A parable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, that illustrates a lesson. It differs from a fable in that fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human characters. It is a type of analogy.
Some scholars of the Canonical gospels and the New Testament apply the term "parable" only to the parables of Jesus, though that is not a common restriction of the term. Parables such as "The Prodigal Son" are central to Jesus' teaching method in both the canonical narratives and the apocrypha.
The word "parable" comes from the Greek "παραβολή" (parabolē), the name given by Greek rhetoricians to any fictive illustration in the form of a brief narrative. Later it came to mean a fictitious narrative, generally referring to something that might naturally occur, by which spiritual and moral matters might be conveyed. A parable is a short tale that illustrates universal truth, one of the simplest of narratives. It sketches a setting, describes an action, and shows the results. It often involves a character facing a moral dilemma, or making a questionable decision and then suffering the consequences. As with a fable, a parable generally relates a single, simple, consistent action, without extraneous detail or distracting circumstances. Examples of parables are Ignacy Krasicki's "Son and Father", "The Farmer", "Litigants" and "The Drunkard".
Many folktales could be viewed as extended parables, and many fairy tales also, except for their magical settings. The prototypical parable differs from the apologue in that it is a realistic story that seems inherently probable and takes place in a familiar setting of life.
Full article ▸