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brief allegorical narrative, in verse or prose, illustrating a moral thesis or satirizing human beings. The characters of a fable are usually animals who talk and act like people while retaining their animal traits. The oldest known fables are those in the Panchatantra, a collection of fables in Sanskrit, and those attributed to the Greek Aesop, perhaps the most famous of all fabulists. Other important writers of fables include Jean de La Fontaine, whose fables are noted for their sophistication and wit, the Russian poet Ivan Krylov, and the German dramatist and critic Gotthold Lessing, who also wrote a critical essay on the fable. In England the tradition of the fable was continued in the 17th and 18th cent. by John Dryden and John Gay. The use of the fable in the 20th cent. can be seen in James Thurber's Fables for Our Time (1940) and in George Orwell's political allegory, Animal Farm (1945). The American poet Marianne Moore wrote poems quite similar to fables in their use of animals and animal traits to comment on human experience; she also published an excellent translation of The Fables of La Fontaine (1954).


See H. J. Blackham, The Fable as Literature (1985) and bibliography comp. by P. Carnes (1985).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a literary genre; a short tale, usually in verse and allegorical form, that satirically depicts human actions and relationships. The fable is similar to the parable and apologue. In addition to people, the characters in fables are animals, plants, and things. At the beginning or end of a fable there is usually an aphoristic, didactic conclusion (the moral).

The fable is one of the oldest literary genres. In ancient Greece, Aesop (sixth to fifth centuries B.C.) was famous for his fables in prose. In Rome, Phaedrus (first century A.D.) wrote fables. In India the collection of fables Panchatantra dates to the third century. The most outstanding fabulist of modern times was the French poet J. de La Fontaine (17th century).

In Russia the fable developed between the mid-18th and the beginning of the 19th century. It is associated with the names of A. P. Sumarokov (parables), I. I. Khemnitser, A. E. Izmailov, and I. I. Dmitriev, although the first experiments with verse fables had already been made in the 17th century by Simeon Polotskii and in the first half of the 18th century by A. D. Kantemir and V. K. Trediakovskii. In Russian poetry fables were written in free verse that captured the intonation of unconstrained, playful tales. I. A. Krylov’s fables, with their realistic vitality, sober humor, and superb language, marked the flowering of this genre in Russia. In the Ukraine, fables were written by G. Skovoroda, P. P. Gulak-Artemovskii, and L. I. Glebov. During the Soviet period, the fables of Dem’ian Bednyi, S. Mikhajl-kov, F. Krivin, and others became popular.


Potebnia, A. A. Iz lektsii po teorii slovesnosti: Basnia, poslovitsa, pogovorka, 3rd ed. Kharkov, 1930.
Vygotskii, L. Psikhologiia iskusstva. Moscow, 1965. Pages 117–55.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a short moral story, esp one with animals as characters
2. a story or legend about supernatural or mythical characters or events
3. legends or myths collectively
4. Archaic the plot of a play or of an epic or dramatic poem
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
They are only glancingly fabulist and tenuously linked to Ulrich's experiences.
Instead the chosen images were, in the main, those that advanced an impression of the shtetl as populated largely by poor, pious, embattled Jewsan impression aided by cropping and fabulist captioning done by his own hand.
Likewise Jonathan Spence, the British-born historian of China, whose works, as strange and elusive as their subject matter, sometimes read like an offering of the great Argentine fabulist, Jorge Luis Borges.
Her important work as an editor has done much to introduce this tradition to sf authors and fans: Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction (2001), Mojo: Conjure Stories (2003), and So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy (2004) are path-breaking anthologies that have infused the genre with invigorating new strains of energy.
An all-ages play about a fast-talking British fabulist and a one-woman show by a Korean-American actress open on area stages in the coming week.
Fabulist (Riedl 2004) was an architecture for automated story generation and presentation.
He was the mute trainer of gamecocks in Monte Hellman's singular "Cockfighter" (1974) and, as the nomadic fabulist GTO, the only sign of life in Hellman's flat "Two-Lane Blacktop" (1971).
The earliest preferment for the fable came from Plato himself who preferred a fabulist to Homer: "Plato excluded Homer from his Republic and gave Aesop a place of honor, hoping that the young would absorb fables along with their mother's milk ...
2012 is more interesting than the typical doom-laden environmental policy document because Pinchbeck delivers his eco-political message in the form of a syncretic mad masterpiece, a colorful mash-up of the alien-archaeology fabulist Erich Von Daniken, the purveyor of fabricated Amerindian wisdom Carlos Castaneda, the psychedelic theorist Terrence McKenna, and the robed mystics behind the 1987 "Harmonic Convergence," who prophesied a shift in planetary consciousness to a higher level.
His star started falling, however, when the market turned downward and Business Week pointed out he was a fabulist who claimed he was an MIT graduate when he actually had earned a B.A.
Everett zeroes in on the occasional futility of life in his fabulist yarn, "Epigenesis," where noted researcher Alan Turing is speaking to a trout: "It's life, too, you know.