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Byline: By DAVID WILLIAMSON Western Mail

Aesop's fables, which have delighted children across the globe for 2,500 years, will now be published in Welsh for today's generation. The first-ever Welsh children's poet has revealed how his love for stories such as The Tortoise and the Hare and The Lion and the Mouse prompted him to translate them into one of Europe's oldest languages.

Myrddin ap Dafydd said yesterday, 'For me, Aesop's Fables belong to the world, but there hasn't been a Welsh version for a long time, at least not since I was a little boy myself.

'I believed the kids were missing out on the pleasure I got from hearing and reading these fables during my own childhood, but although I saw many different versions in various London trade fairs, it took me 10 years to find the right one.'

He settled on a retelling of the tales in English by Vivian French. 'In terms of the writing, I was so impressed by her witty style and her use of rhyme and meter that it was a real challenge to get the same feel in the Welsh. I wanted to keep the freshness and the irreverence in it, and that was a real challenge.

'The kids are the best judges of all, and by testing out one or two drafts on them, I noticed what worked and what didn't.'

The story is complemented throughout by artwork by acclaimed illustrator Korky Paul.

Mr ap Dafydd said, 'There's something about his illustrations which really appeals to children, and the hidden child inside many adults. The drawings aren't cartoony and colourful, there's a sinister side to them and children love that.'

Modern children, he insists, still appreciate stories which explore concepts such as good and evil and right and wrong.

He said, 'Children over a certain age do understand when someone's being selfish, or being bullied and so on, and the message and the truth in Aesop's Fables definitely makes them think, which can only be a good thing.'

This is not the first time the publishing house he founded, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, has brought legends and ancient tales to a new generation. 'We've already published many books about Welsh legends and traditional European fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Pigs, so I've been keeping an eye out for a new version of Aesop's Fables to adapt into Welsh for a while.'

Aesop was a Greek sage who lived 560 to 620 years before the birth of Christ. He was supposed to have been a notoriously ugly and mute slave who gained the gift of speech after performing a favour for the priestess of Isis. A glittering wisdom-dispensing career followed, during which he was an acquaintance of Solon (one of the fathers of the modern judicial system). While much is murky about his life, he is referred to by ancient historians including Plutarch and Herodotus, so at least some of the tales of his life appear to be rooted in reality.

Aesop met a sad end, when he was thrown off a cliff by the citizens of Delphi. Quite why is unclear. A subsequent outbreak of pestilence was blamed on this injustice.

Chwa o Chwedlau Aesop published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch pounds 5.95 ISBN: 0-86381-919-2

Available from local bookshops or visit Aesop's Fables have taught moral truths to millions of children around the world. We asked a selection of Welsh personalities what were the mottos and principles by which they lived their lives:Jenny Randerson, Liberal Democrat AM 'My rule is always seize the challenge. If someone asks you to do something which is going to push you to the limit, the instinctive reaction is 'I can't do that.' My rule of thumb is, 'Do it.' What's difficult this time will be easier next time. Of course, you always need to know the limits of your ability.'

Sien Lloyd, weather presenter

'I was always taught impeccable manners - 'Manners Maketh Man' - which, in a way, is treating others as they'd treat you, which is something I'm very keen on. It's all about respecting people, from the small little daily manners right through to the big things in life.'

Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan and Rod Richards

Both the Archbishop and the former Welsh minister chose the saying of the giant Bendigeidfran from the second Cainc of the Mabinogi, who allowed a Welsh army on the march against an Irish prince to cross a stream by walking across his back. The giant said, 'A fo ben bid bont', which means 'He who would be chief must also be a bridge'. Lucy Owen, ITV1 Wales presenter 'Treat other people as you'd like to be treated yourself'
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 22, 2005
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