The Genre of Fables
[...first page - Index The fables]
Since the Greeks and Romans’ times much widespread was the custom
of telling stories, whose main characters
were “thinking” and “speaking” animals (cat,
mouse, wolf, sheep, etc.) who had the task of “educating”
to behave according to the rules accepted by most people. The fables
were told by word of mouth and also written and collected in books where
the students could practise in the schools, too: this strengthens the
didactic value of the fables.
The fables are usually very short stories in prose or in verse which tell the adventures of one or more animals, but also of people or things; they are simple and immediate stories depicting an event which turns out quickly. Few elements are needed to settle the situation: the particular story soon gets to an end because what matters is not the tale, but its moral, a teaching which the reader gets from the story. The moral helps to counsel and let the reader reflect; “brevity” and “moralistic ending” are the main elements of the fable and fairy stories texts and after the narrative texture (the plot), the fanciful atmosphere turns over, and the meaning of the story is made clear. The function of the story does not change if, as it sometimes happens with PHAEDRUS, the judgement is put at the beginning rather than at the end.
The fable is often linked with a historical and political background, where it is not assured a complete freedom of thought and expression speech, and the message of common sense, of call to the main values of life, becomes nonconformist and revolutionary.