June 6, 2011

Why I Can't Stand Aesop's Fables

You know those short stories like The Tortoise and the Hare, The Ant and the Grasshopper, The Boy Who Cried Wolf?

I loathe them. Seriously.

As a kid I grew up reading them, as there are lots of children's books that tell/re-tell fables and they seemed particularly popular with teachers in elementary school. There's a reason for that.

Namely, fables always come attached to a moral.

The Tortoise and the Hare: Slow and steady wins the race, and pride goeth before a fall.

I didn't mind this one so much at first, but I heard it so often I got very sick of it. Seriously, this has to be one of the most frequently told fables ever. And who takes a nap in the middle of a race? Really.

The Ant and the Grasshopper: You get what's coming to you. Also, don't be a musician when you grow up.

The grasshopper is clearly much cooler than that stupid ant. He can fiddle! He has a sense of fun! And then the ant begrudges him a place to stay in the cold winter, although I bet the ant wouldn't have got nearly so much work done without the grasshopper serenading him. Completely ungrateful.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf: Don't make up stories because no one will believe you when you tell the truth.
I don't know where this illustration is from, but I'd be way more concerned about why he is yodeling while riding a sheep in Little Red Riding Hood's outfit than about the whole crying-wolf thing.

This didactic approach, thinly cloaked in the guise of a story, always rubbed me the wrong way, and never more so than for The Boy Who Cried Wolf, which I seemed to get told more than any other for some reason. I was actually quite a truthful child, but I did tend to exaggerate sometimes (is there a fable with the moral "don't make a mountain out of a molehill"?) and then my family would say I was 'crying wolf' or whatever.

It frustrated me so much, as I didn't see it as exaggeration — *I* thought it was important, even if they didn't. As a result I grew to hate that story in particular. I thought the boy was stupid, I thought the other villagers were annoying, and the wolf scared me when I was younger. (I guess I didn't really mind the sheep, LOL.) So in a weird, ironic way I'm kind of pleased to hear that telling the fable apparently increases the likelihood children will lie.

I saw this comic strip awhile ago and came across it again today on The Beanstalk (it was originally done by Cracked.com):

They definitely had the right idea.

So, to wrap up, what's the moral of THIS post? Simple: don't subject your kids to Aesop's fables. They will lie less and thank you later for it.

Agree? Disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts on it, lovers and haters of Aesop's fables alike.


  1. I agree. I loved the comic far better than the fables themselves. They are not honest and they teach you nothing good.

  2. I don't so much mind the moral of the story aspect of fables, but the stories themselves I cannot stand. They are just dull, and I don't understand why people thought they were interesting to listen to. They put me to sleep!

    Also, those comics are pretty awesome. Much more appealing than Aesop's fables!

  3. LOL! You come up with the best posts. I'm not really sure what I felt about Aesop's fables when I was a kid. I remember thinking the Boy Who Cried Wolf was a stupid story because 1) He obviously got away with his lie for a good while, and 2) Why would those stupid adults have him mind the flock after they figured out he was a lazy liar? I also didn't like the ant/grasshopper one because I don't like bugs. The tortoise and the hare one bothered me because the hare should have won and it just seemed stupid that he didn't.

  4. I had no problems with Aesop's fables probably because no one kept repeatedly telling me about them.

    I got a laugh out of the comic.

  5. I didn't mind the original fables as a kid, although in retrospect I agree that their morals are so blatant that they become kind of meaningless. And I love those comics - funny and logical!

  6. I didn't mind the fables, though the ones that got retold all the time did become a bit boring. Some of the fables were more humorous, like the miller and his son who took everyone's advice about which of them should ride their donkey (the old man? the young boy? both?) - until they ended up carrying their donkey, which slipped from their grasp and fell into the river as all the onlookers laughed! Moral of the story: you can't please everyone.
    Also the most recent research (Ten Thousand Hour Theory) *does* support the Tortoise and the Hare moral. In other words, less "talented" people that work persistently and steadily at something are far more likely to succeed than those who make a "big splash" but have no persistence or work ethic. So maybe Aesop had it right! :-D

  7. Hahaha, this made me laugh so hard! I hated these fables growing up, and hated theme even more when they were recited to me as some sort of lecture. I actually caught myself telling my son about the boy who cried wolf a few weeks ago, and had to stop; that's not how I want to teach him about lying. I'm so glad you posted that article! It just backs up my feelings. :)

    Oh, and the comic is hilarious!

  8. Aww, I always liked Aesop! I just saw them as fun stories!

  9. Interesting to see everyone else's takes on it! Glad you guys enjoyed the comic :)


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