[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]


fairy tale - gossip - legend - memes - speech - story - word of mouth -


Folklore is the ethnographic concept of the tales, legends, or superstitions long current among a particular ethnic population; in other words, the oral history of a particular culture. The concept developed as part of the 19th century ideology of romantic nationalism, leading to the reshaping of oral traditions to serve modern ideological goals; only in the 20th century did ethnographers begin to attempt to record folklore objectively.

The term was coined in 1846 by an Englishman who wanted to use an Anglo-Saxon term for what was then called "popular antiquities". Johann Gottfried von Herder first advocated the deliberate recording and preservation of folklore to document the authentic spirit, tradition, and identity of the German people; the belief that there can be such authenticity is one of the tenets of the romantic nationalism which Herder developed. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folklore [2004]

Motif-Index of Folk Literature (1932 - 1958) Stith Thompson

Stith Thompson's Motif-Index is one of the most important works in folklore studies produced in the twentieth century. Some may view it merely as a taxonomic endeavor, but as Thompson stated, "Before it can become an object of serious and well-considered study, every branch of knowledge needs to be classified. There was a time when geology and botany consisted of random collections of facts and hastily constructed theories. It was only when this anecdotal stage gave way to systematic classification that real progress was made toward a thorough method of study" (1977: 413). Although others before Thompson had noted the need to classify narrative elements of folklore , his work was unique in that it was the first to go beyond mere alphabetical listings of terms, and it differentiated between motifs and folktale types. The Motif-Index and its companion The Types of the Folktale, which Thompson translated and enlarged, have greatly facilitated comparative work in folklore that is ongoing today.

... Although Thompson eschewed classification based on psychological principles, Jungian approaches to folklore study are found in many of the essays here, and we have chosen to elaborate upon the concept of the archetype. We hope that in addition to serving as an introduction to the Motif-Index and the endlessly fascinating subject of folklore, this collection may also provide a few hours of pleasurable reading and evoke some of the wonder and delight felt on first hearing the old stories.

This book contains essays on some of the most important motifs and archetypes found in folklore and literature throughout the world. The book is keyed to Stith Thompson's Motif-Index of Folk Literature (1932-36; second edition 1955-58).

Simply defined, a motif is a small narrative unit recurrent in folk literature. In his introduction, Thompson writes that "Certain items in narrative keep on being used by storytellers; they are the stuff of which tales are made . . . there must be something of particular interest to make an item important enough to be remembered, something not quite commonplace."

In a later essay Thompson famously defined a motif by saying "A mother as such is not a motif. A cruel mother becomes one because she is at least thought to be unusual. The ordinary processes of life are not motifs. To say that 'John dressed and walked to town' is not to give a single motif worth remembering; but to say that the hero put on his cap of invisibility, mounted his magic carpet, and went to the land east of the sun and west of the moon is to include at least four motifs-the cap, the carpet, the magic air journey, and the marvelous land." (1972, 753)

Although a mother "as such" may not be a motif, mother is such a basic experience of human existence that it may be considered an archetype. What is the difference between a motif and an archetype? While a motif is a unit of interest in a tale or some other genre such as a proverb, joke, ballad, or riddle, an archetype is a pattern of primary significance with deep psychic resonance which also occurs in various literary genres Motifs and Archetypes in Literature

Mircea Eliade observed that the nineteenth century novel is "the great repository of degraded myths," and, amplifying this statement, Harry Levin remarks "thus the novels of Dickens could be regarded as fairy tales about the babes in the wood encountering wicked witches in protean disguises, while the focal point of Balzac's work would be the motif of the youngest son who sets out to seek his worldly fortune." (Levin 1974: 242) In fact, we know that Dickens was very aware of fairy tales as he wrote his novels and he consciously employed fairy tale motifs in his work (Grob 1966: 246). Many writers have mined the troves of traditional myth and tales: Homer's Odyssey, the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Milton, and Hardy are just a few examples of literary masterpieces that contain elements from folklore. The profound resonance that these works have for us can be at least partially explained by the presence of the ancient motifs they contain. As Gilbert Murray writes: "The things that thrill and amaze us in Hamlet . . . are not any historical particulars about medieval Elsinore . . . but things belonging to the old stories and the old magic rites, which stirred and thrilled our forefathers five and six thousand years ago" (1927:236). When the ghost of Hamlet's father appears on the battlements of Elsinore castle to urge Hamlet to avenge his murder, that is the old story of the "Return from the dead to reveal murder" (motif E231). Some of the motifs in the Odyssey include: Polyphemus (G100; AT 1137), the harpies (B52), the sirens (B53), the enchantress Circe, who transforms men (G263.1), the journey to the world of the dead (F81), the successive transformations of Proteus, (G311), and the lotus flower that causes Odysseus's companions to forget the homeward way (D1365.1.1) (Thompson 1977:278-79).

A. Mythological Motifs [and related beliefs]
Motifs having to do with creation and with the nature of the world: creators, gods, and demigods; the creation and nature of the universe, and especially of the earth; the beginnings of life; the creation and establishment of the animal and vegetable world.

B. Animals
Not all tales in which animals figure are placed here, for most frequently it is the action and not the particular actor that is significant in such stories. Here appear, on the contrary, animals that are in some way remarkable as such: mythical animals like the dragon, magic animals like the truth-telling bird, animals with human traits, animal kingdoms, weddings, and the like. Then there are the many helpful or grateful beasts, marriages of animals to human beings, and other fanciful ideas about animals.

C. Tabu
Motifs here are based upon the primitive idea of tabu. Forbidden things of all kinds are here listed, as well as the opposite of that concept, the unique compulsion. Thus, the chapter consists largely of incidents based on certain principles of conduct which are rooted in archaic fears of the supernatural.

D. Magic [and similar supernatural occurrences]
This is the most extensive group, and truly constitutes the stuff of folk and fairy tales, with divisions for all kinds of magical transformation (such as from a person to a different person, an animal, or object) and disenchantment; magic objects (such as food, clothing, weapons, conveyances, and instruments); magic powers (strength, knowledge, love induced by magic, immortality, forgetfulness, bewitching) and other manifestations.

E. The Dead
These motifs concern ideas about the dead-resuscitation, ghosts, and reincarnation-as well as ideas concerning the nature of the soul. There is a tremendous amount of material on "Ghosts and other revenants," E200-599, indicative of just how powerful the idea of some kind of visitation from the dead, both malevolent and friendly, has been in cultures around the world.

F. Marvels
Motifs here include journeys to other worlds; extraordinary creatures such as fairies, spirits, and demons; wondrous places, such as castles in the sea; and marvelous persons and events. Heroes in myth, legend, and folktale throughout the world have journeyed to three main types of otherworld: the upper world (F10), lower world (F80), and earthly paradise (F111).

G. Ogres [and Satan]
Dreadful beings such as ogres, witches, and the like are contained here. It will be seen that there is naturally much relation between E, F, and G; for example, between ogres and evil spirits, or between fairies and witches or ghosts. These relationships are noted by means of cross references.

H. Tests
All motifs here are comprehended under the term "Tests," although were originally broken down into three sections-Recognition, Riddles, and Tasks and Quests. However, tales of recognition are really tests of identity; riddles and the like, tests of cleverness; and tasks and quests, tests of prowess. In addition are to be found sundry tests of character and other qualities.

J. The Wise and the Foolish
This section was likewise originally three chapters-Wisdom, Cleverness, Foolishness. Their fundamental unity is apparent: the motivation is always mental. The first part (wisdom) consists in large part of fable material. The tales of cleverness and stupidity come in large measure from jestbooks.

I. Deceptions
In the motifs of the previous section the attention is directed primarily to the mental quality of the character. In K, on the contrary, primary importance is given to action. A very large part of narrative literature deals with deceptions. The work of thieves and rascals, deceptive captures and escapes, seductions, adultery, disguises, and illusions constitute one of the most extensive chapters in the classification.

L. Reversal of Fortune
Here appear reversals of fortune including motifs commonly associated with "rags-to-riches" stories, such as L50, "Victorious youngest daughter," also the basis of tale types 361, 425, 431, 440, 480, 510, 511, 707, 901, 923, which are variants of the Cinderella tale. Other reversals of fortune include the section from L200-299, "Modesty rewarded,"L300-399, "Triumph of the weak," and L400-499, "Pride brought low."

M. Ordaining the Future
Deals with such definite ordaining of the future as irrevocable judgments, bargains, promises, and oaths.

N. Chance and Fate
The large part that luck plays in narrative (and life) is shown. The capriciousness of luck and the personifications of fate are covered. Included are tales of gambling as well as lucky and unlucky accidents and encounters.

P. Society
Here are motifs concerned with the social system. Not all tales about kings and princes belong here, but only such motifs as rest upon some feature of the social order: customs concerning kings, or the relation of the social ranks and the professions, or anything noteworthy in the administration of such activities as law or army. A great number of cross-references appear in this chapter. This chapter is the least developed area of the motif index.

Q. Rewards and Punishments
Stories illustrating consequences of different actions and behaviors, for example "Murder punished," Q211; "Killing an animal revenged," Q211.6; "Piety rewarded," Q20. Also, "The nature of rewards," Q100, and "Kinds of punishment," Q400, are elaborated.

R. Captives and Fugitives
Here are stories dealing with abductions, being held captive, and being chased (often by supernatural creatures such as monsters).

S. Unnatural Cruelty
Here are found motifs dealing with various methods of murder and mutilation, some quite grisly ("Murder by tearing out heart," S139.6). Many of the stories deal with cruel relatives ("Cruel father," S11, "Cruel mother," S12; "Cruel children and grandchildren," S20; with themes involving the "Cruel stepmother," S31, particularly common. Also prominent is the motif of "Abandoned or murdered children," S300.

T. Sex
Here are motifs dealing with sex, although there are, of course, many other parts of the index where such motifs are also of interest. Here particularly come wooing, marriage, married life, and the birth of children, as well as sundry types of sexual relations.

U. The Nature of Life
Here are gathered a small number of motifs, mostly from fable literature, that are of a homiletic tendency. A tale is told with the sole purpose of showing the nature of life. "Thus goes the world" is the text of such tales.

V. Religion (and religious services)
Motifs making up incidents depending upon religious differences or upon certain objects of religious worship are found here.

W. Traits of Character
Stories designed to illustrate traits of character, including favorable: "Man speaks no evil," W24; "Patience," W26; and unfavorable "Greed," W151; "Stinginess," W152; "Jealousy," W181.

X. Humor
This category contains incidents whose purpose is entirely humorous. Many cross-references to merry tales listed elsewhere are given.

Z. Miscellaneous groups of motifs [and symbolism]

The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore (1964?) - Gershon Legman

The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore (1964?) - Gershon Legman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

Managed Hosting by NG Communications