All about De La Fontaine's fables
17th century French poet Jean De La Fontaine was clearly inspired by the great fabulists (fable writers) of history. He took their works and expanded on them, cleverly, playfully, and in a nuanced fashion.
We English speakers rely on Elizur Wright's 19th century translations of De La Fontaine's work. (Wright was himself a great man: a mathematician, devoutly religious, and an abolitionist.)
Click to a list of a small sampling of De La Fontaine's versions of Aesop.
I love these translated pieces as literature more than as lessons. With De La Fontaine's 17th century French sensibilities and Wright's 19th century English, they require a little effort. I recommend them especially highly for older kids who will soon be tackling, say, Shakespeare.
De La Fontaine's fables are bite-sized and therefore easier to puzzle out. Besides, you can always refer to the straightforward fables they're based on when you get stuck! (In fact, I'll make a point of referring you to the source fable for each of de la Fontaine's poems.)
But please note!... this great author not only drew from fables by authors other than Aesop, he also wrote his own originals. For that reason, I'll treat you to two brilliant couplets from one of his own rhyming fables (again translated by Wright), about a narcissist in an age when the self-inflated were known to wear mirrors on their own shoes!
The Man and His Image
A man, who had no rivals in the love
Which to himself he bore,
Esteem'd his own dear beauty far above
What earth had seen before....
Below is a very small sampling of De La Fontaine's work. If you love them like I do, you can always find the complete works:
More stories with morals.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.