Introduction to Fables

Selected Quoes from the Preface

                Selected Quotes from the "Preface"

        THE TALE, the Parable, and the Fable are all common and
popular modes of conveying instruction.  Each is distinguished
by its own special characteristics.  The Tale consists simply
in the narration of a story either founded on facts, or created
solely by the imagination, and not necessarily associated with
the teaching of any moral lesson.  The Parable is the designed
use of language purposely intended to convey a hidden and secret
meaning other than that contained in the words themselves; and
which may or may not bear a special reference to the hearer,
or reader.

        The Fable partly agrees with, and partly differs from 
both of these.  It will contain, like the Tale, a short but 
real narrative; it will seek, like the Parable, to convey a 
hidden meaning, and that not so much by the use of language, 
as by the skilful introduction of fictitious characters; and 
yet unlike to either Tale or Parable, it will ever keep in 
view, as its high prerogative, and inseparable attribute, 
the great purpose of instruction, and will necessarily seek 
to inculcate some moral maxim, social duty, or political truth.

        The true Fable, if it rise to its high requirements, ever
aims at one great end and purpose representation of human 
motive, and the improvement of human conduct, and yet it so 
conceals its design under the disguise of  fictitious 
characters, by clothing with speech the animals of the field,
the birds of the air, the trees of the wood, or the beasts 
of the forest, that the reader shall receive advice without
perceiving the presence of the adviser.

        Thus the superiority of the counsellor, which often renders 
counsel unpalatable, is kept out of view, and the lesson comes
with the greater acceptance when the reader is led, unconsciously
to himself, to have his sympathies enlisted in behalf of what 
is pure, honorable, and praiseworthy, and to have his indignation
excited against what is low, ignoble, and unworthy.  The true 
fabulist, therefore, discharges a most important function. 
He is neither a narrator, nor an allegorist.  He is a great
teacher, a corrector of morals, a censor of vice, and a 
commender of virtue.

        In this consists the superiority of the Fable over the Tale
or the Parable.  The fabulist is to create a laugh, but yet, 
under a merry guise, to convey instruction." "The continual 
observance of this twofold aim creates the charm, and accounts 
for the universal favor, of the fables of Aesop.

        The construction of a fable involves a minute attention 
to (1) the narration itself; (2) the deduction of the moral; 
and (3) a careful maintenance of the individual characteristics
of the fictitious personages introduced into it.  The narration
should relate to one simple action, consistent with itself, 
and neither be overladen with a multiplicity of details, nor
 distracted by a variety of circumstances. The moral or 
lesson should be so plain, and so intimately interwoven with,
and so necessarily dependent on, the narration, that every 
reader should be compelled to give to it the same undeniable

        The introduction of the animals or fictitious characters 
should be marked with an unexceptionable care and attention 
to their natural attributes, and to the qualities attributed 
to them by universal popular consent. The Fox should be 
always cunning, the Hare timid, the Lion bold, the Wolf 
cruel, the Bull strong, the Horse proud, and the Ass patient.
Many of these fables are characterized by the strictest 
observance of these rules.  They are occupied with one 
short narrative, from which the moral naturally flows, 
and with which it is intimately associated.

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