In his Morphology of the Tale, which was published in 1928, Vladimir Propp analyses the narrative structure – or morphology – of Russian folklore and fairytales. He concludes that the narrative structure of the Russian fairytales he looked at essentially all follow the same pattern. Interestingly enough, this observation also holds for many other fictional works from different cultures, whether it is the Arabian Nights or Thelma and Louise.
According to Propp, every narrative follows the same sequence of thirty-one functions. A function is an event. Furthermore, the characters that appear in a narrative can be grouped into seven general character functions. This means that the role a character has in the narrative dictates their actions.
The first function is the absentation, which usually requires the hero to leave the familiarity and safety of home in order to resolve a situation or avenge an injustice committed at the hands of the nasty villain with the mad scientist laugh. Over the course of the narrative the hero must endure a lot of hardship and danger to finally prove the true value of his character. Eventually, towards the end of the narrative, the hero returns to the point from where he originally set out, but only once the problem has been resolved, the injustice avenged and the villain punished. By this time he has undergone what Propp refers to as the transfiguration, the function which conveniently turns him into an incredible stud just in time for the final function – wedding – where he gets to snog (or something else) the exotic and seriously hot princess…
… If you have managed to last up to here, perhaps you may be wondering why on earth I am telling you all this, when this should be an online travel journal? Well, quite simply because tomorrow I’ll be off on my summer vacation. I’ll be going around the world. Quite like the hero of Russian folklore I shall be setting out from home, hopefully to come full circle and return in much better shape than when I departed.
Admittedly, a comparison of my summer vacation with the likes of the Arabian Nights or Russian folklore may be a tad far fetched. But I hope you will grant me this, it makes an interesting change from the usual introductions I write – even if I have no problems to resolve, villains to punish or princesses to snog.