A Brief Treatise on Apologue

Apologue is a moral fableOpens in new window or allegoricalOpens in new window story with relation of fictitious events, intended to serve as a vehicle to induce moral behavior and convey vital truths and lessons.

Apologue conceptually involves a relation of truthOpens in new window and fictionOpens in new window; unlike a fable, an apologue is crucial with inducement of moral lessonsOpens in new window than narrativeOpens in new window details.

Ancient Works featuring Apologue

The notable ancient, and classical examples of apologue are that of JothamOpens in new window in the Book of JudgesOpens in new window (9:7-15); “The Belly and its Members,” by the patrician Agrippa Menenius LanatusOpens in new window in the second book of LivyOpens in new window; and perhaps most famous of all, those of AesopOpens in new window.

Contemporary examples of this literary form include George OrwellOpens in new window's Animal FarmOpens in new window and the Br'er RabbitOpens in new window stories derived from African and CherokeeOpens in new window cultures and recorded and synthesized by Joel Chandler HarrisOpens in new window. The term is applied more particularly to a story in which the actors or speakers are either various kinds of animals or inanimate objects.

Differing Details of Apologue From Tts Relatives

An apologue is distinguished from a fableOpens in new window in that there is always some moral sense present in the former, which there need not be in the latter. An apologue is generally dramatic, and has been defined as “a satireOpens in new window in action.”

As with parableOpens in new window, an apologue is a device of rhetorical argument useful in inciting conviction and persuasion. However, apologue differs from parable in many respects; a parable is also an ingenious story drawn from events which pass among mankind, intended to induct moral or spiritual lessons, and is therefore supported by probability in its narration; an apologue on the other hand, may be founded on supposed actions of animals or inanimate things, to which it lends ideas, emotions, and other humane characteristics that exhibits metaphoric truth. AESOP’s fables are a suitable example for this model of writing.

The parable reaches heights to which the apologue cannot aspire, for the points in which animals and nature present analogiesOpens in new window to man are principally those of his lower nature (hunger, desire, pain, fear, etc.), and the lessons taught by the apologue seldom therefore reach beyond prudential morality, as:

  • keep yourself safe;
  • Find ease where you can;
  • Plan for the future;
  • Don't misbehave; or you'll eventually be caught and punished.

whereas the parable aims at representing the relations between man and existence or higher powers, as:

  • Know your role in the universe;
  • Behave well towards all you encounter;
  • Kindness and respect are of higher value than cruelty and slander.

It finds its framework in the world of nature as it actually is, and not in any parodyOpens in new window of it, and it exhibits real and not fanciful analogies. The apologue seizes on that which humans have in common with other creatures, and the parable on that which we have in common with a greater existence. Still, in spite of the difference of moral level, Martin LutherOpens in new window thought so highly of apologues as counselors of virtue that he edited and revised Aesop and wrote a characteristic preface to the volume.

Furthermore, the parable is typically blunt and devoid of subtlety, and requires no interpretation; on the otherhand, the apologue by nature requires some certain level of reflection and thought to construe the whole picture, which demands the audiences’ conscious effort to unravel the whole scenario perspicuously.

Ancient Root of Apologue

The origin of the apologue is extremely ancient and comes from the Middle East and its surrounding area (Persia, Asia Minor, Egypt, etc.), which is the Classical fatherland of everything connected with allegoryOpens in new window, metaphorOpens in new window and imaginationOpens in new window. Veiled truth was often necessary in the Middle East, particularly among the slaves, who dared not reveal their minds too openly. It is noteworthy that the two fathers of apologue in the West were slaves, namely AesopOpens in new window and PhaedrusOpens in new window. La FontaineOpens in new window in France; GayOpens in new window and DodsleyOpens in new window in England; GellertOpens in new window, LessingOpens in new window and HagedornOpens in new window in Germany; Tomas de IriarteOpens in new window in Spain, and Ivan KrylovOpens in new window in Russia, are leading modern writers of apologues.

Further Readings:
Wikipedia | ApologueOpens in new window