If he is a classical author who marked his time with his unique style, it is indeed Jean de la Fontaine with his famous fables! Albert Camus, Françoise Sagan, Jean Paul Sartre, Félicité Herzog, Andrée Chedid… Which writer hasn’t already read them? Discover in this article the Fables, their morals and their characteristics which place them at the heart of classicism.
What is a fable?
A fable is an imaginary story, very often written by the fabulist in verse. It often features Man represented by animals, and the aim is both to entertain and to instruct, while illustrating a moral. These characteristics of the fable fully echo those of classical literature, as does the fact that it is overwhelmingly a rewriting of fable dating from antiquity, another element of classicism.
La Fontaine’s Fables are of course the best known of all fables. The author has transposed old texts into verse with the mission of delivering a message, a moral.
La Fontaine and his entertaining and didactic Fables
La Fontaine published many Fables (books I to VI in 1668, books VII to XI from 1978 to 1979, book XII in 1694). The author has offered us short, varied and lively stories, with picturesque descriptions and a great wealth of characters. His precepts, with a didactic concern, are easy to remember, even if it should be known that morality is not always expressed, it can indeed be implicit.
The author uses the style of satire and transposition to help the reader better grasp his message, particularly through animal symbolism, in order to avoid censorship. Indeed, the fable makes it possible to denounce certain injustices and abuses of society, as well as human defects. La Fontaine will thus write with an entertaining, playful, but also didactic purpose. Through his writings, he wishes to educate his readers, reading between the lines.
Among La Fontaine’s most famous Fables are the following:
- The Hare and the Tortoise;
- The Raven and the Fox;
- The Rat, the Cat and the Mouse;
- The Fox and the Grapes;
- City Rat, Field Rat;
- The Oak and the Reed;
- The Cicada and the Ant;
- The Frog That Wanted To Be As Big As An Ox.
It is always interesting to look back at his writings, often read during school. In adulthood, the Fables take on another depth, for those who take the time to read beyond the words.