Throughout history fables have been a popular method of giving instruction. Fables contain a short narrative that seeks to illustrate a hidden message. Generally, fables use animals or objects as part of the narrative yet the message is designed to apply to humans. By doing this, the fabulist is not perceived as the teacher and this reduces any bias the listeners might have against the person. The most famous fabulist would be Aesop who most date around 620 B.C. Many fables are attributed to Aesop, but it’s unclear how many he actually wrote; indeed, his historical existence as a person is under question. I’ve collected many of them here for your enjoyment. A number of translations were found and the fables collected. Several different translations and interpretations of the same fable may be found on many of the pages here; including, now and again, a simplified version I wrote.
The collection here is being added to as new sources are uncovered. But, if you are in a hurry and want to see what is likely one of the better print books containing modern translations of some 600 original Greek and Latin versions, then see the book Aesop’s Fables by Laura Gibbs, translator. Latin versions collected by Laura Gibbs are also included with some fables here. They come from the public domain section of her book Mille Fabulae et Una: 1001 Aesop’s Fables in Latin. (Some fables may have multiple Latin versions due to various indexing systems and translations.) [Note: The book link is an affiliate link and a small portion of the price of the book will come to me from Amazon.com; this does not affect the price of the book.]
In addition to the text versions of the fables, materials from several visual versions have been incorporated into the presentation here. As one example, some of the more classic fables were, in 1887, put into verse and printed along with dramatic illustrations. Those versions are presented as “Crane Poetry Visual” summaries with the image shown at the right. Both the visual and poetic text are included on the fable pages. The specific book these came from is: The Baby’s Own Aesop by Walter Crane and engraved and printed in colors by Edmund Evans; it was published by George Routledge & Sons in London and New York, 1887. You can see a copy of the book at the Library of Congress.
A series of 100 longer adapted fables have also been added from an 1828 book by James Northcote, R.A. called One Hundred Fables, original and selected. Wood engravings embellish these fables. The fables are expanded with much more text than a simple translation and several have annotations at the end that describe how the fable applies to modern (1828) times. Some of these notations are longer than the fable. Search for this book on Google Books.
An illustrated book titled Some of Aesop’s Fables with Modern Instances Shewn in Designs by Alfred and Randolph Caldecott has been added. There are only 20 fables in this book but it is well illustrated. The book may be found in the Project Gutenberg archives among other places.
A few fables have been added from the 1819 French book Fables de La Fontaine. Only those fables with illustrations are included here and they are in the original French. I’ve included them more for the illustrations than the French translation. You can see the whole book at the Internet Archive.
New fable versions have been added from the 1811 book Aesop and Others: Translated with Instructive Applications: and a Print Before Each Fable by Samuel Croxall, D.D., late Archdeacon of Hereford. Fables on this site come from the nineteenth edition of the book. The original edition was published in 1722. You can see the whole book at the Internet Archive. Additional artwork associated with the Croxall collection of fables is being added from the 1814 book Aesop’s Fables Embellished with One Hundred and Eleven Emblematical Devices by C. Whittingham.
Fables from The Fables of Aesop, and Others, with Designs on Wood by Thomas Bewick are being added. These are a series of fables similar to Croxall’s in style and sometimes using the same or similar language. I am also trying an experiment in colorizing the woodcuts to better show the subjects of the fable which can otherwise sometimes get lost in the illustration.
Illustrations and some Google-translated text from the 1477 Heinrich Steinhöwel Aesopus collection of the fables are being added to select fables. Since I don’t speak or understand Middle Age German, these may be incorrect but links to the original page will be there for those who do. Some illustrations in the original I found were damaged; substitutes from other sources are used for those. All illustrations have been heavily edited. The book starts with a fairly standard Life of Aesop.
The newest additions are illustrations from the book Aesop, a text written in modern Greek and dating from 1480. The illustrations are by Gherardo, del Fora (1444-1497). The book is heavily illustrated as seen here, but for the purposes of this website the fable illustrations alone have been cut out of the more general flowery pages. Illustrations not linked to fables are on this page of orphans.
A summary of books I’ve found and used is on this page.
- General Introduction
- Townsend Introduction and Preface
- L’Estrange Introduction
- G.K. Chesterton Introduction
- JBR Collection Preface
- James Northcote Preface
- Caldecott Notes
- Jean de La Fontaine Description
- Jefferys Taylor Description
- Croxall Dedication and Preface
- Thomas Bewick Dedicatory and Introduction
How to Navigate the Fables
If you know the name of the fable you can use the search box to look for it; partial names work as well in the search. Remember that the animals in the fables may have names that may not be familiar to you. An example would be “daw” which is a European crow. (If the word has a dotted underline under it like you should see under daw, hover over the word and a definition should appear. Only the first use in the fable will be so marked.)
The second method would be to use the tag cloud. Each fable has been tagged with the animals in it so the tag listings show fables with the tagged animal in them.
In addition, each fable has its moral in the listing so you can search by the moral as well.
Finally, illustrations are usually presented as smaller images on the fable pages. Click on any image you are interested in and if a larger version is available it should open in a light box (please see the Terms and Conditions page for use of images and text from this site).
The following small icons are used throughout to represent various translations/collections…
Townsand version (search for all Townsand).
L’Estrange version (search for all L’Estrange).
Eliot/Jacobs version (search for all Eliot/Jacobs).
Jones version (search for all Jones).
Crane Poetry Visual version (search for all Crane Poetry Visual).
JBR Collection [an 1874 collection edited by Joseph Benjamin Rundell] (search for all JBR).
Aesop for Children [a 1919 collection with pictures by Milo Winter] (search for all Aesop for Children)
One Hundred Fables by J. Northcote (search for all Northcote)
Some of Aesop’s Fables by A. & R. Caldecott (search for all Caldecott)
Mille Fabulae et Una: 1001 Aesop’s Fables in Latin
Fables de La Fontaine (search for all de La Fontaine)
Aesop in Rhyme by Jefferys Taylor (search for all Taylor)
Fables of Aesop and Others by Samuel Croxall (search for all Croxall)
The Fables of Aesop and Others by Thomas Bewick (search for all Bewick)
Fables and illustrations by Heinrich Steinhöwel (search for all Steinhöwel)
Year 1480 Illustrations by Gherardo (search for all Gherardo)
A Note on Fonts
Most older texts used ligatures throughout so instead of Aesop, you might see Æsop. Other combinations might include an “o” and “e” as œ or “a” and “e” as æ. For the purposes of readability and ability to search, all ligatures on FablesOfAesop have been turned into their separate letters. We hope you don’t mind this little historical inaccuracy.