Fables: Definition, Characteristics, Examples
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 4 min read


Have you ever read a short story filled with anthropomorphic animals, and upon reaching the end, found it carried a deep life lesson? If the answer is yes, then you've experienced a fable! In this blog, we're going to explore the wonderful world of fables. We'll start with the definition of a fable, move on to their distinctive characteristics, and finish with some well-loved examples. So, let's dive in!

What are Fables?

Fables are a fascinating form of storytelling that has been around for centuries. They are like small time capsules of wisdom, passed down from generation to generation. But what exactly is the definition of a fable?

The Definition of a Fable

Think of a fable as a short story—a really short story, in fact. But it's not just any story. It's a story that carries a moral or a lesson. The cool part about fables is that they often have animals as characters, and these animals talk and act just like humans. The technical definition of a fable is a short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral. The moral is the lesson that the story is trying to teach you.

The Origin of Fables

Fables have a long history, with roots in ancient civilizations. The term 'fable' comes from the Latin word 'fabula', which means 'story'. And that's exactly what a fable is—a story meant to teach us something. Some of the most famous fables come from Aesop, a storyteller from ancient Greece. You might have heard about 'Aesop's Fables' in school. These stories have been told and retold for over two millennia!

The Purpose of Fables

Fables aren't just entertaining tales—they have a purpose. The aim of a fable is to teach a lesson or to pass on wisdom. They make us think and reflect on our actions and their consequences. And the best part? They do this in a fun and engaging way. So, the next time you read a fable, remember: there's more to the story than just the plot. There's a moral waiting to be discovered.

Characteristics of Fables

Now that we have a clear definition of a fable, let's look at the key components that make a fable, well, a fable. There are certain elements that are unique to this form of storytelling, making them stand out from other genres.

Short and Sweet

One of the main characteristics of a fable is its length - or lack thereof. Fables are typically very short; some can be as short as a single sentence! However, don't let their brevity fool you. These stories may be tiny, but they pack a punch with their powerful morals.

Animal Characters

Another trademark feature of fables are their characters. Fables often feature animals who speak and behave like humans. These anthropomorphic animals help to make the story more engaging and memorable. Plus, who doesn't love a talking turtle or a clever fox?

A Moral to the Story

Perhaps the most important characteristic of a fable is its moral. Every fable ends with a moral, or a lesson. This moral is often stated explicitly at the end of the story, making it easy for readers to understand the message the fable is trying to convey.

Universal Themes

Fables often explore universal themes—ideas that are understood and appreciated by people from different cultures and periods. Themes like honesty, kindness, and wisdom are common in these stories, making them timeless and globally relevant.

So, the next time you read a fable, try to identify these features. Not only will it enhance your understanding of the story, but it will also give you a deeper appreciation for the art of fable writing.

Examples of Fables

Now that we know what makes a fable, let's dive into some examples. This will help us better understand the definition of a fable and its characteristics in practice. Plus, who knows, you might find a new favorite story in the process!

1. The Tortoise and The Hare

The Tortoise and The Hare is a classic example of a fable. In this tale, a hare ridicules a slow-moving tortoise. Tired of the hare's arrogant behavior, the tortoise challenges him to a race. The hare, thinking it's a sure win, naps midway through the race. When he wakes up, he finds that the tortoise, who plodded along slowly but steadily, has already crossed the finish line. The moral of the story? "Slow and steady wins the race."

2. The Boy Who Cried Wolf

In The Boy Who Cried Wolf, a shepherd boy repeatedly tricks the villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock. When a wolf actually does appear, the villagers don't believe him, and the boy ends up losing his sheep. The moral here is, "Liars are not believed even when they speak the truth."

3. The Fox and The Grapes

This fable tells the story of a fox that tries in vain to reach some grapes hanging high on a vine. After several failed attempts, the fox gives up and convinces himself that he did not want the grapes anyway because they were probably sour. The moral of this story is, "It is easy to despise what you cannot get."

These examples illustrate the beauty and simplicity of fables. They're short, engaging, feature interesting characters, and most importantly, they teach us valuable lessons. So, next time you're in need of a quick read with a deep message, why not pick up a fable?

If you're fascinated by fables and want to learn more about storytelling through visual art, check out Mirelle Ortega's workshop, 'Storytelling In Illustration.' This workshop will help you understand the nuances of storytelling and how to effectively communicate stories through illustrations, which can be applied to create compelling visuals for fables.