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Allegory facts for kids

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Serpiente alquimica
Ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail, is a symbol of renewal and everlasting existence. This is a drawing by Theodoros Pelecanos in a 1478 copy of a lost alchemical tract

An allegory is a term for a figure of speech. It is a story or picture with a hidden meaning. The characters in allegories are symbols which represent particular ideas. The story has a figurative meaning, not just a literal one.

Allegory is an example of rhetoric, but an allegory does not have to be a story in language. It may be something to look at, such as a painting or sculpture.

An allegory is like a long metaphor. People have to use their imagination to understand what it is trying to say. A fable or parable is a short allegory with one basic idea (a moral).

Sometimes people say that stories have meanings which the author, in fact, did not intend. For instance, many people have suggested that The Lord of the Rings was an allegory for the World Wars, but, in fact, it was written well before the outbreak of World War II, and J.R.R. Tolkien said that it was not an allegory. In this way people sometimes change the author’s ideas.

Theodoor Rombouts - Les Cinq sens 1
Theodoor Rombouts, Allegory of the five senses

Allegory has been a favourite form in the literature of nearly every nation. It is often used as a way of criticizing things or people where it would not be possible to do so directly.

Allegories still continue to be popular today. Pictures, movies and plays can be allegories. William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies also has allegorical meaning. Star Trek used a great deal of allegory, to look at social conditions and moral values in the present, while telling stories based in the future. Alien races were often a reflection of Earth's own races and countries.

Allegorical artworks include Sandro Botticelli's La Primavera (Allegory of Spring) and Jan Vermeer's The Allegory of Painting.

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