Little is know about the originator of the fables, though it has been said that he was a freed slave who came to live in Greece. The moral tales attributed to him, often involving animals, have remained popular and been widely imitated. What is interesting to humanists is that they teach a simple, practical morality, deeply rooted in human experience and common sense, giving worldly, rather than metaphysical, reasons for behaving well. The well-known story of the boy who cried ‘Wolf!’ so often that when a real wolf came along he was not believed, is typical in that it illustrates the human consequences of lying.

Another fable, The Wind and the Sun shows us that gentleness works better than roughness:

“A dispute once arose between the North Wind and the Sun as to which was the stronger of the two. Seeing a traveller, they agreed to see which could get his cloak off him more quickly. The North Wind began, and sent a furious blast which nearly tore the cloak from its bindings – but the traveller, seizing it with a firm grip, held it round his body so firmly that the wind used his remaining strength in vain.

Then the Sun, dispelling the clouds that had gathered, turned his warm and genial beams on the traveller’s head. Growing faint with heat, the man flung off his cloak willingly and hurried to the nearest shade.”