Propp, V. (1928) Morphology of the Folktale. Second edition. Translation by USA: American Folklore Society and Indiana University. (1968) Available from: [Accessed 27th March]

It is a well-known fact that a large amount of traditional fairy tales or folk tales follow a very well established, easily identifiable narrative structure. Many of these stories originally started orally as tales which were told to children to teach them valuable life lessons about cultural beliefs: obey your parents, don’t be selfish etc. and these themes would run throughout the protagonist’s internal and external quest.

Vladimir Propp was a Russian theorist and folklorist who has had an extremely large influence on modern culture as well as other scholars such as Ronan Barthes and Levi Strauss. He had a very precise and regimented way of deciphering Russian folklore. His theories are based largely on narrative structure and character functions which (although originally were applied to folklore) can easily be applied to all types of text or film.

A term that Propp uses very often in Morphology of the Folktale is diachronic, which means that the audience experiences the story with the protagonist, Gretel, and we are tailoring our app version of the game to stick with this idea so that our audience feel like they are embarking on the journey too. He also states that many tales actually “proceed from a certain situation of insufficiency or lack” which works with our take because lack is the catalyst in both the original story and our recreation: the family is poor so the children are abandoned, Gretel needs to collect 100 magic beans, Hansel is starving which is why he eats the witches’ house.

Sweet Hostage both follows and differs from Propp’s morphology of the folklore (see chapter II, The Functions of Dramatis Personae). When writing the detailed version of the storyline, we wanted to keep the general structure as true to the original tale of Hansel and Gretel as possible but more importantly, we wanted to break the typical fairy tale conventions to adapt it to modern day culture. For example, Hansel is still the one to be tempted (not by a gingerbread house but by the narcotic, porridge) and Gretel is the one that saves the day. However, we have taken the idea of Gretel saving the day and elongated it to be the main storyline, rather than just the climax.

As well as keeping the general structure of the tale the same, we also wanted to break fairy tale conventions in order to add to the humour and modernity of Sweet Hostage. For this reason, there is no Propp-style romantic interest as reward at the end because Gretel sets out to rescue her careless brother and overthrow the evil witch. We have developed Gretel to fit the hero archetype to fit in with present day and turned the ‘Damsel in distress’ convention on its head with Hansel locked in the (metaphorical) tower with Gretel being the one to fight her way to him.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s