- For other uses of the term, see fable (disambiguation).
In its strict sense a fable is a short story or folk tale embodying a moral, which may be expressed explicitly at the end as a maxim. "Fable" comes from Latin fabula and shares a root with faber, "maker, artificer." Thus, though a fable may be conversational in tone, the understanding from the outset is that it is an invention, a created fiction. A fable may be set in verse, though it is usually prose. In its pejorative sense, a fable is a deliberately invented or falsified account.
A fable often, but not necessarily, makes metaphorical use of an animal as its central character. Medieval French fabliaux might feature Reynard, the fox, a trickster figure, and offer a subtext that was mildly subversive of the feudal order of society. A familiar theme in Slavic fables is an encounter between a wily peasant and the Devil.
In some usage "fable" has been extended to include stories with mythical or legendary elements. The word fabulous strictly means "pertaining to fables", although in recent decades its metaphorical meanings have been taken to be literal meanings. An author of fables is called a fabulist.
Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46