Beyond Literary Landscapes—Fables: Origins to Modernity

Beyond Literary Landscapes—Fables: Origins to Modernity

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This’s week’s column brings to a close the three-part series that closely examined folk tales, fairy tales, and everything in-between, with a final focus on fables.  The most well-known fables were written by Aesop, of the eponymous Aesop’s Fables.

In particular, Aesop was “the supposed author of a collection of Greek fables.”  Various attempts have been made throughout history to determine if such a figure did truly exist, with various theories of his identity and various proposed centuries in which he may have lived.

However, it is important to note that fabulists have existed throughout history, across the globe, in addition to many new fabulists available in modern day.  Some modern examples include Ivan Krylov, Helen Oyeyemi, Angela Carter, and George Orwell.


A fable can be defined as a “narrative form, usually featuring animals that behave and speak as human beings, told in order to highlight human follies and weaknesses.”  Many of these types of tales contain a strong moral message or lesson.

In other words, many of these works often “feature anthropomorphized animals and natural elements as main characters.” And the main characteristics of fables include symbolism, anthropomorphization, a sense of humour, and life lessons.

Some examples of Aesop’s Fables include “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” and “The Dog and His Reflection.”

A more modern example can be Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox.


These fables are set throughout Europe, as well as North America.


These works are set from the 1 to 5 century CE, as well as modern day.


These works may be of interest to AU students who would like to learn more about the origins of various morals and lessons, as well as those who would like to learn more about the influence of notable fables on modern day writers.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to Fables are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in this topic may consider enrolling in ENGL 305: Literature for Children, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “introduces the student to children’s literature, its history and development, and its rich variety of forms and techniques.”  (Please note that this course requires several prerequisites, including ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays).  Happy reading!