Readers Guide: How to Read the Fables
Before you read the fables, let us reiterate briefly why they are important.
Fables, myths, and stories reach back to the very dawn of civ- ilization itself. Long before humans learned to write and recorded their versions of history, they told stories to make sense of the sea- sons, marriage, birth, death, and any one of a thousand incidents and events.
Everyone is familiar with fables of one kind or another. Nearly everyone has heard of one or more of Aesop’s Fables. The fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare” is so familiar that it’s a part of our everyday vocabulary. It is so popular that there are cartoon versions of it for young children. Similarly, the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen are also part of our general makeup, so much so that we take them for granted. The Grimms Fairy Tales are equally familiar. And, of course, every culture has its own special myths and stories.
In spite of the immense variation among them, fables, myths, and stories share a number of common features. One, they generally take place in magical realms that are deliberately far removed from the constraints of the ordinary world. As a result, the characters can say and do things that they would never do in everyday life. In this way, they teach us lessons unencumbered by everyday reality. Two, they employ animal, mythic, and superhuman characters. The characters are deliberate, larger-than-life exaggerations of human qualities such that we can easily see both their good and bad sides, often simul- taneously. Three, unlike in real life, things generally get resolved in happy, clear-cut endings. The “good guys” are rewarded and the “bad guys” are punished. And typically, there is a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. Four, the resolutions generally come in the form of clear moral lessons or principles. There is little, if any, ambiguity to what we are supposed to learn.