Fairytale – In what ways might Propp’s structural analysis be helpful when analysing stories?

Vladimir Propp’s theory was the constant repeating plot devices which appeared in Russian Folk tales however this theory can also be applied to Western Folk-tales as well.  With the structure stemming into classic folk-tales like sleep Beauty and Cinderella. However also ‘in more modern works like labyrinth, the lord of the rings,Star Wars and Pan’s Labyrinth.’ – (Propp’s Folk-tales, 2015).


Propp’s theory is broken down into many different structures relating to the story. One being the uses of characters in the story. In terms of characters Props usually divides the characters into key-roles which also occur in many of the stories today. This structure of narrative in most cases starts with the opening in which the characters are most likely in some form of neutral setting. Although in some cases such as Cinderella we already are presented with an obstacle. For instance in the story Cinderella, we already have the villain’s being the ugly step daughters. As they stop her from going to the ball.


As the story of Cinderella goes on she is met by her fairy godmother. This is the donor. As she presents Cinderella with the Abilities to go to the ball. This is also accompanied by the Helpers ( the mouse’s) who aids Cinderella. This leads onto the saving of the prince which in this case is a role reversal of the cliche, damsel in distress.


This structure however is not just used in fairy tales. We can also compare this structure to most films nowadays. For instance Avatar is a story which also opens up like Cinderella in which he is at a disadvantage as his brother is successful. This all changes when dispatcher needs Jake’s help to become an Avatar, this is the dispatcher. He then meets Grace who at first is unimpressed with Jake’s abilities however eventually acts as the Donor as she gives the knowledge  to become part of the indigenous people. In this involved with the indigenous people he meets Neytiri the princess who Jake falls in love with. However the conflict happens when Colonel Miles the Villain in this movie tries to fulfill his mission.


Propp’s use of strategy is very good at breaking down stories into clear and easy plots. However in terms of author’s basing their stories around his theory I don’t think happens very often. With JK Rowling for instance  basing her characters around a story instead. In addition to that there have been many of other theories for films for instance which also do the same thing  in breaking down the story.

(see fig. 1.)

For instance Syd field uses a similar structure but in this case for films. This theory is mainly used for the Hollywood movies. In which they use Goal-Oriented methods in their film.


 Figure 1. Syd Field Structure (n.d) http://www.scriptboutique.co.uk/news/story-structure-part-3-syd-field%E2%80%99s-paradigm (Accessed 1/05/16)



Propp’s function of Folk-tales, (2015) At http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ProppsFunctionsOfFolktales (Accessed 1/05/16)




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