Fable – Definition, parts, characteristics, and how to write a fable


What is a fable?

The fable is one of the subgenres of the narrative genre, one of the literary genres with the largest number of works and texts in the literary world. A fable is a type of relatively short and fictional text that is created with a moralizing intention, being this one of its main characteristics.

The fable is one of the oldest types of narrations, since it arises from the oral tradition prior to the invention of writing. The oldest writings that have been found come from Greece and have been compiled in a great compilation of Aesop’s fables.


The term -fable-, comes from fabŭla in Latin, which comes from the same origin term of “speech”. Thus, the term is directly related to the action of telling stories, which are often the product of imagination. The same term is used to refer to stories from classical mythology and the term fable is even used to refer to gossip or a false story.


The fable can be defined as a literary creation of short length that can be written in verse or prose with an educational or moralizing intention. Through situations that are the product of the imagination, virtues or customs of a particular people or region, the pedagogical character is presented.

Thus, the fable summarizes the teaching and presents it at the end of the text. It is often starred by animals and animated objects, but it can also have human characters.

What is the function of the fable?

According to the above, the fable has the objective of disseminating values and teaching its readers to justify conducts or behaviors that affect those around them. That is why fables, mainly, are elaborated to be read by children, especially for their didactic character, being the children’s fable one of the most important.

What is the moral?

The fable always contains a moral, which consists of a kind of teaching or lesson that is obtained as a response to an action according to the scenarios through which the character has passed. Thus, the moral is a lesson of ethical or moral character that suggests the correction of a behavior and that judges to determine its possible consequences.

What is a fable

Origin of the fable 

The emergence of the fable is attributed to the ancient cultures established in the East, especially in India, who created them with the intention of teaching and educating children, instilling in them the virtues, values and characteristics necessary so that as children of nobles, they could become rulers. This is how the first fables began to be created with the faculties that would define them: brevity and moral dye, so that they would begin to spread easily throughout the region, reaching Europe with the navigators.

This is how fables reached Greece, where figures such as Aesop would take the narrative subgenre and begin to create fables that would link aspects of the Greek cultural tradition. Later, Horace and Phaedrus in Rome, inspired by the Greek, will also begin to write fables with moral content to reach its peak during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Little by little the reception of the fable and the production of literary works will undergo changes and evolutions from its contact with new regions, until arriving to our days continuing with the clear intention of carrying with it a moralizing lesson.

Characteristics of a fable

There are several aspects that allow us to distinguish a fable from other types of narrative texts, among them we find the following:

Moralizing character

Undoubtedly one of the key characteristics of the fable is that it is elaborated in such a way that it comes to have a message or moral, so that it can also acquire an educational character proper to an action or situation of experience that is shown to the reader.


Often in fables there is a narrator who is in charge of telling the events that are happening, he does it in the third person and is subject to the chronological order that follows the structure of the fable. Thus, the way the fable is written allows the narrator to start the text by placing the reader in a time and place.

Written in prose or verse

The fable has the ability to be expressed in both prose and verse. Prose allows it to take a natural language with which it expresses the situations in a simple and free way, also known as “verbiage” and facilitates the understanding and following of the scenes. Verse, on the other hand, makes the fable be divided into parts with a determined measure.

Human themes

Due to the moralizing intention that the fable has, the themes it usually includes are those that address aspects such as the vices of human beings, such as lying, indifference, arrogance, pride, among others. This is used because behind each one of them is hidden an intention of criticism and judgment that allows to value and point out negative attitudes by the moral and the consequences that are acquired.

Short text

One of the most important aspects of fables is that they are texts that do not extend like a novel, but, on the contrary, in short paragraphs they gather all the story they want to tell.

Personified figures

The predominant characters in fables are usually animals, although there are also humanized or personified objects that perform the most important actions in the stories. However, there are some fables in which divine characters or completely human characters are used.

Linear organization

Another of the key points of the fable has to do with the way in which the events are organized within the text, since the fable is characterized by having a linear order, so that it does not have jumps in time to the past, as happens in other types of text, but everything happens step by step in the expected order.

Parts of the fable

As with the other subgenres of the narrative genre, it is divided into three parts: beginning, middle and end, but each of these divisions has particular characteristics of the development of the fable, composed as follows:


In this first stage, the author introduces the characters of the story and places them in a special situation. He also usually informs about the geographical location where the story takes place and the time in which it takes place; however, this is not a requirement for all fables, since there are others that directly address a specific situation with which the dilemma begins.


It is the central part, also known as the knot in the narrative. In this stage begins the development of the plot of the fable, which leads to a conflictive or problematic event in which values such as ethics and morals are disputed, which are immersed in the characters who are developing the actions and competing to choose the best decision according to their experience and moment.


It is the final part of the fable. At this stage the text begins to reveal to the reader the consequences of the actions committed during the complication or knot of the fable, so that its explanation begins to develop the moral or teaching that will go to the reader. Its teaching explains the response that the character’s action has, whether it is a compensation for his act of kindness, or a punishment for inappropriate behavior.

Types of fables 

Due to the intention, moral or content of the fables, it is possible to classify them in categories, so that the following are recognized:

Agonal fables

This type of fables are composed of three parts. The first focuses on the initial situation with two key characters, the second part is the agon, a space in which each character informs the reader of his or her position in the situation. And the third part is the closing of the fable or the conclusion.

Situation fables

In this type of fables are all those in which a single character faces a conflictive situation or dilemma. In this case, he does it alone while another character is the one who observes and evaluates him without being part of the situation itself.

Etiological fables

They are characterized for being fables whose duration is shorter than a common fable, however, they have the same structure and elements. This type of fables can also leave the moral at the beginning or at the end.

Characteristics of a fable

Types of fables by characters

These are other types of texts that vary according to the characteristics of the characters they contain, so we can identify the following:

Fables of inert beings: these are those texts in which the characters are inanimate objects of reality and that take movement in the story.

Animal fables: as their name indicates, these are fables whose protagonists are animals. These animals usually acquire human characteristics in terms of language, ways of life, among other behaviors within the fable.

Human fables: are all those that contain completely human characters and usually take as references characteristics of recurring characters or figures within the communities, such as elders and their ways of life.

Mythological fables: these are fables in which the content, but especially the characters, are usually related to myths, so that their protagonists will often be gods.

Fables of the plant kingdom: in this type of fables the characters and protagonists will be plants.

How to write a fable?

Taking into account the above elements, writing a fable implies, among other things, a lot of imagination for its creation and a precise following of its structure to achieve a good result. Let’s take a look at the following steps:

Identifying the moral

Before starting to write the story, it is advisable to have defined the moral that the fable is going to have, it is the lesson that will help guide the actions of the characters and the scenarios they will go through to achieve it, so it becomes the starting point to start writing.

To construct the moral you can take into account aspects such as wisdom, the value of virtues such as kindness, generosity, among other aspects. It is important to keep in mind that the moral can go either at the beginning of the fable, in the middle or at the end of it, be sure to choose the best place according to the course of your story.

Pose the problem 

This will be the point on which the whole story revolves, since the actions of the characters in the fable lead to the conflict and it is the situation that will allow the reader to develop the moral. Preferably, the problem should establish a situation with which many people feel identified, so the discussion should include elements such as values and correct actions.

Establish the characters 

Once you have this first base, it is time to decide who your characters will be and their narrative functions. According to the situation you propose, establish which character will represent which position and specify very well what their role will be. The human characteristics must be part of the characters you place and each one must be related to the moral you initially identified.

You can refer to particularities already attributed in the literary world, where if you choose animals, the fox is associated with skill and cunning, the owl with wisdom, the donkey with ignorance, the lamb with innocence, the cat with vanity, the lion with pride, the dog with fidelity and companionship, among others.

Choose the time and place 

Now, the place and time in which the story will take place can be determinant in many factors, for example, the customs of that place and time, the appearance (especially if you decide to include images or illustrations), among other aspects. That is why time and place are key elements for the fable, they can exist in reality or be imaginary.

If it is a real place, do some research on the area to have a clearer picture that you can use in the fable and match. If it is imaginary, be sure to construct it very well according to your creativity and situate the space where the events will occur.

Write the resolution of the conflict 

At this point, it is time to write the way in which the problem posed in the crux of the fable will be solved. It is key to propose a solution to the conflict that is satisfactory and appropriate to the situation, so that it is also assumed by the characters, taking into account the elements of the story, the way in which they related to each other and so on. This solution will touch the moral. Let it be easy to understand and understood by both the characters and the readers, because through them, whoever reads it will understand it.

Check the details

At the end of writing the fable, it is essential to make several readings that allow you to confirm the correct course of the story, if it is understandable and if the characters are able to show the problem that will highlight the moral of the fable. Check aspects such as spelling and the organization of the scenes and make sure to apply a short and descriptive title of the fable, which attracts attention but does not explain the work in its entirety, leaving room for the imagination.

Important fables: best known works

Literature has undoubtedly managed to collect a large number of fables over time and in fact, many of them are still part of the popular culture of many peoples and countries, so that their knowledge has spread widely. In many cases the authors are anonymous due to the antiquity of the writings.

Among the best known fables worldwide are The Hare and the Tortoise, The Lion and the Mouse. Among the fables known with an author is the Fable of Polyphemus and Galatea, written by Luis de Góngora.

Example of the fable

“The Hare and the Tortoise”, is a fable recognized in many parts of the world, in which the characters who meet in a race. The Hare was so sure he was going to win that he takes a nap, while the tortoise keeps going and wins the race. Thus, the moral tells us about constancy and perseverance.