The Frog King: On Legends, Fables, Fairy Tales and Anecdotes of Animals
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This book of 180 pages works its way into Grimm's "Frog King" by examining animals in literature. Sax, following Margaret Blount, finds two basic kinds of animal literature: fable and fairy tale. Chapter II, "Fairy Tale or Fable," is devoted to these two. The sharp distinction of these two is welcome, I believe, and Sax deals with the two insightfully. The treatment of fable is found particularly on 25-30. Whereas folklore, myth, and fairy tale bring animals close to men, fables are divisive; they put animals in their place. If fairy tales come from the pet owner, fables come from the farmer or hunter. Where fairy tale is playful, fable is pedagogic. Sax mentions Stith Thompson's view that fables are more a product of literary than of oral traditions. Sax also quotes Chesterton that the characters in fables are like abstractions in algebra or pieces in chess: "a vivid shorthand with which humanity is described" (26). This kind of literature is highly rationalistic; there is none of the awe earlier humans had of animals. The fables anticipate a scientific viewpoint. If the characters are human, they are so only one-dimensionally. There is a certain cynicism in fables. "The harshness of their world is never quite obliterated" (29). They foreshadow the grim vision of Hobbes, Darwin, and Spencer, "the survival of the fittest."
Pace University Press