TOCrightA fable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, that features animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized (given human qualities), and that illustrates a moral lesson (a "moral"), which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim.

A fable differs from a parable in that the latter "excludes" animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as actors that assume speech and other powers of humankind.

The descriptive definition of "fable" given above has not always been closely adhered to. In the King James Version of the New Testament, "μύθος" ("mythos") was rendered by the translators as "fable" [For example, in "First Timothy", "neither give heed to fables...", and "refuse profane and old wives' fables..." (1 Tim 1:4 and 4:4, respectively).] in "First" and "Second Timothy", in "Titus" and in "First Peter".


The word "fable" comes from the Latin "fabula" (a "story"), itself derived from "fari" ("to speak").

In a pejorative sense, a "fable" may be a deliberately invented or falsified account of an event or circumstance. Similarly, a "non"-authorial person who, wittingly or not, tells "tall tales," may be termed a "confabulator." In its original sense, however, "fable" denotes a brief, succinct story that is meant to impart a moral lesson.

An author of fables is termed a "fabulist," and the word "fabulous," strictly speaking, "pertains to a fable or fables." In recent decades, however, "fabulous" has come frequently to be used in the quite different meaning of "excellent" or "outstanding".


Fables can be described as a didactic mode of literature. That is, whether a fable has been handed down from generation to generation as oral literature, or constructed by a literary tale-teller, its purpose is to impart a lesson or value, or to give sage advice. Fables also provide opportunities to laugh at human folly, when they supply examples of behaviors to be avoided rather than emulated.

Fables frequently have as their central characters "animals" that are given anthropomorphic characteristics such as the ability to reason and speak. In antiquity, Aesop presented a wide range of animals as protagonists, including "The Tortoise and the Hare" which famously engage in a race against each other; and, in another classic fable, a fox which rejects grapes that are out of reach, as probably being sour ("sour grapes"). Medieval French "fabliaux" might feature Reynard the Fox, a trickster figure, and offer a subtext mildly subversive of the feudal social order. Similarly, the 18th-century Polish fabulist Ignacy Krasicki employs animals as the title actors in his striking verse fable, "The Lamb and the Wolves." Krasicki uses "plants" the same way in "The Violet and the Grass."

Personification may also be extended to "things inanimate", as in Krasicki's "Bread and Sword." His "The Stream and the River," again, offers an example of personified "forces of nature".

"Divinities" may also appear in fables as active agents. "Aesop's Fables" feature most of the Greek pantheon, including Zeus and Hermes.


The fable is one of the most enduring forms of folk literature, spread abroad, modern researchers agree, ["Enzyklopädie des Märchens" (1977), see "Fabel", "Äsopica" etc. ] less by literary anthologies than by oral transmission. Fables can be found in the literature of almost every country.

Several parallel animal fables in Sumerian and Akkadian are among those that E. Ebeling introduced to modern Western readers; [Ebeling, "Die Babylonishe Fabel und ihre Bedeutung für die Literaturgeschichte" (1931).] there are comparable fables from Egypt's Middle Kingdom, [E. Brunner-Traut, "Altägyptische Tiergeschichte und Fabel" (1970)] and Hebrew fables such as the "king of trees" in Book of Judges 9 and "the thistle and the cedar tree" in "II Kings" 14:9. [Both noted by Walter Burkert, "The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Early Archaic Greek Culture" (1992), p 121 note 4.] Many other familiar ones include “The Crow and the Pitcher,” “The Hare and the Tortoise,” and “The Lion and the Mouse.”

The varying corpus denoted "Aesopica" or "Aesop's Fables" includes most of the best-known western fables, which are attributed to the legendary Aesop, supposed to have been a slave in ancient Greece around 550 BC. When Babrius set down fables from the "Aesopica" in verse for a Hellenistic Prince "Alexander," he expressly stated at the head of Book II that this type of "myth" that Aesop had introduced to the "sons of the Hellenes" had been an invention of "Syrians" from the time of "Ninos" (personifying Nineveh to Greeks) and Belos ("ruler"). [Burkert 1992:121] Epicharmus of Kos and Phormis are reported as having been among the first to invent comic fables. [P.W. Buckham, p. 245]

Hundreds of fables were composed in ancient India during the first millennium BC, often as stories within frame stories. These included Vishnu Sarma's "Panchatantra", the "Hitopadesha", "Vikram and The Vampire", and Syntipas' "Seven Wise Masters", which were collections of fables that were later influential throughout the Old World. Ben E. Perry has argued that some of the "Jataka tales" and some of the fables in "Panchatantra" may have been influenced by similar Greek and Near Eastern ones. [Ben E. Perry, "Introduction", p. xix, in "Babrius and Phaedrus" (1965)] Earlier Indian epics such as Vyasa's "Mahabharata" and Valmiki's "Ramayana" also contained fables within the main story, often as side stories or back-story. The most famous fables from the Middle East were the "One Thousand and One Nights", also known as the "Arabian Nights".

Fables had a further long tradition through the Middle Ages, and became part of European literature. During the 17th century, the French fabulist Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695) saw the soul of the fable in the moral — a rule of behavior. Starting with the Aesopian pattern, La Fontaine set out to satirize the court, the church, the rising bourgeoisie, indeed the entire human scene of his time. La Fontaine's model was subsequently emulated by Poland's Ignacy Krasicki (1735–1801) and Russia's Ivan Krylov (1769–1844).

In modern times, the fable has been trivialized in children's books. Yet it has also been fully adapted to modern adult literature. For instance, James Thurber used the ancient style in his books, "Fables for Our Time" and "The Beast in Me and Other Animals". George Orwell's "Animal Farm" satirizes Stalinist Communism in particular, and totalitarianism in general, in the guise of animal fable.
Felix Salten's "Bambi" is a "Bildungsroman" — a story of a protagonist's coming-of-age — cast in the form of a fable.

Classic fabulists

* Aesop (mid-6th century BCE), author of "Aesop's Fables".
* Vishnu Sarma (ca. 200 BCE), author of the anthropomorphic political treatise and fable collection, the "Panchatantra".
* Bidpai (ca. 200 BCE), author of Sanskrit (Hindu) and Pali (Buddhist) animal fables in verse and prose.
* Syntipas (ca. 100 BCE), Indian philosopher, reputed author of a collection of tales known in Europe as "The Story of the Seven Wise Masters".
* Gaius Julius Hyginus (Hyginus, Latin author, native of Spain or Alexandria, ca. 64 BCE - 17 C.E.), author of "Fabulae".
* Phaedrus (15 BCE – 50 CE), Roman fabulist, by birth a Macedonian.
* Walter of England c.1175
* Marie de France (12th century).
* Berechiah ha-Nakdan (Berechiah the Punctuator, or Grammarian, 13th century), author of Jewish fables adapted from Aesop's Fables.
* Robert Henryson (Scottish, 15th century), author of "The Morall Fabillis of Esope the Phrygian".
* Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452 – 1519).
* Biernat of Lublin (Polish, 1465? – after 1529).
* Jean de La Fontaine (French, 1621 – 95).
* Bernard de Mandeville (English, 1670–1733), author of "The Fable of the Bees".
* John Gay (English, 1685 – 1732).
* Ignacy Krasicki (Polish, 1735 – 1801).
* Dositej Obradović (Serbian, 1742? – 1811).
* Félix María de Samaniego (Spanish, 1745 – 1801), best known for "The Ant and the Cicade."
* Tomás de Iriarte (Spanish, 1750 – 91).
* Ivan Krylov (Russian, 1769 – 1844).

Modern fabulists

* Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910).
* Nico Maniquis (1834 – 1912).
* Ambrose Bierce (1842 – ?1914).
* Sholem Aleichem (1859 – 1916).
* George Ade (1866 – 1944), "Fables in Slang", etc.
* Władysław Reymont (1868–1925)
* Don Marquis (1878 – 1937), author of the fables of archy and mehitabel.
* Franz Kafka (1883 – 1924).
* Damon Runyon (1884 – 1946).
* James Thurber (1894 – 1961), "Fables For Our Time".
* George Orwell (1903 – 50).
* Dr. Seuss (1904 – 91)
* Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904 – 91).
* José Saramago (born 1922).
* Italo Calvino (1923 – 85), "If on a winter's night a traveler," etc.
* Arnold Lobel (1933 – 87), author of "Fables", winner 1981 Caldecott Medal.
* Ramsay Wood (born 1943), author of "Kalila and Dimna: Fables of Friendship and Betrayal".
* Bill Willingham (born 1956), author of "Fables" graphic novels.
* Acrid Hermit (born 1962), author of "http://www.createspace.com/3340070" Misty Forest Fables. "isbn 9781605859309

Notable fables

* "The Jataka Tales"
** "The Sky Is Falling"
* "Aesop's Fables" by Aesop
** "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"
* "Panchatantra" by Vishnu Sarma (also known as "Kalila and Dimna", "Kalilag and Damnag", "The Lights of Canopus", "Fables of Bidpai", and "The Morall Philosophie of Doni")
* "Baital Pachisi" (also known as "Vikram and The Vampire")
* "Hitopadesha"
* "Seven Wise Masters" by Syntipas
* "One Thousand and One Nights" (also known as "Arabian Nights", ca. 800–900)
* "The Fable of the Bees" (1714) by Bernard de Mandeville
* "Fables and Parables" (1779) by Ignacy Krasicki
* "The Emperor's New Clothes"
* "Stone Soup"
* "The Little Engine that Could"
* "Jonathan Livingston Seagull"
* "Watership Down"
* "The Lion King"
* "The Fox and the Cock" by James Thurber
* "Bunt" (The Revolt, 1922) by Władysław Reymont (anticipates Orwell's "Animal Farm").
* "Animal Farm" (1945) by George Orwell.

ee also

* Allegory
* Anthropomorphism
* Apologue
* Apologia
* Fairy tale
* Fantastique
* Ghost story
* Parable
* Proverb



*cite book | last = Buckham | first = Philip Wentworth | title = Theatre of the Greeks | origyear = 1827
* [http://www.studylight.org/desk/?l=en&query=fable&section=0&translation=kjv&oq=&sr=1 King James Bible;] "New Testament (authorised)".
* DLR [David Lee Rubin] . "Fable in Verse", "The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics".

External links

* [http://animals.raconter.net Animal Symbolism] List of frequently described animals and their characteristics
* [http://www.nickbostrom.com/fable/dragon.html The Dragon-Tyrant]
* [http://www.lefavole.org/en/ Fables - Collection and guide to fables for children]
* [http://www.communitywiki.org/odd/Imaginexus/ Imaginexus] A collection of interconnected stories that anyone can edit
* [http://beastfablesociety.org/ Beast Fable Society] An academic society focused on fables and related genres

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