I came across most of my fairy tales in Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopaedia. I still have a set, all scarlet bindings and gold lettering.
Arthur Mee had chapters of traditional tales: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty...but occasionally instead of a proper story we'd have a section of fables.
As far as I was concerned fables were feeble. The worst thing was that they hardly bothered with characterisation. The second worst thing was that it often wasn't really a story.
Take the story of the golden goose. A goose lays golden eggs:
by L Leslie Brooke
and the fool who owns it kills it to get at the gold inside her and ends up...
...with a dead goose.
That's not a story, that's just something that, well, happened. For it to be a story we have to care.
Now, the proof that I'm wrong lies in the inconvenient fact that Aesop, who wrote down the fable of the golden goose more than two thousand years ago, is still read nowadays. And is, in fact, featuring in this blog.
This may make some clever literary people curl their lips, but I think it's because the fable of the golden goose is true. True in a way, in any case. Perhaps a goose has never actually laid a golden egg; but if one did, then we can be sure that sooner or later some fool would kill the poor thing to get at the gold inside.
And the moral of that story is...
...hm. I think I'd better stop this post at once before I probe about too much and kill off something valuable.
Word To Use Today: fable. This word comes to us from the Latin word fābula, which means story, and before that from fārī, to speak.