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This article is taken from PN Review 93, Volume 20 Number 1, September - October 1993.

Aesopocrypha Philip Terry

Aesop Outfoxed
One day Aesop was out doing some research for his fables. He was, truth to tell, ahead of his times in that he saw that storytelling was 90 per cent hard work and only 10 per cent inspiration. Moreover, it was perhaps this dedication to his craft that gave him the edge over the other fabulists of his day: while they were busy signing copies of their latest collection in the market places Aesop would be doing his field-work. For this purpose he had constructed a series of camouflaged observation posts - small wooden huts covered with leaves and moss - in which he would install himself with a sandwich, a bunch of olives and a flagon of wine, and proceed to survey the natural world. In this way, he would observe the foxes, the birds, the lions, the insects and the wild boar, all the while taking scrupulous notes. Many days, of course, would pass quite fruitlessly: Aesop would see nothing but trees all day long. Yet other days would be full of incident and amply reward the fabulist for his perseverance.

It was on one such day that Aesop chanced to observe two shepherds stow away their lunch of bread and meat inside thehollow of a tree as they made their way to the hills. Aesop made a note. Not long afterwards a fox passed by and started nosing round the tree. Aesop made a note. 'This smells good,' said the fox, ...


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