The Christian Aesop: Ancient Fables Teaching Eternal Truths
Anderdon, W. H
. Burns, Oates, and Company/Premier Books , Kessinger Publishing . London/Roseburg, OR ,
PA3855.E5 A53 2010 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
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Here is the hardbound version of the print-upon-order paperback I had found a year earlier. This book is a delightful find that I just looked at in a Kripke Conference paper. For each of fifty fables, Anderdon adds to the usual narrative and illustration a short spiritual teaching and scripture quotation. Then a several-page instruction in several parts breaks up the teaching into sections. The big surprise to me has been that Anderdon not only became a Roman Catholic before he wrote this book. He became a Jesuit a year after he published it! I would not be surprised if further examination revealed that the Spiritual Exercises are a serious part of the book's structure. I examined a selection of fables in my paper to see about the marriage of fable and spirituality. In FC (66), the match between fable and spirituality works well. In The Carter Praying (38), Anderdon has the man working hard first and then praying. Does not the fable usually presuppose that the man has not yet tried working? To highlight the need for prayer and penitence, LM (42) starts with the lion roaming the forest and falling into a trap. The fable's usual point that little friends can be big friends is lost. Still dealing with confession, Fr. Anderdon reaches for an image of the pain we should feel over sins remembered. He comes up with the pain the bear experienced when he stole honey from the bees. But this fable is almost always told with a laugh: Look at the come-uppance the bear got when he tried to steal honey! Is that the tone Fr. Anderdon wants for Christian compunction? Anderdon stresses that prayer and especially sacraments can bring the soul closer to God. For that he finds a good image in the turtle carried aloft by an eagle (54). But this fable almost always has the eagle dropping the turtle for having made his impertinent request! This fable's illustration is well chosen, since it comes from the early and not the late part of the usual fable. I think that this noble effort to bring together standard cultural symbols and religion is a matter of hit-and-miss. Anderdon's experience will keep me wary as I use fables in presenting Christian spirituality.