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Chapter 35

The Morphology of the Folktale
Vladimir Propp

This chapter represents the beginning of Part 6, "Folktale and Myth." Found just before this chapter, the introduction to this part can help orient you with respect to what you can learn from the upcoming series of chapters.

Folktales belong to the world of mythology because they share many characteristics of myth and, in the view of many who study mythology, both emerge from the unconscious processes always underlying our everyday lives. In addition, both serve the same function for society: passing on cultural norms and values. Vladimir Propp provides a useful framework for comparing stories; and, although he concentrates on Russian tales, you can apply his techniques to those in other traditions as well. Basically, he classifies the characters according to their actions, and he analyzes each tale into a series of plot elements, called functions, to determine the structure of the story.

As you read, note that Propp uses letters of the alphabet to designate plot elements such as departure and trickery. When considering his examples from Russian folktales, think about whether you know stories with similar elements from your reading or from movies you have seen.

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