The Use of "Motif-Index of Folk-Literature" and Solution Proposals to Some Problems Encountered

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Karagöz E.

MILLI FOLKLOR, no.124, pp.75-90, 2019 (AHCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Journal Name: MILLI FOLKLOR
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.75-90
  • Keywords: Stith Thompson, Motif Index of Folk Literature, oral culture, narrative, identification of motif
  • Ankara Haci Bayram Veli University Affiliated: No


The narratives that exist in a tradition from the past to the present are regarded as the common heritage of human consciousness and carry traces from the inner world of human beings. These traces manifest themselves as motifs in narratives. Motifs make up the roof of a narrative by their nature. Thanks to them, narratives continue their existence as an organism and play an active role in the creation of new narratives. In parallel with the process of mankind's domination on earth, narratives have become increasingly unlike each other. Although the themes and heroes of these narratives are different, the motifs always remain the same as they serve as building block in the creation of the narrative by the narrator. Thus, the motifs of the narrative must first be identified in order to be able to analyze a narrative properly. Identifying the motifs of a narrative can be a very easy task for a folklorist. However, the fact that the motifs in narratives are not identified according to a certain theory brings along some difficulties for later studies. Recognizing this problem, the folklorist Stith Thompson has developed a pretty useful method in his work titled Motif-Index of Folk-Literature (MIFL) in order to classify the motifs in a systematic way. The method, employed in this work, has been accepted by many motif researchers and has been used in similar studies done afterwards. However, in the implementation phase of this method, researchers may encounter some problems such as "showing the motifs in a practical way in the most appropriate place within the text, contributing to this huge motif atlas by placing the motifs in accordance with the thematic order in the MIFL, presenting the motifs identified as a result of the review adequately at the end of the narrative, and indexing them at the end of the study". The aim of this study is to find solutions to such problems and add new motifs to MIFL to facilitate the way that new motifs can be seen by the researchers. This study first introduces the basic working principle of the method developed by Thompson, which is used to classify motifs under 23 headings in alphabetical order and code them from general to specific in numerals. Then, on the basis of the available data, the pros and cons of the method were emphasized, an opinion was presented about the applicability of this method especially for the Turkish narratives, and solutions were proposed to some problems encountered in the implementation of this method. These suggestions are listed under 7 items in the form of a guideline: 1. Featuring motifs with their code numbers in MIFL, where they are used within the narrative. 2. Demonstrating that a motif not included in the MIFL is a new motif. 3. Opening an additional item to classify similar motifs not found in the narrative subject to MIFL based motif analysis. 4. Displaying the motifs used more than once in the narrative in the most appropriate place within the text. 5. Showing motifs where they act or use their power in the narrative rather than where they are mentioned in a stationary sense. 6. Creating an index for the narrative or narratives subject to the motif analysis. 7. Using the motif findings presented in the index part collectively in motif frequency studies. After giving information on these items, the sample evaluations are demonstrated in practice under each item. At the end of the study, the proposed arrangement in the implementation of this method and the functioning of the additional motifs were shown on a full folktale text.