The Status of Mythology in Sixteenth Century Lutheran Collections of Aesopic Fables

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceeding


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 present paper 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.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Specific Literatures


  • Greek and Roman mythology, Aesopic fable, German literature, Christian monoteism, Renaissance, Reformation culture, confessionalization, Lutheranization
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch
EventAllusions and Reflections. Greek and Roman Mythology in Renaissance Europe - Vitterhetsakademien, Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 2012 Jun 72012 Jun 9


ConferenceAllusions and Reflections. Greek and Roman Mythology in Renaissance Europe