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The fable .
The elements, the characters of the fable

The main feature of each fairy tale is the presence of magical and fanciful elements; unreal or incredible events, magic and spells are the peculiar ingredient giving the fairy tales a unique taste.
In the fairy tales the magic and the supernatural permeate everyday life, showing that everybody can live happily ever after, that the poor man can make a fortune and that everybody has to face some trials and overcome some difficulties in order to get a better life. In this way the fairy tales deal with real problems and there is a deep meaning in them that you must be able to catch in order to understand the human nature and better realize one's own individual history.
According to scholars the fairy tales have an ancient common root and they are linked to the primitive initiation rites: in ancient times, in fact, when the boys had come of a certain age, they were put through difficult trials, from a physical and psychological point of view, which were part of a ceremonial indispensable for the passage to the adult age. Only the ones who showed skill and courage could be accepted as an esteemed member of the adult community: the same thing happens to the main characters of many fairy tales who face difficult and dangerous trials to get a final reward (the homecoming, the wealth, the beautiful appearance, the love and a happy marriage, etc.).
Although we live today in a very different world, the fairy tales' language is still alive and rich in meaning: it is true that those tales always refer to distant times (Once upon a time there was…), but the message they include - success and happiness reached thanks to one's own merits and to other people's help - is universal.

The fables, in this section:

Some fables

The"Function of the Fairy Tale"

In a famous book, Morphology of the Folktale, the Russian scholar Vladimir Propp (1895-1970) investigated what the folk fairy tale consists of. He singled out in the so-called “functions”, the constant elements which are present in the text according to a certain order (more or less the kind of actions and events occurring there); he stressed that the fairy tales' characters are numberless and different, but the deeds they do are few and often recur. The conclusions drawn by Propp, who studied just the Russian fairy tales, are good also for other countries' fairy tales, as it is demonstrated that their essence is the same in all cultures and in all times. Basically, Propp arrived to express three principles:

  • The functions of characters serve as stable, constant elements in a tale, independent of how and by whom they are fulfilled;
  • The number of functions known to the fairy tale is limited.
  • The sequence of functions is always identical.

In Propp's system the functions are thirty-one and they are sufficient, with their own versions and inner articulations, to describe the form of the fairy tales:

  1. Absentation: One of the characters of the tale absents himself/herself from home for a particular reason (war, business, punishment, etc.).
  2. Interdiction: An interdiction [prohibition] is addressed to the hero.
  3. Violation: The interdiction is not respected by the hero, who violates the prohibition he had been addressed.
  4. Reconnaissance: The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance, in order to oppose the hero
  5. Delivery: The villain receives information about the victim, in order to harm him/her.
  6. Trickery: The villain attempts to deceive the victim in order to take possession of the victim or their belongings.
  7. Complicity: The victim submits to deception and thereby unwittingly helps the villain.
  8. Villainy/lack: The villain causes harm or injury to a member of the family, or one of a family members or friends either lacks something or desires to have something.
  9. Mediation: Misfortune or lack is made known: the hero is approached with a request or command; he is allowed to go or he is dispatched.
  10. Beginning counteraction: The seeker (hero) agrees to or decides upon counteractions.
  11. Departure: The hero leaves home in order to carry out his/her mission.
  12. First function of the donor (testing or interrogation): The hero is tested, interrogated, attacked, etc. which prepares the way for his receiving either a magical agent or helper. (The donor usually enters the story here.).
  13. The hero's reaction: The hero reacts to the actions of the future donor.
  14. Provision or receipt of a magical agent: The hero acquires the use of a magical agent.
  15. Spatial transference between two kingdoms, guidance: The hero is transferred, delivered, or led to the whereabouts of an object of search.
  16. Struggle between the hero and the villain: The hero and villain join in direct combat.
  17. Branding, marking (of the hero): The hero is branded.
  18. Victory over the villain: The villain is defeated.
  19. Initial villainy or lack liquidated: The initial misfortune or lack is liquidated.
  20. Return of the hero: The hero returns.
  21. Pursuit, chase of the hero: The hero is pursued.
  22. Rescue (of the hero from pursuit): The hero is rescued from pursuit.
  23. Unrecognized arrival: The hero, unrecognized, arrived home or in another country.
  24. Unfounded claims: A false hero presents unfounded claims.
  25. Difficult task: A difficult task is proposed to the hero. (Trial by drink, fire, riddle, test of strength.).
  26. Solution: The task is resolved or accomplished.
  27. Recognition: The hero is recognized, often by a mark or an object.
  28. Exposure of the false hero or of the villain: The false hero or villain is exposed and / or punished.
  29. Transfiguration: The hero is given a new appearance.
  30. Punishment: The villain is pursued.
  31. Wedding: The hero is married and ascends the throne.

Of course all the functions are not present in all the fairy tales: there can be omissions, or syntheses that, however, do not contradict the general line. A fairy tale can also start with one of the functions which is after the first one but, if it is an ancient tale, it is difficult that it does not follow its order, in the sense that a tale may skip functions but it cannot shuffle their unvarying order.
A function which always recurs is the “Exposure of the false hero”. For example, in the version of Cinderella, present in the Brothers Gimm's collection, the bad half-sisters try with different tricks to let the prince believe that each of them, in turn, is the lost light shoe's owner. At first, the prince is deceived, but in the end the half-sisters are exposed.
The fairy tale's hero, the main character, is always a positive character opposed by a negative character, the villain, who struggles with the hero, and is always bad.

Fairy tales for children, the reasons the trama in the fairy tales

Metamorphoses, magic transformations and disguise, by which a person pretends to be another one, wearing the hero's clothes and assuming his/her appearance, all these are usually among the motives present in the fairy tales.
The fairy tales can start with a realistic situation; but, during the story, there can also occur impossible events often thanks to the interference of magic powers.

The language used in the fairy tales is very simple; they were born as oral tales and keep their features of immediacy and simplicity typical of the spoken language. Some tales use rhymes and nursery rhymes (that is short dialogues or magic formulas) in order to liven up the tale.

In every fairy tale we can distinguish the narration (the author tells the facts), and the dialogue (the characters speak); in any case, in the fairy or fanciful tales there are words which denote characters, things, events which do not exist in the world; for example, fairy, ogre, spell, magic wand, magic ring, etc., which always inflame grown-ups' and children's imagination.

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