As I mentioned a couple of times this week here on my blog and elsewhere, this week (March 19 – 25th) is World Folktales and Fables Week. So what is a fable? Or a folktale? And what about other things? Today, I am looking at 13 different types of tables: fables, folktales, and more; kind of like an overview. Of course, there are way more than 13 types of tales but for the purposes of this post, let us just at that many… and maybe a part two sometime in the future can cover some more!
Today’s 13 types include stories and tales that are often spoken together with another item on the list often. Like myths and legends; or folktales and fairytales; or allegories and parables.. and so on. Also, some of them can be classified as part of or similar to another, as in, fables and parables are both some sort of allegories.
Having grown up in India, a land rich in myths and legends, as well as fables and folktales, and more, I have always been fascinated by all of these stories. I tend to avoid reading too many horror stories (two of the types mentioned today) but of course have a couple of favorites of those as well.
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13 Types of Tales: Fables, Folktales, and More
Allegories are stories that use symbolic characters, objects, and events to convey a moral or political message. They often have a deeper meaning that goes beyond the literal interpretation of the story. The OED (Oxford English Dictionary) defines “allegory” as below.
Allegory: a story, picture, or other piece of art that uses symbols to convey a hidden or ulterior meaning, typically a moral or political one.
An allegory is also a literary device where writers employ a “vehicle” to convey the “tenor.” A “tenor” is the hidden message, idea, or concept, while the “vehicle” is the narrative (along with characters and images) that “carries” the messages. One example of a theological allegory is John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”
The movie “Inside Out” uses allegory in its narrative as well as its characters, where Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust are all personifications of Riley’s emotions
So this one is a little different, but hear me out! Anecdotes have the potential of developing into any of the other tales in this list, given time (and in today’s context, social media!)
So what is an anecdote? By definition, an anecdote is a short amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person. People relate anecdotes in social situations to entertain others. These snippet-like stories are typically based on real-life events or experiences, and often involve a punchline or a surprising twist at the end.
Epics are long, narrative poems that tell the story of a hero or group of heroes on a quest or journey. They often feature supernatural or divine elements and convey important cultural or moral values. From Homer’s Odyssey and Beowulf to Valmiki’s Ramayana, the classical literature world is rich in epic stories.
However, the modern world has its share too. One wonderful example is Kate Tempest’s Grand New Ancients. Some other stories that can be classified as epics, because of their long narratives and the focus on the hero’s journey, while not necessarily written in verse, include Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and even Star Wars!
A fable is a short narrative making a moral point, often employing animals with human characteristics. Fables are a kind of allegory, and a rather specific kind, where they are often short and end with the moral at the end o the story. Plus, they use personification and mainly have animals as characters. Consider Aesop’s Fables and Vishnu Sharma’s Panchatantra.
Well, we all know fairy tales! How could we not, right? Very simply, we can say that a fairy tale is a children’s story about magical and imaginary beings and lands. Fanciful in everyway, fairytales transport readers to faraway lands filled with legendary deeds and creatures, princes and princesses, and other magical creatures.
Mainly written with the purpose to entertain and not intended to be moralistic in nature, fairy tales take place ‘in lands far, far away’ and ‘once upon a time’ rather than in actual settings and times, thus making it tales that are not really true, and readers know it.
Folktales are traditional stories passed down orally from generation to generation, and do not really have a single author. They morph and change as they are passed on over time and place. Storytellers adapt them to their own cultures and to current times, and as such, these tales are creations of “the folk” or “folktales!”
Ghost stories are simply what they say they are, stories that feature ghosts or other supernatural beings, often told to scare or entertain. I am sure many of us have either told or heard ghost stories while camping out in the woods, or during power cuts when our world turns dark for a bit!
Horror stories are intended to scare or unsettle the reader. They often feature supernatural or monstrous elements and are intended to evoke a strong emotional response. One definition of the horror story – from literary historian J. A. Cuddon:
“a piece of fiction in prose of variable length… which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing”.
One of my favorite, and maybe rather tame, horror story is Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.
Legends are stories that come from the past and are not verified by history. They may include facts but are not factual themselves, and instead are embellished over time with supernatural or fantastical elements. They often have some cultural or historical significance and one use is to explain mysterious events and weird phenomena.
Some popular legends include that of King Arthur, or the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as well as the story of the archer William Tell.
Myths are stories and beliefs of a particular culture or religion that explain the origins of the world and human behavior. They often feature gods and goddesses, heroes, and monsters, and are a reflection of moral and cultural values of a people. Myths are different from legends in that myths deal with gods, and usually have no historical basis.
Myths from India are of course among my favorite, or most familiar ones, including those of the Hindu Trinity, the Dasha Avataram, and so many countless stories that I grew up listening to and reading as well.
Parables are another kind of allegory, and thus illustrate a moral lesson or religious principle. Like fables (and unlike other allegorical tales), they are short. But unlike fables, they often feature everyday characters and situations, rather than personified animal characters. Some examples include the story of the good Samaritan from the Bible, or Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Tall tales are exaggerated stories that often feature larger-than-life characters and events. They are usually humorous and intended to entertain rather than teach a moral lesson. Some popular tall tales here in the US include that of Paul Bunyan.
These are modern-day folklore stories that are often told as true, but are actually fictional or exaggerated, and they are often cautionary in nature too. Urban legends spread through word of mouth, social media, or other means of communication. “Creepypasta” are one kind of modern folklore referring to horror stories, images, and videos that are shared online
Related Reads For Types of Tales and More
- Sunday Scribblings #139: The Storytelling Magic of Fable Poems
- Toads and Diamonds: Wonderful Storied Connections Around the World
- Sunday Scribblings #97: Fascinating Fairy Tales and Poems With Power
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, hope this post gave you a better idea of the differences (and similarities) between these 13 types of tales at least, and an idea of the sheer number of types of stories too! Which ones do you tend to read more of, or have (un)intentionally read a lot? Your favorite type of tales and what is the specific title among them (like maybe fables are cool for you, and Aesop’s The Fox and the Grapes might be your favorite fable of the lot). As always, I welcome all thoughts and recommendations.
This post goes towards Thursday 13 where each week bloggers get together to post 13 anythings they wish to! Join in on the fun with us.