Definition of Apologue

The term apologue has been derived from a French word having the same spellings. It also seems a derivative of a Latin term, apologus, which means a story or fable.

In literary terms, it is a type of story or a fable having allegorical meanings told through inanimate things or objects speaking to each other, including animals. It seems to have or convey some moral lessons.

Difference between an Apologue and Parable

Interestingly, an apologue is not a fable or a parable and vice versa. A parable could be true in the sense that it has meanings when it happens in the real world. However, an apologue does not seem to happen in the real world on account of the inclusion of animals and other such objects as characters.

Secondly, a parable could touch new heights in the literary realm through the depiction of human emotions through human characters, while an apologue cannot do so due to the involvement of animals or inanimate objects depicting human nature or emotions.

Thirdly, the lessons learned through an apologue are just about everyday morality, while those learned through a parable are everlasting about human nature and existence in the metaphysical realm.

Examples of Apologue 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.

This passage occurs in The Book of Judges. If evaluated from the yardstick of literary evaluation, it shows that although the characters involved are human beings, it tells a story that has a mundane moral in it. It is the killing of the siblings that is unethical in almost all other religions and sects. Therefore, it is an apologue as it involves worldly moral lessons.

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 is one of the best and the most suitable example of an apologue because of the involvement of the animals speaking like human beings and the concluding moral lesson that is mundane in nature. It shows a cock and that is engaged in a monologue about the preciousness of a pearl that he thinks is only reserved for men. It is an irony, a sarcasm as well as a moral lesson. The moral lesson is that a thing must be judged from its use instead of its outer surface or superficiality. This is clearly a mundane moral lesson.

Example #3

FIRE 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.

The fire has been personified in this APOLOGUE of Letitia Elizabeth Landon in a way that FIRE asks the readers where they can find it. As fire expresses its emotions and warns the seekers that they can only seek it at specific occasions, she also warns the seekers that they should rather enter the circle of love instead of associating themselves with fire and spreading it. Therefore, this is a mundane moral lesson that the poet wants to instill in her readers through the personification of FIRE.

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.

Although these are the first verses of the song, Dame Durden, they show many animals doing different acts at the same time. Although these verses do not directly point out the moral theme, it is clear that the animals teach human beings love, social affection, and its expression. In a way, this is a mundane moral lesson.

Functions of Apologue

The function of an apologue is to inform, teach and persuade the readers to adopt certain ethical and pragmatic practices in life that would be useful as well as fruitful. These are certain moral lessons whose adoption makes life easy. Although they do not have any metaphysical importance, these moral lessons facilitate mundane life and prove useful.

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