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Portrait of Aesop by Velázquez in the Prado. Public Domain. Velázquez - Esopo (Museo del Prado, 1639-41).jpgPrevious Story: Only The Bird's Eye

“Story time, Pa,” said Josh, as he began his evening walk with his father.

As they entered the bush, Rosh asked him, “You've heard of Aesop’s fables, haven't you?”

“The Greek slave who told moral stories for kids in Ancient Greece," nodded Josh. "Just like Vishnu Sharma, who told the Panchtantra Tales for kids in Ancient India.”

“Not bad,” smiled Rosh. “Real facts about the birth, life, and death of Aesop are scarce. What I tell you today is mostly based on a scholarly research on ancient authors, by a Frenchman, M. Claude Gaspard Bachet de Mezeriac."

"Mezeriac is reputed to have declined the honor of being tutor to Louis XIII of France, who ruled as King of France in early 1600s."

"It is said that he did this, because he wanted to devote himself completely to literature. Around 1632, he did publish a book called the Life of Aesop."

"Many investigations by English and German scholars later confirmed and authenticated Mezeriac’s research on Aesop. Mezeriac believed that Aesop was born around 620 B.C., and was a slave by birth."

"In those days, you were born a slave if you were the son of a slave, just like you are born a Hindu if you are the son of a Hindu."

"Mezeriac also believed that Aesop was owned by two masters in his life. The latter gave him his freedom as a reward for his learning and wit."

"Free men could engage in matters of public affairs in the ancient republics of Greece. It was then, as a free man, that Aesop became very famous."

"He traveled far and wide and finally settled in Sardis, the capital of the famous king of Lydia, Croesus.”

“Croesus, like Akbar, was a great patron of learning and of wise men. Like the Navratans (Nine Gems) honoured in Akbar's court, sages and philosophers like Solon and Thales thrived in Croesus’ court."

"Aesop gained the same prestige that Birbal had in Akbar’s court, and he was employed by Croesus in many difficult and delicate affairs of State. However, Aesop’s tales are quite different from those of Birbal’s."

"Some people believe that Aesop's real name was Babrius. The real name of Birbal is believed to have been Mahesh Das. He was born over 2,000 years after Aesop, in 1528 AD, in a village near Kalpi, Uttar Pradesh, India."

"Aesop's fables are believed to predate Vishnu Sharma's Panchtantra fables too. Fables are generally tales of animals, which talk and think like humans."

"Aesop and Vishnu created these stories as a simple tool to impart moral or purposeful insights. This is why fables are universally loved and admired."

“Alexander of Macedonia had invaded India over 300 years before the birth of Christ. It is quite possible that these fables were inherited by or transferred between these two great cultures at that time."

"Aesop's Greek fables and the Indian Panchtantra have quite a few similar tales. But Birbal, like Tenali Raman or Mulla Nasruddin, never actually told any stories. What these men did and said, became legend."

"Tenali Rama, hailed from the present Andhra Pradesh region in India. Like Birbal had served at the Rajput court of Raja Ram Chandra of Reva, under the name 'Brahma Kavi', Tenali Ramakrishna served as a court-poet of Raja Krishnadev Rai of the Vijay Nagar Empire in India.”

“Like Birbal, Aesop is also believed to have died on a mission undertaken at the command of his king. On his last mission, he had traveled to Delphi with lots of gold for distribution amongst its citizens. But their greed so disgusted him, that instead of distributing that gold, he sent it back to Croesus. The angry Delphians killed him."

"There is also another story about how Aesop died. In this version, he is said to have been thrown off a cliff by the Delphians because he was ugly and deformed and because they hated his quick witty tongue. Anyway, long after his death, a statue made by Lysippus, one of the most famous of Greek sculptors, was erected in Aesop’s memory at Athens.”

“The earliest extant collection of Aesop's fables is believed to be by Phaedrus which contains just over 100 fables. According to Laura Gibbs, whose English translation was published for Oxford World's Classics in 2002, the oldest printed English version of Aesop dates back to William Caxton in 1484. The Aesopus website has links to over 4,000 Aesop's fables in various Latin versions, but I am not sure how many of these are true Aesop originals.”

“Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, modern scholarship reveals fables and proverbs of 'Aesopic' form existing in both ancient Sumer and Akkad, almost three millenniums before Christ. Therefore, at their most ancient roots, the fables of Aesop may very well have been first composed not in Ancient Greece, Ancient India, or even in Ancient Egypt, but in ancient Sumer and Akkad (now Iraq)."

"Despite the debate about their origin, what is uncontestable is that at least some of this wisdom comes to us from our ancestors who lived a very very long time ago. Their stories and teachings have survived the ravages of time."

"Would you like to hear what some of their stories teach us? Should I tell you these fables of Aesop and Vishnu, these stories of Birbal and Tenali and Mulla Nasruddin?”

“Yes, Pa,” Josh murmured with awed anticipation.

"Tomorrow,” promised Rosh, turning back on the bush trail. “Let’s walk back to home now. I'm already feeling tired.”

Next Story: Thirsty Crow Gets Water

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