The difference between folklore and fable

Folklore refers to the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth. No one knows the origins of folklore.

A fable is a parable starring animals instead of humans. This distinction has been lost in popular usage of the term, in which ‘fable’ is sometimes¬†used instead of ‘parable’.

(A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles.)

In a fable, there is not necessarily any obvious moral but there is usually some kind of rough justice.

When it comes to the depiction of animals, folklore and fable are opposites.

Folklore vs Fable

Animals in Folklore

  • talking animals
  • clever animals that have an ambigous or helpful role
  • they may even have private lives and families based on the human model
  • they may co-exist witih human masters/owners/acquaintances

For a related word, which may not immediately strike you as related to ‘fable’, see Fabulism In Children’s Literature.

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