Reconfigurations of Mythology in Sixteenth-Century Lutheran Collections of Aesopic Fables

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

Abstract

In the ancient corpus of Aesopic fables gods and semi-gods from Greek and Roman mythology often appear. Most commonly Zeus is called upon by fable characters such as the donkey, the snake, and the turtle, all of them pleading for a better destiny. Frequent main characters, rather often promoting their own interests in the fable fictions, are also Hera, Herakles, Apollo, and Hermes. The high esteem in which Martin Luther held the Aesopic genre’s capacity for religious and moral edification directly encouraged the publication of three collections of Aesopic fables in German during the Reformation epoch: Etliche fabel Esopi verteutscht (1534) by Erasmus Alberus, Esopus/ Gantz New gemacht (1548) by Burkard Waldis, and Hundert Fabeln aus Esopo (1571) by Nathan Chytraeus. In compliance with their actively confessional ambition, one might assume that these vernacular volumes of Aesopic fables consequently eliminated all elements of Heathen mythology. This is, however, only partially true. In these overtly Lutheranized fable collections, classical mythology was marginalized and yet simultaneously preserved. The chapter investigates the different strategies – theological, ethical, figurative, narrative et cetera – according to which this paradoxical, yet hierarchical coexistence of Christianity and mythology was made both possible and plausible.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature

Keywords

  • Burkard Waldis (1490-1557), Erasmus Alberus (1500-1553), Lutheran Reformation, classical mythology, Aesopic fables, christianisation, demythologisation, Nathan Chytraeus (1543-98)
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAllusions and Reflections. Greek and Roman Mythology in Renaissance Europe
EditorsElisabeth Wåghäll Nivre
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Pages465-479
ISBN (Print)1-4438-7454-X
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes