In 1928 a Russian scholar named Vladimir Propp carried out a seminal analysis of many of his country’s folk tales and published a study of narrative structure entitled “Morphology of the Folk Tale”.
In it he identified 31 narrative functions that, though not necessarily present in all the folk-tales, always occurred in the same sequence. The narrative functions Propp identified are:
00. The initial situation
01. One of the members of a family absents himself from home.
02. An interdiction (prohibition, order or suggestion) is addressed to the hero.
03. The interdiction is violated.
04. The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance.
05. The villain receives information about his victim.
06. The villain attempts to deceive his victim in order to take possession of him or of his belongings.
07. The victim submits to deception and thereby unwittingly helps his enemy.
08. The villain causes harm or injury to a member of a family.
08a. One member of a family either lacks something or desires to have something.
09. Misfortune or lack is made known; the hero is approached with a request or command; he is allowed to go or he is dispatched.
10. The seeker agrees to or decides upon counteraction.
11. The hero leaves home.
12. The hero is tested, interrogated, attacked, etc., which prepares the way for his receiving either a magical agent or helper.
13. The hero reacts to the actions of the future donor.
14. The hero acquires the use of a magical agent.
15. The hero is transferred, delivered, or led to the whereabouts of an object of search.
16. The hero and the villain join in direct combat.
17. The hero is branded.
18. The villain is defeated.
19. The initial misfortune or lack is liquidated.
20. The hero returns.
21. The hero is pursued.
22. Rescue of the hero from pursuit.
23. The hero, unrecognized, arrives home or in another country.
24. A false hero presents unfounded claims.
25. A difficult task is proposed to the hero.
26. The task is resolved.
27. The hero is recognized.
28. The false hero or villain is exposed.
29. The hero is given a new appearance.
30. The villain is punished.
31. The hero is married and ascends the throne.
Note: For ‘hero’ read ‘hero or heroine’ throughout.