Last updated

A moral (from Latin morālis) is a message that is conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a story or event. The moral may be left to the hearer, reader, or viewer to determine for themselves, or may be explicitly encapsulated in a maxim. A moral is a lesson in a story or in real life.


Finding morals

As an example of an explicit maxim, at the end of Aesop's fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, in which the plodding and determined tortoise won a race against the much-faster yet extremely arrogant hare, the stated moral is "slow and steady wins the race". However, other morals can often be taken from the story itself; for instance, that arrogance or overconfidence in one's abilities may lead to failure or the loss of an event, race, or contest.

The use of stock characters is a means of conveying the moral of the story by eliminating complexity of personality and depicting the issues arising in the interplay between the characters, enabling the writer to generate a clear message. With more rounded characters, such as those typically found in Shakespeare's plays, the moral may be more nuanced but no less present, and the writer may point it out in other ways (see, for example, the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet ).


Throughout the history of recorded literature, the majority of fictional writing has served not only to entertain but also to instruct, inform or improve their audiences or readership. In classical drama, for example, the role of the chorus was to comment on the proceedings and draw out a message for the audience to take away with them; while the novels of Charles Dickens are a vehicle for morals regarding the social and economic system of Victorian Britain.

Morals have typically been more obvious in children's literature, sometimes even being introduced with the phrase: "The moral of the story is …". Such explicit techniques have grown increasingly out of fashion in modern storytelling, and are now usually only included for ironic purposes.

Some examples are: "Better to be safe than sorry" (precautionary principle), "The evil deserves no aid", "Be friends with whom you don't like", "Don't judge people by the way they look", "Slow and steady wins the race", "Once started down the dark path, forever will it hold your destiny", and "Your overconfidence is your weakness". [1] Aesop's Fables are the most famous of stories with strong moral conclusions.

Moral tales

Morals were one of the main purposes of literature during 1780–1830, especially in children's literature. Part of the reason for this was the writings of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 18th century, which brought attention to children as an audience for literature. Following in their line of thought, Thomas Day (1748–1789) wrote Sandford and Merton , elevating the outstanding morals of one young boy above the rapscallion nature of another. Maria Edgeworth (1776–1849) was another prominent author of moral tales, writing about how a wise adult can educate a child; one of her more famous stories is "The Purple Jar". During this time, the theme of "a young heroine or hero gaining wisdom and maturity was taken up by many other writers". [2]

The ability of children to derive moral lessons from stories and visual media develops around the age of 9 or 10 years. [3]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fable</span> Short fictional story that anthropomorphises non-humans to illustrate a moral lesson

Fable is a literary genre: a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, legendary creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature that are anthropomorphized, and that illustrates or leads to a particular moral lesson, which may at the end be added explicitly as a concise maxim or saying.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parable</span> Short didactic story which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles

A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse, that illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables have human characters. A parable is a type of metaphorical analogy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aesop's Fables</span> Collection of fables credited to Aesop

Aesop's Fables, or the Aesopica, is a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE. Of diverse origins, the stories associated with his name have descended to modern times through a number of sources and continue to be reinterpreted in different verbal registers and in popular as well as artistic media.

An apologue or apolog is a brief fable or allegorical story with pointed or exaggerated details, meant to serve as a pleasant vehicle for a moral doctrine or to convey a useful lesson without stating it explicitly. Unlike a fable, the moral is more important than the narrative details. As with the parable, the apologue is a tool of rhetorical argument used to convince or persuade.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Tortoise and the Hare</span> Fable by Aesop

"The Tortoise and the Hare" is one of Aesop's Fables and is numbered 226 in the Perry Index. The account of a race between unequal partners has attracted conflicting interpretations. The fable itself is a variant of a common folktale theme in which ingenuity and trickery are employed to overcome a stronger opponent.

Cecil Turtle is a fictional character in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of films. Though he made only three theatrical appearances, Cecil has the unusual distinction in that he is one of the very few characters who was able to outsmart Bugs Bunny, and the only one to do so three times in a row and at the rabbit's own game.

<i>Hare and Tortoise</i>

Hare and Tortoise is a Eurogame designed by David Parlett in 1974 and first published by Intellect Games. In 1978 it was released by Ravensburger in Germany, and received generally positive reviews critically and won the 1979 Spiel des Jahres. It has since sold some 2 million units in at least ten languages. The current editions are published by Gibsons Games in the UK, Ravensburger in Germany and Rio Grande Games in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bedtime story</span> Telling of a story to somebody about to sleep

A bedtime story is a traditional form of storytelling, where a story is told to a child at bedtime to prepare the child for sleep. The bedtime story has long been considered "a definite institution in many families".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Lion and the Mouse</span> Aesops fable

The Lion and the Mouse is one of Aesop's Fables, numbered 150 in the Perry Index. There are also Eastern variants of the story, all of which demonstrate mutual dependence regardless of size or status. In the Renaissance the fable was provided with a sequel condemning social ambition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Dog and Its Reflection</span> Aesop’s fable

The Dog and Its Reflection is one of Aesop's Fables and is numbered 133 in the Perry Index. The Greek language original was retold in Latin and in this way was spread across Europe, teaching the lesson to be contented with what one has and not to relinquish substance for shadow. There also exist Indian variants of the story. The morals at the end of the fable have provided both English and French with proverbs and the story has been applied to a variety of social situations.

<i>The Scorpion and the Frog</i> Modern fable

The Scorpion and the Frog is an animal fable which teaches that vicious people cannot resist hurting others even when it is not in their own interests. This fable seems to have emerged in Russia in the early 20th century.

Traditional stories, or stories about traditions, differ from both fiction and nonfiction in that the importance of transmitting the story's worldview is generally understood to transcend an immediate need to establish its categorization as imaginary or factual. In the academic circles of literature, religion, history, and anthropology, categories of traditional story are important terminology to identify and interpret stories more precisely. Some stories belong in multiple categories and some stories do not fit into any category.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Tortoise and the Birds</span> Fable of probable folk origin

The Tortoise and the Birds is a fable of probable folk origin, early versions of which are found in both India and Greece. There are also African variants. The moral lessons to be learned from these differ and depend on the context in which they are told.

Unstable Fables is a trilogy of computer-animated films produced by The Jim Henson Company in association with Flame Ventures, Prana Studios, and The Weinstein Company. The direct-to-DVD feature-length films are distributed by Genius Products.

An animal tale or beast fable generally consists of a short story or poem in which animals talk. They may exhibit other anthropomorphic qualities as well, such as living in a human-like society. It is a traditional form of allegorical writing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Cock and the Jewel</span> Aesops fable

The Cock and the Jewel is a fable attributed to Aesop and is numbered 503 in the Perry Index. As a trope in literature, the fable is reminiscent of stories used in Zen such as the kōan. It presents, in effect, a riddle on relative values and is capable of different interpretations, depending on the point of view from which it is regarded.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The milkmaid and her pail</span> Folk tale

The Milkmaid and Her Pail is a folktale of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1430 about interrupted daydreams of wealth and fame. Ancient tales of this type exist in the East but Western variants are not found before the Middle Ages. It was only in the 18th century that the story about the daydreaming milkmaid began to be attributed to Aesop, although it was included in none of the main collections, and it does not appear in the Perry Index.

La Fontaines <i>Fables</i> Collection of fables by Jean de La Fontaine

Jean de La Fontaine collected fables from a wide variety of sources, both Western and Eastern, and adapted them into French free verse. They were issued under the general title of Fables in several volumes from 1668 to 1694 and are considered classics of French literature. Humorous, nuanced and ironical, they were originally aimed at adults but then entered the educational system and were required learning for school children.

<i>The Tortoise & The Hare</i>

The Tortoise & The Hare is a 2013 wordless picture book of Aesop's classic fable and is illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. It is about a tortoise and a hare that compete in a foot race with the tortoise surprisingly winning.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Hare and the Hedgehog</span> Well-known German fairy tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm in 1843

The Hare and the Hedgehog or The race between the Hare and the Hedgehog is a Low Saxon fable. It was published 1843 in the 5th edition of Grimms' Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm in Low Saxon and in 1840 in Wilhelm Schröder's Hannoversches Volksblatt under the full title Ein plattdeutsches Volksmärchen. Dat Wettlopen twischen den Hasen un den Swinegel up de lütje Heide bi Buxtehude. Ludwig Bechstein also published it in German in his Deutsches Märchenbuch (1853).


  1. "Aesop's Fables: Online Collection - Selected Fables" . Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  2. Dennis Butts (2006). Jack Zipes (ed.). Children's Literature. New York: Oxford University Press. pp.  93–96. ISBN   0195146565.
  3. Pai, Seeta. "And The Moral Of The Story Is ... Kids Don't Always Understand The Moral". NPR .{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Wiktionary-logo-en-v2.svg The dictionary definition of moral at Wiktionary