Fairy Tales vs. Fables

Definitions – Differences – Examples

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Hello Lovelies, and welcome to the blog. Today I want to go over the difference between Fairy Tales and Fables, because they are very often lumped together, yet they are two separate folk tale subgenres. In the weeks following you will get individual posts that look at each more specifically, but for now, let’s look at how the two subgenres compare.

Fairy Tale Definition

From the Oxford dictionary, we understand that a fairy tale is “a children’s story about magical and imaginary beings and lands.” Here we have two distinct elements: a children’s story, and magical elements, such as beings or lands. Let’s now look at fables.

Fable Definition

Contrasting the fairy tale definition, we find that the Oxford dictionary defines a fable as “a short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral.” Again, we have two distinct elements: a short story with an animal main character, and a story which conveys a moral.


Example of Fairy Tales and Fables

Many of our favorite cartoonish books and movies from our childhood are based on either a fairy tail or a fable, though they are often made more accessible for young children than the real tales they are trying to describe. I’m going to list six of each to give you an idea of the kinds of stories that each describes. Some of them may surprise you.

Six Fairy Tales

  • Cinderella
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Snow White
  • The Gingerbread Man
  • Pinocchio
  • Thumbelina

Six Fables

  • The Ant and the Grasshopper
  • The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher
  • Bambi
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Toy Story
  • Wall-E

Next Week

As mentioned in the introduction, we will be going into both of these topics more specifically in the coming weeks, starting next week with Fairy Tales and continuing the week after into Fables. These are the last two subgenres in the Folklore pillar of genre, and we will move straight into the next pillar in mid-May, so I hope you are enjoying this detailed look into genre, and stay tuned!

Discussion Questions

  1. What is your favorite folk tale subgenre?
  2. Do you have a favorite fairy tale or fable?
  3. What genre is your favorite to read in, and do you write in the same genre or a different one?
  4. What is the most important reason writers should be aware of genre and its conventions?
  5. What questions would you like to see me answer in a blog post or podcast episode?

Leave your answers in the comments section for this post!

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