What are the elements of a fable?

Jonah Lester
What are the elements of a fable?

The elements of a fable More important are the animal characters, the actions, the story and the moral behind the story. Each of them has characteristics and functions that contribute to making the story more interesting and readable..

A fable is a short literary composition in which fantasy characters are used to represent a story, also fictitious, with the aim of leaving the reader a moral lesson or a reflection on human behavior.

Due to its purely fanciful and, in a certain way, pedagogical character, it is thought that in its origins the appearance of fables was closely linked to the way in which the superstitions, beliefs and rituals of a town were transmitted.

The fable is particular within other similar genres, such as the parable, because it exclusively uses fantasy entities as characters, and these embody human qualities, such as the ability to speak, write, or have personality.

Fables may be intended to teach the reader, making a contrast between good and evil to indicate the "should be" of man's behavior..

However, although a considerable number of fables possess this quality, it is also possible to find those in which this is not an outstanding characteristic, but rather only seek to represent a particular behavior of human beings, in order to invite them to the reflection.

Main elements in fables

The fable as a literary composition is made up of the following elements, which are present in each of them:


The characters of the fable are the main subjects, and those who carry out the actions within the story. These subjects are of a purely imaginary nature, so they are usually represented by animals, plants, objects, phenomena, creatures created by the author, among others..

Generally, a fable presents a protagonist, who represents exemplary actions, and an antagonist, who offers resistance to exemplary actions, or generates a reaction contrary to them..

The antagonist is the one who generates a contrast that is often necessary to convey the moral or the reflection to the reader..

The author of a fable many times assigns particularities to the characters that he uses as media to represent the ideas that make up the overall message.

Because the characters within a fable are fanciful, the author has a much wider range of characteristics to assign to his characters to use as means of expression..


Actions are all the events that take place throughout the narrative of the fable. Together with the characters, the actions shape the story that is intended to express.

The dual composition of the characters of the fable embodied in protagonists and antagonists gives rise to a corresponding duality in the actions.

The actions of the protagonist are called action, and those of the antagonist are called reaction.

In this way, the genre of the fable is characterized by the fact that its story is made up of a game of action and reaction between both characters, through which the plot unfolds and the message of the composition is revealed..

As fables are short stories, the actions that take place within them are quite limited, which is a very distinctive characteristic of this type of literary composition..

In the same way, the actions within the narration of a fable are always located in the past tense..


The story is the organized and sequential exposition of the actions and events, which in the case of the fable is specially designed to "demonstrate" a message or a moral.

Therefore, it is important that it is outlined in such a way that its message is easily recognized, since otherwise, the story could not be considered as a fable..

The stories of the fable are compositions that have previously been conceptualized, and that are composed of elements that together seek to demonstrate these concepts.

For example, certain animals are generally used to represent various concepts that are intended to be present in the message, such as the fox, which is used to represent cunning; the lion, to associate strength and leadership; and the donkey, to associate the clumsiness.

Due to the nature of the fable, the authors have a great freedom of inventiveness that allows them to create very creative and original stories.

However, the limits of the imagination should not be exceeded to a point where the story is incomprehensible, since it is important that the message can be clearly understood by all audiences, even among children, to whom many of these compositions are directed..

Morals or message

The moral is a distinctive element of the fable because its function is to leave a teaching and invite the reader to reflect, and it does so by demonstrating what an idea, principle or value of a general nature means in practice..

In this way, it tries to give notoriety to matters that demand attention and leave them to the reader's reflection in the light of what has been shown with all the previous elements..

The message of a fable can also be designed to reflect on an issue that deserves reconsideration, rather than to point out a value directly positive..

For example, it may seek to reflect on the recurrence with which human beings use violence to resolve a conflict.

In that case, within the story, what should be reconsidered would not be expressly mentioned, but through the actions and characters, a story would be represented in which a situation is shown that leads the reader to reconsider that matter..


For all the above, many describe the fable as "a story invented to tell the truth", or as a short story in which the action is natural and the agents imaginary, designed to show something that is generally not sufficiently recognized. through a wide variety of resources.

In conclusion, this literary genre can be thought of as a short, simple and direct way to encapsulate messages of great importance, whose usefulness lies in transmitting messages about life and the human being that invite you to reflect on how to lead your life in everyday life with respect to the values ‚Äč‚Äčuniversally considered good or desirable.


  1. BLACKHAM, H. (2013). The fable as literature [online]. Accessed June 29, 2017 on the World Wide Web: books.google.com
  2. DIDO, J. (2009). Fable theory [online]. Consulted on June 29, 2017 on the World Wide Web: library.org.ar.
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica (s.f). fable. Retrieved July 4, 2017 on the World Wide Web: .britannica.com.
  4. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed June 29, 2017 on the World Wide Web: wikipedia.org.

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