I. What is an Apologue?
An apologue is a short story or fable which provides a simple moral lesson. Apologues are often told through the use of animal characters with symbolical elements. The word apologue (pronounced ap--uh-lawg, -log) is derived from the Greek phrase apologos, meaning “narrative.”
II. Examples of Apologues
Apologues are prominent stories in children’s bedtime books.
The Story of the Tortoise and the Hare
The tortoise and hare were in a race, and the hare was winning by a large margin. The tortoise, though, wins when the hare becomes cocky and takes a nap. The moral is “Slow and steady wins the race.”
The Lion and the Mouse
The mouse promised to do something for the lion if he did not eat him. Later, the mouse saved him by chewing through ropes of a trap. The moral is “Little friends may become great friends.”
The Ants and the Grasshopper
The ants work hard to save food for winter while the grasshopper plays. When winter comes, the grasshopper begs the ants for food. The moral is “To work today is to eat tomorrow.”
III. The Importance of Using Apologues
Apologues provide a moral lesson in a concise and enjoyable way which appeals to children. They quickly and convincingly convey a moral lesson. Because of this, apologues are considered rhetorical devices that serve to convince and persuade listeners to view a certain problem as having a specific solution or to view certain actions as immoral or moral, dangerous or safe, and intelligent or unintelligent. Apologues are teaching tools for parents and their young readers.
IV. Examples of Apologues in Literature
Apologues are prominent pieces of literature, as Aesop’s fables are still widely read today. More modern versions with the same ideas are still being written today.
Aesop’s “The Dog and the Shadow”
A dog, crossing a bridge over a stream with a piece of flesh in
his mouth, saw his own shadow in the water and took it for that
of another dog, with a piece of meat double his own in size. He
immediately let go of his own, and fiercely attacked the other
dog to get his larger piece from him. He thus lost both: that
which he grasped at in the water, because it was a shadow; and
his own, because the stream swept it away.
The moral was “Grasp at the shadow and lose the substance.”
George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”
I trust that every animal here appreciates the sacrifice that Comrade Napoleon has made in taking this extra labour upon himself. Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure! On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?
In Animal Farm, the story of pigs serves as a moral warning about real-life issues in the Russian Revolution of 1917 with Stalin’s dictatorship.
V. Examples of Apologues in Pop Culture
Apologues can be found all over modern animated children’s movies and shows.
In The Lion King. The lessons:
- Hakuna Matata (which means no worries for the rest of your days): it’s philosophy that focuses on being positive and relaxed
- Respect and listen to your elders
- Love last forever: Simba and Nala still love each other after many years
- The Circle of Life: life and death are a part of life
Oskar the Grouch tricks Cookie Monster by making him use numerous H words to get to the cookie, but his trick turns on him when he gets more H words than he wanted! Moral of the story? Don’t play tricks on your friends if you don’t want tricks to be played on you!
VI. Related Terms
Apologues and fables are synonyms, as apologues are a type of fable, or moral tale. Whereas apologues are specifically confined to stories using animal characters, fables use both animal and human characters. Apologues tend to focus more on the moral, whereas fables focus more on weaving a story.
Similar to fables and apologues, parables are also simple moral tales. Parables are different from fables and apologues in that they do not use animal characters. Rather, they tell a story using human characters, such as the parables of Christianity or Islam.
VII. In Closing
Apologues are a fun and simple way of sharing a moral lesson with a young audience. Most frequently shared with children looking for a simple life lesson to learn, apologues use talking animals, brief yet exciting plots, and basic moral lessons to instruct, convince, and persuade.