Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What is a fable?

The word 'fable' comes from the Latin fabula, meaning 'discourse' or 'story'. Fable is a short narrative in prose or verse which points a moral. Non-human creatures or inanimate things are normally the characters. The presentation of human beings as animals is the characteristic of the literary fable and is unlike the fable that still flourishes among primitive peoples.

 The genre probably arose in Greece, and the first collection of fables is ascribed Aesop (6th c. BC). His principal successors were Phaedrus and Babrius, who flourished in the 1st century AD. Phaedrus preserved Aesop's fables and in the 10th c. a prose adaptation of Phaedrus's translation appeared under the title Romulus, a work whole popularity lasted until the 17th c. A famous collection of Indian fables was the Bidpai, which were probably composed originally in Sanskrit, AD 300. Many versions of these were made in prose and verse in different languages between the 3rd c and 16th c. The best of the medieval fabulists was Marie de France who, c. 1200, composed 102 fables in verse. After her came La Fontaine who raised the whole level of the fable and is generally acknowledged as the world's master. He took most of the stories from Aesop and Phaedrus but translated them in his verse. His Fables choisies were published in 12 books (1668, 1678-9, 1694).

La Fontaine had many imitators: principally, Eustache de Noble, Pignotti, John Gay, J.P.C de Florian and Tomas Iriarte. Later, Lessing followed the style of Aesop. John Gay's Fifty-One Fables in Verse were published in 1727. In Russia, the greatest of the fabulists was Ivan Krylov, who translated a number of La Fontaine's fables and between 1810 and 1820 published nine books of fables. More recently, Kipling made anotable contribution to the genre with Just So Stories (1902). Mention should also be made of James Thurber's droll Fables of Our Time (1940) and George Orwell's remarkable political satire Animal Farm (1945), which is in fable form.