Reading notes: plop: Story morphology


About the author

Vladimir propap is a structuralist scholar of literature in the Soviet Union. He was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. His most important representative works are morphology of stories, the historical roots of magical stories and the theory of Russian stories.

About this book

The first edition was published in 1928. “Story morphology” is also a kind of research method for storyology created by the author. The focus of the method is to investigate the morphological rules and rules of “magic story” folk literature.

Based on the morphological comparative analysis of 100 Russian magic stories in afanasiyev’s story collection, the structural elements, 31 functional items and 7 action circles of the magic stories are found.

Core content


Definition of function

Function refers to the definition of role behavior from the perspective of its meaning to action process.

Basic principle of the function:

  1. The role function acts as the stable factor of the story, which does not depend on who completes it and how to complete it. They form the basic part of the story.
  2. There are only a limited number of functions known in magic stories.
  3. The order of function items is always the same.
  4. All magic stories are of the same type according to their composition.

31 functions:

  1. A family member is away from home.
  2. Put a ban on the hero.
  3. Break the ban.
  4. The enemy tried to pry into the news.
  5. The adversary is informed of his victim.
  6. The adversary attempts to deceive the victim to take possession of him or his property.
  7. The victim is deceived and unintentionally helps the enemy.
  8. Bring harm or loss (harm) to a family member.
  9. Disaster or absence is told, request or order is made to the protagonist, send him or allow him to set out (mediation).
  10. The seeker agrees or decides to revolt (the initial revolt).
  11. The protagonist leaves home.
  12. The protagonist is tested, interrogated, attacked and so on, which paves the way for him to obtain magic or help (the first function of the giver).
  13. The protagonist reacts to the actions of the future donor (the protagonist’s reaction).
  14. The treasure falls into the master of the protagonist.
  15. When the protagonist moves, he is sent or led to the location of what he is looking for (moving in the space between the two countries).
  16. The protagonist confronts his opponent head on.
  17. Mark the protagonist.
  18. The opponent was defeated (defeated).
  19. The elimination of the original disaster or deficiency.
  20. The hero returns (returns).
  21. The protagonist is hunted.
  22. The hero is rescued from the chase.
  23. The protagonist returns home or arrives in another country with an unrecognized appearance.
  24. The protagonist of the false stomach makes a non-point request (non-point request).
  25. Give the protagonist a difficult problem.
  26. The problem is solved (solved).
  27. The protagonist is recognized (recognized).
  28. The protagonist or opponent of the false stomach is exposed.
  29. The protagonist changes his face.
  30. The enemy is punished (punished).
  31. The protagonist marries and is crowned king.

Assimilation (several situations in which a function item has dual morphological meaning)

Assimilation means that different function items are completed in exactly the same way.

  1. All the problems that lead to the search are considered as function item B (mediation).
  2. All the problems leading to the acquisition of treasures should be regarded as function item (test).
  3. All remaining problems should be considered as function items (tasks).


Test: Ivan and the witch want a horse. She made him pick as like as two peas in a group of identical horses. He made a good choice and took the horse away.

Task: the hero wants to take the daughter of the water demon. As like as two peas in the same vein, the water monster asked him to pick out his fiancee.

An example of a function item with dual morphological meaning:

When the Duke left home, his wife was forbidden to leave the house. Here she comes. “A woman, she looks so pure
Park Keqin! She said: “you are very lonely, aren’t you? Even if you look at the world! Even if you go for a walk in the garden!” and so on. The Duchess went to the garden. In this way, she accepted the inducement of the perpetrators (g), and broke the ban (B ‘).


Role symbol and its significance

The names and symbols of the characters are the variables of the story. Mark refers to the sum of all the external characteristics of characters: their age, gender, status, appearance, appearance characteristics, etc.

7 kinds of role action circle:

  1. The circle of action of the enemy. It includes: injurious behavior (a), combat or other forms of fighting with the protagonist (b), pursuit (IP).
  2. Action circle of donor (provider). It includes: preparing to hand over the treasure (I), offering the treasure to the hero (z).
  3. A circle of action for helpers. It includes: the protagonist’s space movement (R), eliminating disaster or loss (Ji), rescuing from pursuit (CN), solving problems (P), and the protagonist’s transformation (T).
  4. The princess and her father’s circle of action. It includes: making a difficult problem (3), printing a record (k), exposing (o), recognizing (y), punishing the second perpetrator (H), wedding (c), the princess and her father can’t distinguish exactly according to their functions.
  5. The dispatcher’s action circle only includes dispatch (link between the preceding and the following, b).
  6. The protagonist’s circle of action. It is typical for the protagonist who acts as the seeker to find (C ↑), respond to the donor’s request (T), get married (c *), and the first function item (C ↑). The protagonist who acts as the victim only has to complete the rest of the things.
  7. The action circle of the fake protagonist also includes starting to look for (C ↑), the reaction to the donor’s request is always negative (NEG), and, as a special function, deceptive plot (middle).

In addition to the seven action circles, there are other characters (informant, informant, slander) who play a special role of cohesion, as well as traitors who play a special role in function W.

How to arrange these circles according to a single story character? There may be three situations:

  • The circle of action corresponds to the characters accurately.
  • One character is involved in several action circles.
  • A circle of action is distributed among several characters.

Several ways of new roles entering the action process

The adversary appeared twice during the operation. The first time he appeared suddenly, from other places (flying in, falling from the sky, etc.), but then he disappeared. The second time, he entered the story as a character to be found, usually with someone leading the way.

The givers meet by chance, most often in the woods (cabins), or in the wild, on the road or on the street.

The magic helper is introduced as a gift.

The dispatcher, the protagonist, the fake protagonist and the princess are all included in the initial situation.


The history of the problem

When mathematical science has a strict classification, a unified terminology system recognized by the academic community, and a continuous improvement of research methods, we do not have all these.

By category

The classification of Wendt’s popular psychology is as follows: (1) myth and fable. (2) Pure magic story. (3) Biological stories and fables. (4) Pure animal fable. (5) The origin story. (6) Funny stories and fables. (7) Moral fable.

There are the following problems:
Allegory (the term appears five times in seven categories) is a formal category. It’s not clear what Venter refers to by it. The term “funny” stories is completely incomprehensible, because such stories can be regarded as heroic or comic. What’s the difference between pure animal fable and moral fable? Why is pure fable not moral fable? And vice versa.

Classified by plot

Arnay Thompson classification, referred to as at classification, is a set of fairy tale classification methods.

The index also has a series of fatal defects: as a classification, it is not immune from the mistakes made by Volkov. The basic categories are as follows: first, animal stories. 2、 Benger story. 3、 Jokes. It’s easy to recognize the way things used to be (strangely, animal stories don’t seem to be real stories). The next question is: have we ever studied the concept of joke accurately enough to use it calmly (such as Venter’s fable)? We don’t intend to go into the details of this classification, but only talk about the magical stories which are classified as a sub category. By the way, it should be mentioned that the introduction of subclasses is a great contribution of arnet, because the division of class (po1bi), type (bhibi) and variant (pa3hobhioctn) has not been done before him. According to Alnair, magic stories include the following categories: 1. Magic opponent, 2. Magic husband (wife), 3. Magic problem, 4. Magic helper, 5. Magic object, 6. Magic power or skill, 7. Other magic motifs. For this classification, we can almost repeat the heckling of Volkov classification word for word. For example, how to deal with the story of a magical helper solving a magical problem? This is quite common; and how to deal with the story of a magical wife being a magical helper?

Some other elements of the story


Threefold is a special phenomenon in folktales, that is, elements of the same nature are repeated three times with different appearances. The object of triple can be a turn, a function or even a detail of the story (the prince rode through a copper mountain, then a silver mountain, and finally arrived at a golden mountain). The concrete form and origin of triplicate are not discussed too much in his works.


Reason refers to both the cause and the purpose of the character’s behavior. They are among the most unstable and unstable elements of the story.

Most of the behaviors of the characters in the middle of the story can be explained by the plot. Only the injurious behavior as the first basic function of the story needs to be supplemented.

The story as a whole


From the morphological point of view, any function item that starts from the injurious behavior (a) or missing (a) and ends after some function items in the middle is sometimes a reward (z) to get what you are looking for, or elimination of disaster (Ji), rescue from pursuit (CM), and so on. This process is called a round. Every new damage or loss, every new loss, creates a new round.

case analysis

Take swan as an example

content function
There is an old couple; they have a daughter and a young son. 1. Initial situation (I).
“Daughter, daughter,” mother said, “let’s go to work. We’ll bring you a doughnut, sew you a floral skirt, and buy you a handkerchief. However, you have to be obedient, watch your brother, don’t go out of the house. 2. Prohibition strengthened by promise.
The adults are gone, 3. The elder leaves home.
But her daughter forgot what she told her, 4. Explain the reasons for breaking the ban (MOR).
She put her brother on the grass under the window and ran outside to play. 5. Breaking the ban (b).
A group of swans came. They picked up the little boy, carried him on their wings and flew away. 6. Damage (a).
When the little girl came home, she saw that her younger brother was missing. 7. Report the remains of the disaster (b).
She yelled and turned around – her brother was gone. She cried out, tearfully, crying about how her parents would punish her – her brother just didn’t answer. 8. Detailed description; the ruins of the threefold.
She ran into the open field. 9. Leave home to look for (↑).
The Swan flashed in the distance and disappeared behind the dark woods. Swan has long had a bad reputation and played many pranks about stealing children. The little girl guessed that Tianci had taken her brother, and she immediately went after them. 10. Because there is no dispatcher who informs the disaster in this story, the role will be transferred to yaochou later. He flashes by and informs the nature of the disaster
She ran and ran, and there was a stove in front of her. 11. The appearance of the tester (the classic form of its appearance is accidental encounter)
“The stove tells me where the swans have gone?” – “I’ll tell you if you eat a piece of rye pie I baked.” 12. Dialogue with the tester (very brief) and test (Д)
“Oh, we don’t eat wheat in our family.” 13. Answer the negative reaction of the insolent protagonist.
(and then there’s the apple tree and the river. Similar proposal and similar arrogant reply twice. Three times there was no reward. ) 14. Triple. The motif, FL = Г neg, is repeated twice. Three times there was no reward (zneg).
So she ran about in the fields and in the woods. Fortunately, she met a hedgehog 15. Grateful helpers appear.
She wanted to kick it off 16. Helplessness without asking for mercy (zneg)
She was afraid of being stabbed 17. Show mercy (Γ)
“Hedgehog hedgehog, do you see that? Where has the Swan gone?” 18. Dialogue (cohesion).
Hedgehog pointed out: “it flew away that way.” 19. The hedgehog of gratitude points the way (z = R).
As soon as she ran, a small wooden house with chicken feet appeared, and the house was still turning. 20. Opposite – the residence of the perpetrator.
The old witch stayed in the cabin with a thin face and a clay foot. 21. The appearance of the enemy.
My younger brother is sitting on the stool, 22. The character you are looking for appears.
He was fiddling with some golden apples. 23. Gold -It’s one of the inherent details of the person you’re looking for. Markers
After the elder sister saw the younger brother, she went over quietly, grabbed him and ran away with him. 24. Use stratagem or strength to achieve an end
25. I didn’t say it, but it means coming back.
Tianci followed him and flew to catch up with him. These scoundrels caught up and yelled, “where are you going?” 26. Flying after (Пр).
It was the original characters who made them stand the test three times again, but the positive answer made them get the help of the tester who rescued them from the chase. The river, the apple tree and other trees covered the little girl. The story ends with the little girl coming home. 27. The same test reappears three times. The protagonist’s reaction this time is positive (Γ). The tester is driven by the protagonist (z), and is rescued from the chase. Therefore, the protagonist’s response is positive (Γ)

The purpose of reading

The purpose of reading this book is to understand the morphology of the story, which is helpful to my recent research on computer program narrative generation. Due to the lack of materials for 100 Russian magic stories in this book and my understanding of machine learning, I have only developed a prototype, and strictly speaking, I have not finished generating narrative texts through programs. Prototype website

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