Transformation of Myth into Tale

The word “tale” first appeared in written records around the 16th century and initially meant a story, a list, or description. Now, there are many varieties of tales – literary and folk tales, household and animal tales, but the most exciting, interesting, and favorite ones are the magic tales. They are the ones where the wolf is able to speak in the human voice, where the reward for the courage and determination is the heart of the loved one and often – the entire kingdom. In a magic tale, there is a different, special, and mysterious world. There are extraordinary fantastic heroes, the true conquerors of darkness, evil, and lies. Some magic tales are closely linked with mythological representations, mostly with rituals. As noted by Propp (1968), “the fairy tale must dedicatory rituals near the most important symbols, motifs, themes and part of its overall structure “. The different genres of a magic tale were influenced by primitive fetish, totemic, and magical representation.

The transformation of a myth into a tale takes on the following steps:

  • desanctification;
  • the weakening of strict belief in the truth of mythical events;
  • the development of conscious fabrications;
  • loss of ethnographic specificity;
  • replacement of the mythological heroes with ordinary people;
  • replacement of the mythological time with fabulously uncertain;
  • moving attention from the collective fate to individual, from cosmic events to social.

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Myths and rituals in archaic societies were not always linked and interdependent. In the archaic folklore, a fairy tale fantasy was also “ethnographic”, as in the myths, but in a classic European magic tale fantasy moves away from the tribal beliefs, and thus the conventional poetic mythology of tales was created. The purpose of the heroes was food, women, and wonderful items – anything that could contribute to the welfare of the hero. In the tale, nothing appears for the first time, since everything is just redistributed by the hero, usually in their favor. Magic tale characters were no longer mythological demigods, as the high origin of the hero often had social nature. The demythologizing process made the hero a deliberately disadvantaged social character, such as in the tale Cinderella. The plot of the family oppression of a stepdaughter or a younger brother is found in fairy tales all around the world.

The tale hero does not automatically possess those magical methodological powers, as they need to first initiate and then develop such powers. A classical form of fairy tales, however, is not the initiation but marriage, that is, a younger and more individualized ritual. The main fairy tale’s goal is wedding, which is comparable to the wedding rite as a whole. As a result, the hero of a fairy tale wedding certainly raises his social status.

Analysis of the Fairy Tale Cinderella

A mythological motive forms the core of the classic European fairy tales, and social motives create the function frames and adapt the story for certain audience. In Cinderella, the original conflict situation “stepmother-stepdaughter” gets development in the core part of the tale, and the final situation is resolved with a happy marriage and change in the social status of the stepdaughter.

In the process of evolution, the story acquires a rigid structure, takes its place among the folk, and later literary, genres. The folklore genre is a series or set of monuments, united by the common poetic system. The specificity of the fairytale genre is reflected in the fact that nobody believes in reality of the performance.

The tale time is uncertain, as well as the location. The fairy tale is a sequence of situations, where each occurs in a given time. The tale time begins with irrational intervention forces influencing human life; it can be both objective and subjective events, a violation of the prohibition or an unmotivated action of the heroes’ death.
In the late 1920’s, Propp (1968), following the structure research of fairy tales, created a functional model of the fairy tale types. The structure of fairy tales and the typology of actors have a lot in common.

The Development of the Genre of Literary Fairy Tales

The genre of a “literary fairy tale” was formed under the great influence of the Brothers Grimm. The Brothers first turned to the folk tale as a source of poetic folk; most of their tales were gathered by talking to ordinary peasants and storytellers. Because of their long and hard work, a basic criterion for literary tales was found. This criterion was the guiding light in further development of the genre. Its main features were illogical, unmotivated, natural and ordinary occurrences and, most importantly, the seriousness and serious attitude. The main impression, created by a natural wonder, is the coalescence of the author and the story, expressed primarily in the absence of any lyrical digressions and linguistic-shaped games. This opportunity Grimm opened up in 1810. Everything that contained indications to the history, a specific place, or demonization of natural forces was crossed. The other most visible sign of the European folk tale is “fixing requisites” – the permanent establishment of the “costumes” and “decorations” of the tale. The fairy tale begins to feature rather modern objects, characters, and scenery. This characteristic of a living tradition was picked up by the literary tale.

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Therefore, under the term “literary fairy tale”, we should understand the different types of tales: first, accurate reproduction of the oral tradition text, then – supplemented, corrected, and revised stories, and finally, the relatively free retellings.

The Structural Composition of a Fairy Tale

The traditional fairy tale consists of three following parts. The first formula of the tale indicates the place and time of action. The most common formula to start a fairy tale is an affirmative formula. “Once upon a time …”, “There was one famous and rich man…”, etc. Comparison of the Magic Tale Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault
Charles Perrault wrote his works in the classical epoch. Being a follower of all the canons of classicism, the writer aspired for the creativity in literature – new, accessible to the people genres, plots, and images. The writer contrasted extremely popular at the time ancient stories with the plots of folk tales. In his work, Perrault tried to reach a reasonable compromise; his tales are very close to the national creativity and thus completely adapted to the classicist requirements to the aristocratic “high society.”

Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm is a simpler, without any pretentious stylization. The Brothers Grimm were sensitive to folk poetry creativity, they tried to capture and save the most ancient versions of tales, leaving almost no change in the traditional form of expression. Stylistic treatment was preserved in not only old fairy tales, but also their whole structure, composition, nature, and characteristics of speech. Language of Grimm’s tales is rich, full of proverbs and well-aimed linguistic comparisons. The Brothers Grimm saved vernacular speech expressions, image characteristics, word play, typical fairytale style repetitions, and onomatopoeias.

Noting particular qualities of the creative method by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, we wish to analyze the fairy tale Cinderella, based on the morphological analysis of fairy tales, as proposed by Propp (1968). In his Generation of Structures of Fairy Tales, the researcher concluded that today only the magic tale is studied thoroughly and sufficiently. Propp (1968) calls the tale any development of the plot from a lack thereof through the intermediate function of a wedding. All the characters in the story are introduced through the initial situation immediately including the victim, Cinderella, the stepmother, and false heroes – the sisters.

The initial situation in the two tales should be strengthened from the absence of a family member; the heroine’s mother died and the girl became an orphan. After Charles Perrault, the stepmother takes her place immediately after the function of absence. The Brothers Grimm explain her image by relating to her feelings since the date of mother’s death, during which the girl “went every day to his mother’s grave and wept, and was meek and affectionate”. Representatives of Romanticism Brothers Grimm described the appearance of stepmother: “This winter came and the snow blanketed white shroud tomb, and when spring sun shone again, the rich man took another woman as his wife”.

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The Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault created completely different images of stepmother and sisters. Sister in the classic Cinderella sleeps in bedrooms with hardwood floors, on the feather bed, surrounded by mirrors from floor to ceiling, delicately called a stepsister, not an ugly duckling. The Brothers Grimm accorded almost no attention to household items and physical description of actors; they retained features of the folk tale with little interest to the landscape and environment actions – everything used in the literature to describe the environment. For the portraits of sisters, the Grimm had no individualized voice characteristics, “They were beautiful and white face, but the heart full of evil and cruel.”

The Main Feature of the Heroines is Goodness

The heroine of both fairy tales has a standard set of girls’ virtues; she is good, hardworking, obedient, quiet, modest, almost invisible, working 24 hours a day without complaining, while her stepsisters are mocking at her.

The Presence of a Magical Helper

Development of the plot of two tales diverges in certain points. The heroine gets a magic tool to achieve her goals with the help of magic. Thus, Cinderella of the Brothers Grimm tale gets the magical helper after having a number of preliminary actions: she asks her father to bring her a present – a branch, which she plants at the grave of the mother, grows a tree, and the white bird that lives in its branches executes wishes of Cinderella. Thus, the Brothers Grimm underline that the magical helper is Cinderella’s deceased mother, as she had promised to always stay beside her daughter. In Cinderella by Charles Perrault, the fairy godmother appears without prior manipulation, the image can be considered identical to the fairy’s image of the mother in Grimm’s tale. She, like her mother, is somewhere nearby, otherwise how could she feel that Cinderella was upset and needed support. The above reasons clearly resonate with the wedding rituals, crying of mother for her daughter, who goes to another family’s daughter, and promises of support and assistance in hard times.

After Cinderella gets a magical helper in the face of the white bird, the king expresses a wish to find the bride for his son. In Charles Perrault’s fairy tale, preparations to the ball are very detailed and colorfully described. His Cinderella does not have the magical helper, but in spite of the burning desire to go to the ball, as all classic heroes, she remembers her duties and fulfills them. She helps her sisters despite their taunts and tries to do everything as best as possible.

Motive of Hero Test

Many stories contain the motive of hero test within their structure. The Brothers Grimm also use it. Stepmother tests her stepdaughter two times but, like a true villain, her promise to allow Cinderella to go the ball does not come true. Only after the magic assistant came up Cinderella got a nice dress and went to the ball.

In the fairy tale by Charles Perrault, the time of testing Cinderella by stepmother is missing, the girl receives a gift from the good fairy not only ball dress and shoes, but also necessary for the high society accessories: coach, coachman, and six servants in gold-embroidered livery. Fairy here takes on some functions of violence – the tests are replaced with a stringent condition: Cinderella must go home before the midnight.

Meeting with Prince

The meeting of Prince by Cinderella is similar in both tales. The beautiful stranger, surprised with her beauty, was holding Cinderella’s hand all the time and did not let anyone else dance with her. In Charles Perrault’s tale, he did not even touch the dessert – so busy was he with his lady. Both tales have the moment when Cinderella’s relatives do not recognize her. Charles Perrault, following the customs and laws of good taste, forced Cinderella to come to the sisters for casual conversation when the clock was to strike midnight. Cinderella ran away, returned home unnoticed, and discussed the ball with her sisters.

Golden and Crystal Shoe

In the Brothers Grimm’s tale, the decision to leave the ball came because the prince wanted to know whose daughter was dancing with him. Cinderella escaped by running away and successfully avoided exposure. The stepsisters, who just returned, found her in her usual image at the usual place. Cinderella’s trip to the ball happened at least two times; on the third day, while running away, Cinderella lost her golden shoe. As noted above, the Brothers Grimm use two or three repetitions almost in all their tales, and events are matched almost completely and often are used inherent to folk speech couplets:

“You swing, shake off, tree,
Cover with gold, silver my face”

Charles Perrault’s Cinderella goes to the ball only twice, and at the second time, the situation was quite different from the previous one. The behavior of the Prince did not
change, the young man was admiring his lady, but Cinderella had so much fun she forgot about her restriction. Running away one minute to twelve, she hastily lost one of her crystal shoes. Crystal Shoe emphasized grace and ease of Cinderella, while Cinderella’s golden shoes by the Brothers Grimm, though certainly beautiful, were still far from being aristocratic.

Cinderella had only one shoe reminding her of an incredible adventure; on the other hand, the prince was able to find his beloved. In both tales, the prince reveals incredible skill to identify his lover given that he only knew that his lover had tiny feet. Based on the findings made earlier about the origin of the fairy tale from the wedding rituals, this discrepancy could be explained just with this influence.

Finally, after a series of events throughout the kingdom, the lost shoe eventually returns to Cinderella’s house. Sisters in the fairy tale by Charles Perrault were unsuccessfully trying to put on the shoe; however, Cinderella found it quite easy to put on both shoes on her feet.

Premature Celebration of Pests

The Brothers Grimm, without retreating from the folk traditions, embed with the story an element of premature celebration of pests and persecutors. On the advice of their mother, the daughters were trying to put on the shoe, but on the way to the palace, they noticed two doves sitting on a tree:

“Look-ka, look,
A shoe is whole in blood,
Slipper, apparently, small,
At home you bride is waiting”.

The prince gets to know about the presence of the younger sister, and the shoe fits Cinderella the best. Heroine overcomes pests in an unequal competition.

Conclusion of The Tale – Cinderella’s Wedding

In the final part of the tale, the magic assistant appears. Good fairy gives Cinderella a splendid dress. However, two doves from the walnut tree act as a senior of justice in terms of national consciousness, pecking out treacherous sister’s eyes.

Both stories are ending with the wedding of Cinderella. In one of them, Cinderella, as in the classic canons, is good and generous, even in a total triumph, she fulfills her duty to the sisters, becoming much higher on their social ladder. Cinderella immediately gets them married on two court nobles. The Brothers Grimm finish their fairy tale with punishing the guilty – a popular folk act.

“External” And “Internal” Medial Formulas

In the conclusion of our analysis, we will consider the “external” and “internal”
medial formulas used in the tale. Tales of both authors are characterized by the absence of transitional formulas commonly used in folk tales when the scene of action is changed: “Now let us leave our hero and look at that …”, etc., are absent in our tale and the formula checks attention of the audience and attracts their interest. For these literary tales, formulas are useless. The absence of external moral formulas does not harm the tale, in contrast to the internal moral formulas, which give the tale high artistic value.

One of the most important internal formulas, formulas that determine the image of mythical figures, describe the action of fantasy characters, make up a dialogue in literary tales, analyzed by us in the traditional sense, are absent. In the literary fairy tale, the author is trying to get away from any molds and creates an image using his own expressive means. The application of the final formula is explained as the desire to do some form of “Final,” the meaning of which depends, as a rule, on the nature of the plot, the storyteller, the audience and, of course, the degree of intensity of tradition. This is illustrated in the final analyzed formulas.


On the basis of the above, we can conclude that the magic tale is a literary text that performs esthetic function in the system of traditional folk culture. The value of tales for art and culture is largely defined by its origin from myths and rituals and organic links with them. Basic fairy-tale motives and plots must be involved by the most important rituals of the life cycle, which are only superficially modified, essentially remain the same. This allows the fairy tale not to lose its attractiveness and relevance in our days. Such continuity allows the tale from the past to be is in the present and persist in the future. An example of this is the appearance in the 17th century of a literary fairy tale, traditions of which have developed until our century. The motives of the fairy tale Cinderella gave rise to a movie. The modern “Dream Factory” – Hollywood, used myths to create their own fairy tales and made the image of a modern Cinderella one of symbols of the American dream.

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