Morals from Aesop's Fables

Think Success by Jayaram V

by Jayaram V

The following essay is reproduced with publisher's permission from the book Think Success by Jayaram V.

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Aesop's fables are as relevant today as they were centuries ago. Like the Panchatantra of ancient India or the Jataka tales of the Buddhist lore, Aesop's fables fired the imagination of generations of young minds since ancient times, reminding them of the age old moral values and the importance of being good and practicing virtue in a world filled with diverse characters and immense possibilities.

The fables are remarkably simple in expression, but convey appealingly the deeper truths of human life and character, leaving a lasting impression upon the readers and listeners alike. Although some of the stories are as old as our civilization, they are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago. Many perhaps do not know that some of the best remembered and well known sayings like "self help is the best help" or "much ado about nothing" or "look before you leap", are derived from Aesop's Fables only.

The history of Aesop is buried in antiquity and, like that of Homer, is shrouded in myth and legend. He probably lived sometime around the 6th BC, in ancient Greece, first as a slave, serving two masters and then as a free intellectual, earning a good reputation for his remarkable wit and wisdom.

There is also controversy about his death. According one version, he did not die naturally, but was rather killed in Delphi, by a group of angry people, following a misunderstanding.

There is no general consensus as to what constitutes the original fables of Aesop and how many were later on added or ascribed to him, owing to his popularity. It is possible Aesop might have gleaned a number of stores from ancient lore, improvising upon some of them and adding some of his own.

Trade relations existed between India and Greece even prior to the invasion of Alexander, and there was free flow of ideas between the two ancient civilizations. There is ample possibility that some of the fables of Aesop were derived from Indian and Buddhist traditions, through merchants and travelling monks from the Indian subcontinent, especially from the hinterland of Gandhara, or the present day Afghanistan.

The striking similarities between some stories of the Panchatantra and those of Aesop do suggest that both these works might have shared some ideas and inspiration from the same melting pot of ancient folklore and moral values. It is possible that the stories might have traveled both ways, along the trade routes and through the merchant caravans, marching armies and wandering tribes, and became part of the native folklores...

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