A New Translation of Old: Selected Fables

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Wolf by Gustave Doré, public domain
Wolf by Gustave Doré. Image: public domain.

Fables, like fairy tales, are ubiquitous during our childhood. “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “The Fox and the Crow,” and “The Fox and the Grapes” are all commonly known. But what about “Death and the Unhappy Man,” “The Oyster and Its Claimants,” or “The Dog Who Gave Up the Substance for the Shadow”? All of these well-known and lesser-known fables are included in a new book put out by Oxford University Press.

Selected Fables is a new translation of old, traditional fables originally by Jean de La Fontaine. They were translated from the French by Christopher Betts, with gorgeous illustrations by Gustave Doré. Complete with ribbon bookmark, this book brings to us the poetry and comedy of the fables that La Fontaine created from Aesop’s originals, and other sources.

Image: Oxford University Press
Image: Oxford University Press

While appreciated in his own lifetime (1621-1695), La Fontaine continues to delight readers to this day, thanks to the lessons and enjoyment inherent in his work. This version of his work includes a lengthy biography at the beginning of the book, which gives a peek into his interesting and mixed life, and into the time during which he lived. Since these are “selected” fables, the book doesn’t contain all of the stories he wrote, but it does include about half, and they are from among the complete cross-section of his works.

The Oxford University Press’s blog includes a post with a brief description of the book, as well as a couple of excerpts.

Selected Fables is now available for purchase. It would be a fantastic gift for yourself, or for anyone you know who loves fables. Enjoy the poetry of it, or use the stories to help your children learn some valuable lessons. It could also be a really fun graduation present!

If you enjoy these traditional writings, Charles Perrault’s Complete Fairy Tales, published a few years ago, is a most excellent book in the same genre. It is also translated by Christopher Betts and illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Note: I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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