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Narrative Structure Components

Vladimir Propp
Propp was a Russian and Soviet formalist scholar. Through analysing
plot components of Russian folk tales he identified their basic
narrative elements. After looking at one hundred folk tales he came
to the conclusion that they were all made up of thirty-one elements
(which he named functions) and only eight character types.
The Character Types That Propp Determined:
- The Hero: This character tends to be the main protagonist of the
story and it is their story being told. The Hero is usually championed
and is the character we want to succeed and accomplish any tasks,
quests or mysteries they are given to complete and solve. Typically
the Hero in a story is the Prince, however, in my story the Hero could
be considered to be the Princess. This is because the Princess is the
character youre rooting for and you want her to prove that shes a
real Princess.
- The Villain: This character is customarily depicted as struggling
against the hero. They usually possess bad traits and a lack of moralsa complete contrast to the good qualities of the Hero; this sways the
audiences opinion and turns them against the character of the
Villain, leading them to support the Hero. While the Queen in my
story does try to sabotage the Princess journey, she isnt really
regarded as a Villain. There is no one in my story that is inherently
evil and no one is trying to struggle against the hero. An example of a
Villain would be the stepmother in Cinderella, as her character is
contemptible and treats Cinderella with disdain; she also tries to
sabotage Cinderellas chance of marrying the Prince.
- The Princess/Prize: This character can either be the object that is
specifically sought after by the Hero or the prize or reward that
awaits the Hero after he completes his mission. In my story, the
Princess could be seen as being the prize for the Prince at the end of
the story. On the other hand, the Prince could be viewed as the prize
that the Princess is rewarded with in the end after her struggle to
prove that she is a genuine Princess.
- The Donor: This character provides the Hero with something
special; this could be a particular object (such as a magical weapon or
power) or a piece of information or wisdom that will allow the Hero
to complete his mission. Sometimes, the character of the Donor is
combined with that of the Helper. Also, in some stories the Donor

sets the Hero an extra quest before they give up the object or gift. The
plot of my story and that of the original story dont require a Donor
since there arent any characters on a quest they need assistance
with. In the story of Cinderella, the character of the Donor would be
the Fairy Godmother, as she uses her magic wand to help get
Cinderella to the Ball.
-The Helper: This character supports the Hero in their quest. The
Helper usually appears when needed most and at a crucial, pivotal
point in the story. Often, the weaknesses and inadequacies of the
Helper can help to showcase and identify the defining qualities of the
Hero. The Queen in my story could possibly be seen as a helper due
to the fact that she allows the Princess, albeit reluctantly, inside the
Castle to shelter from the storm. The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella
could also be classed as the Helper because she appears when
Cinderella requires assistance.
-The Princess Father: This character can be very protective of his
daughter and is generally the one to bequeath the Hero with a task.
Completing the mission usually earns the trust and respect of the
Princess Father and so typically results in the Prince marrying the
Princess. This character isnt as apparent in modern storytelling as it
was in the past, possibly because nowadays most women dont have
to be under the control of their father. My story includes the inverse
of this character as it is instead the Queen taking the position of the
suspicious mother who is protective of her son. I decided to give this
role to the Queen in order to add a bit of diversity to the story.
-The False Hero: This character is sometimes mistaken for the Hero
and can give the impression of being gallant and moral to both the
audience and the other characters in the story, however, they
actually want to take credit for the Heros work and they usually get
in the way of the Heros quest. A False Hero Character doesnt appear
in my story because it is irrelevant to the plot. The character of Hans
in the film Frozen could be a False Hero, as he appears to have good
intentions to begin with but in the end its discovered that he is only
out for self-gain and wants to seize control of the throne.
-The Dispatcher- This character takes an early role in a story and
sends the Hero off on a quest. The Dispatcher can be combined with
other characters such as The Princess Father, who sets the Hero a
mission before he is allowed to marry the Princess, and The False
Hero, who may dispatch the Hero on the wrong path to jeopardise
the Heros task or they may tag along behind the Hero. The Prince in
my story is on a mission to find a Princess, however, no one
dispatched him on this quest. An example of a Dispatcher would be

the wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs who sends
the huntsman on a mission to kill Snow White.
Tzvetan Todorov
Todorov was a Bulgarian structuralist who believed that all
narratives followed identical paths and were of a simplistic nature.
There are two different versions of his theory, one with three steps
and the other with five.
Todorovs Three Step Narrative Structure:
1.) Equilibrium: This is the beginning of the story. Everything is
normal and balanced and the characters go about their
business with nothing out of the ordinary happening.
2.) Disequilibrium: This is where the story picks up pace and
becomes more interesting as a result of an incident or event
happening to disrupt the normal routines of the characters.
The story now revolves around the characters reactions to the
occurrence and them trying to resolve the problem and regain
3.) New Equilibrium: This is the end of the story and typically
when order is restored. Things return back to normal or
possibly a new version of normal if there has been an
irreversible change at some point throughout the story.
My story differs from Torodovs Narrative Structure as it actually
starts at disequilibrium with the Princess turning up at the castle as
an unknown, unidentified person to the other characters; there isnt
any insight into the average, day-to-day lives of the characters.

The new equilibrium at the end of the story sees the Prince and
Princess just married and ready to begin a new life together.

Todorovs Five Step Narrative Structure:

1.) The story is at a state of equilibrium- everything is normal.
2.) An event transpires and disrupts the order.
3.) There is recognition that disorder has happened.
4.) After the recognition, there is an attempt to fix the damage.
5.) At the end of the story, new equilibrium is found or restored.
Binary Opposition
Binary opposition is an idea conceived by the French theorist Claude
Levi Strauss. He proposed that stories only occur if two opposing
sides are involved and there is conflict and interaction between them.
For example, common and familiar themes are: Man vs. Nature, Man
vs. Woman, Strong vs. Weak, Humans vs. Aliens and Past vs. Present.
For example, in the Harry Potter Books there is an ongoing conflict of
Good vs. Evil, with Harry being the good contingent and Voldemort
the evil. There is evidence of binary opposites in The Matrix in the
form of Good vs. Evil and Reality vs. Fantasy. Binary opposition
commonly appears in a majority of superhero (such as Superman and
Batman) and horror films, typically as Good vs. Evil, Sane vs. Insane,
Strong vs. Weak and Predator vs. Prey.
I dont think my story contains apparent binary opposition as the plot
is very simple. Although, you could argue that there is binary
opposition in the form of rich vs. poor or upper-class vs. lower-class.
The Queen doesnt believe the girl in the story is a real Princess due
to the fact that she looks too untidy and unkempt to be a Princess. In
this situation, the Queen could be perceived to be an upper-class
character that is judging the Princess on her appearance and the
clothes she wears and deeming her to be unbefitting.

Types of Structure:
-Open: These types of narrative dont reach a conclusion and
continue indefinitely. Franchise films, soap operas (such as
Coronation Street, Eastenders and Emmerdale), comic books and
some television series (such as Downton Abbey) are examples of
open narratives as they usually have ongoing storylines.
-Closed: These types of narratives do reach a conclusion. My story
has a closed narrative since the ending wraps the story up.
-Single Strand: A single strand narrative has only one storyline
running throughout the text or film. Many childrens books, including
mine, have single strand narratives due to the fact that the younger
audience these books are aimed at may struggle to understand more
than one strand and find anything other than one storyline confusing.
-Multi-Strand: These types of narrative are made up of many
different plots or stories. They are typically aimed at an older
audience since the multiple storylines sometimes need more of your
attention and focus than a single strand narrative. The film Love
Actually and the book series A Song of Ice and Fire (A Game of
Thrones) are multi-strand narratives as they involve following
different character points of view. Multi-strand narratives can be
effective as they engross the audience and make them want to see
each strand of the story resolved.
-Linear: Linear narratives start at the beginning of a story and go
straight through to the end. Each step of the story is in chronological
order. Linear narratives are generally used if you want to achieve a
straightforward and simple product; its for this reason that my story
follows a linear structure.
-Non-Linear: Non-linear narratives are non-chronological and dont
follow a specific order like linear narratives do. Flashbacks, flashforwards and rewinds may be employed to jump around in time. The
film X-Men: Days of Future Past flashes backwards and forwards
from past to present.
-Realist: Realist narratives are a reflection of real life and reality;
this makes them believable because they use events and situations
that could happen to anyone in their everyday lives. Documentaries
and books or films based on true stories are examples of realist
-Anti-Realist: Anti- realist narratives involve events, experiences,
characters and locations that are implausible and highly unlikely to

happen or occur in real life. My story is an anti-realist narrative as

the tale revolves around characters (a Prince, Princess and Queen)
and situations that probably wouldnt happen in real life. This type of
narrative may appeal more to children as they might find it more
interesting as opposed to a story solely based on realistic events.