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What is a fable?

A fable is a short, fictional tale containing a moral lesson, often featuring anthropomorphized animals or objects.

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Fable

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Last Updated May 25, 2023.

A fable is a short, fictional story containing a moral lesson, often featuring anthropomorphized animals or objects. Stories not based on fact, possibly involving fantastical or supernatural occurrences, can also be called fables. 

Fable traces back to the Latin word fabula (“story, tale, gossip”), from fari, meaning “to speak,” and bula, which denotes an instrument (of speech). 

The fable form was popular in Medieval and Renaissance Europe. Western fables originated in ancient Greece with Aesop, a Phrygian man credited with composing a collection of fables around the turn of the 6th century BCE. In Medieval France, Aesop’s fables were widely retold and collected as the “ysopet”—literally “little Aesop.” Marie de France’s ysopet, composed in the 12th century, is a well-known example.

A modern example of a fable is Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, which critiques the behavior of adults in Western society, from their tendency to make judgments based on appearances to the importance they place on wealth. 

see: allegoryfolkloreparableproverbanthropomorphism 

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