A little bit of Chesterton for you, on the rules of fable and fairy. I’m a big fan of story types and tropes and forms, in general. I prefer traditional jazz with its clear phrases and swung rhythms to the freeform mayhem of bebop, too. I tend to think that the strict form actually affords more creative freedom, and creates an internal authenticity. Would a gingerbread house be as impressive if it weren’t made out of candy?
The fable and the fairy tale are things utterly distinct. There are many elements of difference; but the plainest is plain enough. There can be no good fable with human beings in it. There can be no good fairy tale without them.
Aesop, or Babrius (or whatever his name was), understood that, for a fable, all the persons must be impersonal. They must be like abstractions in algebra, or like pieces in chess. The lion must always be stronger than the wolf, just as four is always double of two. The fox in a fable must move crooked, as the knight in chess must move crooked. The sheep in a fable must march on, as the pawn in chess must march on. The fable must not allow for the crooked captures of the pawn; it must not allow for what Balzac called “the revolt of a sheep.” The fairy tale…
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