Fable Definition in Literature

The fable is ancient, evidenced in Egypt, Greece, and India, and probably similar to the development of a self-conscious myth in primitive cultures. Fable definition in literature along with its examples has been discussed in detail.

What is Fable?

The fable is derived from the Latin word fabula, which means “a story.” The fable is ancient, evidenced in Egypt, Greece, and India, and probably similar to the development of a self-conscious myth in primitive cultures.

Fable Definition in Literature:

A literary device can be defined as a brief story intended to provide a moral lesson. In literature, it is termed as a moral lesson given through some animal story which is added at the end explicitly as a concise maxim.

It is a short moral tale, in verse or prose, in which human nature is depicted through birds, beasts, or some inanimate substances. Human qualities are anticipated in animals, according to certain conventions.

Features of Fable

  • ⦁ Provide a moral lesson/story.
  • ⦁ Animals are the subject of fables.
  • ⦁ Characters of animals are depicting humans.
  • ⦁ Sometimes the intention is to provide a solution to a problem.
  • ⦁ Fair manner to evoke some negative aspects of humans.
  • ⦁ Perfect way of conveying a message to the people.

Kinds of Fable

There are three kinds of fable:

  1. Ironic
  2. Realistic
  3. Satirical

Fables are ironic as they point out the futility of humans and present them before the people in the shape of some powerful lesson.

Realistic fables appeal to the commonsense ethics of ordinary life. These are realistic in tone.

Satirical fables are usually pictured to show some foolish act of humans and to give the answer to it.

Common EXAMPLES of Fable:

  1. Slow and steady wins the race
  2. Fox and the grapes
  3. Lion and the Mouse
  4. The ant and the Grasshopper
  5. The dog and the shadow
  6. Greed is curse
  7. No pain, no gain
  8. Pride hath a fall

Example of a Fable in Literature:

The Fox and the Grapes (By Aesop’s Fable)

One day, a Fox noticed a lovely set of ripe grapes dangling from a vine trained along the tree limbs. The Fox’s mouth watered as he peered longingly at the grapes, which appeared to be about to burst with juice.

The bunch was dangling from a high limb, so the Fox had to leap to get it. He missed it by a long shot the first time he leaped. So he traveled a little distance and lunged for it, only to fall short again. He tried again and again but to no avail.

He exclaimed, “What an idiot I am.” “Here I am, working myself to exhaustion in order to obtain a bunch of sour grapes that aren’t worth gasping for.” And then he walked away, mockingly. Now he sat down, disgusted, staring at the grapes.

The Rime of Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

First Voice

  • “But tell me, tell me! speak again,
  • Thy soft response renewing
  • What makes that ship drive on so fast?
  • What is the ocean doing?”

Second Voice

“Still as a slave before his lord,

The ocean hath no blast

His great bright eye most silently

Up to the moon cast

The poem is about the beginning of Romanticism. The feelings of peace and fear dominate throughout the whole poem. The above literary excerpt is one of the best examples of a fable about repentance, improvement, and sin.

Gulliver’s Travels By Jonathan Swift

“I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir: for as I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the ground; and my hair, which was long and thick, tied down I the same manner. Likewise felt several slender ligatures across my body, from my armpits to my thighs. I could only look upwards, the sun began to grow hot, and the light offended mine eyes.”

The above passage is a well-known example of a fable. It is a mixture of political allegory, moral fable, and social anatomy. The main character Gulliver reached an unknown place where the small height humans were speaking a strange language. This fable is most probably intended to satirize society’s political regime.

“Animal Farm” by George Orwell’s

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Orwell outspreads the concept of anthropomorphism by portraying his characters more and more like humans. At first, the pigs oppose humanity and everything related to humans. They slowly become more and more like them until no one can tell the difference. 

More to Read:

Leave a Comment