Publication Details

M. Leiboff, 'Fabulous law: legal fables' in M. Leiboff & D. Carpi(eds), Fables of the Law: Fairy Tales in a Legal Context (2016) 33-46.


If fables are characterized as talking animals dispensing moral wisdom through allegory,¹ then the moral wisdom dispensed through the legal fable is inevitably understood to comprehend allegories relating to power, sovereignty and in/justice, as exemplified by La Fontaine's seventeenth-century fable "The Wolf and the Lamb,"² and its contemporary amplification by Derrida in The Beast and the Sovereign.³ These exemplars animate law in the abstract, and through the form of the animated figures acting as proxies for law,⁴ seem to bar the possibility that the fabular might also extend to the realities of law and its actors. This legal fable of power, sovereignty and in/justice reiterates through the force of its narrators; how Derrida construes La Fontaine, or at least how Derrida is understood to construe La Fontaine, forecloses other ways in which fables of the law might be seen to manifest themselves. In common law jurisdictions (England, Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand), the realities of law and its manifestations function in the material and everyday, nesting within the decisions of the courts. These decisions and their associated reasoning becomes law, but the legal fable of la Fontaine or Derrida seems to say little about this kind of law.



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