Beast epic

The beast fable or beast epic, usually a short story or poem in which animals talk, is a traditional form of allegorical writing.[1] It is a type of fable in which human behaviour and weaknesses are subject to scrutiny by reflection into the animal kingdom.

Important traditions in beast fables are represented by the Panchatantra and Kalila and Dimna (Sanskrit and Arabic originals),[2] Aesop (Greek original), One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) and separate trickster traditions (West African and Native American). The medieval French Roman de Reynart is called a beast-epic, with the recurring figure Reynard the fox.[3]

Beast fables are typically transmitted freely between languages, and often assume pedagogic roles: for example, Latin versions of Aesop were standard as elementary textbook material in the European Middle Ages, and the Uncle Remus stories brought trickster tales into English. A more recent example, in English literature, was George Orwell's allegorical novel Animal Farm, in which various political ideologies were personified as animals, such as the anarchist Napoleon Pig, and the numerous "sheep" that followed his directions without question.



Jill Mann, Ysengrimus: Text with Translation, Commentary, and Introduction. Leiden: Brill, 1997.

Jan Ziolkowski, Talking animals: medieval Latin beast poetry, 750-1150. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

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