short fictional story that often anthropomorphises non-humans to illustrate a moral lesson

A fable is a type of story which shows something in life or has a meaning to a word. A fable teaches a lesson or suggests a moral from it. A fable starts in the middle of the story, that means, jumps into the main event without detailed introduction of characters. The characters of a fable may be animals, plants and legendary creatures. When animals are used in fables, they think and talk like people, even though they act like animals. For example, in a fable a clay pot might say that it is frightened of being broken.

The stories told by fables are usually very simple. To understand a fable, the reader or listener does not need to know all about the characters, only one important thing. For this reason animals are often used in fables in a way that is easily understood because it is always the same. They keep the same characteristics from story to story.

The most famous fables are those attributed to Aesop (6th century B.C.). Many fables are so well known that their morals have become English sayings.

For example:

  • If a person says "sour grapes!" then they are referring to "The Fox and the Grapes". This fable is about a fox who saw a beautiful bunch of grapes hanging on a vine. He wanted to eat them but they were high up. He tried and tried to jump high enough to pull them down. When he was too tired to jump anymore, he went away saying "I'll bet those grapes were sour!"
So, if a person sees a beautiful thing that they want, but cannot have, sometimes they say "I don't want it, anyway! I'll bet it is really no good!" This way of thinking is called "sour grapes".

"Crying wolf" is another well-known English saying. This comes from "The Boy Who Cried Wolf". This fable is about a boy who was sent to mind the sheep. The boy got lonely while minding the sheep, so he shouted "Wolf! Wolf!" The people came running. The next day, he did it again and they were very angry. On the third day the boy saw a wolf. He cried "Wolf! Wolf!" but no one came and the wolf ate him.

So if a person always makes a great fuss to get attention, or if a person says something bad has happened when it has not, then it is called "crying wolf" and people will stop bothering to pay attention, even when things go really wrong.

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