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MONDAY, JULY 04, 2011
Aesop. A slave that told stories to achieve freedom. (620-560 BC)
As Ryan Sauve pointed out in his last article, it takes a very valuable story to be able to survive millenniums. Yet, I've found that many of even my bookish friends have not read the fables of Aesop. Maybe that's because there are so many of them. Perhaps we hold so many fragments of the stories that we think we're familiar enough with his work.

Nevertheless, now is your chance to read one of his greatest works in 30 seconds:

The Wolf and the Lamb

Wolf, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay violent hands on him, but to find some plea to justify to the Lamb the Wolf's right to eat him. He thus addressed him: "Sirrah, last year you grossly insulted me."
"Indeed," bleated the Lamb in a mournful tone of voice, "I was not then born."
Then said the Wolf, "You feed in my pasture."
"No, good sir," replied the Lamb, "I have not yet tasted grass."
Again said the Wolf, "You drink of my well."
"No," exclaimed the Lamb, "I never yet drank water, for as yet my mother's milk is both food and drink to me."
Upon which the Wolf seized him and ate him up, saying, "Well! I won't remain supper-less, even though you refute every one of my imputations." The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.

A story that, sadly, rings true for me today. This story is one of my favourites of Aesop because it highlights how some of today's tyrants use "diplomacy" only as a tool to get what want they want by whichever excuse they need. Even if it's not a tyrant, I find the most stubborn of humans that I get in arguments with will sometimes use shallow logic as a tool to find any excuse to simply win an argument.

Here's another great story by Aesop in 30 seconds:

The Kingdom of the Lion

The beasts of the field and forest had a Lion as their king. He was neither wrathful, cruel, nor tyrannical, but just and gentle as a king could be. During his reign he made a royal proclamation for a general assembly of all the birds and beasts, and drew up conditions for a universal league, in which the Wolf and the Lamb, the Panther and the Kid, the Tiger and the Stag, the Dog and the Hare, should live together in perfect peace and amity. The Hare said, "Oh, how I have longed to see this day, in which the weak shall take their place with impunity by the side of the strong." And after the Hare said this, he ran for his life.

But who is Aesop? Other than knowing he created many stories and lived from 620-560 BC not much. He also borrowed many traditional stories from before his birth and even had many attributed to him after his death. Nevertheless, he was still known for creating many stories. He is thought to have been a slave in Samos and was perhaps released due to his story-telling abilities.

The Bear and the Fox

A Bear boasted very much of his philanthropy, saying that of all animals he was the most tender in his regard for man, for he had such respect for him that he would not even touch a dead body. A Fox hearing these words said with a smile to the Bear, "Oh! that you would eat the dead and not the living."

Aesop's death was alleged to be very violent but the reasons are unknown. There are quite a few such as the insults in his story or his sarcasm towards high-ranking Delphians, where he died. Needless to say, Aesop's life has become a fable in itself.

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