'Silence - A Fable' by Edgar Allen Poe

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'Eudosin d'orheon korhuphai te kai pharhagges'
'Prhones te kai charhadrhai.'
ALCMAN. (60 (10),646.)

The mountain pinnacles slumber; valleys, crags and caves are silent.

"LISTEN to me," said the Demon as he placed his hand upon my head. "The region of which I speak is a dreary region in Libya, by the borders of the river Zaire. And there is no quiet there, nor silence.
"The waters of the river have a saffron and sickly hue; and they flow not onwards to the sea, but palpitate forever and forever beneath the red eye of the sun with a tumultuous and convulsive motion. For many miles on either side of the river's oozy bed is a pale desert of gigantic water-lilies. They sigh one unto the other in that solitude, and stretch towards the heaven their long and ghastly necks, and nod to and fro their everlasting heads. And there is an indistinct murmur which cometh out from among them like the rushing of subterrene water. And they sigh one unto the other.
"But there is a boundary to their realm--the boundary of the dark, horrible, lofty forest. There, like the waves about the Hebrides, the low underwood is agitated continually. But there is no wind throughout the heaven. And the tall primeval trees rock eternally hither and thither with a crashing and mighty sound. And from their high summits, one by one, drop everlasting dews. And at the roots strange poisonous flowers lie writhing in perturbed slumber. And overhead, with a rustling and loud noise, the gray clouds rush westwardly forever, until they roll, a cataract, over the fiery wall of the horizon. But there is no wind throughout the heaven. And by the shores of the river Zaire there is neither quiet nor silence.
"It was night, and the rain fell; and falling, it was rain, but, having fallen, it was blood. And I stood in the morass among the tall and the rain fell upon my head --and the lilies sighed one unto the other in the solemnity of their desolation.
"And, all at once, the moon arose through the thin ghastly mist, and was crimson in color. And mine eyes fell upon a huge gray rock which stood by the shore of the river, and was lighted by the light of the moon. And the rock was gray, and ghastly, and tall, --and the rock was gray. Upon its front were characters engraven in the stone; and I walked through the morass of water-lilies, until I came close unto the shore, that I might read the characters upon the stone. But I could not decypher them. And I was going back into the morass, when the moon shone with a fuller red, and I turned and looked again upon the rock, and upon the characters;--and the characters were DESOLATION.
"And I looked upwards, and there stood a man upon the summit of the rock; and I hid myself among the water-lilies that I might discover the actions of the man. And the man was tall and stately in form, and was wrapped up from his shoulders to his feet in the toga of old Rome. And the outlines of his figure were indistinct--but his features were the features of a deity; for the mantle of the night, and of the mist, and of the moon, and of the dew, had left uncovered the features of his face. And his brow was lofty with thought, and his eye wild with care; and, in the few furrows upon his cheek I read the fables of sorrow, and weariness, and disgust with mankind, and a longing after solitude.
"And the man sat upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his hand, and looked out upon the desolation. He looked down into the low unquiet shrubbery, and up into the tall primeval trees, and up higher at the rustling heaven, and into the crimson moon. And I lay close within shelter of the lilies, and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned, and he sat upon the rock.
"And the man turned his attention from the heaven, and looked out upon the dreary river Zaire, and upon the yellow ghastly waters, and upon the pale legions of the water-lilies. And the man listened to the sighs of the water-lilies, and to the murmur that came up from among them. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.
"Then I went down into the recesses of the morass, and waded afar in among the wilderness of the lilies, and called unto the hippopotami which dwelt among the fens in the recesses of the morass. And the hippopotami heard my call, and came, with the behemoth, unto the foot of the rock, and roared loudly and fearfully beneath the moon. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.
"Then I cursed the elements with the curse of tumult; and a frightful tempest gathered in the heaven where, before, there had been no wind. And the heaven became livid with the violence of the tempest --and the rain beat upon the head of the man --and the floods of the river came down --and the river was tormented into foam --and the water-lilies shrieked within their beds --and the forest crumbled before the wind --and the thunder rolled --and the lightning fell --and the rock rocked to its foundation. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.
"Then I grew angry and cursed, with the curse of silence, the river, and the lilies, and the wind, and the forest, and the heaven, and the thunder, and the sighs of the water-lilies. And they became accursed, and were still. And the moon ceased to totter up its pathway to heaven --and the thunder died away --and the lightning did not flash --and the clouds hung motionless --and the waters sunk to their level and remained --and the trees ceased to rock --and the water-lilies sighed no more --and the murmur was heard no longer from among them, nor any shadow of sound throughout the vast illimitable desert. And I looked upon the characters of the rock, and they were changed; --and the characters were SILENCE.
"And mine eyes fell upon the countenance of the man, and his countenance was wan with terror. And, hurriedly, he raised his head from his hand, and stood forth upon the rock and listened. But there was no voice throughout the vast illimitable desert, and the characters upon the rock were SILENCE. And the man shuddered, and turned his face away, and fled afar off, in haste, so that I beheld him no more."

Now there are fine tales in the volumes of the Magi --in the iron-bound, melancholy volumes of the Magi. Therein, I say, are glorious histories of the Heaven, and of the Earth, and of the mighty sea --and of the Genii that over-ruled the sea, and the earth, and the lofty heaven. There was much lore too in the sayings which were said by the Sybils; and holy, holy things were heard of old by the dim leaves that trembled around Dodona --but, as Allah liveth, that fable which the Demon told me as he sat by my side in the shadow of the tomb, I hold to be the most wonderful of all! And as the Demon made an end of his story, he fell back within the cavity of the tomb and laughed. And I could not laugh with the Demon, and he cursed me because I could not laugh. And the lynx which dwelleth forever in the tomb, came out therefrom, and lay down at the feet of the Demon, and looked at him steadily in the face.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Silence - A Fable: A Critical Interpretation

Are you a fan of Edgar Allan Poe? Have you read his famous short story, "Silence - A Fable"? If not, you're missing out on one of the most intriguing and thought-provoking works of the great American author's career.

In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will dive deep into the themes, characters, and symbols in "Silence - A Fable" and explore what makes this story so mesmerizing and haunting.


Before we begin our analysis, let us first give a brief background of the story. "Silence - A Fable" was first published in 1838, as part of a collection of short stories titled "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque." Unlike Poe's more famous works, such as "The Raven" and "The Tell-Tale Heart," "Silence" is a lesser-known story that has not received as much attention from literary scholars and readers.

However, this does not make the story any less important or significant. In fact, "Silence - A Fable" is a masterful work that showcases Poe's skill in writing allegories and exploring complex themes.

Plot Summary

The story begins with a narrator recounting a tale he heard from an old man about a king who ruled a kingdom of "peace, prosperity, and happiness." However, the king was haunted by a curse that had been placed on his ancestors, which stated that "when the king should speak, his words would be fatal." In order to avoid this risk, the king took a vow of silence, and no one in his kingdom was allowed to speak in his presence.

The narrator then describes how the king's advisors and ministers tried to find a way to break the curse, but none of their efforts were successful. One day, a young maiden came to the court and claimed that she knew how to break the curse. She said that the king must marry her and then, on the night of their wedding, she would whisper the solution to him.

The king agreed to the maiden's proposal and they were married. That night, the maiden whispered the solution to the king, and he was able to speak without any harm befalling him. However, the maiden then revealed that the solution was actually quite simple and had been known to the kingdom's advisors all along. The curse could only be broken by the king speaking the name of the person who had placed the curse on his ancestors.

The narrator ends the story by reflecting on the irony of the situation, and how the king's vow of silence actually caused more harm than good, as it prevented the curse from being broken for years.


One of the central themes of "Silence - A Fable" is the danger of silence and the importance of communication. The story explores how the king's vow of silence, while intended to protect him, actually isolated him from his subjects and led to his own downfall. By forbidding anyone from speaking in his presence, the king cut himself off from important information and perspectives, and he was unable to effectively govern his kingdom.

This theme is also reflected in the maiden's solution to the curse. She recognizes that the only way to break the curse is through communication - by speaking the name of the person who placed the curse. This emphasizes the importance of speaking up and sharing information, even if it may be uncomfortable or difficult.

Another theme in the story is the power of knowledge and secrets. The king's advisors and ministers were aware of the solution to the curse, but they kept it hidden from the king. This highlights how knowledge can be used as a tool of manipulation and control, and how secrets can be used to maintain power over others.


The characters in "Silence - A Fable" are all archetypal and symbolic, representing different aspects of human nature and society.

The king represents the figure of authority and power. He is isolated and cut off from his subjects, and his vow of silence reflects his fear of losing control. However, this vow ultimately leads to his downfall, as he is unable to effectively govern his kingdom and break the curse.

The maiden represents the figure of knowledge and wisdom. She recognizes the importance of communication and the power of secrets, and she uses this knowledge to break the curse and save the kingdom. However, she also reveals the manipulative nature of knowledge, as she kept the solution to the curse hidden from the king until she achieved her own goals.

The advisors and ministers represent the figure of bureaucracy and the power structures of society. They hold knowledge and information that is critical to the king's rule, but they use this information to maintain their own power and control over the king. They are ultimately revealed to be ineffective and powerless, as they are unable to break the curse themselves.


There are several symbols in "Silence - A Fable" that add depth and complexity to the story.

The curse represents the weight of the past and the sins of previous generations. The king is not responsible for the curse, but he is forced to bear its burden and try to find a way to break it. This emphasizes the theme of how the past can shape and influence the present, and how we must confront and address the mistakes of our ancestors.

The vow of silence represents the fear of losing control and the dangers of isolation. The king's decision to remain silent reflects his fear of speaking and being vulnerable, but it also shows how this fear ultimately leads to his own downfall. This symbolizes how we must be willing to communicate and connect with others in order to effectively navigate the challenges of life.

The maiden's whispered solution represents the power of knowledge and secrets. The fact that the solution was known all along, but kept hidden, highlights how knowledge can be used as a tool of manipulation and control. This symbolizes the importance of transparency and honesty in relationships and society.


In conclusion, "Silence - A Fable" is an intriguing and thought-provoking work by Edgar Allan Poe. Through its exploration of themes such as the danger of silence, the power of communication, and the influence of the past, the story offers a nuanced and complex view of human nature and society.

The characters and symbols in the story add depth and richness, and the allegorical style of writing allows for a wide range of interpretations and analyses. Overall, "Silence - A Fable" is a masterful work that showcases Poe's skill as a writer and his ability to write stories that continue to resonate with readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Silence - A Fable: An Analysis of Edgar Allen Poe's Masterpiece

Edgar Allen Poe is one of the most celebrated writers in the history of literature. His works are known for their dark and mysterious themes, and his unique style of writing has captivated readers for generations. Among his many masterpieces, "Silence - A Fable" stands out as a unique and thought-provoking piece of literature. In this article, we will analyze and explain the story of "Silence - A Fable" in detail.

The story begins with a description of a beautiful garden, where Silence, the protagonist of the story, lives. Silence is a young girl who is known for her beauty and her ability to sing like a nightingale. However, despite her many talents, Silence is unable to speak. She lives a peaceful life in the garden, surrounded by nature and the animals that inhabit it.

One day, a prince visits the garden and is immediately captivated by Silence's beauty. He falls in love with her and asks her to marry him. Silence is overjoyed by the prince's proposal, but she is unable to speak and express her feelings. The prince assumes that Silence is rejecting his proposal and leaves the garden, heartbroken.

Silence is devastated by the prince's departure and decides to leave the garden in search of him. She embarks on a journey through the forest, encountering various obstacles along the way. She meets a group of robbers who try to rob her, but she is able to escape by singing a beautiful song. She also meets a group of hunters who try to capture her, but she is able to evade them by using her wit and cunning.

Finally, Silence reaches the prince's castle, where she is reunited with him. The prince is overjoyed to see her and asks her to marry him once again. This time, Silence is able to express her feelings through her singing, and the prince is moved by her beautiful voice. They get married and live happily ever after.

On the surface, "Silence - A Fable" appears to be a simple love story. However, upon closer analysis, the story reveals a deeper meaning. The story is a commentary on the power of silence and the importance of communication in relationships.

Silence, the protagonist of the story, is unable to speak, which makes it difficult for her to express her feelings. This lack of communication leads to a misunderstanding between her and the prince, which almost ruins their relationship. However, Silence is able to overcome this obstacle by using her other talents, such as her singing and her wit, to communicate with others.

The story also highlights the importance of listening. The prince is so captivated by Silence's beauty that he fails to listen to her and understand her true feelings. It is only when Silence is able to express herself through her singing that the prince is able to understand her and fall in love with her.

Furthermore, the story can be interpreted as a commentary on the power of nature. Silence lives in a beautiful garden, surrounded by nature and the animals that inhabit it. Her connection to nature gives her the strength and resilience to overcome the obstacles she faces on her journey. The story suggests that nature has the power to heal and restore us, and that we should strive to connect with it in order to find peace and happiness.

In conclusion, "Silence - A Fable" is a masterpiece of literature that explores themes of communication, love, and the power of nature. Through the story of Silence, Edgar Allen Poe reminds us of the importance of listening, understanding, and expressing ourselves in our relationships. The story is a timeless classic that continues to captivate readers with its beautiful prose and thought-provoking themes.

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