"In the Middle Ages the home of the fable seems to have been England", says Thomas Cooke in his survey of the text form in the Manual (p. 3143). He mentions Walter of England, Alexander Neckam, Odo of Cheriton, John of Sheppey, John of Bromyard, Marie de France, Nicole de Bozon and the anonymous Isopets. All these names and texts give sample evidence that Latin and Anglo-French collections of fables were easily available to a medieval English audience.

Moreover, there are numerous fables which do not exist as individual works, but are integrated - mostly functioning as exempla - in longer works, such as sermons and other text forms. Well-known are the fables in The Owl and the Nightingale and Langland's Piers Plowman.

The first collections of Middle English fables appear rather late in the period. John Lydgate's Isopes Fabules is the first known example to be followed by Robert Henryson's Morall Fabillis, and William Caxton's Esope and Reynard the Fox.

The famous stories of Reynard the Fox, which were very popular in France and elsewhere, do not occur as cycles in Middle English. A few of them are incorporated in the collections, and some others are part of works of various genres, such as The Fox and the Wolf or Chaucer's The Nun's Priest's Tale.