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A Summary and Analysis of Aesop’s ‘The Fox and the Grapes’ Fable

Aesop’s fable of the fox and the grapes is among the most famous of all of Aesop’s fables. What does this little tale mean? And what common everyday phrase did it inspire?

In summary, the fable of the fox and the grapes runs as follows: one hot summer’s day a fox was strolling through an orchard when he came to a bunch of grapes that were ripening on a vine, hanging over a lofty branch. ‘Those grapes are just the things to quench my thirst,’ said the fox. Drawing back a few paces, the fox took a run and a jump, but just missed the bunch of grapes. Turning round again he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again the fox tried to jump up and reach the juicy grapes, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: ‘Oh well, I am sure they are sour anyway.’ Read the rest of this entry

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A Study in Smallness: Richard Matheson’s The Shrinking Man

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle analyses a science-fiction classic

Many of Richard Matheson’s narratives focus on lonely men. It was Matheson who wrote the screenplay for an early Steven Spielberg film, Duel (1971), which was based on one of Matheson’s own short stories. Like many of Matheson’s most famous stories, such as The Shrinking Man and I Am Legend, it is ultimately about the loneliness of modern man. The latter book, in which Robert Neville – played by Will Smith in the book’s most recent adaptation – finds himself the last human survivor of the zombie apocalypse, has tended to obscure the former. But The Shrinking Man is no minor work of throwaway genre fiction: the novel contains great themes and tackles deep-rooted human concerns, especially male concerns.

Matheson’s work has influenced a raft of great writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror: Stephen King and Ray Bradbury are among the greats who have acknowledged a debt to him, with King calling Matheson, of all writers, the most important influence on him. Matheson’s 1956 novel The Shrinking Man is a tense and engaging tale about a man, Scott Carey, who, after coming into contact with radioactive waste, finds that he is shrinking at the rate of an inch per week. Once six feet tall, he is soon just one inch in height and living in his own cellar, estranged from his own wife and family, trying to avoid being eaten by the black widow spider that will soon be bigger than he is. Read the rest of this entry

10 of the Best Poems about Journeys

10 classic poems of travelling

According to Thomas de Quincey, Wordsworth clocked up an estimated 180,000 miles during his lifetime, walking around his beloved Lake District (to say nothing of the Quantocks, where he lived near Coleridge during the 1790s). Given that there is a strong link between poets and travelling of various kinds – whether walking, sailing, or travelling in some more abstract, metaphorical or spiritual sense – we felt it was time we put together some of the greatest journey poems. Many, though not all, of these classic travelling poems are available in the excellent anthology, Nation’s Favourite Poems Of Journeys (Poetry).

Andrew Marvell, ‘Bermudas’. This poem, from the seventeenth-century poet Andrew Marvell, is set in the Atlantic ocean and focuses on a group of people aboard a boat, and clearly in exile from their native land. They spy the island of Bermuda, and sing a song in praise of the island. The next 32 lines of the poem comprise their song. The people aboard the boat praise God for leading them to this previously undiscovered island, which seems ‘far kinder’ than the island they have left behind, namely Britain. These people have endured and eluded sea-monsters and storms, and God has led them to safety on the ‘grassy stage’ of this new island. It is mentioned that they are fleeing England because of ‘prelates’ rage’, namely religious persecution – so ‘Bermudas’ is a poem about undertaking a difficult journey to find a new place where a community of people can start afresh. Read the rest of this entry