1678; and a collection, in the 1690s, shortly before La Fontaine’s death.
Fables, as you know, date back to Antiquity. Let us mention, first, Vishnu Sharma‘s Sanskrit Panchatantra (Pañcatantra [Five Principles]), 3rd century BCE or much earlier times: 1200 BCE. Its Arabic version, entitled Kalīla wa Dimnah (750 CE), was written by Persian scholarIbn al-Muqaffa. For most most of us, however, fables are Æsop’s Fables (c. 620-564 BCE) and they belong to an oral tradition. Æsop, if there ever lived an Æsop, was probably a freed slave from Samos, Greece.
Fables are usually looked upon as children’s literature because most feature animal protagonists. Some fables may be intended for children, but others encompass the wordly-wisdom a prince should acquire. Moreover, fables may feature plants or human beings speaking with animals. The latter are called libystic fables.
When reading “Le Chêne et le Roseau,” one may be reminded of Virgil’s Georgics (1st century BCE), but this fable is mostly a La Fontaine fable. As mentioned above, it was published in 1668 and is the last fable (number XXII) of La Fontaine’s first book of Fables. La Fontaine published a second book of Fables in 1678-1679, and a third book, in 1694 or somewhat earlier.
In “Le Chêne et le Roseau,” the Oak tree boasts to the Reed that he is strong and could protect the humble Reed from powerful winds. The Reed’s response is that “he bends” in the wind, “and does not break:” “Je plie, et ne romps pas.” As the two, the Oak tree and the Reed, are conversing, a devastating wind fells the Oak tree. As for the Reed, he is whipped back and forth by this ferocious wind, but survives.
Fables are lessons presented in Horatian (Horace, 1st century BCE) fashion:“Prodesse et delectareˮ (To Delight and to Instruct, or plaire et instruire). So, a lesson or lessons can be drawn from “The Oak and the Reed,” (La Fontaine [I.22])lessons for the prince.
Usually, my students would respond that the oak tree is punished for boasting, which is a correct answer. Destiny being fickle and life, fragile, one should not boast.
I would then remind them of the Roseau ’s statement: “Je plie, et ne romps pas.ˮ Not all of them could grasp readily that La Fontaine’s fable contained another lesson, one that could be useful for the prince or the man at court.
The lesson is simple. If one is flexible, chances are one might survive and perhaps blossom in the ruthless halls of the power.[i]It could be that nothing has changed, that one must still accept compromises or otherwise be totally ineffective and unhappy in any office to which he or she is elected, or has chosen.
Ideally, the prince acts according to a set of principles. He knows, for instance, that he must serve his people, so he listens. He also knows how to serve his people. But, rigidity is an extreme that precludes listening and militates against both reasoned and reasonable leadership.