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Fables in France

I am am an absolute sucker for traditional illustration and the brocantes here in France provide an absolute treasure trove of pre-loved books for children. Fables are a favorite and books like this are filled with many classic tales and fine art illustrators who also painted as an aside, for childrens publishers.

This volume is filled with many famous tales by Jean De La Fontaine.  They were issued under the general title of fables in several volumes from 1668 to 1694 and are considered classics. Humorous, ironical and sometimes now seemingly menacing and scary, they were written for adults but then later studied at school.

There were 239 fables and many were dedicated, as would have been prudent to do at that time, to members of the royal family and ruling mistresses at the time of Louis XIV. He drew inspiration from many sources, ancient Latin, Indian tales, European and later himself expanding the tales with new characters and plots, and above all French comic turns and satire. The rural idyll was his playground for a monarchy who was getting more and more embedded in the confines of inner court life. His mentor finance minister Fouquet had been imprisoned and a new frivolous, but disconnected royalty loved the picturesque, country escapism his fables afforded.

Often over time the fables were cited as lessons and instructions for thought and behaviour and every French child would be expected to at least have a good grounding in many of their moral teachings. In the main they convey the human condition and all its weaknesses and strengths, ingenious schemes and simple generosities.

For me I found fables a little frightening, with their strong heroes and foes, victims and often violent consequences and slightly preaching style; but they are a great source of characters and as this volume, artistic styles.

This book will give me hours of inspiration.

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