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Propp’s Character Types

Vladimir Propp was a Russian scholar and folklorist, who analysed many classic
Russian folk tales and was able to categorize the characters into 8 distinct tropes.
Most fairy tale characters will fall under at least one of these tropes, and few
traditional fairy tale characters exist outside of these categories. The story that I
adapted was a fairy tale, and therefore quite a few of the characters fall into
Propp’s categories.

The Hero: The Hero is the main character of the story that the plot revolves
around and follows. Cinderella is the main protagonist of the story, and the story
mainly follows her journey and the events of the plot all revolve around her. She
is also the titular character of the story, which further cements her as The Hero.

The Villain: The Villain serves as the antagonistic foil to The Hero, and often tries
to work against them in the story and prevent them from achieving their goal.
While The Stepsisters fulfil an antagonistic role to a degree, The Stepmother
would probably be considered the main villain as she performs the main
antagonistic actions of the story, such as banning Cinderella from attending the
ball, as well as being abusive and negligent to Cinderella when she was trusted in
a position of care, whereas the stepsisters did not have the same sort of position
to abuse.

The Princess/The Prize: The Prize is the person or object that is sought by The
Hero during their story. In many traditional fairytales The “Prize” comes in the
form of a Princess, but this is not always the case. It can be argued that The
Prince would be considered the prize in the story, as he was the romantic
interest of Cinderella. However, he was also key to Cinderella’s happy life, which
could also be considered her prize. After all, Cinderella’s original wish was
simply to be able to attend the ball, and her love for the Prince only came a long
after they both became mutually romantically attracted to one another.

The Donor: The Donor fulfils their role in the story by providing the hero with
something to help them. This can be a real, tangible object or thing, but it could
also be imparting some sort of wisdom or motivation. The Donor in my book
would most likely be the Fairy Godmother, whose plot role was to provide
Cinderella with the necessary means to be able to attend the ball, such as her
outfit and her transportation.

The Helper: The Helper has a similar, although not exactly identical, function in
the plot as The Donor, as their role involves aiding The Hero and supporting
them throughout their story. The role of The Helper is less distinctly cast in my
story, but it can be argued that the Fairy Godmother and The Prince both
perform this role in some ways. The Fairy Godmother’s aid given early on in the
story gave Cinderella the support she needed to be able to change her life for the
better, but The Prince was also able to aid Cinderella by taking her away to a
better life that she wanted.

The Princess’ Father: The Princess’ Father’s role is that of a gatekeeper that is
protective of his “Daughter”. The Princess’ Father may also act as a gatekeeper to
another sort of prize or goal, not necessarily a Princess, and offer tasks to The
Hero as a way of earning their prize. This role is a far less distinct and well-
defined one compared to the other seven, but can occur often in traditional
fairytales. However, none of the characters within my children’s book have any
noteworthy correlation with the role of The Princess’ Father. An example of a
character that fulfilled this role would be The Sultan in Disney’s “Aladdin”. He is
protective and loving of his daughter, Jasmine, who falls most neatly of all the
roles into the role of Princess, and acts as her gatekeeper, as he initially will only
allow her to marry a Prince, leading to The Hero, Aladdin, taking on the disguise
of a Prince.

The False Hero: The False Hero may initially appear to be a friendly character or
an ally to the protagonist, but end up fulfilling an antagonistic role within the
story, working against The Hero, but often for the same goal. There are no
characters that neatly fall into the False Hero category of character in my story,
although The Stepsisters fulfil some elements of the role, such as being
antagonistic to The Hero and trying to achieve the same goal as them, but do not
at first show Cinderella any semblance of kindness. A primary example of The
False Hero would be The Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2, who initially appears to be
a benevolent and helpful character trying to grant wishes, but displays herself as
having a far more twisted morality and by the end of the story has become The
Villain of the story.

The Dispatcher: The Dispatcher is the role of a character that sends The Hero on
their mission. This can overlap in some ways with the role of The Princess’
Father but they can be two separate roles, with distinct differences. There is no
clear character that completely fulfils the role of The Dispatcher in my children’s
book, although The Fairy Godmother can in some ways be considered as fulfilling
some of the qualities of this character, as she sends Cinderella to the ball and
begins her story. Dumbledore, from the Harry Potter franchise, takes on the role
of The Dispatcher in many situations.

Todorov’s narrative theory was that all stories followed the same sort of
structure, following either 3 or 5 distinct steps of narrative progression. The
three main steps were:

Equilibrium: This is how a story begins, when all is balanced. Whatever is
occurring is fairly regular for the protagonist(s), and while things may not be
good, they are still the current norm.

Disequilibrium: Someone or something disrupts The Equilibrium, and thus the
protagonist(s) are in a situation that is not their norm anymore.

New Equilibrium: This is the ending of the story. Either a new equilibrium has
been reached, or the characters have returned to the old one.

However, Todorov also established two more stages of narrative progression,
continuing on from Disequilibrium, but before New Equilibrium. These two extra
steps were:

 A recognition of The Disequilibrium
 An attempt at returning to the equilibrium.

Equilibrium: The Equilibrium of my children’s book is Cinderella’s life with her
Stepmother and Stepsisters, being treated like a servant.

Disequilibrium: The Disequilibrium of the story would be the appearance of The
Fairy Godmother, who grants Cinderella her wish to go to the ball.

Recognition of the Disequilibrium: Cinderella attending the ball in itself is
recognition of the Disequilibrium and the new found freedom it afforded her.

An Attempt to Repair The Equilibrium: The Prince trying to find Cinderella again
so that the two of them could get married could be considered an attempt to
begin the New Equilibrium with the two of them.

The New Equilibrium: The New Equilibrium is achieved at the ending of the
story, when Cinderella marries The Prince, and is freed from her cruel
Stepmother and becomes The Princess.

Binary Opposition is a literary theory that was created by French theorist Claude
Levi-Strauss. The concept of Binary Opposition is that a story cannot exist
without there being two opposing sides clashing against each other to drive the
story. In my story, there are only six characters within the narrative, with three
(Cinderella, The Fairy Godmother) on the protagonist side, and three (The
Stepmother, The Stepsisters) on the antagonistic side. This divide between
characters shows an example of Binary Opposition.

There are many types of narrative structures within the many existing narratives
and stories spanning across different media. Open narrative structure is a sort of
structure in which narrative continues on without stopping, spanning over many
serial issues or episodes, depending on the platform it exists in. This sort of
narrative is common with media such as comics or soap opera. Closed narrative
structure, however, is a form of narrative structure, which will reach its
conclusion during the piece of media in which it has been presented. For
example, many books and films are closed narrative structures.

My children’s book rendition of Cinderella is an example of a closed narrative
form, as the story is begun and completed within the span of just one book. Many
soap operas follow an open narrative, one such example would be long-running
British soap opera Eastenders, in which there many storylines running, and even
while some may come to an end, new ones will begin.

The storyline or storylines running through a narrative are sometimes referred
to as a strand or strands respectively. Some narratives will only have a single
strand running through the narrative while others will be multi-strand
narratives, and have a number of different storylines running concurrently with
one another.

My children’s book project follows the narrative structure of the single strand
story, which is a common option to take in a children’s book, as children can
often struggle to remain focused and understand multiple storylines at once.
Many dramas and soap operas follow multi-strand narratives, with one example
of a multi-strand story being Game of Thrones, both the book series and the TV
series, which each follow many individual and interwoven storylines with a
variety of different character’s points of view.

Linear and non-linear Storylines are two different forms of narrative structure
that can be used to make up a story. Linear storylines are the most common form
of narrative structure, as it is simply the story being told in order from start to
finish. Non-linear storylines, however, will sometimes change up the order of
events. This can be as small as showing a few flashbacks or as large as
completely cutting up a linear story and placing the scenes in different order.

My children’s book would be an example of a linear storyline, as non-linear
storylines can often be a difficult concept for children to understand, especially
in it’s more abstract forms. However, an example of a non-linear storyline could
be Inception, which has quite a few examples of flashback scenes throughout the
course of the film, as well as beginning the film by showing a scene from towards
the end of the film.

The narratives of stories can also be split up in terms of realist and anti-realist.
Realist narratives are stories in which the events are steeped in reality, and are
things that could occur feasibly in real life, often things people can relate to. Anti-
realist narratives are found in stories that are often apart of the fantasy or sci-fi
genre, with many features that would be unlikely, and often would be impossible
for them to occur in reality.

My children’s book is a prime example of an anti-realist narrative, as one of the
primary plot points involves the intervention of a fairy and magical spells.
However, an example of a realist narrative might be a television show like Skins,
as there are no plot elements involving things that are impossible in the real
world, such as magical plot elements.