Cover image for Encyclopedia of fable
Encyclopedia of fable
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, [1998]

Physical Description:
xvi, 451 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN980 .S66 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



Fable is one of the most interesting genres of world literature. From ancient times to the present, fabulists have sought to convey moral points through tales which typically involve animals. This text presents a guide to the subject, covering major works, characters and situations as well as the genre's creators, collectors and illustrators.

Author Notes

Mary Ellen Snodgrass was born on February 29, 1944 in Wlimington, North Carolina. She is an award-winning author of textbooks and general reference works, and a former columnist for the Charlotte Observer. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, she graduated magna cum laude from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Appalachian State University, and holds degrees in English, Latin, psychology, and education of gifted children. She teaches English and Latin at Lenoir Rhyne University. In addition to her membership on the North Carolina Library Board, she serves the N.C. Humanities Commission as a traveling lecturer. She has also held jobs as a freelance writer for the Charlotte Observer along with being a columnist, and book reviewer for them. She has also worked on the Canadian Medical Association Journal, American Guidance Service, American Reference Books Annual and Cliffs Notes along with being a professor of Latin and English, Lenoir Rhyne University, 2008-2010. Her works include Michel Faber and Feminism: The Neo-Gothic Novel, Leslie Marmon Silko, The Civil War Era and Reconstruction: An Encyclopedia of Social, Political, Cultural, and Economic History, and World Food.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

For centuries children and adults have been entertained, enlightened, and instructed by fables and their underlying moral messages. In her fifth contribution to the ABC-CLIO Literary Companion series, Snodgrass explores not just the traditional realm of fable but the "wealth of world literature that belongs in the domain of illustrative wisdom lore." Thus, she also encompasses such areas as cruelty jokes, exemplary tales, pourquoi stories, and storytelling, and she includes animal stories that are not generally considered fables. Of the 68 entries, 33 are biographical treatments of principal fabulists, among them Aesop, Geoffrey Chaucer, Marie de France, and James Thurber. Prominent illustrators of fables are treated in a single article. Offering broader perspective on the history and development of fable and briefer sketches of additional writers, translators, and collectors of fables are a variety of more general articles that focus on fable as a genre and its related forms, historic periods, and the fable heritage of specific civilizations, nationalities, or religious and ethnic groups (e.g., African American, Celtic, Greek, and Oriental). Only a small number of entries treat specific fables or fable collections (for instance, Animal Farm, Panchatantra, and A Thousand and One Nights) and characters or character types (such as Brer Rabbit, Reynard the Fox, and Trickster). Ranging in length from two to thirteen pages, entries are often accompanied by black-and-white illustrations and frequently provide see also references to related articles. All articles conclude with abbreviated citations to sources consulted. Additional features include chronological, author, and title lists of major fables and fable collections and a brief list of films based on fables. Bibliographies of primary and secondary sources cite selected print, audiovisual, and Internet materials. Although the index covers authors, titles, and topics, it unfortunately includes only a small number of the titles of individual fables that are discussed or mentioned in the entries. Thus, such popular fables as "The Hare and the Tortoise" and "The Fox and the Grapes" do not appear in the index, even though these titles are mentioned in various entries, and the former is the subject of a full-page illustration. Like the aforementioned title list, the index follows the questionable practice of alphabetizing foreign-language titles under their initial articles. Of even greater concern are the numerous careless errors, including incorrect page references in the index, misspelled and misused words, inconsistent and incorrect citation of certain titles, and nonsensical statements, that mar this work. Its most serious limitation, however, is its paucity of entries, which results in an overemphasis on biographical and historical material and a deemphasis on individual fables and fable motifs. In a truly encyclopedic work, one would expect to find articles on specific animals in fables (such as the crow, lion, and wolf), on plant fables, and on common fable motifs (such as vanity, greed, social status), as well as entries providing synopses of and commentary on many of the most well known and best-beloved fables. A number of dictionaries of folklore, mythology, and legend cover fable, but this is the first encyclopedia devoted exclusively to the genre. Although it is far from the definitive reference work on fable and suffers from serious flaws, its lengthy articles provide overviews that could be used to supplement the more specific entries pertaining to fable in such standard compilations as Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend (Harper, 1972) and the Facts On File Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend (1988).

Library Journal Review

Snodgrass (Encyclopedia of Southern Literature, LJ 3/1/98) has attempted to "present the genre of fable and its major subgenres." In this encyclopedia's nearly 500 pages, there are only 68 entries, giving some indication of the length of each. Snodgrass covers national and cultural bodies of fable (Babylonian, Hispanic), focal characters (Chanticleer, the trickster), time periods (medieval, 18th century), and authors (Marie de France, Oscar Wilde, Zora Neale Hurston), as well as translators, illustrators, and other related topics. Several appendixes are helpful: time lines of fables and of the movie versions of major works; lists of major authors and their works; and lists of primary and secondary sources. Snodgrass provides source lists and See also references with each entry. She cites numerous web pages which, when checked, proved problematic: they were "not found," had moved or changed addresses and formats, or did not easily provide the information sought; most were text versions of the fables. Despite this minor weakness, the book is well written and readable, and the inclusion of 20th-century authors and topics ensures that fable is viewed as a living genre rather than one whose more moralistic time has passed. Recommended for public and academic libraries.‘Katherine K. Koenig, Ellis Sch., Pittsburgh (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-A thoroughly researched and clearly written handbook. Fables are examined in articles that cover their national, religious, or ethnic origins. In addition, fascinating period entries discuss the tales from the Middle Ages through the 19th century. Authors from Oscar Wilde to Richard Adams are also included. The essay on Joel Chandler Harris, whose much-loved "Uncle Remus" stories have caused such debate, covers his early years of poverty, his friendships with slaves, his Afro-American folklore collections, and his career and later influence in Atlanta. The entries are rarely less than three pages with bibliographies and occasional, well-selected black-and-white reproductions. For those who want more than the facts provided by Alison Jones's Larousse Dictionary of World Folklore (Larousse, 1995), Snodgrass gives critical insight as well. This book is a pleasure to read; even the introduction presents well-digested information in a sort of Cook's Tour of the history of fable.-Mary H. Cole, Polytechnic Preparatory Country Day School, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The 68 entries are arranged in alphabetical order, Aesop to Uncle Remus, and are illustrated in black and white. A reference work for students and faculty, this work provides a good foundation for research. Excerpts scattered throughout the book in their original languages are accompanied by translations. An ample appendix includes alphabetical lists of major authors of fable and fable-based literature and of major sources of fable, and a chronological list of films incorporating fable. The author lists her principal sources and provides an extensive bibliography and an index of adapters, authors, story types, terms, etc. Each article ends with cross-references and a list of sources, including Web sites. Due to the high use of literary terminology and foreign languages, this book is recommended for students of literature at the sophomore level or higher; graduate students or faculty will find it easy to read. D. L. Luce; Faulkner University