There’s a Reason We Tell These Stories

There’s an interesting, half-elliptical sentence in Book 11 of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. “Think of the hill-dwelling mouse and the house mouse,” he writes, “and the agitation and trepidation of the latter.” Some people will have no idea what that means. But parents—at least parents who have been reading the right stuff to their kids—will know exactly what he’s referring to. 

They’ll notice right away that two thousand years ago Marcus was summarizing, to himself, the lesson from Aesop’s then some 800-year-old fable about two mice from different environments and what they learned spending a weekend in each other’s worlds. Marcus happens to be relating to the country mouse, drawing from the fable the serenity and peace of a quieter life away from Rome. But really, the impressive thing here is that even as the most powerful man in the world, Marcus was still returning to lessons from his youth. 

This is precisely why we must continue to teach lessons like these—and the fables into which they are stitched—to our kids. Notice, Marcus is not referencing silly kid stories, nor is he recalling fondly the drawings in some picture book. In part, because that genre didn’t really exist, but also because that wasn’t what Roman education focused on. Kids were taught fables and were read moral biographies for the purpose of raising well-adjusted adults. Entertainment was fine—and Aesop is very entertaining to kids—but the ancients wanted to impart real wisdom too. 

The time we get with our kids at bedtime, the time on the drive to school, even the television we choose to let them watch—this is some of the most valuable time we have with our kids. What will we use it for? What will we fill their heads with? What will we expose them to? 

It must be, as we’ve said, stories of heroes and lessons, wisdom and insights. 

It’s funny that Marcus Aurelius’s own story is a fable worth learning from. You and your family will love Ryan’s ageless and all ages retelling of the boyhood of Marcus Aurelius and how he became great. The Boy Who Would Be King is available in the Daily Stoic store and you can even grab personalized, signed copies too. 


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