Monday, April 16, 2012

Vladimir Propp character types illustration


I made this piece for the Hypocrite Reader for an article on Vladimir Propp and his book Morphology of the Folk Tale. Propp was a formalist scholar who analyzed Russian folk tales (he said that his work would apply to all folk tales, but he used Russian folk tales for his work). His work involved classifying the different elements he believed were common to all folktales, including 8 character types. My illustration is of these character types:
1. The villain — struggles against the hero.
2. The dispatcher—character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off.
3. The (magical) helper — helps the hero in the quest.
4. The princess or prize — the hero deserves her throughout the story but is unable to marry her because of an unfair evil, usually because of the villain. The hero's journey is often ended when he marries the princess, thereby beating the villain.
5. Her father — gives the task to the hero, identifies the false hero, marries the hero, often sought for
during the narrative. Propp noted that functionally, the princess and the father cannot be clearly distinguished.
6. The donor—prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object.
7. The hero or victim/seeker hero — reacts to the donor, weds the princess.
8. False hero — takes credit for the hero’s actions or tries to marry the princess.
Propp differentiated between general folk tales and "animal stories." Tolkien did likewise in his "On Fairy Stories," and I'm inclined to agree, but I don't believe the categories are totally mutually exclusive. One of the wonderful things about fairy stories, in my opinion, is the totally inexplicable talking animals who turn up and never return to the plot! Fairy tale logic and magical thinking (in all senses of the phrase) at its best, really. Plus, the essay isn't about this distinction, so I took the opportunity to draw some animals in Russian hats.

When I was working on this I was inspired by Ivan Bilibin's illustrations, and also looking a lot at the black-and-white work of the illustration team Tin Can Forest.

The one above is the final version, but I had a few iterations. The original deadline was two days ago and I made the one below by that deadline.



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