Forbidden fruit: selected tales in verse
Generations of children have been brought up on La Fontaine's fables. Only an absentminded or perversely liberal parent, however, would leave the same author's Contes et nouvelles en vers lying around the nursery. The Contes were the fruit of La Fontaine's wicked delight in the saucy tales he found in Boccaccio's Decameron, Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, Rabelais's Pantagruel, and elsewhere. Marital misdemeanors, resourceful females, and addled males proved the inspiration for some rich, inventive plotting. The stories' impact at the time is attested not only by the difficulties their author incurred in gaining election to the French Academie but also by the thriving trade in pirated editions after French printers failed to obtain official license to issue them. In the three hundred years that followed, the Contes were relegated to the least-accessible library shelves, and even today there barely exists an English translation of the complete set. France has over the centuries produced notable comic geniuses; the best known are perhaps Rabelais and Moliere. On the evidence of these hitherto neglected Tales in Verse, La Fontaine clearly deserves a place with them.
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Translators Note vi
Three Wives and Their Bet
The Old Crocks Calendar
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abbess amorous Ariosto Astolfo beauty breviaries Carvel Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles charms Colette course court creature Cuckolded Cuckoldry Cupid dear Decameron Derived from Boccaccio Desmond devil door Ephesus exchange excuse eyes favours feast feast days fellow filly Fontaine footman FORBIDDEN FRUIT SELECTED gallant girl give Guido Waldman Gulfardo heart Heavens honour husband indulgence Joconde Joconde's king lady lady's leave Linda look lover maid marriage master mind missus Mother mule never night observation once Orlando Furioso Pagano pair passion pear tree persuaded Petronius Pinuccio pirate play poor Pray proved psaltery Rabelais reckoned Reverend Mother Richard Satan sheer simply Sister Isabel slavegirl sleep spouse squire Stephanie string tale tears tell there's thing thought took trick turn twas wait wedded What's who's widow wife witness wives woman word young youth