2020 to 2024

2020 Aesop's Fables: The Cruelty of the Gods.  Carlo Gébler.  Illustrations by Gavin Weston.  Apparent first printing.  Paperbound.  London: Head of Zeus, Ltd.  $5.96 from Amazon, June, '20.

This is the paperbound version of the hardbound book first printed in 2019.  As I wrote there, here is a serious new entry in the library of translations of Aesop's fables.  The 190 fables offered here are rewritten, based on Chambry's 1927 edition and the Penguin translation by Olivia and Robert Temple in 1998.  Not all who work with fables these days would applaud those decisions.  Some would have thought rather of Perry and Gibbs, respectively.  Let me offer a word about the book's divisions, its overall viewpoint, the individual texts, and the illustrations.  The ten divisions make sense and help the book to take shape as more than an endless round of stories.  Because they characterize the book well, I recount them here: "1. Caprice, Arrogance and the Exercise of Arbitrary Power"; "2. Irreconcilability, Conflict and Vengeance"; "3. Self-Deception, Stupidity and Idiocy"; "4. Ambition, Overweening and Overreach"; "5. Selfishness, Self-Interest and Self-Love"; "6. Gloating and Heartlessness"; "7. Jealousy, Covetousness and Greed"; "8. Cunning, Guile and Insight"; "9. Bitter Words, Rebukes, Barbs and Savageries"; and "10. Last Griefs or a Series of Epilogues."  Those titles indicate well, I think, the tone of the book's approach to the fables.  "Broadly speaking, Aesop has two subjects – the exercise of power and the experience of the powerless who endure life and all that it inflicts on them.  In his fables, the gods and goddesses who exercise power tend to be capricious, willful, thoughtless and unforgiving, while the powerless, the mortals (many of whom are animals) who endure life and all that it inflicts on them tend to be blind, deluded, foolish, and careless.  The discrepancy between the powerful and the powerless is a source of humour but it is also the basis of Aesop's critique.  The human world, as Aesop has it, is a place of rough, justice, deep hurt, epic cruelty and unstinting monstrousness" (7-8).  This view, it seems to me, works for a good number of fables, and its "critique" comes clear here in the way individual stories are shaped.  I see two things in the overall picture a little differently.  I find the gods rather unimportant in Aesop's view.  Greeks since Homer knew that they are capricious and immoral.  I think Aesop's eye is on the ironies of life, not on its divine background or causality.  The book's subtitle here may be distracting.  And I think there is more fun here than Gébler's viewpoint might allow.  Is it not part of the Aesopic experience to be teased into laughing at ourselves?  The individual versions, as I say, are well rewritten, expanded to express strong viewpoints, sharpened contrasts and bitter ironies.  The illustrations have the same bite.  Two good examples might be "The Champion Hen and the Widow" (247) and "The Dolphin and the Monkey" (267).  The detail of the frogs' king in action is a great choice for the front cover!  At the book's end, there are lists of correlations with Chambry and the book's 42 illustrations.

2020 Famous Animal Fables.  Carol Huey-Gatewood.  Various artists.  Paperbound.  Huntington Beach, CA: Teacher Created Materials.  $10.48 from Bargain Book Stores through Ebay, Feb., '20.

This 7" x 9" pamphlet offers seven fables, illustrated by various artists.  The cover shows a human and several monkeys waving to several other monkeys suspended from vines.  The first fable is new to me: the king of all the birds, a swan, has a daughter who wants to marry the most beautiful bird.  She chooses the peacock, but then he shows off in so shameful a manner that he is rejected and shunned.  Pride comes before a fall.  In the second, a greedy fox finds a hunter's lunch in a tree and, famished and skinny, climbs in.  After eating lots of the hunter's food, he cannot get out.  Luckily, snow confuses the hunter and the fox is not found out.  He emerges wiser.  In the third story, four different animals claim that a tree is theirs but soon learn to share the tree: elephant, monkey, hare, and partridge.  The fourth fable is CP.  The fifth fable substitutes a horse for the usual donkey who seems to learn successful behavior from a pet dog.  The sixth story is the most surprising to me.  A hatmaker falls asleep and finds that monkeys have stolen his hats.  After all sorts of attempts, he angrily throws his own hat to the ground, and all the monkeys do the same.  Success!  He gets his hats back.  His grandson undergoes the same adventure and throws his hat to the ground without the same effect among the monkeys.  "You are not the only one with a grandfather who tells stories!"  The last story is the traditional "Lion and Rabbit" from Panchatantra.  This is a lively recent book!

2020 The ESmith Short Tales: Fables and Stories from Fairytale Land.  GranRan.  Illustrations by NuSaga Press.  Paperbound.  NuSaga Press.  $10.06 from grandeagleretail through Ebay, July, '20.

This 100-page paperback, printed upon demand, offers fifteen short stories based generally on traditional Aesopic fables but transformed into short stories.  eSmith is a fox cub who gets into adventures and learns of adventures from his tailless father and his "brash vixen" mother.  I read the first five, which includes a story new to me about a fox meeting his shadow for the first time.  eSmith's father lost his tail not in but on the ice.  "The Eagle and the Fox revisited" follows the fable carefully.  eSmith is the very cub stolen by the eagle, and his mother is the one who brings fire to the tree.  In this version, she burns down the whole tree after her son's release.  There is about one grayscale illustration per story.

2020 The Panchatantra: Teaching Tales of Old India.  Narindar Uberoi Kelly.  Illustrated by Meagen Jenigen.  Paperbound.  Gurgaon, India: Hachette India Children's Books.  $12.15 from Amazon, Feb., '20.

This version has two great features.  First, it illustrates each story.  The colored illustrations range from part-page -- like the crocodile on viii -- to full-page -- like Sharma telling stories to the three young men on 7.  They help as one makes one way through a long work.  Secondly, the original feature of this 348-page edition is that the frame story is told on colored pages, while the individual stories filling in along the way are told on white pages.  A reader can let the subsidiary stories go in order to follow the frame story.  This clever arrangement can keep a reader on track as we descend through fables within fables.  Also, each of the five books has a list of its stories.  Again, one has help to know where one is along the way.  I would love to have a chance to teach this Panchatantra in a course!

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