On reading Aesop, then taking a little break.

The connections made in my title are purely coincidental. Reading Aesop has not sent me scuttling to shelter. Although, the story from the 1937 collection, Great Short Stories of The World, I’ve been reading this week is, The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse, and now I think about it, on one level it is a story about taking holidays.

Reading it took me back to childhood, but not in either a positive or a negative way. It was just a story that I remember regularly sighing about because it had popped up in yet another comic or collection.

I’ve been trying to decide whether it really was one of the most repeated stories, or if I just noticed it because it wasn’t a story that I liked. After all, I was happy with the variations on fairytales.

I can imagine that some adults would think these anthropomorphic mice make a child-friendly tale. They must be lovely to illustrate. The plot is time and region-less, and so can be made specific in ways that some of the other fables by Aesop can’t.

I can still remember a very English Tudor-period version that I liked to look at but, even then, the story failed to grab me. I didn’t know why. The story has as much going on as The Hare and The Tortoise, which I did enjoy, so I assumed it was a matter of taste.

Now, returning to it as a translation made by Thomas James, and first published in 1848, I wonder if it was that the set-up seems flawed. I’m wary of blaming Aesop, who was the aural storyteller of these fables. The versions we read weren’t written down until long after his death.

James says the town mouse was condescending. ‘How is it, my good friend, that you can endure the dullness of this unpolished life?’ But, his story begins by stating that these two mice are friends, old acquaintances. So, my question is, how is it that they know so little of each other?

Story worlds, the theory goes, must be consistent, should have a logic that keeps the reader absorbed in them. In the best case, we readers are so involved we suspend our disbelief and are surprised when we remember our world works differently.

The greatest fantasies achieve that, even at their most fantastic. When I read either, Alice in Wonderland, or Through the Looking Glass, no matter how much Alice shrinks, stretches or distorts, or how far she falls, I’m convinced, because each event is shown to fit logically with the next. Even at the end of Wonderland, when Carroll uses the cliche of ‘it was all a dream‘, he does it in such a way that Wonderland and the real world intersect plausibly.

This may well be ‘a particular type of story… known as the Beast Fable, a brief incident related in order to point a simple moral…’ but I’m sorry it was chosen as an example for inclusion in an anthology called Great Short Stories of The World. I would have preferred The Lion and The Mouse, or one of the ones that feature a wolf or a fox.

These are, of course, only my opinions. I’m prepared to be corrected.

I am, however, also allowed to dislike something… even if it is a classic.

In the meantime, please accept my excuses, dear readers and fellow bloggers, I need to drop out of sight for three weeks. My partner, Ray, who is usually standing, unsung, in the background of my writings, has just returned home after a quadruple heart-bypass operation.

While he would happily continue in the role of ideal reader, checking for sense, non-sense and typos before I post, I’m of the opinion that he should follow the recuperation guidance and take things easy. So, I’m putting a few things on hold to supervise his recovery.

Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

I’ll be back here on January 4th. Hope to see you then. In the meantime, I wish you all the very best festive wishes. I hope you all find lovely ways to celebrate.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

40 thoughts on “On reading Aesop, then taking a little break.

  1. I think you are spot on actually. I bet something was lost in the translation!! Well you know what I mean given he never wrote them down, so then you are at the mercy of the person who does that. But i sued to think what a sneery tail..oops tale.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. With you by his side, your hubby Ray is sure to make a full recovery. My best wishes to you both during this season of festivities or whatever you make of it. I look forward to reconnecting with you in the New Year. Making it safely through 2020 would indeed be cause for celebration πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Chris. It has been an interesting year!

      I hope you and yours also have the most joyful of festive seasons, and find safe ways to celebrate. I much prefer your way of saying, ‘keep safe’, but it carries the same weight in any language, so I return your good wishes in English.


  3. I must have read another version of this fable, or must have heard it, that is the thing with fables, right, it travels across different times and maybe this one lost its logic somewhere on the way. πŸ˜€ The Alice in the Wonderland is such a brilliant example, I agree with you Cath.

    Happy vibes and happy happy wishes for the festive season. God bless Ray with a speedy recovery. I hope 2021 turns out to be a beautiful, joyous year for all of us.
    Take care, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Charlee, Chaplin and Lulu. I hope you and all of the family are having lots of festive fun… in a safe way, of course. Thanks for the fluffy tail wags, Lulu. Rusty sends some none fluffy wags back.


  4. Hello again, Cath! You’ve made a very important point for a storyteller with the country mouse and city mouse. Why DO they treat each other as they do if they’re friends? Why are they asking things–for the benefit of the audience? But then why are they established friends? Why not have the conflict of the story transform into the friendship? Yes, it’s a fable to teach a moral, but it’s little questions like this that should remind readers that time passes for our characters before and after the story, so we must write the story with that in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jean, it was useful to explore my problems with this story. I’d spent years thinking this was just one of those stories that didn’t ‘connect’ for me, without investigating why. Oddly, once I’d identified the flaw in the story-logic I began to find reasons to like it… though they might still be mostly connected with the illustrations.

      Liked by 1 person

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