The Hare And The Hedgehog Analysis Essay

An Analysis of the Form and Ideology of Hedgehog in the Fog

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An Analysis of the Form and Ideology of Hedgehog in the Fog

The animation, ?Hedgehog in the Fog?, tells the story of an inquisitive hedgehog passing through a wood to visit his friend the bear cub to count the stars. It has won numerous awards for it?s style and originality after it?s release by Yuri Bonsovich Norstein (1941 - to date) and his small crew at the Soyuzmultfilm studios in Moscow in 1975. ?Hedgehog in the Fog? is the fifth of Norstein?s six completed works. All have a deceptive simplicity, a faux naivetîehat begs a deeper understanding of their origins and implications.

Norstein has a very original, particular style to his animations and the purpose of this essay is to critically analyse the form and ideology of one of his animations with the intention of discovering what it is that makes his artwork so unique and has led to him being regarded as one of the greatest animators in history?. The method by which this will be done will be to firstly report the elements and functions that went into forming Norstein?s animations and ?Hedgehog in the Fog? in particular, then to analyse how these elements .mix with his personal influences to imply further meaning within his work.
The hedgehog?s journey begins as he enters the wood carrying a bag of sweets for the bear, and unknowingly stalked by an owl. He pauses for a moment to entertain himself by calling into a well and listening to his echo, the owl does the same. Continuing he sees a white horse standing in the fog and is concerThed~~s to whether it might suffocate should it lie down, and so enters the fo~ff~.i*eIf just to ?see what it was like?. Once within, the fog itself becomes a great part of the plot, revealing and hiding a number of characters that amaze, help or alarm him, or all three. All the while the bear cub is heard calling the hedgehog, with great concern, in the distance. At one point, becoming enthralled with a large tree, the hedgehog loses his sweets, only to have them returned to him by a dog. Finally after accidentally slipping into a stream and being saved from drowning by a fish the hedgehog finds his friend the bear who fusses over him incessantly having been worried as to his whereabouts. The film ends with the hedgehog deep in thought about everything that had happened.

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?The Hedgehog in the Fog? appears to be an adapted Russian folktale - the personification of animals (a theme found throughout Norstein?s animations), the title, the plot, all have a narrative function rooted in fairytales - although it was actually written by Norstein and his scriptwriter Natasha Abramova. Alexander Pushkin (1799 - 1839) in particular has a strong influence in this area ? Norstein displayed his portrait, alongside that of Nickolai Gogol?s, in his studio, commenting on how he lit up the room (Four-mations, Yuri Norstein, 1999). Norstein has also directed and animated ?The Fox and the Hare? similarly depicting a Russian follctale but with different stylisation.

Vladimir Propp?s system of organisation in the ?Morphology of the Folktale? was written to determine an underlying structure in Russian folktales in particular. The animation?s narrative varies in its adherence to Propp?s description. There is a goal (to meet the bear cub) yet there is no defined interdiction at the beginning or punishment of a villain at the end. There is a clear protagonist, yet no real antagonist except a series of objects or characters that elicit an inquisitive or nervous response from the hedgehog they do not actively oppose or act with hostility towards the hedgehog (how could a falling leaf be actively hostile!). The meeting of the bear could be taken as a form of closure at the end, but then we are reminded directly of the horse and woods in the hedgehog?s thoughts. In the most cruelly objective sense the majority of the animation could be seen as a simple stroll through the woods. But this entirely misses the point of Yuri?s work. Propp implies that a folktale often relates the mundane daily routines of the common man and allows such activities to remain immortal, passed down the generations within a story. It is this function that ?Hedgehog in the Fog? shows most clearly.

One possible academic method of determining the narrative structure would be to break down the animation into its particular elements, focusing on those that have greatest effect on the audience. To this end, and from the very

?Yuri Norstein?s ?A Tale of Tales? (1979) was judged ?Greatest Animation of All Time? by a conference of film critics at the L.A. arts festival, 1984.

Beginning we notice the complete and absolute innocence of the hedgehog. His timid, inquisitive approach to everything is almost overwhehning.

The personality of all the characters in ?Hedgehog in the Fog? revolve around an idyllic harmony, where everyone coexists mutually, helping the other without question. The hedgehog is the epitome of innocence taking a childlike interest in everything he sees, timid about sudden movements or the unknown, yet bold enough to travel off on his own. He entertains and calms himself with a short dance after a group of moths fly past. This stroke of genius by Norstein expresses the enjoyment of the world that the hÁul~og experiences, in a single gesture.

The owl ~ch is the closest the animation ever gets to an antagonist, appears to be more interested in the hedgehog?s activities than determined to cause it any hostility. This is shown by the way it copies, and enjoys, the hedgehog?s echoes in the well, and appears to be somewhere near the hedgehog throughout the animation. Both the bat and the owl alarm the hedgehog, particularly during the fast paced section where both are seen flying around the hedgehog, however neither give any reason to cause him harm and neither would ever prey on a hedgeho~, so\one is lead to believe they do so unintentionally.

The do~fI~?fish both go out of their way to assist the hedgehog when he is most in need, doing so without any strings attached (particularly unusual in a folktale).
Fig 2 Stalked by the ~I Such altruistic behaviour suits Norstein?s style.
The most obscure characters are those of the white horse, the moths, and the
elephant. Whilst the horse is clearly the concern that draws the hedgehog away from the direct route to his friend the bear cub, the horse, moths and elephant seem likely to have more implied meaning than any of the other characters. Exactly what this meaning is might only be discerned by a deeper understanding of the animations ideology, and will be dealt with later.

The bear shows all the attributes of a concerned mother when the hedgehog finally arrives. Having been calling out into the woods for the duration of the journey, the bear is seen fretting over the hedgehog at once angered and relieved at him for causing such worry. As far as closure is concerned the viewer knows the hedgehog is completely safe in the hands of the bear cub, and while we are left wondering about the horse in the fog, that satisfaction alone is enough to show the journey at least is complete.
The animation events are chronological however Norstein uses montage editing twice in one sequence (a particularly Russian invention - Eisenstein), showing the hedgehog?s thoughts when he realises he has lost his present, by displaying it in the centre of a blank frame for less than 25 frames (1 sec). This technique has a universal effect and conveys the emotion perfectly - preventing the need for narration. Passage of time is manipulated carefully to remove the unnecessary, most noticeably when falling in the stream and on finding the bear cub. In the first instance he overlays the sound of the next shot with that of the previous and in the second he makes use of a fade out. All of these techniques would normally be associated with live action film, but Norstein applies them here for a definite reason and with great success.

The wonder and enormity of the woods the hedgehog passes through is conveyed
through the use of the fog, the veil through which all the elements of the story emerge from and disappear into. The fog both contains each shot into a small easily framed area whilst allowing the woods to be impossibly large, things not completely unveiled can be explained only by the imagination leaving the viewer as intrigued by indistinct shapes and sounds as the hedgehog.

Norstein shows particular interest in the use of Far-Eastern perspective conventions, in opposition to those used in the west whereby the vanishing point mimics the way the eye sees, ?but not the way the mind thinks and feels? (Norstein ?Sight & Sound 1994).
Eastern perspective views the world as a series of planes, which Norstein likens to a window opening out to a world rather than terminating at a point. ?Instead of being limited, the horizon is infinite? (Norstein - Sight & Sound 1994). Russian graphics has used this convention far earlier than most of the western world which really only started appreciating it after Japan released its artwork to the world in the late nineteenth century. Russia?s proximity to China and Japan also allowed artistic styles to mingle more fluidly than anywhere else in the western world. The use of a decorative frame is another more eastern element found in Russian art and illustration, and clearly adopted by Norstein in his animation ?The Fox and the Hare?, and by subtle staging in ?The Heron and the Crane? (1974). Another artist who shows a similar interest in Eastern artistic styles and perspective is Mark Baker an English animator who directed ?The Village? and ?The Hill Farm? (1988 ? fig. 4). Norstein actually mentions Baker in a documentary by Vichra TaraBanov, expressing his appreciation of the style of his animation and it?s characters. Such worldly influences are infused throughout Norstein?s animations proving a depth far greater than that found in a typical child?s cartoon,
Norstein?s style of animation is typified by the simple gesture of happiness the hedgehog shows when he dances. Norstein, like any artist, fmds most inspiration by scrutinizing the activity and environment around him. Observing a gesture at the smallest possible resolution. Building up a record of motions in memory, then, when working ?a gesture will suddenly suggest itself?. The difference between Norstein?s character animation and that typical of Disney, for example, is that Norstein doesn?t exaggerate to the extreme, to develop an emotion, he utilises the gaps between gestures in a similar way to montage in film. His precise observations show the subtleties of a motion producing highly realistic and expressive gestures. To the same extent no attempt is made to duplicate live action precisely like rotoscoping, which is well known by animators to produce an entirely different emotional effect than the film it might have been taken from. Norstein places emphasis on the subtle, that.~which is often disregarded by those with too little time to notice it.

Mark Baker is one of very few animators who manage to achieve a similar effect in ?The Hill Farm?. Created by collating many individual observations and visual ideas together, then discovering the script that lay beneath. He produced an award winning animation, expressing the harmony of life in the country.

Due to his paper cutout method of animating, Norstein must animate at a frame-by-frame level, without the use of key frames used in traditional 2D cel animation. This method requires the most acute sense of timing possible, proving Norstein?s mastery of the art conclusively.

All of Norstein?s animations break away from Disney?s perfect lines and block colour that seem to now epitomise what the general public view as a valid animation. The main reason such a style was developed, apart from clarity of communication (and some would argue, loss of vocabulary) is due to the immense cost of animation in time and capital, where such a simple style could save on both counts. Norstein shuns such matters of time and money, which have sadly left him without a studio since 1986, when the Russian government evicted him from his studios. His style draws on his skills as a painter and illustrator, with elaborate sets and a great attention to detail in every aspect of his work.

Norstein produces the majority of his animation with his wife Francesca Yarbusova by drawing and cutting out the individual body parts of his characters, one for every possible expression and articulation necessary in a particular scene. These are placed carefully on a vertical multiplane camera (designed and patented by Walt Disney Productions) along with painted scenery and ?the fog?. The multiplane camera creates the effect of depth within an image by having many layers of artwork displayed below a camera each allowing a partial view of the layer beneath. Effects such as depth of field can be created by adjusting the aperture and shutter time of the camera, creating the illusion of the hedgehog blurring into the fog. Studio lighting can be applied to these planes allowing three-dimensional compositions of lighting and shadow that would be impossible with traditional 2-plane cel animation.

Narration and sound are an extremely important aspect of any animation when they occur. ?The Hedgehog in the Fog? utilises both exquisitely, the spoken Russian itself has a wonderful narrative timbre and without the original Russian soundtrack the animation would loose a great part of its wonder and awe. The use of a narrator at all has a very specific effect of being told a folktale (like a child being told stories in bed). The hedgehog, when it speaks, does so in a quiet whisper, thus accentuating his nervousness and innocence. The bear cub, heard calling over the trees has subtle reverberations to increase the feeling of distance. Other than voices the only diegetic sounds used include the splashing of water when the owl dips his foot in a puddle and when the hedgehog falls into the river, the quiet tapping of the hedgehog?s stick when he finds the big tree, the pattering feet of the dog and the very faint sound of moths wings tapping on the bear cub?s lamp - such a subtle sound as the tapping of moth?s wings is a trademark of Norstein?s attention to the smallest detail. The lack of many foley sound effects may seem surprising considering the richness of the animation and visual elements, but Norstein instead uses more non-diegetic sounds, all of them instrumental, from the violent rasping of violin strings when the bat and owl flutter past, to the haunting lullaby of the theme tune played by an full ensemble orchestra. Music, having a vastly more powerful and wide ranging vocabulary in terms of emotional response than pure sound, is used to create a particular melancholy effect in this animation than foley alone could achieve.

Norstein was born in 1941 (the year Stalin named himself the head of government and Germany invaded the USSR) to Jewish parents in Andreyevskiy, a suburb of Moscow. He trained as a carpenter whilst painting in his spare time, then joined an animation course at Soyuzmultfllm, the USSR?s largest film company. From here he worked under Ivanov Vano (1900 ? 1987) and Mikhail Tsekhanovsky (1889 ? 1965) amongst others, producing his first animation, inspired by Russian constructivist graphics, ?25 October, the First Day? (1968) detailing the Russian revolution in paintings. Throughout the seventies Norstein produced a series of Pushkin inspired animations including ?Hedgehog in The Fog?, culminating in the somewhat alternative ?Tale of Tales? ? both of which involved his wife, and his cinematographer and friend Alexander Zhukovsky. From there he began ?The Overcoat?, and adaptation of Gogol?s story of the same name. In 1986 he was evicted from his Studio as the economy was failing, since then he has been constantly trying to fund another studio, saving money earned from limited print runs of his works and animation lectures he has hosted around the world.

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All of Norstein?s most famous animations have a slight melancholy atmosphere that, considering the extremes Russian society has travelled through during his life, can easily be seen to influence any artist. 7.5 million Russians died after the German invasion in comparison to 4.1 million deaths for all other Second World War deaths. The communist regime recognised very little of any artists creations, anything not officially entered into your personal work book would be disregarded when seeking employment, and any entry deemed false could render you unemployable for life. His family would have more personally affected Norstein; he claims to always consider his children?s reaction to his animations, trying to understand life on their level. Through ?the horror of Russian life? (Sight & Sound 1994) Norstein has grown to appreciate the subtleties of the human condition, and he brings this to his animations.
One prevailing theme in both the ?Hedgehog in the Fog?, and in ?Tale of Tales? (fig. 5) is that of harmony. Norstein mentions how he enjoys wandering through his animations in thought, much as one might escape into a book (Four-mations, Yuri Norstein, 1999). In his animations are created perfect worlds - the harmony he creates could be a form of escapism, as well as an image with which the viewer can compare their own life. ?Tale of Tales? actually compares both reality and heaven side by side, through a glowing doorway. ?Hedgehog in the Fog? does so to a small extent with the white horse and the elephant, one always drawing the hedgehog nearer, the other always scaring him away. Once finished, ?The Overcoat? will complete this ?triptych?. Showing stark reality in a bureaucratic age, the dehumanisation of a man who finds complete joy and grief in a worthless object.

What makes Norstein a ?master of animation? is his background. While not having been or aspired to be an animator from a very young age he nevertheless succeeded in become one of the greatest firstly by being tutored by many of the best animators around, but more personally by his ability to absorb inspiration from his surroundings with absolute sincerity. It is this that shows most in his animations. Ideals of innocence and altruism shine from ?Hedgehog in the Fog? a stark contrast to Stalin?s ideology: that there are no irreplaceable people. His techniques shun money and time constraints aside, selected purely for their ability to communicate an idea most effectively. Unfortunately this comes at a cost - whilst producing work of near perfection, the total amount of film Norstein has produced comes to less than 80 minutes, and due to funding problems ?The Overcoat?, begun in 1981, is taking at least twenty years to complete. As far as animation-in-general functions, Norstein believes it lies on a level with all other media. Preferring it to live action as it can convey the gravity of an object or gesture with more weight and realism. He believes an animator should have a finger in all other art forms. He recognises that film can consist of ?myth, fantasy, ideas, sound, realism and naturalism. The specific mixture of these being of great value, lifting animation above all other media? (John


"Hedgehog in the Fog" and "Tale of Tales" and all other Norstein animations are available from Films by Jove: 800-756-6990,

Yuri Norstein (documentary) by Vichra TaraBanov distributed in Britain by Channel 4?s ?Four-mations? (1991).

Down the White Road ? interview with Norstein by Leslie Felperin Sharman in Sight & Sound, May 1994. P20-21

Halas, J. Masters of Animation. Salem House. 108 - 109.
Internet Movie Database -

Thomas, F. and Johnston, 0. (1981) The illusion of Life ?Disney Animation. 10th ed. Italy. 66.

Aesop C. 620 B.C.–C. 564 B.C.

(Also transliterated as Aesopus, Hesopus, Esope, and Esop) Greek fabulist.

Aesop is credited with developing the folklore fable during the ancient Greek period into a means of indirectly conveying a political message. Thereafter, Greek, Roman, and European fables have generally been attributed to Aesop, although some extant fables may be traced to sources predating Aesop in Sumer, Assyria, Babylonia, and Egypt; some to Indian folklore and literature; and some to such lesser-known writers after Aesop as Babrius, Phaedrus, Poggio Bracciolini, and Jean de la Fontaine. The collection of Aesopic fables is the nearest source for such common expressions as "sour grapes," "familiarity breeds contempt, and "a dog in a manger" as well as for references to characters in such fables as "The Hare and the Tortoise" and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." The typical Aesopic fable, a short allegorical tale using animals to portray a moral, has come to define the genre of fable in popular thinking. Today, the Aesopic fable, which was developed in antiquity to teach political wisdom to adults, is commonly used to instruct children in practical wisdom and to entertain them with its fantasy world of talking animals.

Biographical Information

Aesop may have been born in Thrace to the northeast of Greece around 620 B.C., according to what the historian Herodotus says about him. Herodotus describes Aesop as a slave from Thrace who served under Iadmon of Samos at the same time as the female Thracian slave Rhodopis. Herodotus also mentions that Rhodopis was later ransomed from slavery in Egypt by the brother of the famous poetess Sappho, who was born around 612 B.C. A comparison of the possible ages of Aesop, Rhodopis, Sappho, and Sappho's brother suggests the date of birth for Aesop as 620 B.C. According to Aristotle in the Constitution of the Samians, Aesop served as the slave of a certain Xanthus, then served as the slave of a certain Iadmon (who later freed him,) and then went on to gain a strong reputation among the Samians by telling them the fable of "The Fox and the Hedgehog" as a defense for a politician on trial for embezzlement. In this fable, a hedgehog's offer to remove blood-sucking ticks from a fox is refused on the grounds that other unsated ticks will come to draw more blood. A controversial and romantic Life of Aesop written in the

first century A.D. relates that Aesop was then sent by the Samians to the court of Croesus in Sardis in order to persuade Croesus not to subjugate the Samian people. Croesus was so impressed with Aesop that he put aside his plans of conquest for Samos and gave Aesop a position at his court, which gave Aesop the leisure to write out his fables. Then, as part of Aesop's continuing service to Croesus, according to the biographer and essayist Plutarch, Aesop went on a diplomatic mission to Delphi, where his life was brought to an end. According to the Life of Aesop, Aesop had offended the priests of Apollo by suggesting that they had a great reputation abroad but lacked substance in person. In revenge the priests framed Aesop by putting a golden cup from the temple in his baggage, capturing him, and condemning him to death. In his defense, Aesop related two fables. The first, "The Frog and the Mouse," tells of a frog that was carried off by a bird of prey attracted by the thrashing of a mouse being gratuitously drowned by the frog; the second, "The Eagle and the Dung-Beetle," tells of the inexorable vengeance of a lowly dung-beetle on an eagle that had refused to heed the dung-beetle's request to spare the life of a rabbit. The Delphians refused to heed the morals of the fables and threw Aesop over the cliff. However, according to Herodotus, the Delphians in the third generation afterwards paid blood-money to the descendant of Iadmon to atone for the crime of their ancestors. According to the dating of the Christian chronographer and historian Eusebius, Aesop died in Delphi in 564 B.C.

Major Works

Aesop's fables are often defined on the basis of common internal characteristics. The Aesopic fable is generally an allegorical tale of a brief, fictitious action occurring in past time, usually between particular animals who act like humans, so that the actions suggest a moral, which may or may not be explicitly stated. Ani mal types in the Aesopic fable tend to represent types of human moral qualities: foxes represent cunning; asses represent stupidity; lambs represent helpless innocence; and wolves represent ruthlessness. The Aesopic fable often appears as a cautionary tale, revealing through humor or through cynicism and satire an amoral world that does not reward abstract virtue but rather a world that requires common sense and moderation for self-preservation. Aesop's fables are often defined by contrast with the literary genres of folktale, allegory, parable, and proverb. Fable, like folktale, has animals with lives similar to humans but, unlike folktale, has a short and simple narrative and usually gives an explicit moral. Although fable provides an allegory of the human situation in the actions of the animals, fable's use of animal characters and shorter narrative distinguish it from other forms of allegory. Fable differs from parable in its use of animal actors and its frequent humorous quality. Fable differs from proverb in its use of a brief narrative of the interaction of animals in addition to the brief moral statement common to proverb and fable. The Aesopic fable can also be defined by reference to its place in the development of the fable. The fable before Aesop seems to appear after the development of the Greek city-state during the Greek Dark Ages, perhaps because the new urban environment offered greater intellectual stimulation and thus a greater possibility of understanding and appreciating metaphor, the basic concept underlying the fable. The pre-Aesopic fable seems to be directed toward a particular individual in a specific context. For example, Hesiod's "The Hawk and the Nightingale" is directed toward Hesiod's brother, and Archilochus's "The Lion and the Fox" is directed toward Archilochus's former lover. Also, such pre-Aesopic fables appear in verse, are serious, and lack an explicitly stated moral. Aesop's fables, however, seem to have been prose compositions—either orally or in writing, depending on which details of the tradition one accepts—using animal stories for comic effect as well as for conveying a political message. It is probable that the fables that might reasonably be attributed to Aesop originally lacked an explicitly stated moral. However, morals came to be attached to Aesopic fables as a result of the collection of fables attributed to Aesop compiled by Demetrius Phalerius around 300 B.C. According to Ben Edwin Perry, the addition of morals came about from moving the book-maker's heading, which summarized a fable for the purpose of indexing it according to its moral application, from its place at the beginning of the fable to the end, where it served to reinforce the moral.

Textual History

Four significant collections of Aesopic fables were published in classical antiquity. The first collection, no longer extant, was a work in Greek prose around 300 B.C. by Demetrius of Phalerum, probably for use as a reference book of fables for writers and public speak ers. The second collection is the Augustana recension, or critical revision of the text, which may with good probability have been based on a first- or second-century A.D. compilation. The Augustana recension was the basis for three other recensions, which include the fourteenth-century edition of Maximus Planudes, which served as the vulgate version of the Greek text of Aesop's Fables until the Augustana recension proper was published in 1812. The third collection is the work of Phaedrus, who probably used Demetrius's collection as the basis for his Latin verse version of the fables produced before 55 A.D., the probable year of his death. Phaedrus both expanded the Aesopic material available to him and supplemented it with material from other sources and with material of his own invention. Phaedrus's collection was rendered in Latin prose as part of a fourth- or fifth-century A.D. collection attributed to Aesop. This Latin prose derivation of Phaedrus became the basis for three medieval Latin prose paraphrases referred to respectively as "Aesop of Ademar," "Aesop ad Rufum," and "Romulus," each of which modified the text by means of expansions, deletions, or additions. The fourth and last collection is the work of Babrius, who probably used Demetrius's prose fables of Aesop as the basis for his Greek verse version of the fables, produced perhaps in the late first or second century. Babrius may also have used the Augustana collection, and he seems to have supplemented his Aesopic sources with Near Eastern fables, such as the Assyrian fables of Ahiqar and the Babylonian fable of "The Gnat on the Bull's Horns." Babrius's collection was excerpted and put into Latin prose by Avianus around the beginning of the fifth century A.D. This collection of Avianus and the Latin prose paraphrases of Phaedrus were popular during the Middle Ages, and they inspired the verse imitations of Walter the Englishman and Alexander Neckham as well as the composition of original fables in verse by Odo of Cheriton. The Latin prose versions of Babrius/Avianus and Phaedrus continued to be influential in the Renaissance with Heinrich Steinhowel's Latin-German edition (1476-77) of Romulus, Avianus, Petrus Alphonsus, the Facetiae of Poggio Bracciolini, and Rinuccio de Castiglione's Latin translation of some Greek prose adaptations of Babrius. First Steinhôwel's edition was translated into French by Julien Macho; then Macho's version was translated into English and published by William Caxton in 1484. Significant English versions of Aesop after Caxton include the versions of John Ogilby (1651), Sir Roger L'Estrange (1692), and Samuel Croxall (1722). Of these, L'Estrange's version is the only one to add significantly to the underlying text of Steinhôwel's edition with fables from the Greek Aesopic tradition that were published after Steinhôwel's edition. Modern critical work on Aesop dates from the writings of Neveletus on the Greek corpus in 1610 and that of Nilant on the Latin corpus in 1709. The scholars Richard Bentley (1662-1742) and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) solved significant problems associated with the text. Modern critical editions, such as those of Émile Chambry (1925-26), August Hausrath (1940), and Ben Edwin Perry (1952), give first place to the earliest of the Augustana recensions and then add separately material from later Augustana recensions. The latter two editions put in last place material listed under sources other than Aesop.

Critical reception

Aesop's Fables have always had a mixed reception. The classical rhetorical educator Quintilian advised children at the beginning of their education to practice translating, paraphrasing, abbreviating, and elaborating the Aesopic fables. In rhetorical theory and practice, the fable seems to have been a rhetorical device for enhancing persuasiveness in public speaking. As such, the fable was expected to be adapted to different circumstances, and so the actual wording of the fable would change from one circumstance to the next. In this context, Demetrius's collection seems to have been made as a reference work listing fables for use in rhetorical exercises and public speaking. The situations just described show a regard for the content of the fables but little regard for their textual form. The situation of the works of Phaedrus and Babrius suggests another aspect of the reception of Aesop's fables. On the one hand, putting the fables into verse raised these productions to the level of literary art, and the text of their fables in certain textual traditions remained fixed and received critical but brief attention. On the other hand, the works of both authors in other textual traditions were put into prose and spread across Europe, serving as the basis for vernacular editions of Aesop's fables. Thus, the fables enjoyed popular acclaim partly as a school text, and inspired literary works, although they were not necessarily artful themselves—a fact underlined both by the anonymous or pseudonymous nature of the late classical and medieval Latin prose paraphrases and by the constantly changing text. Today, Aesop's fables continue to be considered useful as children's literature, and the process of adaptation of the fables continues, primarily for this younger audience. Modern scholars also exhibit an ambivalent attitude toward Aesop's fables. Many tend not to critically analyze the literary aspects of relatively independent units of the corpus, such as the Augustana recension, or of groups of fables with a similar theme, or of the literary merit of individual fables. Such avoidance seems to result from a perception of a lack of literary sophistication in the Aesopic corpus and from the difficulty of proving something definitively from such an eclectic and non-homogenous text. Consequently modern scholars tend to discuss alternative aspects of the text, with some discussing the nature of the genre of fable and placing Aesop in that context. Robert Dodsley emphasizes the moral and also discusses the action, characters, and language appropriate for a fable. Ben Edwin Perry stresses the fictional, metaphorical, humorous, and satirical aspects of fable. Agnes Perkins, in comparing the Aesopic morals to the morals of the Buddhist Jatakas, proposes that Aesop's morals support action to one's personal advantage rather than action good in itself. H. J. Blackham analyzes fable according to Perry's definition as well as according to its use of images and its purpose. In addition, some scholars compare fable with other genres. Blackham compares fable with parable and allegory. Alternatively, both Margaret Blount and P. Gila Reinstein compare fable with folktale and fairy-tale. Blount suggests that folktale animals are closer to human and do not demonstrate a moral so explicitly as Aesop's animals, and Reinstein argues that Aesop's fables present a cynical and self-reliant philosophy, whereas Grimm's folktales present a belief in a moral order with the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Furthermore, other scholars discuss the sources of the fables. On the one hand, both Perry and Joseph Jacobs discuss the history of the ever-changing corpus of the written text. On the other hand, Louis Cons, J. H. Driberg, and Georgios A. Megas discuss the influence of the oral tradition. Cons suggests a neolithic source for a particlar fable; Driberg proposes African folktales as a source in general for Aesop; and Megas argues for a better preservation of the fables' internal relationships through oral transmission than through textual transmission. Finally, some scholars focus on the changes that individual authors make in their editions of Aesop's fables. Samuel Richardson, in addition to explaining his own changes, discusses those of Sir Roger L'Estrange and Samuel Croxall in their editions, especially in regard to the morals, in order to advance their own political viewpoint. Barbara Mirel discovers three methods of interpreting Aesop in various modern editions and shows how "The Fox and the Crow" is presented differently according to each. Mary-Agnes Taylor examines the changes made by various poets in favor of the ant in "The Grasshopper and the Ant." George Clark compares the fables of "The Cock and the Jewel" and "The Swallow and the Other Birds" in the versions of Aesop and Robert Henryson. In general, critics find fault with the lack of literary quality in the Aesopic corpus, with the political or religious bias of a previous collection of Aesop's works, and with the didacticism of the morals. However, critics commend the fables for their simplicity, humor, pointedness, and wisdom, and for the literary quality of particular productions.

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