What Is It? Fables & Parables For All Readers

Today I thought I’d take a closer look at the differences between fables and parables and come up with some recommendations for readers of all ages who enjoy a little learning with their leisure.

A fable is: a short story that conveys a moral to the reader, typically with animals as characters.

A parable is: a short story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.

FablesThe Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

The first fable that comes to mind is the story of the hare and the tortoise who race each other. Everyone knows this one, the race seems unfair in the beginning because the hare is so fast, but he becomes smug knowing he’s going to win and takes a break to rest. Meanwhile, the slower tortoise continues to plod along and cruises past for the win. The moral of this fable is: slow and steady wins the race. If you want to teach your young ones this lesson, then check out The Tortoise and the Hare by Gerald Rose or Tortoise Vs Hare the Rematch by Preston Rutt and illustrated by Ben Redlich.

Most iconic of all is the collection of fables collated by the slave and storyteller Aesop in ancient Greece, of course it’s Aesop’s Fables. Check out this hardback edition of Aesop’s Fables illustrated by Ernest Griset, it contains more than 300 stories bound to please.Watership Down by Richard Adams

For YA and adult readers looking for a good fable to read, there’s: The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi HwangCharlotte’s Web by E.B. WhiteWatership Down by Richard Adams and of course Animal Farm by George Orwell.

Recently I read The Pearl by John Steinbeck, which started me off thinking about parables and fables in the first place, and is about greed. Having said that, the first parable that comes to mind for me is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book that has sold millions of copies all around the world, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it a few years ago.

Those looking for religious principles in their reading would do well to check out The Shack by William P. Young, it’s a real life-changing read. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason is a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon based around financial wisdom and how to achieve wealth and financial independence.The Richest Man in Babylon by George-S.-Clason

A parable that’s on my TBR list is A Christmas Carol by none other than Charles Dickens. Even though I already know what the parable is, I still think it’d be nice to read it in the lead up to Christmas this year.

So, what’s your favourite fable or parable? Have any of them changed the way you think about the world? I’d love to know, so tell us in the comments below.

Bah! Humbug!

Are there any words out there that create images of Christmas in quite the same way as “Bah Humbug”? The immortal words of Ebenezer Scrooge, uttered in rebuke of Christmas, have come, for me, to symbolise all that I love about Christmas. Why? Simple because I immediately associate them with watching A Christmas Carol.

I’ve always loved Christmas! And now that I’ve got kids, I love it even more. I love the food, the presents, the tree and decorations, the songs, the fun… and most of all, the company of family and friends. One of the things that my family and I do year after year, is watch Christmas television — anything from the Video Hits Christmas Special to repeats of It’s a Wonderful Life. Undoubtedly, Christmas viewing usually involves at least one of the many versions of A Christmas Carol (with The Muppet Christmas Carol and Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol being my personal favourites).

Despite having seen so many adaptations of A Christmas Carol, I had never read the original novel by Charles Dickens. So this year, I decided to read it as part of my Christmas preparations.

Reading the book was a slightly odd experience. Even though I had never read it before, I was very familiar with the story and so found myself constantly pre-empting things. It felt a bit like re-reading a familiar favourite.

Despite this, Mr Dickens still had a few surprises in store for me. There were a number of occurrences and scenes that I had never seen in any adaptation. Most notably, when Scrooge goes for a wander with the Ghost of Christmas Present. They actually drop in on considerably more people than just Scrooge’s nephew Fred and employee Bob Cratchit. In between these two visits, they also go to see some miners, the people in a lighthouse and the crew aboard a ship, all celebrating Christmas.

Then there is the rather disturbing appearance of a young boy and girl clinging desperately to the Ghost of Christmas Present — “Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish”. They are Ignorance and Want, the children of Man.

Dickens’ turn of phrase is often tediously long, but also wonderfully descriptive. And there is a great sense of humour in his writing, particularly his descriptions of certain characters. A lovely moment is when he comments on how much Bob Cratchet is paid by Scrooge…

Bob had but fifteen bob a-week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name

My absolute favourite description is that of a man Scrooge passes in the street while travelling with the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come…

a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescense on the end of his nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock.

It’s well known that Dickens often used his fiction to push his political and social barrows, and A Christmas Carol in no exception. Its primary message, of course, is that charity and kindness and happiness are so much more important than material wealth. But there are references to prisons and workhouses and other institutions that Dickens had issues with. Mostly they work within the context of the story. But there is one incongruous diatribe about a parliamentary bill to close bakeries on Sundays. It seems completely out of place and I had to do a bit of research to find out what it all meant. Apparently, Dickens was vehemently apposed to this bill, because it disadvantaged the poor, who were generally only able to visit bakeries on a Sunday because they were too busy working the rest of the time.

All up, it was a fascinating and enjoyable read… although, it has not inspired me to go out and read any more Dickens. This is the shortest of his books, yet it still gets a bit waffly in places. So I’m not sure I could deal with one of his more verbose offerings.

Anyone out there read A Christmas Carol? Opinions? And what’s your favourite adaptation?

Anyway… time for me to go and return to the Christmas festivities. More food… and a chance to watch the new Doctor Who Christmas special that TiVo recorded for me. 🙂

Catch ya later,  George

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Merry Christmas

‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Well, actually… No! There is stirring happening. I’ve just been making the egg nog, so definitely lots of stirring. And more to come, as I make the last lot of fudge. And as for mice — my computer mouse is getting a workout today as I get in a last pre-Christmas burst of writing.

Each Christmas, I watch at least one film adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. This time around I ended up reviewing DVDs of two versions — the Muppets version and the new Robert Zemeckis motion-capture, animated one. Feel free to check out my 2-in-1 review. But if you haven’t got the inclination, let me give you a quick summary — the Muppets film is BRILLIANT; the Zemeckis film is CRAP.

Despite having seen many versions of A Christmas Carol over the years, I am sad to report that I have never actually read the book. Each year I think to myself that I really should get a copy and read it. And each year, as the lead up to Christmas gets more and more frantic, I run out of time. But I plan on engaging in a big post-Christmas book buying frenzy during Boomerang’s upcoming 20% off sale, so I have vowed to buy a copy. I figure that if I buy it now and put it on my must-read-soon pile, I may actually get around to it just before next Christmas.

And speaking of A Christmas Carol… I am VERY excited (in a nerdy fanboyish way) about the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas Special. Aside from the fact that the ABC is screening it here in Australia on Boxing Day (mere hours after it’s UK showing), this year’s special is called “A Christmas Carol” and the trailer certainly makes it look like it is, at least in part, based on the Dickens novel. I am intrigued by the idea of a Doctor Who Christmas Carol. Can’t wait!

Now, as Literary Clutter is a bookish blog, I feel I should bring the conversation back to books…

There is one Christmas book that I have read, which I would really like to mention — Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer. I love Falconer’s Olivia picture books, about a family of anthropomorphised pigs, and particularly about the daughter, Olivia. They are filled with a gentle humour and a surprising feel of reality. And if you’ve seen the television series, take note — the books are way better. The series loses the lovely, hand illustrated style of the books, and doesn’t quite get the humour right. My eldest daughter has all of the books. And this year, she’s been able to read Olivia Helps with Christmas to her younger sister. Magic!

Well, that’s it from me for today. As I said, I still have a batch of fudge to make before the extended family begin to arrive this afternoon. So, allow me to raise a figurative glass and wish you all, dear readers, a very merry Christmas.

And don’t forget to tune in next time for an end of year wrap-up.

Catch ya later,  George

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If You Were Lost on a Desert Island…

OMG Lost fans, guess what?!
The final episode of Lost aired over a week ago on TV, and the world – gasp – is still turning! Hard to believe, I know…

Oh, you guys know I’m only playing with you! Don’t you? I jest, I jest. But truth be told, I don’t get what is so great about Lost. Or rather, I didn’t, until recently.

Being the spoiler-lover that I am, I of course Googled the last episode as it was airing in the US and got the lowdown on what happened during, and how everything ‘came full circle’. Whatever that means. Of course, it didn’t make much difference to me – I had no idea who Jack and Kate and all the rest of them were. But while I was searching for reasons to watch the last six seasons of this TV show I knew very little about but which still managed to create a cult (that is, worldwide popular cult) following, I stumbled across an interesting little tidbit about the show. Apparently, aside from all the Sci Fi time-travel shenanigans and psychological madness and murder, Lost is a show which depends on its literary references to release clues to the audience. Clues to what, I hear you fellow ignoramuses ask. Well, only clues to the whole MYSTERY of Lost, gawd! You may as well have asked, ‘what is the meaning of life?’ (I’m just trying to give you a Lost fan’s perspective here, don’t get all offended).
Turns out literary references turn up in a lot of episodes, and they’re all symbolic of something to do with why these people are stranded on the island in the first place [yes, I realise that this post is strangely serendipitous considering Fiona’s most recent post over at The Book Burglar – coincidence, you ask? More like fate (Fiona, no I don’t think you’ll get stranded on a desert island very similar to the one on Lost…just..keep safe!)].

I am especially partial to the Alice in Wonderland reference – apparently white rabbits are a reoccurring theme in Lost (I wonder what it all means?) and the Chronicles of Narnia reference – the DHARMA initiative station, is named the Lamp Post, after the lamp post which marks the passage between two worlds in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Could I have been wrong about the show all along? Is it perhaps, not the models-in-bikinis-and-men-with-six-packs serial I first believed it to be ? Is it in fact, a much more respected serial of models-in-bikinis-and-men-with-six-packs atop a mound of LITERARY GENIUS?
Other examples include (but are not limited to): The Brothers’ Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy and Ulysses by James Joyce.

If these heavyweight classics are being thrown around like children’s discarded playtoys, it tells me there are some SERIOUS readers at the helm of Lost. In turn, I have to question my pooh-poohing of the series to one of my friends, who absolutely loves Lost but, she says emphatically, not JUST for Sawyer.
So I am done with my Lost snobbery. If it encourages the world to read more, I am ALL for it. Just don’t get me started on Rory from Gilmore Girls…*

*Actually, I want to talk about the Gilmore Girls phenomenon next week. So don’t quote me on that last sentence. It was for effect only, people!