Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Comet tales

Broom of Doom by Matt Dixon
What will the fairy tales of the future be? What tales will they tell on generations ships? On the colonies of Mars? On a universally peaceful Earth?

What stories would resonate with the kids on the Next Generation's Enterprise? What things go bump in the night? Who are the wolves and the evil beasts? What character types would be satisfying as the rescuer and the one to be rescued? What will be the rewards and the magic?

I stumbled across a succinct list of fairy tale character, setting, action and so on motifs to help you build a tale.

(From Carole Slattery's notes taken at a Harvard Extension course 
taught by folklore expert David Bynum)
I. Character Motifs
This is based on what the character DOES in the story. The character can change but rarely does. Characters in fairy tales are stereotypes, that is they are patterns rather than fully developed persons. One prince is the same as another. In fact the essence of the fairy tale is predictable pattern, or motif, where the predictability is comforting but the details of plot and particulars make it interesting. There are seven character types in fairy tales. A story may not have all seven, but every character in the story may be classified as one of these types.
A. Elder
  1. A king or a father figure.
  2. Stationary (Stays home.The hero does the adventuring.)
  3. Sometimes disabled. (Can be sick, impoverished, or have a rotten kid.)
B. Hero (Male or Female)
  1. Person who has gained the most by the end of the story.
  2. Moves, often vertically (This is meant very literally. The hero is the one who climbs glass mountains, goes down into wells and caverns, etc.)
C. True Love (Male or Female)
  1. Object of the hero's affections.
  2. Hero often does battle for his/her True Love.
D. Villain (Evil deeds can be done before the story opens, as in Frog Prince, Beauty and the Beast, etc.)
  1. Opposes hero.
  2. Force of evil. (Can be a traditionally evil creature such as a witch, giant, gnome, etc.)
E. Helper
  1. Often a powerful, magical person (Cinderella's Fairy Godmother)
  2. Gives advice or a valuable gift to the hero
  3. Often tests the hero (and others)
F. Friend (Role may overlap with Helper.)
  1. Friend or companion of the hero, often of lower social class, a servant
  2. Binding/unbinding relationship with the hero (Again, very literal. Snow White is freed by the dwarves from the comb which binds her hair and the girdle which is laced too tight.)
G. Messenger
  1. Brings news (Messenger in Rumplestilskin, also the Mirror in Snow White, which while not human, behaves like a character)
II. Place Motifs - These are less definite than characters because places are not always discreet.

A. Home (The hero's home. Often Home-Adventure-Home pattern.)
  1. An ordinary place, not magical.
  2. Often the starting and/or ending place of the story.
B. Paradise
  1. Where the hero gets his/her heart's desire.
  2. Often a monster here to overcome first (In Hansel and Gretel, to hungry children the gingerbread house is paradise, but they must first overcome the witch.)
C. Bad Place
  1. Escape desired. (The oven in Hansel and Gretel.)
D. Limbo
  1. Seems dangerous, but isn't.
  2. Shadowy, mysterious.
  3. Transitions occur, deals are made. (Hansel and Gretel are frightened in the forest, but they are not in danger there. Cinderella is transformed in the garden.)
III Object Motifs

A. Objects in groups. Usually makes a pattern such as:
  1. Size (Increasing or decreasing.)
  2. Material (Everything may be gold, for example.)
  3. Power (Each object has some kind of magical or symbolic power such as wealth, authority.)
B. Ordinary objects with magical powers. Such as:
  1. Transportation (Seven league boots, horseless saddle, traveling cloak)
  2. Weapons
  3. Supply (bottomless purses)
  4. Medicine (elixir, a medicine that restore life)
C. Objects that serve a special function in the story.
  1. Token of Recognition - by which the hero/true love recognize each other (Cinderella's slipper), may have some relationship to water or liquid.
IV. Action Motifs

A. Actions of the Hero
  1. Quest
  2. Endurance test (Hero can't speak until task done or time is up.)
  3. Tasks to perform, usually 3, involving:
  • food or water
  • wood
  • fire or stone
B. Means of success for Hero. (For example The Wizard of Oz - brains, heart, courage)
  1. Cleverness or wit
  2. Virtue
  3. Courage and strength
C. Rewards of the Hero.
  1. Wealth
  2. Love
  3. Status
V. Style Motifs

A. Use of numbers: 3, 7, 12

B. Opening and closing lines ("Once upon a time, ...happily every after". See Once Upon a Time for a list from tales around the world.)

C. Chante Fable, the inclusion of a song, chant, incantation, etc. in story (like "Mirror mirror on the wall," "I'll huff and I'll puff, etc.")

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