After having made you discover (or rediscover) the superb book by George Orwell “Animal Farm”, I would like to talk to you today about Jean de La Fontaine and his famous fables with animals.
Fables are short stories, often embellished with a dialogue, which serve to illustrate a moral. In La Fontaine’s Fables, animals are often its heroes and represent men. The purpose of the fable is to teach children what they need to know (moral), in a fun way. As Jean de la Fontaine said himself: “I use animals to teach people”.
Here are all the animals appearing in La Fontaine’s Fables: Lamb, Eagle, Lark, Donkey, Spider, Weasel, Ox, Goat, Sheep, Duck, Deer, Camel, Capon, Cat, Huant Cat, Bat, Horse, Goat, Dog, Cicada, Stork, Pig, Dove, Rooster, Crow, Cormorant, Swan, Dolphin, Dragon, Crayfish, Squirrel, Elephant, Falcon, Ant, Hornet, Gazelle, Jay, Heifer, Frog, Heron, Swallow, Hedgehog, Owl, Oyster, Laie, Rabbit, Hare, Lion, Wolf, Kite, Sparrow, Fly, Sheep, Mule, Bird, Bear, Peacock, Partridge, Parrot, Magpie, Pigeon, Fish, Hen, Flea, Rat, Fox, Nightingale, Scarab, Snake, Monkey, Mouse, Bull, Turtle, Vulture. Many different animal species are present there: mammals, fish, birds, insects, reptiles …
But why animals?
All of these animals are responsible for expressing human characters, both good and bad. They all have a specific role and each animal represents a stereotype: the lion is powerful, cruel and proud; the worker ant; the fox is cunning; the hypocritical cat, the lamb is gentle; the wolf is bloodthirsty; the rabbit is fearful; the imitating and flattering monkey… They serve as spokespersons and thus allow our poet to criticize authority without being censored.
Most of the known fables are contained in the first collection of fables: the Cicada and the Ant, the Crow and the Fox, the Frog who wants to be as big as an ox, the Town Rat and the Field Rat, the Wolf and the Lamb, the Fox and the Stork… Allow me to quote some of these famous Fables that everyone remembers:
The grasshopper and the ant
The Fox and the Crow
The wolf and the lamb
In any case, Jean de La Fontaine won his bet: he wanted to educate and entertain his compatriots, from generation to generation. His Fables will remain in our favorite readings for a long time to come so that we will remember all those lessons that have not aged in more than 350 years!