Biography of Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695)

French writer, born in Château-Thierry (in the French region of Champagne) in 1621, and died in Paris in 1695, which is considered one of the great geniuses of universal fable, and one of the most important French poets of all time. It was not original in the issues and stories that narrated in his fables, since adapted into French (and to the tastes of their time) which had been written by great authors of the past, such as the Aesop Greek and Latin poet Phaedrus.


He belonged to a wealthy middle class family. His father was inspector of waters and forests, an important State charge that the writer would also play.

From a young age he/she showed a great intellectual capacity, as well as much interest in literature. He/She studied theology, but did not finish it, because it did not interest you too. He/She then studied law and, on the death of his father, he/she inherited the post of inspector of waters and forests of his place of birth (Château-Thierry). But his intention was as devoted to literature.

In 1647, at twenty-six years of age, he/she married Marie Héricart, a girl of fourteen. But, eager to enter fully into the main cultural environments of France, after eleven years (1658) left his wife and also the post of inspector to settle in Paris.

Fouquet, a powerful politician, La Fontaine hosted under his protection and granted a small pension (or fixed salary) so that it could survive in Paris while engaged in writing.

It was thus as La Fontaine was finally integrated into the literary circles, became known as a writer and became friends with other great authors of the time. He/She was conspicuous by his works of theatre, his poems, his fables and his tales in verse; and also by the ingenuity that showed in the literary salons.

Falling into disgrace his protector Fouquet, La Fontaine experienced great social difficulties and many economic troubles. Fortunately for him, it was well seen by important ladies of the high aristocracy, duchesses and marquesas who offered him protection and economic support. It had fallen on the misery but it had collected him Madame de la Sablière. When this lady died, he/she found an equal asylum at home of Madame de Bernart.

It achieved great celebrity by his fables, written (according to the own La Fontaine) to contribute to the education of the dolphin.

But there were so many happy moments as unfortunate episodes in his life: in addition to losing the support of Fouquet, was rejected by the King Luis XIV and had many clashes with the religious authorities; the Church did not approve some of his tales in verse, because they talked about sex.

On one occasion, being in danger of death, it made peace with the Church and repent of what he/she had written. He/She was elected member of the Académie Française in 1683 and died in Paris at the end of twelve years.


His most original contribution consisted of the presentation of the fable as the most appropriate genre for children-targeting didactico-morales teachings; This means that you conceived the fable as the genre that best allowed to transmit a teaching (hence educational) and a lesson in good manners and good behavior (hence of morals).

His fables appeared at three different times: 1668, 1679 and 1694. They were poems that La Fontaine had been writing throughout his life, based on other compositions of classical antiquity (Greece and Rome) and the middle ages.

Most of them are dedicated to children, although some tales are also political issue and most sought the attention of the adult audience.

Their language is a marvel of simplicity and naturalness. He/She wrote with great clarity (since I thought in children as readers or listeners of his works), and knew very well join the narrative part (i.e. the pure account of a story) with the moral part (i.e. the part of the poem, usually at the end, where it says what is good or bad).

La Fontaine is currently remembered for his beautiful and ingenious Fables, which places him among the great French poets of all time. But he/she was also the author of plays and other writings in verse.

Among his dramatic pieces, remember the two comedies the eunuch and the Florentine and Astrea tragedy. As a poet, noted for some extensive compositions of mythological subject, such as "The love of Cupid and psyche" and "Adonis".

Also wrote a highly applauded work in its time: Tales and stories in verse. It was a collection of stories based on stories and short novels of Italian authors of the Renaissance. They tried to themes of love and eroticism, sometimes scandalously to the mentality of the time.