Propp- Narrative theories
Propp looked at folk tales to identify the basic narrative elements and came to a conclusion
that all folk tales could be narrowed down to 8 character types and 31 plot elements.
These can be applied to almost any story.
1. The hero
2. The Villain
3. The prize
4. The father
5. The donor
6. The false hero
7. The dispatcher
I think that this theory works well as it covers all the different types of characters, and you
could make any story and your character would fit into these slots. What also makes it
good is the merging of the different types that can occur, which makes characters
more interesting. This theory applies to my story.
In a story the hero is the main character, the protagonist, the one
that has been sent on the adventure or quest and the story is
theirs. The readers will be rooting for the hero to succeed.
In my story Hansel and Gretel, Hansel and Gretel are equally
heroes, both having a main role. I have put both characters
into one character type. In more modern stories like Toy
Story, Woody is the hero and main character. So these
character traits still apply in modern day stories.
The villain is the bad and immoral character in the
story, showing the reader how not to be. The villain is
usually disliked by the reader, and is the to be fought by the
main character. It also shows how good the main character
is in comparison.
In my story I have 2 villains, the evil step mother and the evil
witch, both who hate the main characters. This character
can also be applied to modern stories like Shrek, in this
case the evil character would be the fairy godmother.
The prize typically in traditional folk tales will be women and
princesses, that the heroes are trying to save, and because
they have been saved the heroes prize is their love and
marriage. This character won’t be seen a lot but may be
mentioned a lot. They will usually feature towards the end
In my book I don’t have a prize character but in other stories the
prize would be the princess, like in Toy Story, Woody’s prize is
Bo-peep. In my book the prize is an actual object of money.
The father in the folk tales wasn’t the actual father of the
child, but the person who gave consent for the hero to be with
In my story I have a father character, but this is different to what
it would usually be described as. In my story the father is just the
father of the children, who is being forced into doing things, not
the sign of power like the traditional father. An example of a
father would be from Shrek, who is the king and also the
princesses father. Shrek has to get consent to let him get married
The donor is a character who gives a vital piece of information to
the hero in order for them to continue their quest. This
information or power may not be given out without the hero
completing a task for them. This role may be combined with the
In my story I don’t have a donor but an example of a donor from
a story would be from shrek is the dragon, the dragon needs to
give them a key in order to continue to receive the prize.
The helper is the character that is the side-kick. They are there to
assist the hero, and also there to make the hero look
better, so the side-kick may be clumsy, but have one special
thing that is essential to the story.
In my story either Hansel or Gretel at different times could be
classed as helpers, they mix the role of the hero and the
helper. A classic example of a helper would be Donkey in
Shrek, who is pretty useless to make the hero look better, but
then comes in handy at the right times.
The False Hero
This character is the one that tricks others and is also a villain, as
they will be set up as a good guy then a plot-twist will come
into play and they will be revealed.
In my story I would class the evil witch as a false hero, as she
appears to be saving the children, when really she tricks them
and turns out to be evil. Another good example of a false hero
would be Prince charming In shrek, where he tries to convince
everyone that he is the hero when really he is also a villain.
This is the role where the character features early on in the
story, to send the hero off on their task. In folk tales this will
usually be a family member. They will also usually be
disguised as a false hero or helper.
In my story the dispatcher is the evil step mother, as she is the
one who sends the father out to lose the children in the
woods. In a modern story of shrek, Lord Farquaad is the
dispatcher as he sends shrek out on a task, but he is also a
false hero, because different characteristics can be merged.
31 plot elements
In Propps identification was 31 plot elements that were in all fairytales, but not all the
elements were in one.
In my story there is:
Trickery: This is the villain deceiving the hero, so in my case the evil witch tricked Hansel
and Gretel into thinking she was nice and caring, when really she was going to eat
Guidance: This is where the hero reaches a destination, so in my case this is where Hansel
and Gretel find the witches house.
Punishment: This is where the villain is punished, so in my case this is where Gretel kills the
witch by pushing her in the oven.
Difficult task: This is where the hero is confronted by a difficult task, in my case this would
be Gretel trying to get Hansel out of the cell.
Return: This is where the hero returns from their adventure, in my case this is Hansel and
Gretel leaving the witches house and finding a new home.
I also think this theory works out really well and covers all ground. I think that the less
detailed the story the less elements would apply. But I think it would be very difficult
for a story to use all of these elements. But 5 elements apply to my story.
Narrative structure components-Todorov
Todorov was also analysed narratives to work out that all of
them followed the same paths, the 3 step and the 5 step.
The 3 step: equilibrium (everything in the characters lives are in balance, just day to
day occurrences happening, this isn’t featured in my story) > Disequilibrium (This is
the event that disrupts the characters lives, this could be a big event or a small event, so for
my story this is where the children get taken away to the woods to be left ) > New
equilibrium (this is where the story ends and everything returns normal for the
characters, this is where the heroes in my story end up going to find a new home)
The 5 step:
State of equilibrium > a disruption > a recognition that a disruption has happened > an attempt to
repair the damage that the disruption has caused > a return to the state of equilibrium
Narrative structure components:
Binary opposition-Claude Levi Strauss
Claude Levis Strauss a French theorist invented the idea of binary
opposition, and this is the idea that a story can only have two
opposing sides and the story is based on the conflict between
these two sides, e.g.
Good vs Evil
Women vs Men
Young vs Old
In my story there is a few binary oppositions that could be
applied, the characters being Hansel and Gretel vs the evil
step mother, the father and the witch. Such as, good vs
evil, young vs old and children vs adults.
Types of structures
There are different types of structures,
Open-these don’t reach any sort of conclusion and are open to interpretation of what could
happen. So for a film the ending could be open, ready for another film to follow, or a soap
which keeps on going and always ends in cliff hangers. Books can also have open endings, to
be left as cliff hangers.
Closed-these reach a conclusion, an ending that is definite. Books and films that are not series
tend to have this type of ending.
My book has a closed ending, as it is a children's book so it is clear to the children that the story
has ended and having a open structure may be confusing.
Single strand - This is the structure where the story just has one main thing happening
throughout the whole book. Children and early teenagers may have these kind of books
because it is not too complex and is easy to follow.
Multi-strand – This is where there is more than one story going on at a time, so it may be little
stories that are along side the main one, but then they all add up in the end. This is used in
films and soap operas.
My book is a single strand structure because it is a children’s book and of it had more than one
story going on then it would become too complicated for them to follow.
Types of structure 2
Linear – This is where the story goes in chronological order, each scene follows the next, there is
no skipping through time. It is simple and easy to follow, which makes it popular with film
producers and authors.
Non-linear – This is where a story skips through time, with things like flashbacks and jump
forward with visions. This can be a very effective way of making a film more interesting, and if
done right will not be too complicated.
My story has a linear structure, because of the young children will otherwise will find it too
complicated and become confused.
Realist – This is based on an event that could happen in real life and things that could happen to
anyone. These kind of stories are seen more in books for adults, films, soaps and sitcoms.
Anti-realist – This is the opposite to realist stories. The situations and the place in which they
happen are almost or are impossible, like castles and space. This is also popular in films and
books, especially in genres such as sci-fi and fantasy.
In my story there is a bit of both, realist and anti-realist. The environment and places where the
events happened are very real, like cottages and woods which exist quite readily. But the
story line is anti-realist, the events that actually happened will never be expected to happen
in real life.
Image construction evaluation
The images I have created have been constructed by
using a mixture of photography and illustrations. I
made the backgrounds from the photographs I had
taken, I then edited them by changing the colour
balance, the contrast and brightness. Then I put a
filter on the photos to make it look like it had been
painted, these edits were simple and subtle but
were really effective, and also made the over-all
appearance look more old-fashioned and traditional.
Then I drew the characters which were just line
drawings, no colour so they would contrast against
the background. I think this gives a twist on the
traditional line drawings as these are more cartoon
style to make it more modern and original. I
constructed them together using Photoshop. I did
this by scanning the drawings into the
computer, then I cut them out on Photoshop and
put them on the background. Comparing to the
original traditional style of the illustrations I think
this looks good and the pages look in place and neat.
The final product looks quite professional and
has bee edited
and used as a
Illustration that has
been cut out and put
on the image
The text was originally put on top over the
photographs, but I thought this looked too
messy and it wasn’t clear what the words
said, especially for a children’s book, and
this is very important for it to be easy and
simple for children to read. So then I put
the text in a white square which the text fit
in, but the edges of the box where faded
and the colour of the text and the colour
of the gradient blended and it still wasn’t
100% clear. So I then decided to just make
the bottom of the page completely white.
After this I could make the text size
consistent and the colour of text was clear
and very easy to read. The text always
ended up being at the bottom of the page
on a white background, but I used the
gradient for the white to bled in a little so
it looks more professional. The text is left
aligned so it was easier to read, the font
was a serif, so it looks more traditional, but
also is so the text is easier to
follow, especially for younger children.
Comparing to other children’s books this
kind of anchorage seems to be popular
and works well.
out, text at
on a white
In my story I have used very subtle symbolic
codes, these are to do with colour and moods. The
darker and greyer the colours, the more danger
the characters are in. I have also used
connotations in the characters, the different
characters represent different personality traits.
Hansel and Gretel both portray
bravery, determination and cleverness. The evil
step-mother represents badness and desperation.
The father represents weakness and coward traits
and the evil witch represents evilness and deceit.
There are not many other connotations because of
the lack of characters, I think if I were to do it
again I would make the symbolic codes more
obvious and more frequent. Another colour code
is how the characters are in black and white but
their world is in colour, this shows that the
characters are simplistic and the contrast of the
complicated world that they are facing.
The top two images are at the start
and end of the story so the colours
are lighter to show positivity, and
then the bottom one is at a scarier
part of the story so it is darker and
there is less colour showing negativity
In my story I have mainly mixed groups of adults and
children and genders. I have generally shown the
group of adults to be not very nice, no morals and
evil. The children are the opposite, they are shown in
a good light, to be clever and brave. These
representations are shown in my work by the actions
my characters take, like the mother wanting to get rid
of the children, this is bad and shows the readers that
the mother is not a nice character and that she is a
villain. The difference in the way my story compares
to the original is that I wanted to move away from the
typical, female needing help and being weaker than
males, which is sexism and not acceptable, especially
to be teaching children. So in my story I made Hansel
and Gretel equal in heroic roles, not one being
stronger than the other, and it is Gretel who defeats
the enemy and saves Hansel, so this is a change from killing the villain
the traditional instances.
The evil mother
forcing the father to
do things he
doesn’t want to
male, good and
History and Culture Evaluation
The history of the story of Hansel and Gretel goes
back to folk law, some versions dating back to
the 1300s, in this early version the children
resort to cannibalism, but the story has
changed over time, in the 1700s came in the
idea of the children coming across an edible
house with the witch living in it, then when
the witch is killed the children go back home
to find the evil step mother is also dead, this
metaphorically suggests they are the same
woman. The culture is believed to be Swedish
because of the names and the environment in
which its usually set in. My story does follow
along the lines of the most well know 1700s
rendition, but some detail has been
spared, like the fathers occupation, the
country or place its set in and the witch trying
to eat the children.
The drawings and illustrations of traditional
versions of Hansel and Gretel are line
drawings, coloured or painted in a
distinct, intricate style. Mine are more of a
modern twist, with a more cartoon style mix
but more sophisticated because of the
I think that the more old, gothic style drawings
represent the horrific story a lot more
accurately, giving it a more haunting
feel, because the more friendly, colourful
cartoons avoid the actual subject of
cannibalism and romanticise the grim truth of
My character cartoon style
similar to the more modern
takes on the story.
Old style illustrations and
my illustrations are similar
in background with colour
Production process and Time
I think my product has been put together well, I feel each page fits the theme and they all
match. I also feel that the story is clear and easy to follow through the illustrations. The
technology I’ve used consists of cameras and computers, although I the work on
Photoshop wasn’t complicated, I have still done it well, I think the photography looks
effective especially with the filter to make the photos look like paintings. I think the
most creative thing about the whole product is the idea of mixing media, putting the 2d
images on the 3d photographs, I think it is the most creative because I never seen it
been done previously on other books during my research. I think the least creative thing
of the whole product is the actual illustrations, they are the least creative because of
my limited skills in drawing.
With my time and schedule I found out that the amount of time I thought it would take a
lot longer to create each page than it actually did. I was able to create the whole
product in just the first week of production, this gave me the second week to work out
where the text would go and to fill in little missing details, like the size and accuracy of
the pebbles. This extra time also gave me a chance to create a front page which
completes the whole product with a much more professional feel. Because the product
was finished so quickly I didn’t actually stick exactly to my plan time wise, but I followed
it chronologically in order of which pages to make when.