Vladimir Propp (1895-1970) published ‘Morphology of the Folktale’ in 1928, he analysed folk tales’ plot components according to their functions. Propp’s dramatis personae are listed in terms of their ‘spheres of action’ and are described in categories such as:

  • The villain
  • The donor
  • The helper
  • The princess, and her father
  • The dispatcher
  • The hero (seeker-hero, victim hero)
  • The false hero

Propp states that ‘the names of the dramatis personae change… but neither their actions nor functions change’. He assigned symbols to the functions that he identified and connected these symbols along lines to represent linear narratives in folktales. Propp identified 31 functions in the folktales that he analyses. (Changingminds.org, 2016) I found that this approach can be very useful when analysing narrative because it privileges function over the individuality of character. With complex stories, it can quickly find out the relationships between characters.

[Figure 1: lecture notes]

At the end of the lecture, we were asked to use Propp’s structuralist analysis to create a fairytale in 15 minutes. I created the story ‘Willow’ as a result.


Changingminds.org, (2016). Propp’s Morphology of the Folk Tale. Available at: http://changingminds.org/disciplines/storytelling/plots/propp/propp.htm (Accessed: 12/02/ 2016)