AESOP'S FABLES - online children's book

300 favourite fables with illustrations by Arthur Rackham

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fables that are or are not Aesop's all the animal forces drive like inanimate forces, like great rivers or growing trees. It is the limit and the loss of all such things that they cannot be anything but themselves : it is their tragedy that they could not lose their souls.
This is the immortal justification of the Fable : that we could not teach the plainest truths so simply without turning men into chessmen. We cannot talk of such simple things without using animals that do not talk at all. Suppose, for a moment, that you turn the wolf into a wolfish baron, or the fox into a foxy diplomatist. You will at once remem­ber that even barons are human, you will be unable to forget that even diplomatists are men. You will always be looking for that accidental good-humour that should go with the brutality of any brutal man ; for that allowance for all delicate things, including virtue, that should exist in any good diplomatist. Once put a thing on two legs instead of four and pluck it of feathers and you cannot help asking for a human being, either heroic, as in the fairy tales, or un-heroic, as in the modern novels.
But by using animals in this austere and arbitrary style as they are used on the shields of heraldry or the hiero­glyphics of the ancients, men have really succeeded in handing down those tremendous truths that are called