Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

SOME disquiet has recently been expressed about the Today programme's `Thought for the Day'. In a slot ideal for a persuasive Christian homily - expounding a biblical text and applying it to the modern world one feels that, on present form, Aesop's Fables would serve the purpose better.

The Greek historian Herodotus placed Aesop in the 6th century Bc, as a slave of one Iadmon from Samos. Whatever the truth of that, the first collection of fables was made about 300 BC, and they have enjoyed a flourishing existence, in prose and verse, ever since. They generally feature a conflict between talking animals who stand for human types, usually the rich and powerful against the poor and weak. They stress either the folly of taking on a stronger power, or the cunning which the weaker must deploy if he is to stand any chance of success; and they often warn that nature never changes.

What makes them perfect for `Thought for the Day' is that the moral is conveyed in a brief, usually amusing, story, which is rounded off with a pithy summarising punch line. Take the jackdaw and the pigeons. The jackdaw had noticed that pigeons in the nearby coop were well fed, so he coloured his feathers to look like theirs and joined them, taking care not to make any sound. …

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