Saturday, March 22, 2014

THE FOX AND THE GRAPES AND AESOP'S FABLES

Last year, I wrote about one of my favorite fables by Aesop, The Dog in the Manger.  This post seemed to resonate with my readers.  Many of us like to have our behaviors summed up in a moral at the end of an animal fable.  Probably a bit less threatening (and cheaper) than the psychiatrist's coach!  Another of my favorite fables is The Fox and the Grapes.

Brownhills Pottery (1872-1896) Aesop's Fables The Fox And The Grapes 6.12 inch child's ABC plate
One hot summer’s day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. “Just the thing to quench my thirst,” quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “I am sure they are sour.”
Moral: It is easy to despise what you cannot get.

The fable was and continues to be a popular teaching tool for young children (and grown ups).  Below see a children's mug with another example of the pattern.

Unknown Maker Fox and Grapes 2.5 inch high child's mug, ca. 1840
In 1830, the Spode factory introduced a dinner service (definitely intended for adults) that depicted many of Aesop's Fables.  Twenty-seven of these patterns can be seen in the Spode Exhibition Online.  Some of the designs were copied from illustrations in an 1814 edition of Aesop's Fables, printed at the Chiswick press for Carpenter and Son, Old Bond Street etc.  The preface and English renditions of the fables are by Samuel Croxall (ca. 1690-1752).  (See the link to Project Gutenberg eBook.)

Spode Aesops (sic) Fables The Fox And The Grapes 6.25 inch plate, ca. 1830

Spode Aesops's Fables Mark/Notice the impressed Spode mark

The Fox And The Grapes source print, 1814
I always think about the fox and his scorn of the grapes he couldn't reach when there is something I can't have: "I would never want to be young again!"  This is probably an example of (for me) "sour grapes."


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