Letter: Aesop's horrors

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Sir: You report (15 January) that Aesop's fables emerge in a new translation as "not pretty purveyors of Victorian morals [but] savage, coarse, brutal".

Rabbit one day went to see her friend the Fox, who was telling his children stories. Rabbit asked if she could listen. Soon she was trembling with horror and disgust, and exclaimed: "Fox, why are you filling their minds with stories of violence and death?"

"You eat grass: we eat meat," replied Fox.

Moral: don't judge another culture by the values of your own.

Aesop has been transformed from an anaemic Victorian to a biting Greek moralist. This doesn't mean we should upgrade his "U" rating to "18"; perhaps rather his writings, as those of many children's authors, straddle two worlds - the "adult" world of satire, and the "juvenile" world of fable. His young audience may not have batted an eyelid at imagery that makes our adult hair curl.

SIMON AITKEN

Oxford

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