Aesop, the real Aesop, is shrouded in mystery and legend. We know he lived between approximately 620 and 564 BC. He was a Greek fabulist or storyteller, and is credited with these stories collectively known as Aesop's Fables. Even his existence remains contended by scholars, and whether or not he authored these stories is a mystery because no writings by him survive today. We do, however, have scattered references to parts of his life from writers including Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch. According to these writings, Aesop was a 'strikingly ugly' slave who had a unique gift for storytelling. He eventually won his freedom and became an advisor to King Croesus of Lydia; it was on a diplomatic mission when he met his death.
Aesop's fables are stories about anthropomorphic plants, animals, and other inanimate objects which interact to tell a story. At the end of each story is a moral, usually only a sentence or two long, which use the story as a basis for the lesson. Many reflect morals upheld within Aesop's culture-- stories representing the pitfalls of pride, laziness, and greed-- while others blatantly poke fun at the people of his day (see The Old Woman and the Doctor.)
Some of the mystery around just what Aesop wrote (or if he wrote any of it) comes from the attribution of almost any fable over the history of storytelling. There are over six hundred tales attributed to Aesop, but it's doubtful if he wrote even a fraction of those. As well as this attribution of extra tales, every culture has appropriated Aesop and applied their own background and cultural norms to his character, illustrations, and stories. Over nearly 3,000 years, Aesop has changed so much that many of the tales we know today have little resemblance to the ones he probably originally told.
Regardless of whether or not Aesop really wrote these stories, we think they're excellent reading. The morals in these fun, fascinating, and often humorous stories ensure that these are safe, wholesome reading, and they make great bedtime stories! Authors and artists of all backgrounds have taken their own approach to these stories, making them as fun to look at as they are to read, and we encourage you to find your own favorite illustrator and author.
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