Feb 16: Fables

Fables are told across many cultures for varied purposes – what sort of purpose is at work in our readings for today? Are they merely for entertainment; or do they contain a moralizing or didactic tone? Why might this form have been popular in the Middle Ages?

3 thoughts on “Feb 16: Fables

  1. They definitely contain a moralizing tone. The moral is explained bit by bit at each of the fables’ / poems’ end in the “Moralitas” section. I think it’s interesting that not only are these fables, but allegories as well. In each fable, each element (sometimes even “props”, for lack of a better word, like the chaff) represents something and contributes to the overall theme or message. I think the reason this type of story appealed to people in the Middle Ages is that, just as their usage of lists demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of the world, so too the use of allegory demonstrates an understanding of how and where everything fits into the very ordered and often hierarchical system that they believed everything in the occupied a part of. Or if not an understanding of said system, at least a mirroring of it, a tiny version of their own.

  2. I certainly think that Henryson is translating these fables for much more than simply entertainment. Fables (particularly Aesop’s) often, if not always, attempt to convey some type of moral and it appears that Henryson’s intention is the same, seeing as he ends each fable by stating what the intended moral of the story is. Especially interesting I think is his dream conversation with Aesop at the beginning of the Lion and the Mouse. Aesop laments that “the world’s so rotted, bletted, cankered black, / my tales are told to small or no effect” (87), which, despite its cynical tone, I took as Henryson implying that these lessons are needed now more than ever.

  3. The fables do contain a moralizing tone, in The Lion and the Mouse our narrator tells us this directly.. This was often the purpose authors had when writing down common oral tales. They took common stories and changed them into a higher form that was used to teach mortality to noble children. This also enforces class structures as natural (the lordly, noble lion).

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