Wha is a Fable?

   The fable is a short tale, usually with animal characters, that illustrates a moral lesson. The characters are endowed with human qualities. Through their envy, greed, stupidity, shrewdness, and the like comes the folly or success pointed out in the moral of the tale.
   Although India is usually regarded as the birthplace of the fable, it was ancient Greece, in the person of Aesop, that started the tradition of the fable in the West. Even today Aesop's fables are the most popular of all.
   The animal epic of Reynard the Fox is a collection of satiric stories based on the fable form. These tales appeared first in Latin just before the Middle Ages and later became popular throughout Europe. In the French version of the tales Reynard symbolizes the type of bold and unscrupulous hero who cheats and bullies others but escapes punishment by using his wits, even when he has been caught.
   Rudyard Kipling's widely known Jungle Book is another work that clearly shows the influence of the fable. A freer adaptation of the form can be seen in George Orwell's Animal Farm, a modern British novel in which animal characters are used to satirize the totalitarian state.
La Fontaine, a French poet of the 17th century, was the most famous writer of fables after Aesop. La Fontaine took themes for his tales from several sources, translations of the early Hindu stories and of Aesop being the most important ones. He revived the use of verse in writing fables and told his tales with simplicity as well as elegance. His account of the fiddling grasshopper and the industrious ant is as familiar to us as it was to 17th-century France. Marianne Moore, a modern American poet (winner of the 1952 Nobel prize in poetry), translated the Fables of La Fontaine into English verse.