In each genre, the story is intended to convey a moral or a lesson to the reader. However, by using animals to represent humans in the beast fable tradition or Aesop’s fables, the lesson is softened, in comparison with the Grimms’ use of actual people.
By showing what happens to the animals in the story, Aesop’s fables and beast fables in general convey important lessons that apply to humans. In “The Ants & the Grasshopper,” for instance, the industrious ants work very hard during the warm summer months to prepare for the cold and bleak months when it will be more difficult to obtain food. They would like to enjoy the sunshine outside in a leisurely fashion, but they realize that this would put them in a rough position when winter comes: they would have no food stored away.
In contrast, they meet a grasshopper who is starving. He begs the ants for something to eat. Surprised, the ants ask him what he had been doing all summer, and he replies that he had no time to think about winter, because he was too busy making beautiful music on his fiddle. This is an allegory that shows that people should always plan ahead for the difficulties of a figurative winter. In other words, by spending all of his time enjoying his music, the grasshopper gave no thought to his future and made no plans for it. Just as he winds up in a difficult position, so, too, will people who spend all of their time pursuing leisurely activities without working and planning for the future.
By comparison, in their stories, the Brothers Grimm use actual people and sometimes place them in horrible situations to impart their moral to readers. “Hansel and Gretel” is one example. Two children veer off the path, get lost, and eventually are attacked by a wicked witch. The Grimms’ fairy tales were frightening and much more obvious in the lessons that they conveyed.