Let’s face it. We remember childhood fables all too well. You may think that it is simple at first, because it is, but it is also a strong tool writers’ can use now and then. The other day I replayed a videogame that used a fable to characterize its protagonist. Now, I don’t mean to spoil any story you may or may never know, but it was powerful. Let me just say that the whole story’s emotions could have been summed up by all the jackdaw’s fables.
The jackdaw fables all depict negative qualities in man: vanity, pride and overconfidence. The bird also loves shiny things which ties in well with the character. Using fables in other stories may seem like a cop out. I mean there surely are more subtler (subtlety is key) ways to show your characters, but here the symbol needs to be revealed slowly. How so? Many people are not aware of the fable of the jackdaw and the eagle and it is never mentioned until the end. The protagonist liked the bird and called his ship, the Jackdaw. So this is a matter of knowledge. People who know the fable would easily see the foreshadowing, but the beauty of this symbol is that it has different meanings and does not have to be applied directly.
Let me put it like this. In the end you may call the protagonist a jackdaw, but you may only be right to a certain extent. Those thoughts of why will linger with you. This is because we easily attach meaning to symbols. What impressed me most was the fact that there are subtle hints at the fables and that this story reminds you of the fables while being a complete story on its own.
Using imagery, both known and personal is a clever way to characterize, period. We use animals in our everyday language. You know the similes.
What are your thoughts on fables and use of imagery? Share if you will.