What's the story behind stone soup

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Fables are a popular genre in children's literature. In the last few years in particular, a number of interesting picture books have been published that are based on the pattern of the fable, for example "All his ducklings" by Christian Duda and Julia Friese, "From the fox who lost his mind" by Martin Baltscheit or "Steinsuppe" by Anaïs Vaugelade. Animals act, think and speak in the stories like humans. A moral problem or dilemma is made clear in this way. Fables were and are mainly used as teaching texts.

The storybook stories of today proceed in the conveyance of their doctrine or morality quite differently than fables in the Enlightenment, where they mainly served to criticize the social order. The most important difference: If in the classical fable a proposition was explicitly formulated at the end, it is mostly missing today. The fables are intended to stimulate discussion and reflection rather than prescribing a concrete moral. A good example of this is the picture book “Steinsuppe” by Anaïs Vaugelade.

An old wolf approaches the animal village. He wants to warm up with the hen and cook stone soup. She has never heard of that before, becomes curious and lets the wolf in. The evening will be cozy because the pig, horse, duck, sheep, goat and dog also come by and eat with them. Each animal contributes a new ingredient to the stone soup, turning it into a delicious stew. How things will continue is not revealed here, because “Stone Soup” is one of the most exciting picture books I know. Above all, the facial expressions of the animals are great, in which there are so many nuances and statements about different types and feelings that you can't get enough of them.

The fable plays with fairytale motifs, especially with the characterization of the wolf as a devious, greedy and devious creature. In the Irish fairy tale tradition, the story of the stone soup is also told, which brings a penniless soldier the otherwise refused help of a village community. With these literary allusions, the picture book represents a demanding intellectual task. Behind the simple language and clear images there is a cosmos of meanings that, as in the classic fable, needs to be opened up by thinking about allusions and references.

Anaïs Vaugelade: stone soup. Beltz & Gelberg Minimax 2004. from 5 years. 5.95 euros.