Fable. A brief tale, in either prose or verse, with a moral point. Frequently the main characters are animals. Classical Greek (Aesop) and French (J. de La Fontaine) fables often contained satire and were imitated in other countries. In Ukraine fables were frequently used in the 17th century (at the Kyivan Mohyla Academy) to illustrate lectures on poetics and rhetoric. The first Ukrainian author of a collection of fables was Hryhorii Skovoroda, whose Basni Kharkovskie (Kharkiv Fables, 1769–74) contained 30 fables. Written in prose, they display local color and contain humorous aphorisms and proverbs. The narrative is laconic, generally in the form of a dialogue. They are devoted to the defense of a virtuous and useful Christian life, with occasional satire upon human vanity.
Many Ukrainian classicists wrote fables, a genre that easily lent itself to adaptation. Ivan Kotliarevsky is reported to have translated La Fontaine's fables, but these translations have been lost. Pavlo Biletsky-Nosenko wrote many fables between 1812 and 1829, which were first printed in 1871. Petro Hulak-Artemovsky is well known for his fable ‘Pan ta sobaka’ (‘The Master and His Dog,’ 1818), which contains satirical overtones directed against serfdom. Levko Borovykovsky was the author of much weaker fables written before 1836 and published in 1852. The greatest classicist writer of fables was Yevhen Hrebinka, the author of a slim volume of Malorossiiskie prikazki (Little Russian Fables, 1834). Although based on I. Krylov, his fables are considered masterful because of the skillful use of the narrator and of the vernacular language.
In the 1860s the best fables were written by Leonid Hlibov (published in 1872), the most prominent Ukrainian fabulist. He surpassed other writers in the 19th century, including Borys Hrinchenko, Volodymyr Samiilenko, Stepan Rudansky, Ivan Franko, Mykhailo Starytsky, and Ivan Manzhura.
In the Soviet period fables tended to demonstrate social satire and the class struggle. Original, realistic fables with a revolutionary ideology were written by Vasyl Blakytny (under the pseudonym Valer Pronoza). Other prominent fabulists of the 1920s were Serhii Pylypenko and M. Hodovanets. Later Soviet fables were often vehicles for anticapitalist propaganda.
Zerov, M. (ed), Baika i prytcha v ukraïns’kii literaturi XIX–XX v. (Kharkiv–Kyiv 1931)
Maknovets’, L. Baika v ukraïns’kii literaturi XVII–XVIII st. (Kyiv 1963)
Derkach, B. Ukraïns’ka dozhovtneva baika (Kyiv 1966)
Derkach, B. Krylov i rozvytok zhanru baiky v ukraïns’kii dozhovtnevii literaturi (Kyiv 1977)
George Stephen Nestor Luckyj
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]