image of from the Bayeux tapestry

Week 11: Aesopus.

Background | Background Quiz | Starting Assumptions | Resources | Extras
Vocabulary | Etymology | Grammar | Perseus Dictionary | Perseus Tool

Reading Overview | Reading Quiz: English
| Reading Quiz: Latin
Discussion Questions | Latin Composition | Weekly Checklist

Background Information: Aesop

The tradition of Aesop's fables in Latin is incredibly rich, and the medieval tradition has been studied almost not at all! For the background this week, I'll sketch some of the ancient Latin origins and the medieval collections that are of most importance. Our readings this week come from three medieval sources: Ademar of Chabannes, Odo of Cheriton and Walter of England. If you are interested in learning more about the fables, you might take a look at the materials for the Aesop's Fables week in my online folklore class.

While the fables flourished in Latin throughout the Middle Ages, they were also quickly translated into the vernacular languages. Marie de France is the author of an extraordinary collection of Aesopic fables in French, Ysopet, although she is best known as the author of the Lais. Not much is known about Marie's life, although she seems to have lived in England during the latter part of the 12th century. Marie's collection of fables is closely related to a Hebrew author, Berechiah ha-Nakdan, who may have been a contemporary of Marie's. His collection is called the "Fox Fables," or Mishle Shua'lim. In English, Robert Henryson (c. 1425-1500), a well-known Scottish author, is the author of the Morall Fabillis (which you can read online at the TEAMS text site).

In addition, the fables of Aesop were among the first books printed in the various European countries. In 1484, William Caxton printed a translation of Aesop's fables into English. If you want to see how much the English language has changed in the past five hundred years, you should definitely take a look at Caxton's Fables.

Modern Languages 4970 / MRS 4903: Medieval Latin. Spring 2003 Online Course at the University of Oklahoma. Visit for more info.
Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma - Information Technology © 2003. Last updated: December 29, 2002 7:12 PM