There was a man who lived over a tavern and worked making shoes next door. He never went anywhere else. One day, he noticed bars had been around the two buildings his whole life and he was a prisoner. At that, he sat on the front steps and died of despair…
The above was a parable. A parable is something too short to be a story and too confusing to be a fable. They often involve mice or mustard seeds.
After hearing a fable, you’ve gained knowledge or insight. After hearing a parable, you have a vague unease that you should’ve gained knowledge or insight.
Fables tell you things you should already know… mostly, “be careful, man”… Parables teach you nothing but they are an effective way to pass the time between crack binges.
A fable can be written by anyone over the age of fifty that enjoys hearing himself talk; but, a parable is usually written by an angry or depressed East European, and most times with syphilis.
You can make a ballet out of a fable; but, the best you’ll do with a parable is a nightmare Japanese expressionist modern dance with jellyfish sex workers made of neon lights.
Both Kierkegaard and Kafka took a break from their pre-existentialist, mind-squishingly bleak works to write parables. Despite their efforts, modern-day scholars still cannot find anyone who wants to read them…
One of the most famous biblical parables is that of the prodigal son. The moral is either “God forgives the truly repentant” or “Do whatever you want, just repent on your death bed”. Parables tend to tell you what you want to hear.
The most famous fable is that of the Ant and the Grasshopper. The ants prepare for winter while the grasshopper sings a lot. When winter hits, the grasshopper starves, making the entire family of insects extinct, I suppose. In real life, the ants would gather up food for the winter and some kid would dig up the ant bed, put the ants in a jar and then forget about them until they all died from lack of air and food.
The most famous author of fables was Aesop. He spoke truth to power but through the mouths of anthropomorphic animals. That’s why, when he made a powerful man angry, the man had him thrown off of a cliff so it wasn’t he that killed Aesop, but the ground. Come to think of it, THAT would make a great parable…