Classification of Folktales By Elisabeth Zwick IST 616 Assignment 2 Aarne-Thompson Classification System Definition : Originally developed by Antti Aarne and later revised by Stith Thompson, this classification system is a multivolume index that catalogues folktales by tale type or motif. This allows folklorists and others interested in the field to draw parallels between plots, characters, and other story elements of folktales from different countries (Getty, 1997). Domain and Entities Domain: The domain or scope of the Aarne-Thompson system is all known and recorded folk and fairytales. Although many of the tales included are in print form, many have a long oral tradition (Smith, 1996), and some tales archived on the web have been assigned Aarne-Thompson (AT) numbers (Thomsen, 2003). Entities: The units or entities that the system represents are the fairy or folktales themselves, usually listed by their title. The types of tales are the different classes of the system. History In 1910 Antti Aarne published a list of tale types, intending it to be the first catalogue of international folktales. However, it was only based on three sources – Grimm’s tales, Gruntvig’s Danish tales, and Finnish folklore. Starting in 1928, Stitch Thompson began revising Aarne’s system. In The Folktale (1946) Thompson proposed the idea that the tales of people from “Ireland to India” be represented in an updated index, and by 1961, he added tale types and references representing tales from southern and eastern Europe and from India (Goldberg, 1997). Structure The Aarne-Thompson system is made up of a series of classes, subclasses, and entities that are based on tale type or motif. There are broad classes, such as “Religious tales” or “Animal tales” that contain smaller subclasses and entities within those subclasses. See the example for animal tales on the next slide. Example of Structure In the example above, the major class or tale type would be “Animal Tales.” One subclass would be “Wild Animals” with “The Clever Fox (Other Animal)” being a subclass within “Wild Animals” (Kinnes, http://oaks.nvg.org/folktale-types.html). An entity in “The Clever Fox” class could be Aesop’s fable about the fox and the crow. Relationships Among the Entities and Classes The explicit relationships between the entities and subclasses is that the individual entities are typically titles of fairy or folktales that belong to the subclasses because their motif or major element is named by the subclass. The subclasses fit into the classes because the classes are made of up of generalized tale types, such as “Tales of Magic.” Implicitly, this means that the motifs and elements of tales can be examined cross-culturally – thus folktales from different countries and parts of the world can be more easily compared. Classification structure/scheme The relationships in the Aarne-Thompson classification have a tree structure – they are not all the same or generic. For instance, although “Animal Tales” has subclasses for “Wild Animals” and “Domestic Animals” it also has subclasses or categories for “Wild Animals and Humans” and “Other Animals and Objects.” Aarne-Thompson can be interpreted as a facetted classification system, because tales can be classified according to different elements or aspects. For instance, the African folktale Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters could be classified as a “Tale of Magic” or “Wild Animals” tale, or it might be classified more specifically as a Cinderella type tale. Given that the system was written from a Eurocentric viewpoint, this has lead to many challenges and issues with the system that will be explored in a later slide. Dimensions, differentiations, and notations Notations for the system are made with the abbreviations AaTh or AT and numbers. For some entities letters are also included, and for some revisions and additions by Thompson asterisks are also included (Uther, 2000). For instance, one version of Cinderella is classified “AT 510A” (Dundes, 1997). In the Aarne-Thompson system tales are classified according to type, with Aarne and Thompson defining the types. That is why some tales can be compared cross-culturally, but there is a Eurocentric approach to the system. Other dimensions that fairy and folktales could be classified by author or country or region, but they are NOT classified this way in the Aarne-Thompson system. Strengths of System The structure of the system allows for experts and educators to draw parallels between elements of folktales from different countries and cultures. This is particularly true for tales about magic, of which Cinderella stories are the most common worldwide example (Getty, 1997). In the case of areas of the world and cultures where folktales draw from a variety of influences, such as Cajun tales or Puerto Rican Juan Bobo tales, the system makes it easier to trace the influences (Laestra, 1999). The Aarne-Thompson system has led to the influence of intercultural studies in the United States due to its structure (Smith et. al, 1996). Strengths and Evaluation Because the system is not classified by author or geographic region or country, it can accommodate new titles and entities. Overall I would classify the system as hospitable and somewhat flexible, and definitely useful in terms of comparing tales across cultures. However, given the number of revisions to the system and the fact that the notations are numbers-based, I feel there are ambiguities and that the system is far from perfect and will probably continue to be revised. Challenges and Criticisms of System As mentioned earlier, tales can have a combination of types or elements, which can lead to confusion when classifying new tales that weren’t in the original index or its revisions by Thompson (Dundes, 1997). The system is Eurocentric, and even with the revisions by Thompson, left out many African and Native American folktales (Dundes, 1997). The system is more focused on fictional, imaginative, or magic-based tales and not on historical narrative. This shortchanges the folklore of countries like Ireland, where much of the folklore centers on the Great Famine (Ciosain, 2004). Various authors have criticized the Aarne-Thompson system for being genderbiased (Hallissey, 1996). Torborg Lundell documented many examples of how the index focuses on male activity over female and portrays women as passive (Ragan, 2009). The notations for the system are numbers, and with the Thompson revisions, some tales contain many asterisks, which is confusing and often incomprehensible for those unfamiliar with the system (Uther, 2000). Recent Revision: ATU One of the latest revisions of the Aarne-Thompson system is by Hans-Jorg Uther, a German professor (Bode, 2006). Uther rewrote the descriptions of the tales to reflect the latest research and added 250 new types (which includes both subclasses and entities). He also documented the distribution of each tale type on an international basis (Bode, 2006). Uther emphasized research and written tales over oral traditions (Uther, 2000). Many folktales have begun to be classified and indexed according to the updated Aarne-Thompson-Uther system, or ATU number. References Bode, A. (2006). The types of international folktales. A classification and bibliography: Based on the system of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. Bookbird, 44(1), 47-47. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/216107874. Ciosain, N. (2004). Approaching a folklore archive: The Irish folklore commission and the memory of the great famine. Folklore, 115(2), 222-232. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/202738961. Dundes, A. (1997). The motif-index and the tale type index: A critique. Journal of Folklore Research, 34(3), 195-202. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/853065341. Getty, L. (1997). Maidens and their guardians: Reinterpreting the "Rapunzel" tale. Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, 30(2), 37-52. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/205368716. Goldberg, C. (1997). Dilemma tales in the tale type index: The theme of joint efforts. Journal of Folklore Research, 34(3), 179-193. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/853065570. Hallissy, M. (1996). Fairy tale as myth / myth as fairy tale. Studies in Short Fiction, 33(3), 442-443. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/195681930. Kinnes, T. (2011). AT Types of Folktales. Retrieved from http://oaks.nvg.org/folktale-types.html. References (cont.) Lastra, S. (1999). Juan Bobo: A folkloric information system. Library Trends, 47(3), 529-557. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/220440160. Ragan, K. (2009). What happened to the heroines in folktales? An analysis by gender of a multicultural sample of published folktales collected from storytellers. Marvels & Tales, 23(2), 227-247,217,452. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/230775163. Smith, M. et. al. (1996). Definitions of folklore. Journal of Folklore Research, 33(3), 255-264. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/853064718. Thomsen, E. (2003). Folktales on the world wide web. Collection Building, 22(3), 146-146. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/219863332. Uther, H. (2000). The Third Revision of the Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index (FFC 184). Enzyklopadie des Marchens. Retrieved from http://www.folklorefellows.fi/?page_id=915.