The Fable Genre

Definitions – Examples – Hallmarks

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Hello Lovelies, and welcome to the blog. Let’s talk about Fables, shall we? It’s the last subgenre in the Folk Tale pillar of genre and like all folk tales, originally was told from the oral tradition. 

Fable Definition

The Oxford dictionary defines a fable as “a short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral.” Here we have two distinct elements: a short story with an animal main character, and a story which conveys a moral.

Example of Fables

Many of our favorite cartoonish books and movies from our childhood are based on fables, 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 and a brief synopsis to give you an idea of the kinds of stories that each describes. Some of them may surprise you.

Six Fables

  • The Ant and the Grasshopper: The ant spends the summer working hard and gathering food, while the grasshopper spends the summer months carefree, dancing them all away. But when winter arrives and the grasshopper begins to starve, he begs the ant for help. But the ant refuses him, instead saying he can dance his hunger away.
  • The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher: A salmon has silver scales that mark him out as different. He decides to swim upstream, pursuing something the salmon cannot see: a dream.
  • Bambi: A story following a young deer named Bambi, the ‘prince of the forest’ and his adventures of love and loss within the forest as he grows into adulthood.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Po might just be the laziest, clumsiest panda in the Valley of Peace, but he secretly dreams of becoming a kung fu legend. When the villainous snow leopard Tai Lung threatens Po’s homeland, the hapless panda is chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy and defend the Valley from attack. Training under Master Shifu, Po embarks on an epic high-kicking adventure as he sets out to thwart Tai Lung’s evil plans.
  • Toy Story: Woody, a good-hearted cowboy doll who belongs to a young boy named Andy, sees his position as Andy’s favorite toy jeopardized when his parents buy him a Buzz Lightyear action figure. Even worse, the arrogant Buzz thinks he’s a real spaceman on a mission to return to his home planet. When Andy’s family moves to a new house, Woody and Buzz must escape the clutches of maladjusted neighbor Sid Phillips and reunite with their boy.
  • Wall-E: WALL-E, short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class, is the last robot left on Earth. He spends his days tidying up the planet, one piece of garbage at a time. But during 700 years, WALL-E has developed a personality, and he’s more than a little lonely. Then he spots EVE, a sleek and shapely probe sent back to Earth on a scanning mission. Smitten WALL-E embarks on his greatest adventure yet when he follows EVE across the galaxy.

Hallmarks of a Fable

Fables are extremely varied and also have several of the same things in common. These things, as mentioned in the definition, include:

  • Short Stories
  • (Usually) an Animal Main Character
  • A Story Conveying a Moral

If you want to write a fable of your own, keep these elements in mind and you’ll pretty much have what you need.

Next Week

Now that you know about Fables, we will be continuing next week into our next Pillar of Genre. Can you guess which one it will be? There are four pillars left this year! 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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