(Château-Thierry, France, 1621-Paris, 1695) French poet whose fame is due to his twelve books of Fables, considered a model of the genre. He was born in a wealthy family: was the eldest son of a counselor of King responsible for the guardian forest domains and hunting. His arrival in Paris, in 1635, he was a novice in a religious order for a year and a half and then followed law studies. In 1652 he bought the position of particular three-year master of waters and forests and in 1658, two other similar inherited from his father. The exercise of his duties gave him occasion to observe rural life and enabled him to devote itself to the letters at the same time.
In 1654 he unveiled an adaptation of the comedy of Terence, eunuch, which earned him the favours of the Minister of Finanzas Nicolás Fouquet, who in 1658 he dedicated his poem Adonis, inspired by Ovid, and provided that henceforth madrigals, sonnets and other verses in Exchange for their patronage. Le Songe de Vaux, manifestation of the galante aesthetics, work interrupted by the downfall of Nicolás Fouquet in 1661, was also dedicated to the glory of his guard. Arrested this, La Fontaine expressed her support composing the you chose to the nymphs of Vaux as a kind of appeal addressed to the King. Private support and after a season in exile, he sought a new protector in the person of the Duke of Bouillon. He frequented the salons and at the same time established contacts with the jansenist media.
The years of 1660 were the most productive of his literary life. In 1665 he published his first short stories, inspired by authors such as Boccaccio and La Salle, whose stories altered considerably, and in 1668 his first Fables. He received a quick success, in part by the scandal generated by the licentious character of their Tales, which soon were censored and whose dissemination was forbidden.
Still greater fame obtained, however, with his Fables, set of narratives in verse by animals that act as rational beings, and whose objective is to offer a moral teaching. Inspired by the Fables classic and equipped with a keen sense of humor, they were grouped into twelve books and published between 1668 and 1694. Fables are delicious comedies and dramas written in a language of great natural and expressive fluidity; in miniature, with superbly characterized characters, through them he bequeathed to posterity an ironic and somewhat skeptical view of society.
In the following years he published the novel Psyche, the mythological poem Clymene and other poems. At the same time that wrote these works often galantes, profane, sometimes licentious, composed and published works of religious as La Captivité de saint Malc and Recueil de poésies chrétiennes, which manifested itself as one of the most fertile of his time, which the tradition left a little aside, not recognizing more than Fables and Incidentally, Tales.
After having enjoyed the successive patronages of the Duchess of Orleans and Madame de La Sablière, he joined the circle of Madame de Montespan, Jean Racine and Nicolás Boileau protected. The three formed the core of the party's traditionalists in the complaint of "ancient and modern" that began to take shape at that time. In those years, La Fontaine prepared his second compendium of Fables and published books from the 7th to the 11th of this work in 1678 and 1679. Also tried, but without success, to impose in the theatrical production. In 1683 he was elected member of the Académie française. In 1682 and 1685 he gave to press new poetry compendia, and followed then working on their latest Fables, published in 1694.
The Fables of La Fontaine are grouped into twelve books. The first six, containing 124 Fables, published in 1668; the following five (89 Fables), in 1678-79, and the last (27 Fables), in 1694. His exact title, chosen and put into verse Fables, already declares the intent of the author: poetic shape to the best compositions of the old masters (Greek Aesop and Phaedrus Latin) and other modern authors. At the beginning of the work, La Fontaine draws a somewhat fantastic biography of the inventor of the genre, Aesop.
The end of the fable is always the instruct: author reminds him often, at the same time affirming his artistic will, declaring that it opens a new road, the poetic fable. The fable, which for Italian humanists (Bevilacqua, Faerno) and to the French in the 16th century (Haudent, Gueroult) was a lower genus, with La Fontaine achieves the greatness of the ancient, with a more character art, abandoning the excessive brevity of Phaedrus. Carried away by his taste for narrative, La Fontaine combines this love story with moral seriousness and the infinite variety of reasons in his fables.
The first six books respect discreetly models and traditional forms, with emaciated apologies at the beginning ("the cicada and the Ant"); later, it is the arguments more and more freely, so that old issues are transformed and renewed, sometimes with taste in tale ("the young widow"). La Fontaine satirizes the vanity and envy and deplores the human evil ("the old lion"). In general, his is a morality of the experience, with serene acceptance of a reality in which dominates the evil, and which imposes prudence and cunning, without excluding the love and pity. Animals appear as the fabulist tradition has fixed them: not always true according to science, but always alive.
The frequent use of free verse, the rich variety of the language, personal, lyrical accent, already become a true and new creation for this first compilation. But the artistic fullness is achieved in the second (the last book added few merits already), where the author proves to be one of the most original and rich French poets. Fable achieves breadth of political satire ("sick of pest animals"), denounces the hypocritical selfishness ("the mole removed from the world"), words of high wisdom ("death and the dying") or becomes tender Elegy ("The two pigeons", "The two friends"). There appears a more mature thinking, a livelier intransigence against the vices of the man, a high recognition of the best goods (friendship, the humanitarian sense), and a more determined delivery to the lyrical and the fantastic.