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Folktale Morphology


            
             To define the term fairy tale one would have to do more than simply look up the definition in a dictionary. With a vast history, fairy tales come in many different variations, differing from one culture to the next. The most often question asked, however, is the question as to what makes a story a fairy tale and not just a story. In the historic sense, fairy tales are oral traditions passed down generation to teach moral and life lessons. Most people would benefit greatly from the lessons presented in many tales. To help make it clear as to what a fairy tale should contain within its story, Vladimir Propp, in his Morphology of the Folktale, assigns specific letters and numbers in each action in the tale to come up with an equation of sorts to define every tale. There are 31 functions total in Propp's list. Before Propp created his morphology list, analysis of fairy tales were done by comparing motifs which were more than often descriptive, and not focusing on the action of the tales. Propp used 100 examples to prove his theory. Here, however, only three will be used.
             In the Brother's Grimm version of "Hansel and Gretel," absentation, the first of Propp's Functions, occurs when Hansel and Gretel's parents leave them deep in the forest to rid of them (Grimm186). This can be argued that the children are not actually absent from the story, but absent from the home. The family is living in a time of famine, so the parents simple solution is to get rid of the children. Interdiction, the second function, takes place when the children's mother builds a fire in the deep forest and requests them to stay by it until she returns, while her and her husband leave to find wood, or so she says. This interdiction is violated when the children leave the fire site and attempt to find there way back home, but instead make there way to a witches house made of candy, in the forest (Grimm187).


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