In this article we look at Morphology of the Folktale, by outlining the thirty-one functions that were proposed by Vladimir Propp for the structural analysis of folktales.
Vladimir Propp (1895-1970) analysed many of Russian fairy tales in order to identify common themes within them. He broke down the fairy tales into thirty-one “functions” that comprised the structure of many of the fairy tales. His study was published as Morphology of the Folktale in 1928
After the publication of Morphology, folklorists around the world realised that there is a unique element to all stories in the sense that they can be replicated. Same or similar stories, with identifiable plots, characters and situation can be found in many parts of the world. Propp’s assertion that hundreds of fairy tales can be reduced to a single structure has made many theorists to accept his hypothesis.
The thirty one-function of V. Propp are:
|1||β||Absentation||One of the members of a family absents himself|
|2||γ||Interdiction||An interdiction is addressed to the hero.|
|3||δ||Violation||The interdiction is violated.|
|4||ε||Reconnaissance||The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance.|
|5||ζ||Delivery||The villain receives information about his|
|6||η||Trickery||The villain attempts to deceive his victim in|
|order to take possession of him or of is|
|7||θ||Complicity||Victim submits to deception and thereby|
|unwittingly helps his enemy.|
|8||A||villainy||The villain causes harm or injury to a member|
|of a family|
|8A||a||Lack||A member of a family lacks something or|
|desires to have something.|
|9||B||Meditation||Misfortune or lack is made known; the hero is|
|approached with a request or command; he is|
|allowed to go or he is dispatched.|
|10||C||Beginning||The hero agrees to or decides upon|
|11||↑||Departure||The hero leaves home.|
|12||D||First function||The hero is tested, interrogated, attacked etc.,|
|of the Donor||which prepares the way for his receiving either a|
|magical agent or a helper.|
|13||E||The hero’s||The hero reacts to the actions of the future|
|14||F||Provision of a||The hero acquires the use of a magical agent.|
|15||G||Guidance||Hero is led to the whereabouts of an object of|
|16||H||Struggle||The hero and the villain join in direct combat|
|17||I||Branding||The hero is branded|
|18||J||Victory||The villain is defeated|
|19||K||Liquidation of||The initial misfortune or lack is liquidated|
|20||↓||Return||The hero returns.|
|21||Pr||Pursuit||The hero is pursued|
|22||Rs||Rescue||Rescue of the hero from pursuit|
|23||o||Unrecognized||Unrecognized, he arrives home or in another|
|24||L||Unfounded||A false hero presents unfounded claims|
|25||M||Difficult task||A difficult task is proposed to the hero|
|26||N||Solution||The task is resolved|
|27||Q||Recognised||The hero is recognised.|
|28||Ex||Exposure||The false hero or villain is exposed|
|29||T||Transfiguration||The hero is given a new appearance|
|30||U||Punishment||The villain is punished|
|31||W||Wedding||The hero is married and ascends the throne|
According to Propp (1968): In order to create a tale artificially, one may take any A, then one of the possible B’s then a C↑, followed by absolutely any D, then an E, the one of the possible F’s, then any G, and so on. In doing this, any elements may be dropped, or repeated three times, or repeated in various forms. If one, then distributes functions according to the dramatis personae of the tale’s supply of by following one’s own taste, these schemes come alive and become tales. Of course, one must also keep motivations, connections, and other auxiliary elements in mind”
Understanding Propp 31 function with a fairy tale, the tale in consideration is ‘RUMPELSTILTSKIN’, a fairytale popularly associated with Germany (Where he is known as Rumpelstilzchen). The tale was collected by the Brothers Grimm in 1812 edition of ‘Children’s and Household Tales’.
Interdiction: King orders the Miller’s daughter to spun gold from the hay else she will die
Violation: She has no idea how to spun gold from hay(Leading to the entry of Villain)
Reconnaissance: Rumpelstiltskin asks why you cry fair maiden.
Delivery: The Miller daughter said “I will die unless I find a way to spin all the straw into gold”
Trickery: Rumpelstiltskin “May be I can help you” what will you give me if I spin gold for you?
Complicity: Millers daughter: I have nothing left to give you.
Rumpelstiltskin: Promise me that you will give me your first born child and I will spin all this straw into the gold.
Millers daughter: Relunctly agreed to give the tiny man what he wanted she had no choice.
Villainy: Rumpelstiltskin reappears “I have come for your first born, your son”, he said with a wicked grin
Meditation: “If you can guess my name in 03 days you can keep your child”
Beginning Counteraction: Queen (Millers Daughter) sends out messengers to find all the possible names they can gather from every corner of the country
Guidance: Late Last night I saw something strange. A tiny man was dancing and chanting
“The child is mine. I’ve won the game. Since Rumpelstiltskin is my name”
Struggle: “Is your name sheepshanks, spindleshanks….
Wrong! Cried the little man gleefully
Victory: Could your name be Rumpelstiltskin. The little man turn purple with rage.
Punishment: Rumpelstiltskin remained in that same place frozen forever in rage.
*References: Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities (ISSN 0975-2935), Vol. IX, No. 2, 2017
Excerpts from: Vladimir Propp: Morphology of the folk tale 1928 Translation 1968, The American Folklore Society and Indiana University