Apologue: what it is, characteristics, examples, meaning, how to write an apologist


What is the Apologue?

Besides being one of the most important subgenres of the literary world within the didactic genre, it is one of the most important types of text due essentially to its function, since it maintains a moralizing intention. Thus, the apologue is a form of moral narration of short or medium length, which is often related to the symbolic tale.

It is also often related to the fable, however, the main difference lies in the fact that the apologue does not include animal characters, but all of them are human beings.

Meaning of the subgenre apologist

The term apologue comes from the Latin apolŏgus, and that in turn comes from the Greek ἀπόλογος which can be translated as tale. Hence, the apologue is a text of short or medium length that narrates a story.

Definition of the subgenre apologist

We can define the apologue as a type of narrative whose main focus is instruction on an ethical principle, in which the protagonists are human beings going through plausible vicissitudes as it happens in real life.

What is the Apologue

What is the function of the apologue?

The main intention of the apologist consists in the instruction on a moral principle or conduct that can be located anywhere in the text, so that its purpose is the exposition of a moral that is starred by human beings. Thus, the apologist pursues ideals that are reinforced through reflection, abnegation for great causes, elevation of principles and other elements that allow reaching inner perfection in the human being.

History and origin of the apologist

It is considered that the birth of the didactic subgenre dates back to the 6th century BC, when Nixhue, the Persian king, decided to send his court physician, Barzuyeh, in search of herbs that were believed to have the power to resurrect the dead and that he would find in India. After the doctor’s consultation with the wise men of the region, it was explained that the herbs were actually a series of books for the understanding of the ignorant, books that received the name of Calila and Dimna.

On Barzuyeh’s return journey, he carried the scriptures and translated them so that his king could understand their contents. These books would later give rise to the subgenre. However, no samples of the two versions remained, but the one we have is from the 6th century B.C., since they were later translated into Arabic and Syriac. With the translation of the text into Greek, it was later translated into Hebrew, Persian and Spanish.

However, it is in Persia where the subgenre is finally established, highlighting the first characteristics of this as for example the presence of different virtues and defects of the human being around various situations that will trigger moral or ethical principles to configure the moral. During the Middle Ages, the apologist begins to spread throughout the countries of the West and it is finally in France where it achieves its maximum development with the elaboration of the most important works of representation.

Characteristics of the Apologist subgenre

Below we will look at a series of key elements to delve deeper into this literary subgenre:


One of the most important characteristics of the apologist has to do with the themes it usually deals with within the texts, given that, taking into account its moralizing intention and the type of characters it raises, the facts it presents are plausible stories, that is to say, credible and that we can easily find within real life. However, this does not rule out the presence of the force of imagination within the creation.

Form of writing

Unlike other types of text with which it is usually related especially for its content and moralizing intention, the apologue maintains a prose writing. In addition to this, its length is due to the fact that many of the events and other twists and turns taken by the narrative stories are explained.


Another important aspect that should be mentioned is that the apologue maintains a simple language that does not have technical or complex terms, but is extremely accessible to readers, so that it increases its ease of understanding and allows its dissemination to be much simpler. This, precisely because of the intention of hooking the reader’s attention within the story to lead him to the moralizing principle it integrates.


The apologist is characterized, among other things, because its protagonists and characters are always human beings, unlike the fable in which they are often animals.


As we mentioned, one of the main characteristics of the apologue has to do with the moral principle that it carries to the reader, which is set as its main objective. Thus, the message is aimed at the improvement of people according to a series of conditions that they can easily relate to their daily life.


The apologist follows a narrative sequence, in which the main characters are presented at the beginning, followed by the conflict and ends with the moral principle, although this can be developed at the beginning and at the crux of the story.

How to write an apologue?

Now that we have seen all about what an apologue is, let’s see how to write one:

Choose the theme 

The central theme is the line that the story will follow and on which the moral will be developed at the end of the narrative. You can choose any type of theme, starting from a defect, in which you try to develop a series of situations that allow you to show the consequences of the actions to generate the final message. Remember that it must be a plausible situation.

Build the characters

Keep in mind that in the apologue the characters are always human beings, so the theme must be linked to this type of characters. To build them, even if you do not mention their whole life in the story due to the characteristic extension of the apologue, you must take into account their origin, age, personality, tastes, defects, virtues and other particularities that will allow you to configure dialogues and behaviors according to their way of being.

Develop the story 

Now that we have chosen the theme and the characters, it is time to start writing the story. Remember that the apologist contains narrative and prose characteristics, so you start with a presentation of the theme, move on to the development in which the central problem or conflict arises and at the end the moral of the story is presented according to the actions and decisions that have been taken by the characters.

To write an apologist, you have to read a lot of apologues. Having a good imagination is fundamental, but having referents and renowned authors to be able to explore the dimensions of this type of text and in general, to be able to discover new spaces and possibilities is key to develop a text from scratch. Don’t forget to read several stories before starting.

Authors of the apologist subgenre

Authors and most important works of the apologist subgenre

One of the most important works of this didactic subgenre is “Calila and Dimna”, a collection of stories dating from 1251, which comes from the East, specifically from India, and which achieved a great diffusion thanks to its translation into Spanish. However, it is still debated whether it is a fable or an apologist. In addition, Count Lucanor also stands out, among others such as Roman de Renard.

Example of an Apologue

The following is a fragment of the Count Lucanor apologist:

“The king, seeing his minister in those rags, asked him why he was dressed like that. The private man replied that, since the king had expressed his intention to go to the desert and since he was still willing to do so, he, who was his private man, did not want to forget how many favors he owed him, but, just as he had shared the honors and goods of his king, so, now that he was going to other lands to lead a life of penance, he would like to follow him to share it with his lord. The minister added that, if the king was not grieved by his wife, his son, his kingdom, nor by the goods he left behind, there was no reason for him to feel any greater attachment, so he would go with him and serve him forever, without anyone noticing it. Finally he told her that he had so much money sewn into his clothes that they would never want for anything in all their lives, and that, as they were to depart, it would be better to do so before they could be recognized.”