Posted by: Jack Henry | March 30, 2023

Editor’s Corner: Fabulous Fables!

Welcome back, folks! Today’s literary term is one that reminds me of childhood: fable. Merriam-Webster defines a fable as:

a fictitious narrative or statement: such as

a: a legendary story of supernatural happenings

b: a narration intended to enforce a useful truth especially : one in which animals speak and act like human beings

Before I get into examples of fables, here are the details about what comprises a fable, from

Fables are defined by four central essential elements.

  1. Symbolism. Characters in fables are stand-ins for humans, and their misadventures are meant to symbolize human behavior.
  2. Anthropomorphization. In fables, animals and even inanimate objects (like the wind, or the sun) are the main characters of the story and are given human qualities. Some animals have specific traits associated with them. For example, an owl is wise, a fox is cunning, and a lion is brave.
  3. Lessons. Every fable has a moral lesson at the end that arises from the story. For example: “Slow and steady wins the race.”
  4. Humor. Fables often have a humorous tone when showing the foolishness of human nature.

A fable is a short story that illustrates a moral lesson. The plot of a fable includes a simple conflict and a resolution, followed by a maxim.

Probably the most popular fables are Aesop’s fables, which many of us heard when we were kids. These tales all include the four essential elements listed above. Here is a tiny handful of Aesop’s fables and the corresponding morals (or maxims, or lessons) of each story. (In the titles, the “kids” are actually young goats, not children. Or maybe they’re children that look like goats?)

  • The Frogs & the Ox: Do not attempt the impossible.

§ The Two Goats: It is better to yield than to come to misfortune through stubbornness.

§ The Wolf & the Kid: Do not let anything turn you from your purpose.

§ The Kid & the Wolf: Do not say anything at any time that you would not say at all times.

  • The Town Mouse & the Country Mouse: Poverty with security is better than plenty in the midst of fear and uncertainty.
  • The Travelers & the Purse: We cannot expect any one to share our misfortunes unless we are willing to share our good fortune also.
  • The Lark & Her Young Ones: Self-help is the best help.

The Library of Congress has a huge collection of Aesop’s Fables and the associated morals. It’s worth a look, especially if you have children, kids, or both.

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams |

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