beast fable

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The commonest type of fable, in which animals and birds speak and behave like human beings in a short tale usually illustrating some moral point. The fables attributed to Aesop (6th century bce) and those written in verse by Jean de la Fontaine (from 1668) are the best known, along with the fables of Brer Rabbit adapted by the American journalist Joel Chandler Harris from black folklore in his ‘Uncle Remus’ stories (from 1879). A related form is the beast epic, which is usually a longer tale written in pseudo-epic style. Pierre de Saint-Cloud's Roman de Renart (1173) was an influential beast epic containing the Chanticleer story later adapted by Chaucer in the Nun's Priest's Tale. There were many other beast epics of Reynard the Fox in late-medieval France and Germany.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).

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