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by Robert Henryson, adapted by Seamus Heaney, developed by TouchPress

Age Range: 10 - 13

Pub Date: May 22nd, 2014
Publisher: TouchPress

Fifteenth-century versions of five fables get lavish makeovers in this star- and feature-studded app.

Three of the tales are usually ascribed to Aesop; the two others, which feature a clever fox and a foolish wolf, are drawn from other sources. Henryson considerably expanded his episodes’ pithy progenitors: “The Lion and the Mouse,” for instance, here runs to 36 verses of seven lines each plus seven more verses of “Moralitas,” opening with an introductory dream in which the writer begs a reluctant Aesop for “…’ane prettie fabill / Concludand with ane gude moralitie.” Menu options at the bottom of each screen allow readers to view the tales in the author’s original thick but penetrable Middle Scots verse or in Heaney’s modern translation, as well as side by side or in 12- to 14-minute animated renditions with ebullient readings (Heaney’s by actor Billy Connolly) of either alternative. A slide-in sidebar offers scholarly glosses, and in additional video clips, Heaney, Connolly and others deliver introductory synopses and background commentary. Though this collection is not specifically aimed at younger audiences, occasional lyrical or poignant passages—and even flashes of wit—lighten the sententious moralizing. Furthermore, at least in the animated versions, the violence (songbirds trapped and killed in “The Preaching of the Swallow,” the wolf beaten bloody in “The Fox, The Wolf and the Carter”) is either not shown or toned down.

High production values brighten this feature-rich offspring of one of Heaney’s last works and a BBC miniseries. (Requires iOS 7.0 and above.) (introduction, bibliography) (iPad folklore app. 10-13, adult)