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FABLES “Storytelling is the oldest form of education.”

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1 FABLES “Storytelling is the oldest form of education.”
– Terry Tempest Williams

2 Fables Fables are one of the oldest forms of stories. Since the time of Aesop, who probably lived between 600 and 500 B.C., people have told, written, and passed along fables. One reason fables have remained popular is that they teach truths about human life that never go out of style. They reach these truths using colorful characters and amusing events that people have always enjoyed. We will be looking at fables both from different cultures as well as from different periods of history.

3 ABOUT FABLES As long as there have been people, there have been stories. People create stories to entertain themselves, to pass the time, or to help them remember. They tell stories to explain the world around them. Some stories, called fables, try to teach people something about life. Fables are one of the oldest genres, or types, of stories. Some of the fables we still read and tell each other today are more than 2,000 years old. Many of these come from the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop.

4 ABOUT FABLES Fables are fictional stories. This means they are made up, or invented. However, fables usually tell truths that all people can recognize. This is one reason that people today still enjoy reading and hearing this genre of stories.

Many fables were not written down at first. They were told out loud. Long ago, most people did not know how to read and write. Instead, they handed stories down to their children and others by telling the stories over and over again.

Fables are usually short and simple. They tell an entire story in a few paragraphs. Fables have characters and plots, just as other, longer stories do. In fables, though, the characters are not fully described. The plot – or what happens in the story – does not take long to unfold.

The characters in fables are often animals who act like people. They speak to each other as people would. They care about the things people value. For example, in the fable “The Fox and the Grapes,” the fox decides that some grapes that are growing too high for him to reach are probably sour anyway. Even if he could reach them, he would not want to eat them. We know that a fox would not think this way. But we probably have heard people say, “Well, I didn’t want it anyway,” about something they really wanted very much. Giving animals or objects the characteristics of humans is called personification.

Fables do not spend much time describing what characters look like or how they behave. Instead, they depend on what we already know about such characters. For example, we know what an owl looks like. We usually think of owls as wise creatures. When we read about an owl in a fable, we expect the owl to behave wisely. The characters in fables are called flat characters. We don’t find out much about them. They do not change or develop the way characters do in other kinds of stories.

Fables usually teach a lesson about life. This lesson is called a moral. For example, in the fable “The Mouse and the Lion,” the lion spares the mouse’s life when the mouse pleads with him. She tells him that she will surely repay his kindness some day. Even though the lion doubts what the mouse says, he decides to let her go. Later, the mouse saves the lion by chewing away the nets in which he has become entangled. The moral of the story, or its message about life, is that both strong and weak creatures need each other.

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