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Recommended Reading: Fables

The Tortoise and the Hare. The Ants nod the Grasshopper. Both are examples of famous fables with the inclusion of animals and a moral. Can a fable be so clearly defined? Is the formula simply animals + a number 1,000 words x morals = flash fable? I believe what sets a fable apart from any other story (in this case a fairy tale or Ghost story) is the moral. However, not all fables have to include animals although, as an animal lover, I’m not against their inclusion.

            The following stories are what I consider to be fables and, as you continue preparing your flash fables for Fractured Lit’s Ghost, Fable, and Fractured Fairy tales contest, dare to experiment or re-imagine the definition of a fable. For example, a ghost fable in which the Tortoise and the Hare have a rematch years after their initial race in the spirit world. What if the Pea from The Princess and the Pea is the one who desires to marry the princess or the prince, triggering a whole new story. I wonder what the moral of that Fairy tale fable would be?

  1. Tiger Free Days by DeMisty D. Bellinger

On the surface, this micro describes the reactions of those observing an escaped tiger pacing outside of their office building. What strikes me about Bellinger’s story is the dialogue, what’s said and unsaid, especially in regards to one character’s impatience to be rid of—what she perceives and what society tells her to believe is—a dangerous animal. The narrator’s reaction, their dialogue suggesting a note of irritation, followed by the narrator walking away from the window is what fascinates me about this piece. I’ve returned to this moment time and time again with new revelations about what this moment could mean for the narrator and how it impacts the story. I re-read this micro several times after the murder of George Floyd and again after the murder of Elijah McClain. Both men, like Bellinger’s tiger, were perceived as dangerous because of their appearance. Both men were faced with the impatience of outsiders eager and ready to be rid of them. I find many morals within Bellinger’s story regarding the impact of silence and assumption as well as the resounding impact of the decision to be an observer behind the glass.

Remember: a fable doesn’t have to fit the formula of animals + a number 1,000 words x morals = flash fable. Hoang dives directly into the elements of a classic fairy tale, giving us royalty, a kingdom, and a handsome prince. I was immediately struck by this flash because, instead of the wicked stepmother, we are introduced to two very shallow parents with a “not exactly pretty” princess. Hoang’s narrator tells a quirky fairy tale that leads to a very important lesson for the King and Queen. Sure, we receive an assumed happily ever after however, the author takes this fairy tale fable in a darker direction, leading readers to wonder if the King and Queen learned their lesson along with the audience?

Not all fables have to include animals however, I do love any writer that can incorporate any animals’ natural instincts to heighten the whimsy in an otherwise serious story. Although Prescott’s main characters are Dung Beetles, we are introduced to some very familiar themes including jealousy, love, and all the complicated conflicts that arise when these two warring emotions come together. I won’t spoil the plot of this flash however, Prescott’s piece is a prime example of a classic fable where animals—instincts and all—are utilized to breathe new life into an otherwise natural occurrence in human life, making this flash unique to Prescott and her Dung Beetle stars.

I was introduced to the work of Ji Yun by the wonderful writer, K.C. Mead-Brewer, and I can’t get enough! This fable includes an element that I have yet to explore but consider to be another category of a fable: a legend. Yun’s flash is a story within a story, one the narrator heard from their servant and is now sharing with us. Why? This is how stories originated. We passed them down so they could be shared, transformed, and remembered. Yun’s legendary fable focuses on the need to continue the generational line but also the treatment of women as meat. While many fables resist the urge to state the moral of the story at the end, Yun does which made me question why? After reading his biography, I learned that he rebelled against his role of censoring texts that were against the emperor’s ideals. Perhaps revealing the moral in his legendary fable is another act of rebellion, a moral within a moral.

Further Reading:

  1. Slope of Tigers by Ji Yun. Translated by John Yu Branscum and Yi Izzy Yu
  2. The Listening Tree by Micah Dean Hicks
  3. Don’s Volcano by Lincoln Michel
  4. Tales of the Devil’s Wife: Our Children by Carmen Lau
  5. This is a Story About a Fox by K.B. Carle

K.B. Carle lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is the Associate Editor at Fractured Lit. and Editor at FlashBack Fiction. Her stories have appeared in Passages North, Porcupine Literary, Apiary Magazine, Jellyfish Review, The Offing, Mineral Lit. Mag, and have been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and the Pushcart Prize. She can be found online at kbcarle.com or on Twitter @kbcarle

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