Is it the fault of the Greeks that the Germans are the way they supposedly are?

I sense potential for reparations claims citing Aesop.

Jupiter, the heron, and his subjects, according to Caxton.

Jupiter, the heron, and his subjects, according to Caxton.

The other MM linked to this piece by Andrew Hammel about excessive moralising in German public broadcasting.

Someone in his comments blames this tendency to deëvangelise by not knowing when to shut up on Schiller, someone here suggested Luther, but I wonder if it isn’t actually Aesop’s fault.

My impression, based on not very much reading, is that Aesop became incredibly popular in the vernacular among German-speakers before and more than anywhere else, thanks basically to Steinhöwel’s great bilingual Latin-German collection of 1477-ish, which via the rip-off by Julien Macho also made its way within the decade to Spain and to Caxton.

So shouldn’t the Greeks stop moaning about the Germans – and abandon any more WWII nonsense – since it’s entirely due to a Thracian or similar that the Germans are moaning about them? Should Nigel Farage be a bit more understanding, or at least a bit more wide-ranging in his criticism?

I didn’t find Steinhöwel online, but I did enjoy bits of the 1501 Brant rehash. It uses presumably roughly the same woodcuts as Steinhöwel, since they also turn up in Caxton. Check the classic libertarian sermonising at top and tail, radically different from Phaedrus‘ “always keep a-hold of Nurse; For fear of finding something worse” 1500 years before.

Dear fellow-Europeans, frogs, etc: on careful consideration, would you prefer to be eaten by a heron or a water snake?

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  1. That’s just what Guardiola keeps saying. Forget la Liga, let’s study frog sociology.

  2. I did like the Kevin Drum article Andrew Hammel linked to today, concluding that the Germans no more want to give up profiting from exporting to Greece than the Greeks want to give up buying from Germany.

  3. @Nun: There are a couple of other lovely frog king examples from around that time that you may want to consider. One is the allegedly Homeric tale from Batrachomyomachia of the war of the mice and the frogs which turns up mid C16th in El crótalon de Cristóforo Gnofoso. The king of the frogs is giving a mouse a lift across the pond when a snake attacks and the mouse is drowned. The vengeful mice start slaughtering the frogs and are only prevented from finishing them off by a swarm of crabs released by Zeus.

    Another is the fable of the lizard and the frogs, based ultimately on the Sanskrit Panchatantra, which first appears in Spain in the 1251 translation from the Arabic entitled Calyla e Dymna made for the infant Alfonso X, and for a wider public through John of Capua’s Directorium humanae vitae, a translation of Joel’s 12th century Hebrew version. A snake tells the frogs that he is too worn-out to catch them and that for killing a child while trying to eat a frog a holy man has condemned him to be their king’s mount. The king it turns out is happy to sacrifice two of his fellow frogs every day to maintain this new arrangement.

    Aristophanes’s frogs have but the one scene, but you could say that one of the play’s messages is the same as Phaedrus’ – beware of frying pan-fire leaps – and I assume the audience would have been perfectly well aware that frogs are actually nothing but little, slimy sheep.

  4. There are actually frog-tunnels in Germany, and none for sheep. You might say because Germans love their cars.

    Which they can still afford. Unlike the Greeks. Thanks to Aesop.

    Question: Would he have used cars in his fables had he known them?

  5. Umberto Eco has been booked onto the time machine to track down the libertarian monk who perverted Phaedrus’ message and fed English and Spanish loonies. It would be interesting to have a look at Macho or Steinhöwel.

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