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The Town Mouse/Country Mouse Project

Horace and Caxton



The oldest version of the fable relevant to this collection is that from Horace's satires (2.6.8) which appears to have inspired a significant fraction of the versions in this collection. Published in 35 BCE, Horace's version introduces many elements that seem peripheral to the actual story but are nevertheless preserved thousands of years later: For example, the town mouse convinces the country mouse to try city life by reminding him that all mice are mortal.

For an example of the wide variety of fables thatconsciously or unconsciously borrow from Horace, see (1) (20) and (44) (and the many that borrow from each of these). Notice that the language and narrative voice changes but the basic structure of the story (and often even the foods mentioned) remains the same. 

Horace's satires contain many stories with the same general theme or tone: idealizing simple life in the country and criticizing city life and its complications. 

Aesop's Fables


William Caxton produced the first printed English version of Aesop's fables in 1484 (this was one of the first English-language books ever printed). Caxton's version is very similar to one used by an eleventh-century monk named Ademar of Chabannes. (11) is a English translation of Ademar. Compared to many versions in this collection, Caxton's version is relatively simple: only one food is mentioned (meats) and the description of both town and country life is rather sparse. The antagonist, as in Ademar's version (and unlike Horace's) is a butler or servant. 

Horace and Caxton