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Fables & Folk Tales
Illustration by Catherine Hunter

Happy New Year, 2012! This month, PASSPORT launches a new collection of stories for families. It is an open series, and we welcome new writing and especially new artists. If you fancy writing a modern-day fable, or illustrating one of any age (you and the story!) please get in touch:

What is a fable? Or a fairy tale? Like many simple questions, the answer gets more complex the more you look at it. Short. To the point. Using animals to learn a little about human nature. Timeless. Or for their time? And an excuse for great illustrations.

Before we get going, search your memory. Remember your childhood: those wonderful stories of foxes tricking crows or bears, of wise storks and foolish wolves. Who wrote them? Depending where you grew up, and in what language, your answer might be Aesop, or La Fontaine, or Krylov, or Andersen, or Grimm, or several others. And those memorable pictures? By Arthur Rackham, or Bilibin or Beatrix Potter or Ronald Searle.... both lists are endless. Each storyteller and artist has borrowed from the others, and added something new. PASSPORT humbly seeks to join this wonderful tradition. Each month, we will offer you an old story, with a new illustrator, or a new story, or a chance to enjoy one of the great writers or illustrators, or all four. Enjoy – and join in!

To begin at the beginning. Aesop lived in ancient Greece, in several places, from about 620 to 564 BC. In a life full of ups and downs, including being a freed slave, sponsorship by Croesus (the original oligarch) and execution for refusing to join in the corruption, he managed to write 313 stories. From 50 to 500 words, they involve trees, men and Gods, but mostly caricature animals, each with a human foible and failing, that defines the end of the story. He inspired all who trod in his footsteps. In homage to Aesop, here are two of his most famous stories, with fresh illustrations by emerging young artists Dominica Harrison and Catherine Hunter.

Fable 1 Aesop: The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

ONCE UPON A TIME a wolf resolved to disguise his appearance in order to secure food more easily. Encased in the skin of a sheep, he pastured with the flock, deceiving the shepherd by his costume. In the evening he was shut up by the shepherd in the fold; the gate was closed, and the entrance made thoroughly secure. But the shepherd, returning to the fold during the night to obtain meat for the next day, mistakenly caught the wolf instead of a sheep, and killed him instantly. Moral: do not be fooled by appearances.

Fable 2 Aesop: The Crow and the Sheep

A TROUBLESOME CROW seated herself on the back of a sheep. The sheep, much against his will, carried her backward and forward for a long time, and at last said, “If you had treated a dog in this way, you would have had your deserts from his sharp teeth.” To this the crow replied, “I despise the weak and yield to the strong. I know whom I may bully and whom I must flatter; and I thus prolong my life to a good old age.” Moral: Assess your acquaintances well.

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