Created By: ElementX on January 8, 2011 Last Edited By: ElementX on January 15, 2011

Let Me Tell You A Story

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Arnold Rothstein: There was a man once... I don't recall his name... frequented the billiard parlors downtown. He made a comfortable living wagering whether he could swallow certain objects, billiard balls being a specialty. He'd pick a ball, take it down his gullet to here, then regurgitate it back up. And one evening I decided to challenge this man to a wager... 10,000 in cash for him to do the trick with a billiard ball of my choosing. Now he knew I'd seen him do this a dozen times, so I can only surmise that he thought I was stupid. We laid down the cash and I handed him the cue ball. He swallowed it down. It lodged in his throat and he choked to death on the spot. What I knew and he didn't was that the cue ball was 1/16th of an inch larger than the other balls... just too large to swallow. Do you know what the moral of this tale is, Mr. Yale?
Frankie Yale: Don't eat a cue ball?
Arnold Rothstein: The moral of this story is that if I'd cause a stranger to choke to death for my own amusement, what do you think I'll do to you if you don't tell me who ordered you to kill Colosimo?

Do We Have This One??

Alice and Bob are having a conversation. Alice wants to make a point, but to tell Bob straightfowardly wouldn't have the impact she wants to make. So she decides to tell him a story. The story at first seems somewhat random and unrelated to the matter at hand. However, once the story is finished it becomes clear that there is a moral behind it . If Bob still seems confused about the story's relevance Alice may spell it out for him. Or she may just leave him guessing.

The most common term for these stories are parables, allegorical tales used to illustrate some message. The term often refers to religious parables meant to express spiritual concepts. Of course, it's not limited to that.

Old people are very prone to do this. They have a lot of stories to tell.

The musical version of this is Morality Ballad. See also ...And That Little Girl Was Me.

I will probably change the page quote given that I have seen this all over the place and there should be plenty to choose from. This one is just here to exemplify the trope for now.

Rolling Updates


  • The Parables of Jesus are among the most well known examples. Jesus would often tell stories to convey his messages.
  • Happens a lot in Boardwalk Empire. The page quote is one of many. Also, Margaret tells this to Lucy after she brags that all she has to do is spread her legs to keep Nucky interested:
    Margaret: When I was a girl in Ireland, a raggedy man would come around every spring with a little Bantam rooster. He'd trained it to peck out "The Mountains of Mourne" on a toy piano hung off his chest.
    Lucy: So?
    Margaret: Well... the first year he came, we all of us, the girls in that place, we thought it magical. The second year, we laughed behind our hands at the odd man and his tatters, and the third year we didn't even go, because "The Mountains of Mourne" was all that little rooster could ever do.
    Lucy: So what's the point?
  • In The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is trying to figure out The Joker's motivations. Alfred tells him this:
    Alfred: A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.
    Bruce: Then why steal them?
    Alfred: Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
  • In Training Day, Alonzo's friend Roger decides to tell rookie officer Jake a joke. He tells him about a snail that gets thrown off some guy's porch into the backyard and nearly dies. However, it recovers and after awhile it gains enough strength to crawl again. After about a year, the snail makes it way back on to the porch. The man comes out, looks at and says "What the ****'s your problem!?" Jake laughs until he sees Roger and Alonzo's serious expressions and realize that it isn't a joke at all. Roger tells him that when he figures the joke out, he'll figure the streets out.
    • Also, there is a deleted scene where Alonzo tells Jake of one of his early work experiences involving a black man who was paid by another man named "Spooky" to beat up a doberman he was raising. Alonzo came across the man with his fellow officer, who was completely accepting of it and explained to Alonzo that Spooky was teaching the dog to hate black people.
    Alonzo: I'm saying that to say this. Soon as you think you've seen everything out on these streets, these streets will teach you something twisted.
  • Jolee Bindo is prone to this in the Knights of the Old Republic game.
  • A favorite tool of Sophia's in The Golden Girls. Sometimes suvberted when her story ends up having absolutely no connection to the matter at hand.

Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • January 9, 2011
    Jolee Bindo is prone to this in the Knights Of The Old Republic game.
  • January 9, 2011
    The dictionary term for this is a parable.
  • January 9, 2011
    In The Bible, Jesus did this frequently.

    It's also a favorite tool of Sophia in The Golden Girls. Sometimes suvberted when her story ends up having absolutely no connection to the matter at hand.
  • January 9, 2011
  • January 9, 2011
    Silent Bob's Title Drop speech in Chasing Amy about his relationship with a girl named Amy probably qualifies as this.
  • January 9, 2011
    The Three Musketeers adaptation with Keifer Sutherland, or however you spell his name. "Love? Let me tell you about love."
  • January 9, 2011
    • In the Quantum Leap episode "Jimmy", Sam has leapt into a mentally retarded man in the 1960s, and as he's freaking out in frustration at being treated like an idiot all day, Al interrupts him: "There was this girl named Trudy..." Sam snaps at him that this is no time for another irrelevant, sleazy sex story--but this time, the girl in question was Al's younger sister, who was also mentally retarded.
  • January 9, 2011
    The musical version of this is Morality Ballad.
  • January 9, 2011
    Thought of an example in an Italian mystery novel The Terra Cotta Dog:

    The police officer protagonist is invited to meet with Tano the Greek, a feared gangster (and gayngster) who turns out to be something of a Noble Demon. To explain why he wants to turn himself in, Tano tells this story about a guy who bet someone that he could make a cat eat some very spicy mustard- the method involves Ass Shove-ing it, causing the cat to start licking the mustard because of the pain.

    The point of the story is that Tano is being threatened by a younger generation of gangsters and so turning himself in (and getting a Luxury Prison Suite) is the better option- like with the mustard,turning himself in is a bad option that becomes a good one when a worse option comes along.
  • January 11, 2011
    Hope the quote wont be at the top of the page. Put it in the quotes subpage because it is beyond long.
  • January 11, 2011

  • January 11, 2011
    • In Daughter of the Drow a warrior amused drow mage (who saved him from carnivores and tried to claim as a slave) with a folk-tale about how "old favors are soon forgotten". Then managed to get away and added the phrase to his "farewell" as he ran off.
  • January 11, 2011
    • Spongebob Squarepants: Mr. Krabs' story about spending a dollar on a soda to Spongebob to convince him to let his seahorse go.
    • The Golden Girls: Subverted with Rose's St. Olaf stories. While she tries to make some sort of point, her stories tend to go on a tangent.
  • January 11, 2011
    Changed analogical to allegorical; it seemed like it was the word you were looking for. Apologies if I'm wrong.
  • January 11, 2011
    ^ I meant it. Parables are defined as analogies, although they aren't exactly allegories. I'll change it if it seems awkward though, thanks for the advice.
  • January 14, 2011
    I will probably launch soon, but I would like more examples.
  • January 14, 2011
    Also in The Bible (2 Samuel 12), the prophet Nathan tells a story to call King David to repentance for sleeping with Bathsheba and sending her husband Uriah to his death. In the story, a rich man with many sheep slays a poor man's only lamb to feed a guest.
  • January 15, 2011
    Parodied in The Simpsons episode "The Heartbroke Kid", when Bart's sent to a fat camp, and Tab Spangler, the camp owner, catches him pigging out:
    Tab: Son, I'm gonna tell you a story about a young man who came here and failed. Well, that is the story. I shouldn't call a sentence a story. Anyway, it's you!