The Difference Between a Fable and a Parable

16 March 2011

Have you ever wondered what makes a fable different from a parable? How about what makes a fable different from a fairy tale, or a folk tale? There is a lot of overlap among these genres, but here’s an overview:


Fables are stories that feature animals, plants, or forces of nature that have been given human qualities.

They teach moral and ethical lessons, like how to behave or how to treat people.

Since the main characters are animals, they are a good way to introduce serious topics to children. Each animal represents a particular human fault or virtue, and what happens in the story is directly related to the animal’s personality.


Parables also teach moral and ethical lessons, but they only have human characters.

They are set in the real world, with realistic problems and results. They often have spiritual aspects.

So what would a story be that features a human interacting with a talking animal? A fable, since parables exclude unrealistic things like chatty foxes.

Fairy Tales and Folk Tales

Fairy Tales include mythical creatures, like elves, fairies, and trolls. They feature enchantments, spells, and magical items. They are meant primarily to amuse.

Folk Tales are traditional stories from a particular culture. They are considered part of the history (imaginary or not) of that culture, and often they seek to explain why something is the way it is (why the seasons change, or why the leopard has spots).

Why Fables?

We chose to tell fables in our first interactive story app rather than another type of tale because:

Fables are short. This means we get to make several smaller stories, with different animals and different interactions.

The main characters are animals. Way more fun than people, and they are cuter!

They impart a moral.  Who says learning can’t be fun and effortless?

When we were younger, we ate up fables like other kids ate cheerios. Since the main characters were animals, they captured our imagination, but the lessons learned were real and lasting. We just thought we were reading awesome animal stories!

Of course, we gobbled down parables, fairy tales, and folk tales in great quantities too!  Now that you know the difference between The Fox and The Grapes and Hansel and Gretel, go out and explore (or help your favorite kid explore) all of them!

Category: Education

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