Understanding the Apologue

An apologue, derived from a French word with the same spelling and possibly from the Latin term "apologus," refers to a type of story or fable. In literature, it conveys allegorical meanings through inanimate objects, animals, or other non-human entities that speak and interact with each other. Apologues are often used to convey moral lessons.

Distinguishing Apologues from Parables

It's important to note that apologues are distinct from parables:

1. Realism: Apologues typically involve non-human characters, like animals or inanimate objects, which makes them less rooted in reality compared to parables that often feature human characters.

2. Exploration of Emotions: Parables can delve into human emotions and behaviors, providing a deeper exploration of human nature. Apologues, with their non-human characters, lack this depth.

3. Lesson Scope: Apologues generally focus on everyday morality, while parables delve into broader lessons about human existence in the metaphysical realm.

Examples of Apologues in Literature

Example #1

The Book of Judges 9:7-15

He is our brother. 4 And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith, wherewith Abimelechhired vain and light persons, which followed him. And he went unto his father’s house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons,upononestone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself. And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.

In this passage from The Book of Judges, human characters are involved, but the story conveys a mundane moral lesson, making it an apologue.

Example #2

The Cock and the Pearl from Aesop’s Fables

A cock was once strutting up and down the farmyard among the hens when suddenly he espied something shinning amid the straw. ‘Ho! ho!’ quoth he, ‘that’s for me,’ and soon rooted it out from beneath the straw. What did it turn out to be but a Pearl that by some chance had been lost in the yard? ‘You may be a treasure,’ quoth Master Cock, ‘to men that prize you, but for me I would rather have a single barley corn than a peck of pearls.’ Precious things are for those that can prize them.

This classic fable involves animals speaking like humans and imparts a simple moral lesson about judging things by their true value.

Example #3

Excerpt from "APOLOGUE" by Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Seek for me where the war-shots meet,
Where the soldier’s cloak is his winding-sheet;
Seek for me where the lava wave,
Bursts from Etna’s secret cave;
Seek for me where Christmas mirth
Brightens the circle of love round your hearth;
Where meteor-flames glance, where the stars are bright,
Where the beacon flashes at the dead midnight;
Where the lightning scathes the tall oak tree,
If we should sever, there seek for me.

In this poetic apologue, fire is personified and imparts a lesson about seeking love and warmth over destruction.

Example #4

Lyrics of Dame Durden (Chorus)

‘Twas Moll and Bet and Doll and Kit and Dolly to drag her tail,
It was Tom and Dick and Joe and Jack and Humphrey with his flail.
Then Tom kissed Molly and Dick kissed Betty
And Joe kissed Dolly and Jack kissed Kitty
And Humphrey with his flail.

These verses from a song illustrate animals engaging in various activities, subtly teaching human readers about love and social affection.

Functions of Apologues

The primary functions of apologues are to:

1. Inform: Apologues convey moral lessons and provide readers with valuable insights into ethical and practical aspects of life.

2. Teach: They serve as teaching tools, imparting knowledge about how to navigate everyday situations and make ethical choices.

3. Persuade: Apologues encourage readers to adopt certain ethical and pragmatic practices, promoting a better and more fulfilling life.

While these moral lessons may not possess metaphysical significance, they play a vital role in facilitating a meaningful and harmonious existence in the mundane world.

Let's Talk About It

What are some modern examples of apologues that you've come across, either in literature, movies, or other forms of media? How do these stories convey their moral lessons, and do they resonate with you in today's context?

Please share your thoughts and examples in the comments below.

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