Sociological/ Historical/ Anthropological Explanations of Folktale events
• The heroine is a young and beautiful girl.
• She has lost or is abandoned by her mother.
• She is mistreated by a stepmother and/or stepsisters
• She is forced to do menial service.
• She is aided by supernatural powers (dead mother, animals, godmother).
• There is a celebration, festival, ball.
• Someone tries to prevent her from going to the celebration.
• She meets a young and eligible prince.
• She is identified (by a lost shoe, ring, something else).
• She marries the prince and lives happily ever after.
• Good triumphs over evil.
Propp’s morphology of the folktale
Here are the 31 elements of stories that Propp identified, plus their symbol,
interpretations and discussion. Note that some of these functions generally occur in
pairs, such as departure and return. They may also be repeated.
Few stories contain all elements, but where they do contain elements, they will very
largely occur in the sequence given here.
Cast of characters:
1. The villain — struggles against the hero.
2. The dispatcher —character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off.
3. The (magical) helper — helps the hero in the quest.
4. The princess or prize— the hero deserves her throughout the story but is unable
to marry her because of an unfair evil, usually because of the villain. the hero's
journey is often ended when he marries the princess, thereby beating the villain.
5. The donor —prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object.
6. The hero or victim/seeker hero — reacts to the donor, weds the princess.
7. False hero — takes credit for the hero’s actions or tries to marry the princess.
1st Sphere: Introduction
Steps 1 to 7 introduces the situation and most of the main characters, setting the scene
for subsequent adventure.
• 1. Absentation: Someone goes missing
• 2. Interdiction: Hero is warned
• 3. Violation of interdiction
• 4. Reconnaissance: Villain seeks something
• 5. Delivery: The villain gains information
• 6. Trickery: Villain attempts to deceive victim
• 7. Complicity: Unwitting helping of the enemy
2nd Sphere: The Body of the story
The main story starts here and extends to the departure of the hero on the main quest.
• 8. Villainy and lack: The need is identified
• 9. Mediation: Hero discovers the lack
• 10. Counteraction: Hero chooses positive action
• 11. Departure: Hero leave on mission
3rd Sphere: The Donor Sequence
In the third sphere, the hero goes in search of a method by which the solution may be
reached, gaining the magical agent from the Donor. Note that this in itself may be a
• 12. Testing: Hero is challenged to prove heroic qualities
• 13. Reaction: Hero responds to test
• 14. Acquisition: Hero gains magical item
• 15. Guidance: Hero reaches destination
• 16. Struggle: Hero and villain do battle
• 17. Branding: Hero is branded
• 18. Victory: Villain is defeated
• 19. Resolution: Initial misfortune or lack is resolved
4th Sphere: The Hero’s return
In the final (and often optional) phase of the storyline, the hero returns home, hopefully
uneventfully and to a hero's welcome, although this may not always be the case.
• 20. Return: Hero sets out for home
• 21. Pursuit: Hero is chased
• 22. Rescue: pursuit ends
• 23. Arrival: Hero arrives unrecognized
• 24. Claim: False hero makes unfounded claims
• 25. Task: Difficult task proposed to the hero
• 26. Solution: Task is resolved
• 27. Recognition: Hero is recognised
• 28. Exposure: False hero is exposed
• 29. Transfiguration: Hero is given a new appearance
• 30. Punishment: Villain is punished
• 31. Wedding: Hero marries and ascends the throne
Important Disney notes:
Disney characteristics that influence the values/ premises of his films:
• He came from a very poor background
• He had a cold, stern and unaffectionate father
• He was spurned by an early sweetheart
• He achieved success by tenacity, cunning, and courage
• The poor are not dumb
• The films are democratic; the kings can be outsmarted and do not always
maintain power. His interpretations always represent the more American values
of capitalism and the rags to riches struggles
• Heroes are out for what they can get for themselves; they do not help the
• Evil parents are softened or taken away
• The films are musical; the music emphasizes the lighthearted, more romantic
quality of the films and allows the characters to reveal innermost thoughts
• The stories always have happy endings; the punishments of the villains are
much less severe
• The hero takes a much more active role
• The heroine is much more helpless and dependent on the prince for rescue
• Forest, animals and objects have magical helper qualities; they sing and dance;
heroines are never really alone
• There is an emphasis on women’s domestication
• Heterosexual happiness and marriage are always the ultimate goals of the story