Painting of a classic fable and how it compares to a parable.

The Difference Between Fables & Parables

Fables and parables are both ways of telling stories that convey moral or ethical lessons. Although they share the same purpose, they differ in their structure, characters, storytelling approach, and cultural origins. To better understand their differences, let’s delve deeper into the characteristics of each.

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Illustration of a woman sitting in the jungle writing a fable.

How to Write a Fable

A fable is a short story that teaches a moral lesson. The characters in a fable are usually animals who act like humans, embodying certain characteristics. The lion represents power, the crocodile ferociousness, and the fox cunning. These animals act according to their nature, suffering the consequences of their behaviour, thus teaching us how to act properly.

For example, in “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the slow but steady tortoise wins a race against the fast but lazy hare, teaching us that “slow and steady wins the race.”

Here’s how to write your own fable in three steps.

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Illustration of the magical jungle where Aesop's Fables take place.

The Myth of Aesop & His Fables

Almost three thousand years ago, in the land of Samos, there lived a respected philosopher named Xanthus. He had a slave, as was common then, but this slave was not a common man. He had a hunched back, a large nose, and an unusual talent for telling stories.

One day, Xanthus was invited to a banquet held by another wealthy man from Samos. Xanthus sought to impress his host, so he asked his clever slave to devise some witty riddles for him to use at the banquet.

His slave, Aesop, gladly provided Xanthus with many riddles. At the banquet, Xanthus posed the riddles to the guests, none of whom could figure out the answers. They started asking Xanthus for help, but Aesop hadn’t given him the answers. Realizing that his master was in trouble, Aesop stepped forward and solved the riddles himself, astonishing the guests with his intelligence.

The wealthy host was so impressed by Aesop’s abilities that he bought and freed him. Aesop then travelled the world, recounting clever fables and advising kings. Then, one day, he recounted such a controversial tale that he was put to death.

Or so the story goes.

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A painting of a magical fairy tale or fable jungle.

The Difference Between Fables & Fairy Tales

Both fables and fairy tales are magical children’s stories that are popular in many different cultures around the world. They’re often short, feature talking animals, and serve to impart moral lessons. Despite all this, they actually aren’t very similar at all. They have completely different purposes, themes, and tones.

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A fairy tale painted by the Russian illustrator Nikolai Mikhailovich Kochergin.

The Art of NM Kochergin, The Russian Fairy Tale Illustrator

Whenever I would go looking for fairy tale art, I would find this artist’s work, always accompanied by Cyrillic text, and so I never knew who he was or what it meant. But the art was beautiful and magical. I’d never seen anything like it before.

After a little digging, it turns out that the artist is Nikolai Mikhailovich Kochergin (1897-1974), a Soviet-era Russian artist. Kochergin is considered part of the golden age of children’s illustration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, along with artists like Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, Beatrix Potter, and E. H. Shepard.

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The Best Fantasy Books Like the Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings is the most influential fantasy novel of all time. It’s not the most popular. It’s not the most mainstream. For that, look to Harry Potter or Brandon Sanderson. Their fantasy books sell far more copies.

What sets the Lord of the Rings apart is that it’s serious and profound. It confronts mature themes, delves into great detail, and roots itself in a deeply imagined history. It’s timeless quest through a fantasy world that feels real and meaningful.

Few other writers rival Tolkien. But there are indeed a few.

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