Fable (apologue): A short, fictional story in prose or verse told to illustrate a moral point or lesson; a type of allegory. The moral of a fable is often expressed at the end of the tale via an aphorism, epigram, or maxim. Fables often feature personified animals as their principal characters; animal-centered or animal-dominant fables may also be called beast fables. (The term apologue, generally used synonymously with fable, is sometimes used more specifically to designate the beast fable.) While often considered to be children’s literature today, fables typically originated in folklore told by, for, and to adults; the genre dates back to ancient times in both the East and West.
Legends, myths, lies, and unbelievable stories may also be loosely referred to as fables. Furthermore, in literary criticism, fable has sometimes been used synonymously with plot, particularly by neoclassical critics.
EXAMPLES: Aesop’s Fables (c. 550 B.C.), including the story of the tortoise and the hare, the moral of which may be summed up: “Slow and steady wins the race.” Modern fables include Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le petit prince (The Little Prince) (1943); Richard Bach’s beast fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970); Paulo Coelho’s O alquimista (The Alchemist) (1988), subtitled A Fable about Following Your Dream, the magical story of an Andalusian shepherd boy who seeks a worldly treasure; and Ahn Do-hyun’s beast fable The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher (1996).