- Aesop's Fables, or the Aesopica, is a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE.
- Of diverse origins, the stories associated with his name have descended to modern times through a number of sources and continue to be reinterpreted in different verbal registers and in popular as well as artistic media.
- The fables originally belonged to the oral tradition and were not collected for some three centuries after Aesop's death. By that time a variety of other stories, jokes and proverbs were being ascribed to him, although some of that material was from sources earlier than him or came from beyond the Greek cultural sphere.
- The process of inclusion has continued until the present, with some of the fables unrecorded before the Late Middle Ages and others arriving from outside Europe. The process is continuous and new stories are still being added to the Aesop body of work, even when they are demonstrably more recent work and sometimes from known authors.
A detail of the 13th-century Fontana Maggiore in Perugia, Italy, with the fables of 'The Wolf and the Crane' and 'The Wolf and the Lamb', those fables appearing below.
The Fontana Maggiore is a monumental fountain built in Perugia, Italy between 1275 and 1277, a masterpiece of medieval sculpture. It was designed by frà Bevignate da Cingoli to celebrate the arrival of water in the acropolis of the city, by means of the new aqueduct. With the help of other professionals, the fountain accomplished an incredible endeavour, being able to carry the water coming from monte Pacciano, located a few kilometres, without the help of pumps. By means of a forced pressure duct, the water flowed uphill instead of downhill.
Fontana Maggiore, Perugia, Italy
The Wolf and the Crane
A feeding wolf got a small bone stuck in his throat and, in terrible pain, begged the other animals for help, promising a reward.
At last the Crane agreed to try and, putting its long bill down the Wolf's throat, loosened the bone and took it out.
When the Crane asked for his reward, the Wolf replied, "You have put your head inside a wolf’s mouth and taken it out again in safety; that ought to be reward enough for you."
In serving the wicked, expect no reward, and be thankful if you escape injury for your pains.
Stephan Horota's sculpture of the fable in Berlin's Treptower Park, 1968
The Wolf and the Lamb
A stray Lamb stood drinking early one morning on the bank of a woodland stream. That very same morning a hungry Wolf came by farther up the stream, hunting for something to eat. He soon got his eyes on the Lamb. As a rule Mr. Wolf snapped up such delicious morsels without making any bones about it, but this Lamb looked so very helpless and innocent that the Wolf felt he ought to have some kind of an excuse for taking its life.
"How dare you paddle around in my stream and stir up all the mud!" he shouted fiercely. "You deserve to be punished severely for your rashness!"
"But, your highness," replied the trembling Lamb, "do not be angry! I cannot possibly muddy the water you are drinking up there. Remember, you are upstream and I am downstream."
"You do muddy it!" retorted the Wolf savagely. "And besides, I have heard that you told lies about me last year!" "How could I have done so?" pleaded the Lamb. "I wasn't born until this year."
"If it wasn't you, it was your brother!"
"I have no brothers."
"Well, then," snarled the Wolf, "It was someone in your family anyway. But no matter who it was, I do not intend to be talked out of my breakfast."
And without more words the Wolf seized the poor Lamb and carried her off to the forest.
The tyrant can always find an excuse for his tyranny.
The unjust will not listen to the reasoning of the innocent.