Vladimir Propp was born on April 17th 1895 in
St. Petersburg to a German family. He attended St.
Petersburg University (1913–1918) majoring in Russian
and German philosophy. Upon graduation he taught
Russian and German at a secondary school and then
became a college teacher of German.
His Morphology of the Folktale was published in Russian
in 1928. Although it represented a breakthrough in both
folkloristics andmorphology and influenced Claude Levi
Strauss and Roland Barthes, it was generally unnoticed
in the West until it was translated in the 1950s. His
character types are used in media education and can be
applied to almost any story, be it in literature, theatre,
film, television series, games, etc.
In 1932, Propp became a member of Leningrad
University (formerly St. Petersburg University) faculty.
After 1938, he shifted the focus of his research from
linguistics to folklore. He chaired the Department of
Folklore until it became part of the Department of
Russian Literature. Propp remained a faculty member
until his death in 1970.
Vladimir Propp extended the Russian Formalist approach
to the study of narrative structure. In the Formalist
approach, sentence structures were broken down into
analyzable elements, or morphemes, and Propp used
this method by analogy to analyze Russian fairy tales. By
breaking down a large number of Russian folk tales into
their smallest narrative units, or narratemes, Propp was
able to arrive at a typology of narrative structures.
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An interdiction is addressed to the hero (‘don’t go
there’, ‘don’t do this’). The hero is warned against
some action (given an ‘interdiction’).
“Aamir” movie is full of
interdiction. The hero is
always warned against given
interdictions. The warnings
addressed by phone.
A member of a family leaves the security of the
home environment. This may be the hero or some
other member of the family that the hero will later
need to rescue. This division of the cohesive family
injects initial tension into the story line. The hero
may also be introduced here, often being shown as
an ordinary person.
In Ramayana, Ram, Sita and Lakshman left the royal palace and
stayed in forest for fourteen years.
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‘Saving Private Ryan’ is a film
which shows that a group of
US soldiers go behind enemy to
retrieve a paratrooper whose
brothers have been killed in action.
The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance
(either villain tries to find the children/jewels
etc. Or intended victim questions the villain). The
villain (often in disguise) makes an active attempt
at seeking information, for example searching for
something valuable or trying to actively capture
someone. They may speak with a member of the
family who innocently divulges information. They
may also seek to meet the hero, perhaps knowing
already the hero is special in some way.
A documentary film, ‘The fight for the sky’ shows the violation of
interdiction activities of American fighter escort pilots during bombing
raids over Germany.
The interdiction is violated (villain enters the tale).
This generally proves to be a bad move and the
villain enters the story, although not necessarily
confronting the hero. Perhaps they are just a lurking
presence or perhaps they attack the family whilst
the hero is away.
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‘Oldboy’ is a Korean film
narrating delivery. The film shows
that after being kidnapped and
imprisoned for 15 years, Oh Dae
Su is released, only to find that
he must find his captor in 5 days.
The villain attempts to deceive the victim to take
possession of victim or victim’s belongings (trickery;
villain disguised, tries to win confidence of victim).
The villain now presses further, often using the
information gained in seeking to deceive the hero or
victim in some way, perhaps appearing in disguise.
This may include capture of the victim or persuading
them that the villain is actually a friend and thereby
The villain gains information about the victim. The
villain’s seeking now pays off and he or she now
acquires some form of information, often about the
hero or victim. Other information can be gained, for
example about a map or treasure location.
‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is a mysterious narration of fascist Spain, in which
the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into
an eerie but captivating fantasy world.
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The famous American Mafia story
in ‘Godfather’ series has great
narrations. Especially, ‘God father
2’ is the early life and career of
Vito Corleone in 1920s New York
is portrayed while his son, Michael,
expands and tightens his grip on
his crime syndicate stretching
from Lake Tahoe, Nevada to
pre-revolution 1958 Cuba.
Villain causes harm/injury to family member (by
abduction, theft of magical agent, spoiling crops,
plunders in other forms, causes a disappearance,
expels someone, casts spell on someone, substitutes
child etc., commits murder, imprisons/detains
someone, threatens forced marriage, provides nightly
torments); Alternatively, a member of family lacks
something or desires something (magical potion etc.).
There are two options for this function, either or
both of which may appear in the story.
VILLAINY or LACK
Victim taken in by deception, unwittingly helping
the enemy. The trickery of the villain now works and
the hero or victim naively acts in a way that helps
the villain. This may range from providing the villain
with something (perhaps a map or magical weapon)
to actively working against good people (perhaps
the villain has persuaded the hero that these other
people are actually bad).
An actress, a writer, a student, and a government worker band
together in an effort to escape Paris as the Nazis move into the city,
‘Bon Voyage’ is a film about complicity.
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An account of the bloodiest revolution in modern history, ‘The Battle
of Algiers’, portraits mediation.
Misfortune or lack is made known, (hero is
dispatched, hears call for help etc./ alternative
is that victimized hero is sent away, freed from
imprisonment). The hero now discovers the act
of villainy or lack, perhaps finding their family or
community devastated or caught up in a state of
anguish and woe.
Seeker agrees to, or decides upon counter-action. The
hero now decides to act in a way that will resolve
the lack, for example finding a needed magical
item, rescuing those who are captured or otherwise
defeating the villain. This is a defining moment for
the hero as this is the decision that sets the course
of future actions and by which a previously ordinary
person takes on the mantle of heroism.
The film ‘Zodiac’ shows a San
Francisco cartoonist becomes an
amateur detective obsessed with
tracking down the Zodiac killer.
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FIRST FUNCTION OF THE DONOR
Hero is tested, interrogated, attacked etc., Preparing the
way for his/her receiving magical agent or helper (donor);
Hero is tested, interrogated,
attacked etc., preparing the way
for his/her receiving magical
agent or helper (donor);
Hero leaves home. It may hero’s goal as an action or
to seek out, to liberate or to rescue something.
The adventure story of ‘Lord of the ring- Return of the king’ is the former
Fellowship of the Ring prepare for the final battle for Middle Earth, while
Frodo & Sam approach Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring.
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Hero acquires use of a magical agent (directly
transferred, located, purchased, prepared,
spontaneously appears, eaten/drunk, help offered by
In “Mr India” the hero acquires
a magic of being invisible to help
Hero reacts to actions of future donor (withstands/
fails the test, frees captive, reconciles disputants,
uses adversary’s powers against him)
Marathi film ‘Dombivali Fast’ portray hero who reacts to bad systems.
The film is all about hero’s reaction.
RECEIPT OF A MAGICAL AGENT
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Hero and villain join in direct combat. In this villain
can be system or group of people also. The combat
shows the struggle.
A wonderful experience of
the film ‘Metropolis’ indicate
the struggle. In a futuristic
city sharply divided between
the working class and the city
planners, the son of the city’s
mastermind falls in love with
a working class prophet who
predicts the coming of a saviour
to mediate their differences.
Hero is transferred, delivered or led to whereabouts
of an object of the search.
The film ‘Priest’ tries to reconcile his love for another man with his love
for God, but when a girl steps into the confessional and reveals that
her father sexually abuses her, he’s frustrated by the laws of the church
and questions his faith in a God who would allow this to happen.
book_2.indd 16-17 4/7/2011 8:03:58 PM
Villain is defeated (killed in combat, defeated in
contest, killed while asleep, banished)
Adventure drama of ‘Ben hur’ shows
when a Jewish prince is betrayed
and sent into slavery by a Roman
friend, he regains his freedom and
comes back for revenge.
Hero is branded (wounded/marked, receives ring.
An adaptation of Homer’s great epic, the film follows the assault on Troy
by the united Greek forces and chronicles the fates of the men involved.
book_2.indd 18-19 4/7/2011 8:04:02 PM
Hero returns. He is back where he has started his
journey or his search.
‘The Return’ is a story in which
the remote Russian wilderness,
two brothers face a range of new,
conflicting emotions when their
father--a man they only know
through a single photograph.
Initial misfortune or lack is resolved (object of search
distributed, spell broken, slain person revived,
‘The Baader Meinhof Complex’ is a look at Germany’s terrorist group,
The Red Army Faction (RAF), which organized bombings, robberies,
kidnapping and assassinations in the late 1960th and ‘70th.
book_2.indd 20-21 4/7/2011 8:04:06 PM
Hero is rescued from pursuit (obstacles delay pursuer,
hero hides or is hidden, hero transforms unrecognizably,
hero saved from attempt on his/her life).
The character Batman is famous
for rescue. The film called ‘The
Dark Night’ is about Batman,
Gordon and Harvey Dent are
forced to deal with the chaos
unleashed by an anarchist
mastermind known only as the
Joker, as he drives each of them
to their limits.
Hero is pursued (pursuer tries to kill, eat, undermine
the hero). The pursuer can be situation also.
In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through
dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at
redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception.
book_2.indd 22-23 4/7/2011 8:04:10 PM
False hero presents unfounded claims.
The film ‘Provocked’ the true
story of a Punjabi woman named
Kiranjit Ahluwalia who leaves
India to marry a London-based
guy, only to be badly abused. She
ends up in prison for murdering
her abusive husband.
Hero unrecognized, arrives home or in another space.
‘Gulliver’s Travels’ is a novel by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan
Swift. Travel writer Lemuel Gulliver takes an assignment in Bermuda, but
ends up on the island of Liliput, where he towers over its tiny citizens.
book_2.indd 24-25 4/7/2011 8:04:13 PM
Task is resolved. The given job is done.
‘Conspiracy is a film presents
a dramatic recreation of the
Wannsee Conference where the
Nazi Final Solution phase of the
Holocaust was devised.
Difficult task proposed to the hero (trial by ordeal,
riddles, test of strength/endurance, other tasks).
‘The Ghost In The Darkness’ movie is based on the true story of two
lions in Africa that killed 130 people over a nine month period, while
a bridge engineer and an experienced old hunter tried to kill them.
book_2.indd 26-27 4/7/2011 8:04:18 PM
False hero or villain is exposed.
Tragedy strikes a married couple
on vacation in the Moroccan
desert, 'Babel'’is touching off an
interlocking story exposing four
Hero is recognized (by mark, brand, or thing given
The film ‘Black Book’ about the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during
World War II, a Jewish singer infiltrates the regional Gestapo
headquarters for the Dutch resistance.
book_2.indd 28-29 4/7/2011 8:04:21 PM
An Important person becomes Villiain or get
punished for something. Villain is punished.
‘The green mile’ is The story
about the lives of guards on death
row leading up to the execution
of black man accused of child
murder & rape, who has the
power of faith healing.
Hero is given a new appearance (is made whole,
handsome, new garments etc.).
The story of Cinderella is about a transformation to normal girl which
results to a beautiful princess.
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Hero marries and ascends the throne (is rewarded/
Jane Austen’s classic novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is about prejudice that
occurred between the 19th century classes and the pride which would
keep lovers apart. But in end hero marries and rewarded with love.
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