There was a ghost who was scared of life. “But you're already dead and the danger is over,” pointed out a skeleton.

“D-d-d-d-don't tempt fate!” shivered the ghost.

“What is it exactly about life that alarms you so much?” the skeleton asked. The ghost turned elap and began…

“One moment!” cried the skeleton. “What is 'elap'?”

“The opposite of pale,” answered the ghost. “Living men and women turn pale when they are scared; so it follows that a frightened ghost will turn elap. That's logical, isn't it?”

The skeleton waved a bony hand. “Fair enough. Continue.”

“I've forgotten what I was going to say…”

“It can't have been important, in that case,” said the skeleton.

The ghost shrugged. “Maybe not.”

“What are you doing tonight?” asked the skeleton.

“Are you hitting on me?”

“Yes, I am. I've fancied you for ages.”

“As it happens, I'm free. What did you have in mind?”

“How about the cinema?”

“I don't know. What are they showing?”

“A romance. It's all about a man and a woman who meet on a train and fall in love and kiss each other with lips. Then they get married and dwell happily ever after in a nice house.”

The ghost recoiled. “No! I hate horror films!”

¶ One dead thing's date is another dead thing's nightmare.

(Image by Chris Harrendence)


A tectonic plate laid a clutch of continents. To keep them safe, it made a nest of fluffy cumulus clouds in the sky and put the unhatched continents inside. But while it was absent, another tectonic plate came along and laid a continent of its own among them.

The first tectonic plate soon returned but it didn't realise anything was amiss and it sat on the new addition without suspecting it wasn't a rightful landmass. Time passed. The false continent was the first to hatch and then it instinctively pushed out the others.

“Feed me! Feed me!” it shrieked blindly.

The foster mother was kept busy collecting the trappings of advanced civilisations to satisfy it and “I'm worn out,” it gasped one day. “You are more demanding than I anticipated.”

The cuckoo continent considered this and said:

“Don't worry. It's time for me to leave the nest anyway. Thanks for all the temples, coffee shops and monorails you adorned me with! I think I'll settle down in the Gulf of Mexico.”

“Shame about your brothers and sisters,” said the tectonic plate. “I still find it strange how you accidentally nudged them out of the nest like that. Poor little Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu!”

“Yes, I guess they are lost continents now.”

¶ Don't leave unhatched continents unattended.


A hot geyseroo was hopping along when a cryptozoologist happened to notice it and shout, “What are you?”

“I'm a geyseroo, the hot kind,” came the reply.

The cryptozoologist leafed through his bestiary and checked the index but he couldn't find any reference to that monster in the book. “You must be extremely rare,” he remarked.

“Yes, that's true,” concurred the hot geyseroo.

“What's that in your pouch?”

“It's a baby xaratan. That's what hot geyseroos do. They keep xaratans in their pouches until they are old enough to be set adrift on the ocean and pretend to be islands. It's our duty.”

“Do you get paid for doing that?” asked the cryptozoologist.

“Nah, it's purely voluntary.”

“But why can't I discern your outline or form a picture of your body in my mind when I close my eyes?”

The hot geyseroo said, “Because the fellow who wrote this fable didn't bother to describe me, that's why.”

“I see. He just left you deliberately vague?”

“Yep. Well, I must be off.”

“Nice to meet you. Take care. Bye!”

As the hot geyseroo bounded away, the xaratan in its pouch looked up and said, “What the heck was that?”

“A cryptozoologist,” answered the hot geyseroo.

The xaratan rustled some pages.

“I can't find one of those listed in my reference book of humans. Are they especially rare, I wonder? I can't even form a coherent picture of his body in my mind when I close my eyes.”

“Don't bother. He was ugly,” said the hot geyseroo.

¶ Make up your own moral for this fable.


A teddy bear was thrown into the sea. It drifted north until it reached the Arctic Ocean. Then the waters froze and it found itself trapped on pack ice near the island of Spitsbergen.

There are such things as Polar Bears, of course, but the teddy wasn't one of those, so it didn't feel comfortable in this environment. Indeed, it was so upset and lonely that it began to cry and one by one the big tears landed on the ice and froze rapidly.

These tears made a shape as they accumulated.

“A wolf! It's a wolf!” cried the teddy.

A passing walrus said, “Why should I be scared of that? For one thing, I don't believe you. You are a liar.”

The teddy was shocked. “Why do you say that?”

“Because you're the toy that cried wolf,” said the walrus.

The teddy scratched its head. “But doesn't that generate a paradox? If you don't believe that I made a wolf with my frozen tears because I'm the toy that cried wolf, then you don't believe what you've already decided to accept as the truth. You're using the fact that something exists to disprove that same something. That's a bit odd.”

But the walrus reacted with rage to this observation.

“Don't ruin my pun, you meanie!”

¶ To ruin the pun of a walrus is no easy tusk, I mean task.

(Image by Chris Harrendence)


A sea serpent fell in love with a rowing boat. “I love you. Do you love me in return?” asked the sea serpent.

“Yes, I think so,” replied the rowing boat.

“Despite the enormous age difference? I mean, I'm a living fossil from the Jurassic period but you were constructed in 1959; and the trees from which you are made aren't older than a hundred years. Are you sure you wouldn't prefer a younger monster?”

The rowing boat dismissed her anxieties.

“Don't be silly,” he said. “It's my design that matters, not my building materials. And that dates back several thousand years at least. So put your mind at rest and let's get smoochy!”

The sea serpent was happy to be formally courted by the rowing boat. Every day he brought her a little gift, usually a human being that she was able to devour in one tasty gulp.

One afternoon the rowing boat turned up with a man dressed in a frock coat and top hat. This man struggled with the oars but he wasn't in control and had to go where the rowing boat wanted. Then the rowing boat cried out, “Look honey! A saint for you!”

The sea serpent surfaced at that point. “A saint?”

“I thought it was time we got properly engaged. That is how much I love you! It occurred to me that a saint's halo could be used as a ring. It's up to you whether you accept or not…”

The sea serpent examined the occupant of the boat.

“It's a very sweet idea,” she said, “and of course I would accept. But I don't think this fellow is a saint. He looks more like an industrialist. And he doesn't have a halo, just a top hat.”

“He's in disguise. His halo is beneath the hat!”

“So it is! How odd! Yum!”

¶ Keep it under your hat by all means, but that won't save you.

(Image by Chris Harrendence)


Two Buddhists started arguing one evening after a session of meditation. The first Buddhist said, “I bet any money that I’ve just reduced my ego by a greater percentage than you!”

“Rubbish!” responded the second Buddhist. “I shrank my own ego by no less than 36% in that session…”

“That’s nothing! I reduced mine by 42%, you sissy!”

They began fighting with fists.

“I bet any money I’m more compassionate than you!”

“Take that! I’m the gentle one!”

“Ouch! Taste my boot!”

“I have. It has a flavour of worldly attachment.”

“You pompous buffoon!”

“Argh! Ugh! Eek!”

¶ This is based on a true story. I really did meet a Buddhist who liked to brag about how much he had reduced his ego that week.


Three friends went into a bar. “I’ll have a glass of brandy,” said the first friend, who was an old fellow.

“Vodka for me,” said the second friend, who was a tomb.

The barman served them efficiently.

Now it was the third friend’s turn. He happened to be an egg. “Give me a stiff shot of rum!” he ordered.

The barman shook his head. “Sorry. You’re underage.”

“What do you mean?” cried the egg.

“You haven’t even hatched yet!” pointed out the barman.

“Look here,” responded the egg, “I’m much older than my two friends. The old fellow is only ninety-eight years old; the tomb dates merely from 450 BC; but I’m the egg of a dinosaur.”

¶ This fable is an eggsample of an ironic situation.


A pig, a waffle, a box, a chump, a resentment, a caterpillar, a gift, a loom, a cuttlefish, an aurora borealis, a duvet, a chair, a sunken continent, a cup that runneth over, an ancient paradox, a snivel, a bone, a toothless cog, a piecrust, a passionate kiss, an aching thigh, a broken window, a phantom, a cat, a bathtub, a chimney clogged with twigs, a forced laugh, a chewed pencil, a beetroot stain, a vague feeling, a hovercraft, an argument, a dog, an example of jargon, a butterfly, a solecism, a grotesque fiend, a coconut shy, a confident papaya and a thousand other things had gathered together in a restaurant for a celebratory meal.

The waiter came over to their table and shook his head.

“It’s off, I’m afraid,” he told them.

“But that’s nonsense! We haven’t ordered yet!”

The waiter smiled and said, “I didn’t mean the food, I meant the moral. There’s no way you’ll make a decent fable out of this situation. There are far too many characters in the story.”

¶ Don’t multiply fictional protagonists beyond necessity.


A stone dog had a chip on its shoulder. “Don’t you want salt and vinegar with that chip?” asked a passing scruff.

“I’ve never had the chance,” said the stone dog.

The scruff replied, “But I have some with me. I can spare a pinch and a splash if you really want them.”

The stone dog blinked at these offerings.

“That’s not the kind of salt and vinegar I like! I only want sea salt and balsamic vinegar. I’m so unhappy!”

“Would you feel better if I gave you a hug?” asked the scruff.

“Maybe, maybe not,” said the stone dog.

“Let me try!” suggested the scruff, and he jumped up next to the stone dog and hugged him with platonic affection. The stone dog was forced to admit that he did in fact feel less sad.

“More fool you!” chortled the scruff as he devoured the chip.

¶ Keep your chips safe from scruffs.

(Image by Adele Whittle)


A clever sage once learned everything there was to know about religion, philosophy and ethics. He said, “I've found one thing that these faiths and systems of thought have in common.”

A traveller who was passing stopped and answered, “That's amazing. You mean you've distilled the wisdom of the ages into a single truth that you can spread among all the nations?”

“Yep,” nodded the sage.

“What is that truth, O guru?” asked the traveller.

“It's called the Golden Rule and it's quite simple really. Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

“Is that all there is to it?” gasped the traveller.

“Indeedy,” confirmed the sage.

“Are you absolutely certain about this?” persisted the traveller.

“I am,” said the sage confidently.

“So if I do unto others as I would have done unto me I'll be the holiest sort of man? Is that really true?”

“Sure. And a blessing on your effort,” said the sage.

The traveller went to a shop and bought a long whip. Then he started lashing everybody on the buttocks. Soon they were all howling, bleeding and jumping into ponds to cool down.

“What are you doing?” screeched the sage.

“I'm merely doing unto others what I would have done unto me,” came the reply. “I'm a masochist, you see…”

¶ That shut the sage up, the smug git.


A robot that lived in the future had an air-car that he liked to fly around his hometown on weekends. He was so successful at his job, which had something to do with magnets, that he was promoted and told to relocate to a bigger office in a bigger city. In fact he was despatched to the capital of the robot world, where the headquarters of his organisation was based. He agreed to do this and moved home.

In the capital city he worked hard and his colleagues were pleased by his performance, but when the week was over and all the employees went home for the weekend, disaster struck! The robot flew his air-car into the side of a building and he was utterly destroyed. He had forgotten that the capital city was constructed from transparent building materials. After all, it was supposed to be a futuristic design!

¶ Robots in glass cities shouldn't fly cars.


There was a hare that lived on a scalp. The scalp belonged to an odd-job man called Tim who kept a fish in a bowl of water. The fish was in the habit of mocking the hare. “Hey, big ears!”

The hare ignored the insults and declined to reply.

“Hey, big ears!” persisted the fish.

But the ears on the side of Tim’s head thought the fish was referring to them. Distraught by the constant taunting, they decided to leave and find another skull to attach themselves to.

Tim was furious when he discovered what had happened. “How can I hear anything without ears?” he cried.

“I’m sure you’ll manage,” answered the fish.

“What did you say?” asked Tim.

The hare had no desire to live on the scalp of a deaf man, so it jumped right off and went hitchhiking instead.

¶ Keep your hare on!


There was once a fable with a moral longer than its text. But it slipped and fell over the edge of a cliff.

¶ This fable is metafictional, in the sense that it refers to itself, partly for simple entertainment purposes, partly in an attempt to question the very nature of fables, which is an ironic function. When walking on cliff tops it’s always best not to wander too close to the edge. Metafiction is feared by traditional literary critics, who deride it and pretend it doesn’t exist. If you look before you leap, make certain that you are looking in the right direction; there’s no point looking south if you are leaping north, unless your vision stretches right around the world.


Two chives that were growing in a pot had an argument. They decided to settle their dispute by fighting each other. Despite the fact they were the smallest species of onion, they managed to do a lot of damage and before long they were both badly injured.

“This is extremely silly,” said the first chive.

“I agree,” said the second chive. “Why don’t we settle the matter some other way? For instance, we should roll this dice. I’ll go first and you can go second. Highest number wins!”

“I believe that ‘die’ is the singular of dice,” said the first chive.

“I stand corrected,” said the second chive sardonically. Then he rolled the die and squinted to see the result.

“It’s a one!” chortled the first chive.

“Now it’s your turn,” said the second chive unhappily.

The first chive also rolled the dice. But the result was the same. “It’s another one! It’s a draw!” he gasped.

The second chive peered closer and frowned.

“Wait a moment! This die has been interfered with… Every face has the number one inscribed on it…”

¶ When two chives go to war, a point is all that they can score.


A windmill that was fixed to its base liked to daydream about changing his career. Because he couldn’t move, his first name was Sessile; because he had two tiny windows for eyes, his middle name was Beady; because he was a windmill his surname was Mill.

“I’m fed up with turning in the wind all day,” he sighed.

A fox and carrot happened to be passing and they asked him, “If that’s the case, what would you rather be?”

“A film director,” came the reply.

The fox was highly amused. “But do you know anything at all about the movie business? It’s a very competitive field. And how would you pay your actors and finance your projects?”

“With bread. I make plenty of it,” said Sessile Beady Mill.

“Fair enough,” conceded the carrot.

¶ It’s acceptable to be corny if the end result is dough.


There was a rock pool that fell in love with a wave. As the sun began to set in the west, he said to her, “You are so beautiful and frothy. Why not come a bit closer and break over me?”

But the wave recoiled at his suggestion. “No thanks!” And she made sure she avoided him until the tide turned and it was time for her to leave the beach behind and return to deeper waters. The rock pool was hurt and called after her, “What’s the problem?”

“You have crabs,” she said without hesitation.

¶ In amorous matters, blunt honesty is the sharpest weapon.


A meteorite skimmed low over a pond. “Duck!” cried a heron. All the birds dived under the water except one, who was grazed painfully by the passing of the fiery space stone. “Why didn’t you warn me?” it shouted at the heron. “But I did!” came the response. “No, you didn’t,” insisted the wounded bird. “I shouted out ‘Duck’,” said the heron. “Yes indeed,” was the retort to this, “but I’m a goose.”

¶ What’s good for the meteorite is good for the comet.


An elephant that was fond of practical jokes dialled a random number on the telephone. “Hello?” said a distant voice at the other end. “This is a trunk call!” chortled the elephant. Then it made a trumpeting noise into the receiver and waited for the response.

But the voice on the other end failed to see the joke.

“Good. I’m glad it’s a trunk call,” it said, “because I’m a tree and thus am in possession of a trunk. Therefore your call must certainly be suitable for me. What do you wish to say?”

The elephant grew annoyed. “You spoiled my jest, even though it was a rather corny one. I am offended by your attitude. I hereby challenge you to a duel! Do you accept or refuse?”

“I accept, of course! I have fought many duels.”

“Tomorrow then!” roared the elephant. “Where shall we meet?”

“I’m not really in the habit of going far. I’m sessile, you see,” answered the tree. “You’ll have to come to me.”

“Fine. I’ll catch the early train,” said the elephant.

“It’s a long way,” said the tree.

“I don’t mind distance. I’m a seasoned traveller.”

“Don’t forget to pack your trunk.”

¶ Corniness is as corniness does; and yet practical jokers will always be superior to the theoretical kind.


There was a man by the name of Gwilym who had the loudest voice in the world. It was so loud that when he spoke foghorns broke or fled. So he decided to become a librarian. Never let it be said that the quiet ones are the strangest of all! Gwilym wore a top hat and carried a pocket watch even though he lived in the 21st Century.

A foghorn that was braver than others of his kind went to pay Gwilym a visit at work on the pretext of borrowing a book on acoustics. When he passed Gwilym’s desk, the foghorn couldn’t resist a gibe, saying, “When you speak I can hear you ten miles away!”

“People have told me that before,” said Gwilym.

“In fact,” corrected the foghorn, “I can hear you fifty miles away.”

“I don’t doubt it,” replied Gwilym.

The foghorn said, “I’m not being perfectly candid. When you speak I can hear you two hundred miles away.”

“Tell me something new,” sighed Gwilym.

The foghorn began to grow exasperated. “Look here, I might as well be honest and say that when you speak in a whisper I can hear you clearly more than one thousand miles away!”

“Yes, yes, that doesn’t surprise me in the least!”

The foghorn made one final attempt to insult the librarian. “You ought to know the full truth of the matter. Even when you just move your lips silently, I can hear you at a distance of 24,000 miles. How about that? I bet nobody ever told you that before?”

“True,” concurred Gwilym, then he leaned forward and added, “but that’s much less impressive; and in fact it suggests you might be hard of hearing. You see, I’m standing at that exact distance from you right now. It’s the circumference of the Earth!”

The foghorn left the library in shame. It forgot to bring the borrowed book back in time and was fined.

¶ Never forget that planets are round.


A lion overheard the Sun and Moon talking about recursion, but because he didn’t understand the meaning of the word he rushed back to his lair to consult a dictionary.

Although he had difficulty turning the pages with his paws, he located the word successfully but the definition confused him. Under ‘Recursion’ were the words: Another name for ‘Recursion’. The lion shook his head at this, shut the book and opened it again in order to look up the new word. But under ‘Recursion’ were the words: Another name for ‘Recursion’. The lion was none the wiser, so it closed the book again, opened it a third time and looked up the word ‘Recursion’. But still it found the words: Another name for ‘Recursion’.

At this point, the lion began to suspect a trick. So he left his lair and went to visit a friend, a giant gastropod who also owned a dictionary. The gastropod was proud of his dictionary, which he claimed had been given to him by a sentient hot-air balloon.

“I nearly got stuck in a loop,” explained the lion, “but I saw the trap in time; and that’s probably why I’m the king of the beasts. Let me use your dictionary, if you have no objection.”

“Certainly. Here you are,” said the gastropod helpfully.

The lion opened the book and looked up the word ‘Recursion’. At first he was pleased to encounter a definition different from the one in his own dictionary, but ultimately it was no less baffling. Under ‘Recursion’ were the words: A lion overheard the Sun and Moon talking about recursion, but because he didn’t understand the meaning of the word he rushed back to his lair to consult a dictionary…

¶ I could go on like this all day, but that would be wrong.


There was a tweed jacket that thought it was the most stylish item of clothing in the wardrobe. “I'm bound to win all the awards this year,” it said to itself. But when the time came to announce the winner of the best-dressed entity, the main prize went to a bird. The tweed jacket got angry and began trying to bully the bird. “The competition was rigged! I am the best!” it squeaked. It got so angry that it burst into flames and turned to ashes that blew away on the winds of oblivion.

¶ Tweed is an unfashionable fabric for good reason.


A philosopher was travelling on a train from Swansea to Tenby. It was a nice journey, but he wasn't happy because his mind was a blank. It was his official job to keep having ideas, but not a single new one had come to him for ages. When he reached his destination he got out of the train with the words, “This is my station.”

As he stood on the platform, he wondered if jumping into the air might help. So he made a pole from the branch of a tree and pole-vaulted over the railway tracks. As he reached the highest point of his immense jump, a new idea finally came to him.

His delight was short lived. On the opposite platform a hippopotamus was waiting for its own train and it happened to be yawning at that exact moment, maybe because it was tired or practicing for a competition. The philosopher landed in its mouth and vanished down its throat and into its stomach, never to be seen again.

¶ Don't get ideas above your station.


A king once ordered a messenger to deliver a sealed envelope to another king. The messenger set off on the dangerous journey and he was never tempted to open the envelope and read the message within. After months of hard travelling, he finally reached the palace of the second king, who opened the envelope in front of him and read the letter with a frown that grew deeper and deeper. Finally he reached for a loaded blunderbuss and pointed it at the messenger’s head.

“Clearly you have received some bad news,” said the messenger, “but I’m not responsible for what has happened, so don’t shoot the messenger! I simply completed my given task.”

Silently, but with a grim expression, the king handed the letter to the messenger, who began sweating as he read it. The message said simply, “Please shoot the messenger who delivers this to you.” The king pulled the trigger of the gun and it went off.

¶ Go on, shoot the messenger!


A hot-air balloon was drifting over a landscape when it happened to gaze down at a peculiar creature sitting on the summit of a hill. “What on earth are you?” the balloon wondered. “I’m the largest gastropod in the world,” came the reply. “What’s a gastropod?” asked the balloon. “I don’t actually know,” admitted the entity. “Why not find out?” pressed the balloon. “Is it important?” the gastropod queried. “Yes,” nodded the balloon, “because I want to invite you to dinner, but until I know what you are I can’t issue a formal invitation. Isn’t that obvious?”

“Maybe it is, but I can’t oblige,” said the gastropod, “because I don’t own a dictionary.” “But I do!” the balloon shouted gleefully. “Look the word up then,” the gastropod suggested. “I’m a balloon and don’t possess hands to turn the pages,” sighed the balloon, “but I can throw it down and you can find the word for both of us!”

The gastropod was just about to dissuade the balloon from taking this course of action when the book came plummeting down, landing nearby. So it looked up the word and recited aloud for the benefit of the balloon, “A mollusc with a large flattened foot.”

But the balloon was rising rapidly. The large dictionary had acted like jettisoned ballast and with less weight to keep its altitude low the balloon was soon in the stratosphere. “Sorry!”

“Maybe next time,” said the gastropod philosophically.

¶ If you wait until the parameters of a potential new friend are rigidly defined you may never get to eat dinner with them.


A gorilla was bored and made a private vow that he would do something that nobody else had ever done before, so he travelled for many months until he came across an aardvark asleep in the shade of a tree. “Sorry for waking you,” said the gorilla, “but I’m wondering if you can do me a favour?” The aardvark responded sleepily, “What’s that, my hairy friend from faraway?” The gorilla explained, “Just stay where you are while I spread some apricot jam on your nose.”

The aardvark sighed. “You didn’t have to wake me up to make that request! You could have just gone ahead and spread the jam when I was sleeping and I probably wouldn’t have noticed.” The gorilla accepted this rebuke meekly and opened the jam jar.

When the nose was completely covered in jam, the gorilla stood back to examine his work. “Are you satisfied?” asked the aardvark. “Yes, it’s not bad,” said the gorilla. “Did you want anything else?” questioned the aardvark. “No, that’s sufficient. I’ll go home now. Nice to meet you and thanks for this opportunity. Goodbye!”

And the gorilla began the journey back home, but when he arrived he found that his female had run off with an ocarina.

¶ Not everything that has never been done before is worth doing.


There was a Möbius Strip who resented the fact he only had one side and one edge. “Fancy being a two-dimensional entity in a three-dimensional universe!” he grumbled. “It’s very unfair.”

He was so upset by his condition that he begged a passing scissors to snip him in half. The scissors wanted to decline, but the Möbius Strip was determined. “Very well, here we go!”

The blades clashed together, severing fibres.

The Möbius Strip straightened himself with pleasure. “Now I’m the same as any length of normal fabric!”

A few weeks later he was visited by a Klein Bottle who said, “How disappointing! I was planning to invite you to join an influential society of unusual shapes and solids, but I see that you are nothing more than a glorified ribbon. What’s more, someone or something has cut your brain in half. So you’re no use at all to me!”

¶ If you have a twisted personality, accept and enjoy it.