Fable, parable, and allegory
Thursday, December 13, 2018

Fable, parable, and allegory

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What’s the difference between a fable and a parable?

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Does either imply a lesson, or a fantastical setting?

word-choice nouns

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edited Oct 8 ’10 at 12:35

RegDwigнt

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asked Sep 17 ’10 at 1:56

Jaydles

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My understanding is that a fable involves (speaking) animals or other mythical creatures, while a parable does not. A moral is typical for both genres.

Wikipedia is more accurate in its wording:

A fable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized (given human qualities), and that illustrates a moral lesson (a “moral”), which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim.

A parable is a brief, succinct story, in prose or verse, that illustrates a moral or religious lesson. It differs from a fable in that fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human characters. It is a type of analogy.

Merriam-Webster basically agrees, but has a few points to add:

parable : example; specifically: a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle

fable : a fictitious narrative or statement: as

a: a legendary story of supernatural happenings

b: a narration intended to enforce a useful truth; especially: one in which animals speak and act like human beings

c: falsehood, lie

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edited Sep 17 ’10 at 2:12

answered Sep 17 ’10 at 2:02

RegDwigнt

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  • I think the key distinction is that a parable is religious while a fable is not. I have never heard the term "parable" used outside of a religious setting.
    –  alcas
    Sep 5 ’12 at 1:41

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My observations – not an authority’s formal definitions:

The most famous fables (Aesop’s) all feature animal protagonists, but I don’t believe that has ever been a requirement, Wikipedia notwithstanding. Any fictitious story with an implied or explicit moral, or lesson, and which is obviously contrived for the purpose of communicating that moral or lesson can be referred to as a fable. Example: http://www.userfocus.co.uk/fable/index.html

A parable is not necessarily contrived, but usually contains a relatively specific analogy. A fable is more vague and illustrates a more general principle or concept. The parables in the New Testament (per my poor memory) are all things that “could have actually happened like that”.

Edit: Apparently the root of “parable” is from the Greek “to compare”, so a specific analogy is definitely implied.

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edited Sep 18 ’10 at 0:47

answered Sep 17 ’10 at 3:00

mickeyf

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  • You have a point, one of my favorite video games is "Fable" , which is all about people, or a story of one man. It does feature quite a few mythical creatures, but they are not really central to the story or to any of the lessons you might or might not end taking from it. However, even this video game is still nicely covered by Merriam-Webster ("a fictitious narrative, as a legendary story of supernatural happenings"), as is that book you linked to ("a narration intended to enforce a useful truth").
    –  RegDwigнt
    Sep 17 ’10 at 13:53

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Fables are stories that feature animals, plants, or forces of nature that have been given human qualities.

They teach moral and ethical lessons, like how to behave or how to treat people.

Since the main characters are animals, they are a good way to introduce serious topics to children. Each animal represents a particular human fault or virtue, and what happens in the story is directly related to the animal’s personality.

Parables also teach moral and ethical lessons, but they only have human characters.

They are set in the real world, with realistic problems and results. They often have spiritual aspects.

So what would a story be that features a human interacting with a talking animal? A fable, since parables exclude unrealistic things like chatty foxes.

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answered Jul 21 ’14 at 7:53

lala

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Both teach moral lessons, however fables usually have animals and plants behaving like humans. Parable are more like giant metaphors were each aspect of the story represents something in real life

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answered Jan 8 ’15 at 1:36

Daniel Ma

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both the fable and parable has equal elements such as the setting, symbolism and gives a moral message but the only thing is that a fable uses animals and the parables include humans. but it is to note that fables are mostly read by children and the animal characters could live in them so that the message is easily grasped.

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answered May 25 ’15 at 13:30

doudouce

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Home » Difference Between Fable and Parable

Difference Between Fable and Parable

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Fable vs Parable
 

We all grow up listening to fables and parables from our grandparents and reading these stories from story books meant for kids. We think we know the differences between a fable and a parable though it is hard for most of us to tell these differences. Both are short stories that carry a message or a moral for the reader or listener. They could also be about a universal truth, virtue, or any other concept. This article tries to highlight the differences between fables and parables.

Fable

Fable is a very short story containing talking animals or forces of nature and one that teaches us a moral lesson. Often the moral of the story is expressed at the end of the story to make children learn a lot from the short story. Aesop’s fables are the most famous fables around the world though Jatak Kathayein from Budhism and Panchatantra written by Vishnu Sharma in Hindu religion are also very popular fables. Even epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata contain fables within them that are very good moral lessons for people till today.

Talking animals, plants and other inanimate objects are chief characteristics of fables, the best examples of which are The Fox and the Grapes and the Ant and the Grasshopper.

Parable

Parable is a short story that teaches a moral lesson to the reader or listener. Parables contain human characters only, and they are drawn from real world situations with real problems and real struggles of people. They also have spiritual flavors. The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son are two of the most well-known parables from the Gospel. The word parable comes from the Greek Parabole which means to draw comparison or analogy. One can learn how to behave and react when faced with a dilemma in real life situations as these parables teach by comparing the actions and behaviors of characters in them.

What is the difference between Fable and Parable?

• Both parables and fables are short stories containing moral lessons for the readers but, whereas parables contain human characters only, fables are known to have talking-animals and plant with even super natural forces.

• Fables are set in an imaginary world, whereas parables have real humans facing the real world problems.

• Parables often have spiritual or religious aspect, whereas fables stay away from religion.

• Tortoise and the Hare and The Fox and the grapes are some of the most popular fables whereas The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are examples of most popular parables.

• There are also secular parables such as The Emperor’s New Clothes.

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