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"The emptier the pot, the quicker it boils" is about people too.
aesop's fables, proverbs, sayings

"The best time to prepare for old age is when you are young," says a British proverb. Entertaining fables contain heart-warming lessons for living. Besides, if we neglect spending quality time and good efforts on helping our children to fine fables and their lessons, in some ways the children may get impoverished by and by.

Albert Einstein held this view:

A concerned mother once visited Albert Einstein to get his counsel on how to help her son become really good in maths. Exactly what was she to read for him to help him evolve into a prominent scientist?

"Folk tales," said Einstein.

"Okay," said the mother, "and after that?"

"More folk tales," said Einstein.

"And after that?" the mother asked again.

"Still more folk tales," answered Einstein. [Zipes, 1992: 1]

Many have enjoyed good tales heartily. Such stories help in keeping and transmitting a culture too, thinks the American psychologist Jerome Bruner (1996) - "Narrative" is often another word for "tale" or "story":

There appear to be two broad ways in which human beings organize and manage their knowledge of the world, indeed structure even their immediate experience: one seems more specialized for treating of physical "things," the other for treating of people and their plights. These are conventionally known as logical scientfic thinking and narrative thinking . . . They have varied modes of expression in different cultures, which also cultivate them differently. [Bruner 1996:39-40]

The intimate aspects of culture are transmitted . . . through narratives. [Bruner 1996:178]

The comprehension of narrative is hermeneutic. . . . The object of hermeneutic analysis is to provide a convincing and non-contradictory account of what a story means. [Bruner 1996:137]

Culture . . . provides us with the toolkit by which we construct not only our worlds but our very conceptions of our selves and our powers. [Bruner 1996:x] [More here]

Some well-loved Greek, Roman and other fables that are transmitted in European countries are here, with just a few newer ones added separately at the end.

At first encounter fables may entertain. If so, that could be fine. Further benefit may come to light as time goes by, according to how they are digested. In most ways it is like eating food and digesting good food. The unspoiled organism in nature may like the sorts food it thrives on. And the body reacts to menial stories too. Below is a simple comparison:

Good food for the mind

  • If you like a story, you tend to add to it experiences you already have, and in such a way that you build an initial understanding.
  • After you have heard or seen or read a decent, good story, you process it further in the depths of your mind, often on deeper levels than you are consciously aware of. It is a period of digesting mental content and at times integrating it with what was there already. The deeper mind works of tales by stages. Hopefully you manage to "spit out" unsuitable ones to you and build on the rest of the tales.
  • We need good food to grow on, such food that we can handle without getting sick - that means absorbing good parts and do away with the insignificant or bad ones.

So some forms of food for thought are to be digested in the deeper mind, and not just on the surface levels of mind where reasoning is fit. It is best to get to quality food first, and enough of it.

Some forms of food contains seeds. Good fables similarly contain life lessons. Figs and corn bear fruit in harmony with (a) the "soil" mind; (b) the gardener's care and ability to tend to the seeds - parents, teachers, other relatives and still others; (c) the seasons, climate, growth conditions - An enriching, ennobling culture is like the general conditions and means a lot too.

How to let good stories for young ones bear fruit is in part still much up to mom and dad and other "gardeners" of tender sprouts in small ones. Compare the story of Einstein above and the possibilities good tales can entail.

Altogether, fables contain central lessons from our European history. Lessons of centuries and centuries go into some of them, as fables contain gist, and some seem to be the fruits of long-standing mistakes and sufferings in their wake, for example. Stories that are likable to those they are told to, could help in keeping or building good company. And, as Jerome Bruner (1966) is into, the culture rests on stories. Also, fairy tales suit children on deep levels of the mind: If good and suitable, they may "help blocks or sets" of imagination to be cultivated and linked deep inside. Imagination means image-producing capacity, producing images. Dreams stem from this capacity. Moreover, concepts and symbols are rooted in imagination - Compare a teaching embedded in Zoroastrism:

Imagination is . . . the most accurate and truth-telling factulty which the human mind posseses. . . . Imagination, its true force lies in its marvellous insight and foresight. [More]

Einstein had the capacity to imagine, visualise. It helped him a lot. Also, a key part of the wide-spread Waldorf Education consists in first letting young children get cosy stories, then articulate them in some well-founded artistic ways on a day-to-day basis. Later, often after years, the now adolescent pupils take to "chew on" the stories they were given, to digest them somewhat intellectually too. For at a certain stage of development the intellect may be cleared or turned on a lot more. Besides, the Waldorf movement's ideals and ethical principles correspond to those of Unesco.

Gods, Goddesses and Heroes

Minerva Athena Jupiter Plutus Mercury Venus Prometheus Heracles Theseus


Fowler Tanner Miller


Leopard Rook Donkey Horse Bull Cat (a translation of ferret, polecat, or the similar Egyptian mongoose)

Some beliefs in ancient fables

To the next page.


Fables of the European tradition, Literature   The list is far from conclusive:

Aesop. The Æsop for Children. Ill. Milo Winter. Chicago: Rand McNally and Co., 1919. 〰⊱〰 Its 143 fables are lovely illustrated, the language runs well, and the book is liked also. An edition by Eirenikos Press (2013) exists.

Gibbs, Laura, tr. Aesop's Fables. Oxford: Oxford University Press (World's Classics), 2008. 〰⊱〰 600 translated fables with many detailed references. Much recommended.

Handford, Stanley Alexander, tr. Fables of Aesop. New ed. London: Penguin, 1964. 〰⊱〰 207 fables neatly presented.

Jones, Vernon S. V. Aesop's Fables. A New Translation by Vernon Stanley Vernon Jones. Ill. Arthur Rackham. New York: Avenel Books, 1912. 〰⊱〰 284 fables.

Perry, Ben Edwin, oms. Babrius and Phaedrus Fables. London: Harvard University Press, 1965. 〰⊱〰 The fables by Babrius and Phaedrus are from Roman antiquity. Professor Perry offers translations, a survey of fables and sources. The book is for both specialists and many others. Also recommended.

Temple, Olivia and Robert, trs. The Complete Fables. London: Penguin, 1998. ⍽▢⍽ Its 358 fables are translations of Émile Chabry's French collection, the second edition from 1927.

Townsend, George Fyler, tr. Aesop's Fables. Chicago: Belford, Clarke and Co., 1887. ⍽▢⍽ Very terse fables where nouns are given capital letters.

Worthington, R. tr. Aesop's Fables: A New Revised Version from Original Sources with upwards of 200 Illustrations. Illustrators: Harrison Weir, John Tenniel and Ernest Griest. New York: Frank F. Lovell Co. 1884. ⍽▢⍽

Zipes, Jack, ed. Aesop's Fables. New York: Signet Classics, 2004. ⍽▢⍽ This well arranged edition contains 203 well-known Aesopian fables translated into readable, modern American English. The book is adapted from a version by Rev. Thomas James. Professor Zipes has written an introduction and afterword to it, and the writer Sam Pickering an introduction.


Bruner, Jerome. The Culture of Education. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Zipes, Jack. Breaking the Magic Spell. Reprint. New York: Routledge, 1992.


Fables of the European tradition, Vernon Jones, Literature  

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