A fable is a short story that conveys a lesson or a moral that is usually stated at the end of the story. Fables feature animals and natural elements as the main characters.

What is a Fable?

There are four main features to all fables. The first feature is symbolism. Characters in fables are non-humans, and their conflicts symbolize types of conflict or misadventures that humans would have. The second feature is anthropomorphization. This means that the main characters are animals or even inanimate objects are given human traits and qualities. The third feature is humor. Fables are told in a funny and entertaining tone that often reflects the foolishness and silliness of human nature. The final feature of fables is that there is always a lesson or a moral of the story. The main character learns from their mistakes and sees the error of their ways at the end of the story. There is often a line at the end that states the moral, such as, “No act of kindness is ever wasted”, or “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Fables have a very long history and have been around for many years. Aesop, who was said to be born around 620 BCE, was a Greek fabulist and storyteller who wrote many of the fables that are still well known today. In the 1600s, French writer, Jean de la Fontaine, was inspired by Aesop and wrote many fables that were loosely based upon the church and the upper class at the time. He believed that the fable should center around its moral, and considered the moral to be the most important part.

Traditionally, and still today, fables are used to teach children lessons about responsibility, hard work, kindness, and other important aspects of life and growing up. Fables can be used as anchor texts in a writing unit where students write their own fables, or they can be read and analyzed together as a reading unit.

Fable Examples

  • “The Swan and the Owl”
  • “The Jackal and the Drum”
  • “The Heron and the Crab”
  • “The Monkey’s Fiddle”
  • “Crocodile’s Treason”
  • “The Judgement of Baboon”
  • How the Camel Got His Hump
  • “How the Leopard Got His Spots”

Examples of Aesop’s Fables

  • “The Fox and the Grapes”
  • “The Tortoise and the Hare”
  • “The Lion and the Mouse”
  • “The Wolf and the Crane”
  • “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse”
  • “The Gnat and the Bull”
  • “The Frogs and the Ox”

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Learn more about genres of literature in our Picture Encyclopedia of Literary Genres!
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