Literary Story Origin Characteristics and Examples

Literary Story

The Literary Story is a short and simple narrative, based on imaginary events, which is edified and disseminated through writing. Its purpose is to entertain the lyrical receiver and, at the same time, carry a message of a moral and ethical nature that can generate change, learning.

The literary tale has a one-sided structure in its structure, a marked element that differentiates it from the novel. The simplicity of its forms and the direct and rapidity of its message make it one of the most approached literary genres. We witness in the literary tale —without underestimating its predecessor, the oral tale— an evolution fostered by the letters.

This fact gave it stillness and inalterability in its structure. By means of writing, a time, a place, and a time are specified that circumscribe the events that happen to him.

This change caused by writing in the conventions of the story opened the doors to hundreds of creators. These lyrical emitters —inspired by previous popular narrative and thematic formulas, or with the need to innovate with new plots— saw the simplicity of this genre as the perfect medium to convey their ideas.


Like any literary work, its origin is linked to the invention of writing. It will always be due to the Mesopotamians and their cuneiform characters having formally provided the signs that allowed the leap from oral to written.

Now, in relation to the first literary stories recorded after the invention of writing, there are some documents found that refer that the initial works in letters with the characteristics of the genre of the story date from 1650 BC. C. and they are Egyptian.

Around the year 182 in ancient Egypt, Henry Westcard – a British globetrotter – obtained a papyrus (the predecessor of paper, invented on the banks of the Nile) with hieratic writings. After being studied and translated, this document found to contain a total of five magical stories referring to the culture of ancient Egypt.

The ancient scroll was called the Westcard Papyrus, in honor of its discoverer. According to what could be seen in the decoding, the stories are narrated in the court of Pharaoh Cheops by his own sons: Baefra, Kefren, Dyedefra and Hardedef. Below is an excerpt from one of the tales, The Story of Imhotep :

Then His Majesty, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Khufu, said:

‘Let an offering of a thousand loaves of bread, a hundred jars of beer, an ox and two balls of incense be made to the king of Upper and Lower Egypt Zoser, justified, and that he be given a cake, a mug of beer, a large portion of meat and a ball of incense to the chief reader priest [Imhotep], for I have seen a token of his knowledge. ‘

Everything was done as His Majesty had ordered ”.

The literary tale in Hispanic culture

As for what concerns the Spanish language, the oldest literary stories of this language are located in the Middle Ages . They came from the hand of the prince of Villena, Don Juan Manuel. He wrote the narrative work Count Lucanor. 

The Book of the examples of Count Lucanor and Patronio, the full name of the work of the Prince of Villena, consists of 51 stories.

These have content that sought to entertain and give examples of moralism to the readers. He compiles classical and Arabic tales and, in certain works, a marked influence of the Japanese narrative is denoted.


Variable theme

By accommodating a greater number of authors —and by being immersed in their particular production contexts—, the literary tale presents a wide variety of themes.

This quality, coupled with the brevity of the genre, has made it worthy of being the richest and easiest option to access when a diversity of content is desired in short periods of time; the best option for eventual readers.

Stable content

By being framed within the letters, its plot becomes invariable, something that does not happen with the oral story, which can be enriched or summarized at any time by the narrator.

This particularity gives it legitimacy and uniqueness, which facilitates its recognition and that of its author in any space.

Known Author

What was practically impossible to adjudicate in stories of oral tradition, in the vast majority of written stories is the common.

This quality allows an identification by the lyrical receiver, who can locate the creator of the text to give more value to the communicative fact.

Individual screening

This characteristic is linked to the previous one. The possibility of presenting their own ideas and getting away from the typical conventions of the themes imposed for years by the oral tradition, has allowed new authors throughout history to make their works known and earn a place in the letters of the world.

Structural and discursive complexity

Although the story is still a brief unit of communication (between one thousand and five thousand words), the freedom that the letters gave it facilitated access to a diversity of communication possibilities, subject to the authors’ abilities.

The structure is enriched along with the discourse, giving greater depth to the message, to the intrinsic moral of each work of this literary genre.

Examples of famous literary stories

Below are fragments of the most representative works of this genre:

Little Red Riding Hood, by the Brothers Grimm

“’Don’t worry, I’ll do everything right,’ said Little Red Riding Hood, and took the things and said goodbye affectionately. Granny lived in the forest, about a kilometer from her house. And no more had Little Red Riding Hood entered the forest, always within the path, when she met a wolf ”.

“The trace of your blood in the snow”, from Twelve Pilgrim Tales by Gabriel García Márquez

“Nena Daconte was almost a girl, with happy bird eyes and molasses skin that still radiated the Caribbean sun in the gloomy January evening, and she was wrapped up to her neck in a mink-nape coat that couldn’t be bought. with a year’s salary from the entire border garrison ”.

“The Black Cat”, by Édgar Alan Poe

“A whimper, muffled and breathy at first, akin to a child’s sobbing, then quickly grew into a long, high, continuous scream, abnormal, inhuman, a howl, a cry of lamentation, half horror, half triumph…”.

“La gallina degollada”, from  Tales of love, madness and death by  Horacio Quiroga

“-Let go! Let me! He yelled, shaking his leg. But it was attracted.

 -Mommy! Ow mom! Mom Dad! She cried imperiously. She still tried to hold onto the edge, but she felt herself ripped away and fell.

“Mom, oh!” Ma …

He couldn’t scream anymore. One of them squeezed her neck, parting the curls as if they were feathers, and the others dragged her on one leg to the kitchen, where that morning the hen had been bled, tightly held, tearing her life second by second.

Mazzini, in the house opposite, thought he heard his daughter’s voice.

 “I think he’s calling you,” he said to Berta.

They listened uneasily but heard no more. However, a moment later they said goodbye, and while Berta was going to put down her hat, Mazzini advanced into the patio.

—Bertita! “.


Since its formal appearance, the literary tale has served as a concise and excellent tool for transmitting ideas and thoughts over time.

In addition, this literary genre has served to motivate hundreds of thousands of people to take up the roles of lyrical issuer (creator) and, not least, lyrical receiver (reader). This has facilitated the intellectual and creative growth of the different cultures of the world.

The literary tale, by allowing unsuspected themes to be addressed in a simple way, has managed to cross social borders, reaching preferential places among the communities of readers around the world.

Unquestionably, the story has also come to represent one of the most didactic literary resources for the initiation of children and young people to written production. Without a doubt, this literary genre is a very valuable pedagogical-literary resource.

We hope that you have understood the concept of literary story.

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