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La Fontaine, Jean

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Definition: La Fontaine, Jean de from

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, Jean de 1621–1695.


French writer who collected the stories of Aesop and others in his Fables (1668–1694).

Summary Article: La Fontaine, Jean de from The Columbia Encyclopedia
La Fontaine, Jean de (zhäN dә), 1621-95, French poet, whose celebrated fables place him among the masters of world literature. He was born at Château-Thierry to a bourgeois family. A restless dilettante as a youth, he settled at last in Paris. His marriage (1647) terminated in 1658, and from 1673 to 1693 he lived in the household of Mme de La Sablière, one of his several patrons. La Fontaine's masterpiece is the collection of Fables choisies, mises en vers [selected fables versified] (1668-94), comprising 12 books of some 230 fables drawn largely from Aesop. Each fable is a short tale of beasts behaving like men; each serves as a comment on human behavior. Although their charm and simple facade have made them popular with children, many are sophisticated satires and serious commentaries on French society. Their wit, acumen, and brilliance of verse and narrative have assured their worldwide success; they ran into 37 editions bef...    Continue Reading
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