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Katy Fleetham

Narrative Theories and Structure Components

Vladimir Propp
Propp analyzed the plot components of Russian folktales in order to identify
their basic narrative elements. He found that there were 31 plot
elements/functions to every story as well as 8 different character types.
The first character that he established was the Hero. This is often the main
character that sets off on a quest as part of a mission or to solve a mystery. My
story does not include a hero, this is due to the fact that I only have 5 characters
in total and a hero was not required. A hero character can be found in the film
Shrek, this movie follows the quest that Shrek is set on at the beginning of the
film, as he is the main character.
The Villain is a character that goes against the hero. This character is usually
morally bad which contrasts with the hero. The audience feels negatively
towards the villain, due to their bad characteristics, and therefore supports the
hero in the story. The wolf in my story would be classed as a villain as he tried to
blow down the pigs’ houses in order to cause them harm. The big, bad wolf
creates contrast against the innocent, little pigs in my story.
The next character that Propp found was the Princess or the prize. This is the
reward that the hero usually works toward achieving throughout the story. For a
typical fairytale story, a princess is the prize, but for other stories the prize can
be anything (even inanimate objects). The prize in my story would be the pigs,
which the wolf attempts to eat throughout the book, but he never actually
succeeds (because he is a villain and children’s books are better suited to have a
happy ending).
The Donor is the character that provides the hero with a gift, clue or special
power to help them complete their quest. Sometimes the donor requires
something in return for their gift, which could involve another quest, or for the
hero to complete a riddle to earn the gift. I do not have a donor in my book,
mainly because it would not have a hero to support and my story is too short. In
the film Shrek, the dragon acts as the donor because at the end of the story, after
Shrek has completed his quest, she eats the villain.
The helper can be combined with the position of the donor. The helper works
alongside the hero, often throughout the story or they may appear in critical
points, in order to complete the quest. The helper has limited skill, and therefore
are the support role. Their limited characteristics emphasize those of the hero. I
do not have a helper in my story, as there is no hero to be helped and my story is
too simple. Donkey, in Shrek, acts as the helper who follows Shrek along on his
mission to save the Princess.
The following character is the Princess’ Father. Typically, this character provides
the task for the hero to complete. The Princess’ Father is often over protective of
his daughter and the hero has to gain the permission of the father, to have the
Princess. Propp stated that sometimes the Princess and the Father are not clearly
distinguished. My story does not include this character for the obvious reason
that it would not suit the story and therefore is not applicable. In the film Shrek,
this character is clearly distinguished as The King.
Katy Fleetham
The False Hero acts heroically and can quite often be mistaken for the real Hero
in a story. Sometimes, the Princess’ Father is fond of the False Hero, which makes
it difficult for the Hero to gain access to the Princess. The False Hero may also try
to take credit for some of the Hero’s work. My story does not have a False Hero
as it is not necessary since I have no Princess, Princess’ Father or Hero for it to
interact with. An example of a False Hero can be found in the film Shrek, as
Prince Charming has the respect of the Princess’ Father and comes across as a
hero for the majority of the film, until demonstrated otherwise.
The dispatcher is the character that sets the hero off on a mission or quest at the
beginning of the story. They usually play an early role in the story; they may be
the mother, father or boss of the character they set out on the quest. Sometimes,
the Princess’ Father sets the Hero off on a mission in order to gain the Princess’
hand in marriage. The dispatcher can be combined with the role of the false hero
who may set the Hero off on a false mission, which causes them danger, or they
may follow along disguised as the helper. The dispatcher in my story would be
Mother Pig, who sends the Three Little Pigs to go and build their own houses at
the beginning of the story.
Todorov was a Russian structuralist. He believed that all narratives followed the
same (or a similar), simple path. This path came in versions of 3 or 5 steps. Some
stories are not in consecutive order and therefore may not conform to these
steps. The 5 steps are as follows:
1. State of equilibrium – In my story, this is at the very beginning where the
three little pigs are living in the house with their mother.
2. Disruption (caused by an event) – This is displayed in my story with
speech. This is when mother pig tells the three little pigs that they have to
3. Recognition of the disorder – This is when the three pigs in my story
actually leave mother pigs house.
4. The attempt to repair damage – This part of my story is when the pigs
build their houses to replace the fact that they no longer live with their
5. Restoration of the new equilibrium - For my story, this is the end where
the three little pigs live together in the brick house.
The 3-step version of this idea consists of:
1. The equilibrium
2. The disequilibrium
3. The new equilibrium
The equilibrium is where the story starts. This is a typical day for the characters
in the story. The characters lives are in balance and this is what the viewer
expects the character to be doing as part of their everyday life. In my story, the
equilibrium is demonstrated on the first page. The first sentence expresses what
normal day to day life is for the 3 little pigs.
Katy Fleetham
The disequilibrium is the part of the story where an event takes place and causes
an interruption to the everyday activities that the characters entail. This may be
anything from a meteor crashing down to Earth to the character meeting
someone new. From this moment, the story becomes about the characters and
how they react to this situation. The aim of the characters is often to return to
the equilibrium. The disequilibrium in my story begins to take place after the
second sentence when mother pig stated that they must build their own houses
and the three pigs leave on page 2 to begin their mission.
The new equilibrium is placed at the end of the story. This is when the
disequilibrium is solved and everything becomes balanced again. This may mean
returning to the original equilibrium or it may be a new version of normal
everyday life for the characters. The audience expects this situation to continue
after the story ends. The new equilibrium in my story is when the three little pigs
live together in the brick house that was built in my story; rather than the ‘norm’
at the beginning of my story where they lived with their mother.

Claude Levi Strauss
Strauss came up with the idea of binary opposition. He believed that there can
only be a story when two opposing sides come together and interact. It is the
conflict between them that drives the story. His theory may involve the opposing
sides as follows:
 Good/ Evil
 Men/ Women
 Police/ Criminals
 Young/ Old
 Humans/ Aliens
 Humans/ Nature
My story involves the binary opposition of good and evil. The good is
demonstrated in the pigs who are little and innocent. The evil is shown through
my wolf character, who tries to blow down the houses of the pigs. The two sides
come together when the three little pigs decide to build their houses just outside
the woods near the beginning of my story.
Narrative Structure
Open narratives don’t reach a conclusion as part of the story, these can be found
in the forms of soap operas or comic books. Closed narrative stories contain a
conclusion within that piece of text and can be used for stories. My story has a
closed narrative because this is more suitable for childrens books that are
expected to have a start, middle and an ending to leave the child satisfied.
Single strand narratives have only one storyline which is followed throughout.
Multistrand narrative structures have many storylines, and can be found in the
forms of tv series or films, where they follow round the lives of many characters
to keep the audience interested. My book is a single strand story due to the fact
that children can find it difficult to follow more than one story at a time and for
Katy Fleetham
my age range this seems better suited. Multistrand narratives are often aimed at
an older audience.
A linear narrative consists of all the events in the story happening in consecutive
order throughout the story. Non-linear narrative structures may include flash-
backs or flash-forwards and these are usually aimed at an older audience due to
the complexity. I chose to use a linear narrative as this is suited better to my
audience so the story is easier to follow.
Realist narratives reflect ‘real life’. It consists of having only real events which
can occur in reality. Anti-realist narratives have events and characters that are
unlikely, if not impossible, to happen in real life. Realist narratives can be
demonmstrated in some non-fiction films and documentaries. Anti-realist
narratives can be found under the genres of science fiction and fantasy. My story
is anti-realist because it involves talking pigs and wolves who build their own
houses, which is very unrealistic, but it appeals to children which is why this was
a good narrative structure to use for my story.