Fables and Allegorical Tales: Something for Everyone
by A. R. Silverberry
Some of the most endearing stories fall in the category of fables, parables, and allegories, perhaps, because they so powerfully convey the deepest ideas and emotions about the human condition. Aesop’s fables, heard in childhood, sink deep into our psyches and shape our actions. As a writer who works slowly—a chapter from one of my novels took twenty-nine drafts!—The Tortoise and the Hare still brings me comfort. It’s okay to go slow. The Boy Who Cried Wolf carries an undeniable ring of truth. Lose the trust of others, and we lose big time.
Fables don’t have to just be for children, and they don’t have to just include animals, though traditionally the fable is defined that way. For example, the director of the film, Kate and Leopold, described the story as a modern fable about love as a leap into the unknown. A number of modern writers have penned fables for adults. Think of Thurber’s Fables For Our Time and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The wonder of these tales is how we absorb their message seemingly through our pores. Little thinking is required; understanding is instantaneous.
While the fable delivers a succinct, clear message, the allegorical novel is subtler, telling the story on two levels: literal and figurative. The reader is in for a treat. She can read the story purely for enjoyment, or she can delve into the story’s deeper meaning. Alice and Wonderland is an example of an allegorical novel. For pure fun, it’s the adventure of a girl entering a strange land by going down a rabbit hole. Beneath the adventure is a story replete with symbols and figures of speech, and scholars have found parallels to politics, Victorian culture, and mathematics, to name a few. We’ll never exhaust what can be found in the book!
I think of my novel, The Stream, as both fable and allegorical novel. It can be read purely as an adventure about survival. Beneath that story runs another story, bound up in the metaphor of a stream. The story raises questions about how one finds meaning in life when things constantly change. It raises questions about how to cope with the devastating blows reality throws at us, how to go on, how to build a life. Like many allegorical novels, the characters of the story are also symbols. The hero, Wend, symbolizes the innocent state we’re all in as we enter the flux of life. The stream itself is both a character and symbol: giver and taker, creator and destroyer.
The great thing about fables and allegories is that you don’t have to work if you don’t want to. You can simply sit back and enjoy the ride, let the characters and plot entertain you, and feel the emotional fulfillment the story promises. But if you want to delve for gems, if you want to think and discover, it’s all there, waiting for your questing mind.
The Stream is a Shelf Unbound Notable Book in Literary Fiction, a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award Finalist, and a da Vinci Eye Finalist.
“Fables and Allegorical Tales” was originally published as a guest post on author Kathie Shoop’s blog on 6/6/14. Reposted with permission.
A. R. Silverberry writes fiction for adults and children. His novel, WYNDANO’S CLOAK, won multiple awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award gold medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. THE STREAM is his second novel. Follow him on his website, Twitter, and Facebook.
A. R. Silverberry will be appearing at Village House of Books on May 2nd at 2:00 pm as part of our California Bookstore Day celebration! Come say hello to A. R. and our other local authors that we will be featuring throughout the day!