a fox looking up to a crow with grapes in its beak

Fantasy encompasses a wide, wide spectrum of writing. We have beast fables, we have gothic, we have tales of vampires and werewolves, and we have sword and sorcery; we have epics from Homer, and there is just so much out there that we put under the umbrella of ‘fantasy.’ – Robin Hobb

Mel Shaw’s painting, “The Fox and the Grapes, Aesop Fable,” 1966

Greetings Travellers! Welcome back to Tales from the Enchanted Forest! This week, Fox is on her own heroic quest to recover ancient tales and secrets from beyond the enchanted forest. This means that today’s episode will be Sparrow’s Short Solo Special!

Today, I will be covering three of Aesop’s fables. While our usual fairy tales are often short stories, fables are much shorter and are always supposed to have a clear lesson by the end of them. They feature animals or inanimate objects as the focus of the story. And the most recognizable fables today are from a Greek storyteller named Aesop, who lived during the 600s and 500s BCE.

Because they are so short and straightforward, there is not a ton of depth to these stories, but that has never stopped me from overanalyzing anything before! We will go through the fable and then review the important lessons they impart to the audience.

The Sparrow and the Hare

Once there was a hare happily hopping through a grassy field when suddenly, an eagle swooped down and pounced on the Hare. The Hare cried and cried like a little baby. A Sparrow approached the sobbing Hare and asked, Where is your swiftness of foot now? Why were you so slow? But of course, while the Sparrow is speaking, a Hawk dove down and kills the Sparrow. While the Hare lay there dying, he took comfort in the Sparrow’s death and said, Ha! You thought you were safe as you mocked my own demise, and now you have a reason to suffer a similar misfortune.

artistic depiction of the sparrow and the hare tale
Art by Thomas Bewick

Of course, there are several lessons we can take away from this tale. One, Eagles do not kill their prey fast enough. If the eagle had just killed the Hare right away, the Sparrow would not have bothered with his mocking and may have lived to see another day. Two, if you are going to mock someone on their deathbed, be extra aware of one’s surroundings beforehand. The last thing you want is for karma to catch up with you mid-mocking. And three, if you are a Sparrow, watch out for Hawks! They come swooping out of nowhere and kill you to demonstrate the morals of stories!

The Olive Tree and the Fig Tree

Green Olive Tree Branch

On a hill stood an olive and a fig tree which stood tall and near one another. The olive tree was proud of her foliage that would stay green all year long. And so the olive tree would ridicule the fig tree, whose leaves would change colour each season. Eventually, the snow came, and it built up upon the Olive tree branches which were full of foliage. The weight of the snow upon her branches caused them to snap, robbing her of her beauty and ultimately killing the tree.

Meanwhile, the fig tree, whose leaves had long fallen to the ground, was uninjured by the snow.

Once again, there are several lessons to be learned here. One, trees are far more judgemental than I originally thought. Who knew they also struggled with the idea of different fashions for each season? Two, you need to adapt and change with the times so that you may survive winter. Three, Olive trees do not do well when it snows. They are native to the Mediterranean for a reason. So if you live where it often snows, maybe get a fig tree instead.

The Gnat and the Bull

A gnat looking for a place to rest settled down on the horn of a Bull. He became very comfortable there and stayed for a long time. Once he was ready to go on his way, he buzzed around the Bull and asked if he would like him to leave. The Bull answered, saying that he didn’t even know that the gnat was there in the first place, so he would not notice or be sad if he were to be gone. While many of these fables have obvious lessons, most have them explicitly stated at the end for good measure. Like this story, it ends by saying that some people are more important, in their own eyes than in the eyes of those around them.

a gnat on a bull horn

So the first lesson is explained at the end of the story. Sometimes people view themselves as very important, but not everyone will see them that way. The other valuable lesson we can glean is that bulls are not that observant. I wouldn’t be surprised if that gnat opened up a hotel on the horn of that Bull since it clearly didn’t care that he was there.

Stories Like Aesop’s Fables

And those are just a few of Aesop’s fables and some important lessons we can learn from them. Thank you so much for listening dear travellers, to this special Sparrow solo episode. Fox will be back next time as we talk more about modern heroes as we wrap up our hero series.

Looking for more animal-centric stories like Aesop’s Fables? Try The Mitten, a Ukrainian folktale where a bunch of animals learn to become roommates in a single mitten. Or if you are looking for multiple short animal stories, listen to our episode on Filipino Animal Tales. For all these and more, check out our animal collection below:

Until next time, remember: There is always a place for you in the Enchanted Forest.

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