As is a tale, so is life. Advice on life (see:7:24-7:28)

I looked "as is" up, but it doesn't seem to fit in this sentence.

Does the sentence mean life is a tale? What kind of structure is that?

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    As others have remarked, bear in mind that this saying is not in contemporary English syntax but is deliberately modeled on an ancient text in Latin.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 9 at 13:44

2 Answers 2


When you say that you looked up "as is", I guess you found a meaning like this from the Cambridge Dictionary:

in the state that something is in at the present time

In this case, though, "as is" is not intended to be the idiomatic expression defined above: the two words are intended to be taken separately. Often in proverbs and maxims, the word order is adapted to make it sound nicer- sometimes at the expense of clarity. In this case, a clearer way of saying it would be:

as a tale is, so is life

or even

Life is like a tale


Whatever you think of Rowling's writing (let alone her politics), she's never been accused of being a great stylist. This is a clumsy phrase.

However the full sentence makes things a bit clearer:

As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is is what matters.

In other words:

Just like with a story, the important thing about life is not the length but how good it is.

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    Let's keep politics, and even oblique references to it, off this site, shall we?
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jul 9 at 12:05
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    In fact, she says herself that it is a quotation from Seneca. By googling some likely Latin words, I found that the original is Quomodo fabula, sic vita; non quam diu sed quam bene acta sit, refert Commented Jul 9 at 12:11
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    I'm used to thinking that the 'as is... so is...' thing is just a literary way of saying something. Only 'awkward' if you like simple stuff written after 2010. Commented Jul 9 at 12:15
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    And to misquote Woody Allen, "Her potions are swill and the portions are so small."
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 9 at 13:39
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    @KateBunting Exactly, and this style is common in Greek and Roman aphorisms. Cf. Homer's οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν. I don't see anything clumsy with it, and Seneca has his haters, but clumsy he is not.
    – cmw
    Commented Jul 9 at 16:47

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