Many writers, readers and scholars have shown a great interest in European folktale since 1696 when famous writes such as Charles Perrault first expressed an interest in literature. Following this period, numerous popular writers composed various types of literature using their unique styles. Since that period, the number of folktales continues increasing, hence, leading to the formation of a large collection of tales not only from Europe but from all over the world. Max Luthi is among the most interesting writers who examine various folktales and attempts to give it a description using different elements that make a piece of literature a fairy tale. This discussion shall summarize the unique style of the fairy tale as proposed by the theory of Max Luthi and explain the stylistic features of one-dimensionality, depthlessnes, abstract style, as well as isolation and universal interconnection. The papers shall also give examples of these four stylistic features for each of the four fairy tales including ‘Emelya the Simpleton’, ‘The Frog Princess’, ‘Vassilisa the Beautiful’, and ‘The Three Kingdoms’.
Summary of Max Luthi’s Theory
Max Luthi is a scholar who acknowledges the symbolic nature of fairy tales. He is famous because of his theory and criticisms about fairy tales which are quite illuminating. Max Luthi argues the most fairy tales contain aspects that are not realistic including miracles and enchantments. The stories also attempt to combine two contradicting sides such as the mystical world and the real world. Max Luthi’s theory uses four elements to describe fairy tales including one-dimensionality, depthlessness, abstract style, and isolation as well as universal interconnection.
The one-dimensionality element attempts to reveal the link that exists between a fairy tale and the mystical world. That implies that the fairy tales try to combine the real world and the imaginary one. The fairy tale’s depthlessness lies in the fact that there is no realism in the story. The lack of realism occurs in tales through the representation of items, and figures that are physically distinguished using outstanding outlines and colors on a flat surface. Such figures also lack depth and shape. Closely related to depthlessness is the abstract style of a fairy tale. Luthi further argues that the abstract style is the most fundamental characteristic. This style shows the tale’s symbolic nature. The fairy tale paints utilizes well-defined delineations and outstanding colors to paint pictures on its flat surface. Finally, isolation and universal interconnection refers to the conclusive isolating attribute of the fairy tale. That means that in fairy tales, the characters, plot and episodes are isolated after which they acquire the capacity to interconnect with the universe. Most characters of tales are isolated people who are distant from their relatives which the enables them to connect with the characters they encounter in their escapade. There is also an isolation of episodes from each other.
Examples of Max Luthi’s Four Concepts for The Four Tales
Emelya the Simpleton
- In this fairy tale, the pike is a representation of the aspect of one-dimensionality. That is because, in the story, the Pike can talk when he asks the simpleton to return it to the water, and it will grant him any of his wishes.
- The depthlessness of the tale manifests itself through the sequence of events in the simpleton’s life. This character does not face any challenges or difficult decisions. The sequence of events since his brother’s departure is also unrealistic because he gets everything he desires without making any efforts.
- The abstract style of in the fairy tale lies in the manner in which the writer describes the gifts that would be given to the simpleton if he obeyed his sisters-in-law. These gifts include red boots, a red caftan, and a red shirt. The fact that the simpleton also got a magical pike that made his life very easy is also a representation of the abstract nature of the tale.
- Isolation in the story is portrayed through the character of simpleton who is very different from the brothers, lazy and a fool. The fool later interconnects with the rest of the world through the magical pike.
The Frog Princess
- The frog that picks the third son’s arrow is a representation of the one-dimensionality aspect of a fairy tale. Further, the author portrays the frog as the most hardworking and excellent in performing tasks such as spinning cloth when compared to the other lazy ladies.
- The fact that the youngest son marries the frog without any emotional attachment or attraction represents the depthlessness of the tale. In fact, in the story, the young prince is embarrassed by the fact that his wife is a frog, unlike his brothers.
- The abstract style in the story is brought out through the princess who is magical, and this is what makes the once unlucky prince into a lucky man. The events in the story also occur in an orderly manner so that everything appears to happen at the right time and for a particular purpose.
- Prince Ivan is an isolated character since he is depicted as the unlucky person among the three brothers. He later becomes lucky when he meets the frog who turns out to be the most beautiful princess. Prince Ivan shows the universal connection when he embarks on the journey to find his wife and bring her back.
Vassilisa the Beautiful
- In this tale, the tiny wooden doll represents the one-dimensionality of the fairy tale. When the Vasillisa’s mother gives it to her, she states that the doll had the ability to protect her from evil threats by giving her advice her on what to the when the need arises. However, he mother tells her that she has an obligation first to feed the doll and give it water to drink.
- Depthlessness in the tale is present in the fact that Vasilassa’s mother due to the lack of her continuous presence. Her sole purpose in the story is to give Vasilassa the magical doll after which she is completely forgotten. In fact, the King expressed the desire to remarry after some time.
- The author of the tale uses an abstract style to narrate the sequence of occurrence of events in Vasilassa’s life. Everything seems to happen for a reason and especially in favor of her interests and well-being.
- Vasilassa is an isolated character because she is the most beautiful in te village. For this reason, her foster mother treats her with a lot of contempt. Later she connects with the universe after undergoing the isolation when she finally gets married.
The Three Kingdoms
- One-dimensionality is a present feature in this fairy tale. This dimension manifests itself at the commencement of the story when the first son, Egorushko the nimble, meets the three-headed dragon and immediately talks to it. His younger two brothers also later talk to it thus making it seem like a normal thing to communicate with a dragon.
- The other stylistic device manifesting itself from the story is depthlessness. The story is shallow and some of the characters given superfluous names could have as well been just any ordinary Tom, Dick and Harry. For example, when Ivashko, the youngest son, was left in the pit by his brothers he is directed to a “mighty giant” who was supposed to show him the way out. The “mighty giant” did not even scare him even a bit. Instead, it simply directs him to Baba Yaga.
- The story is also written using an abstract style. There is nothing colorful or out of the ordinary in the story, when Ivashko meets the three maidens, they all ask the same question and the author informs us that he is given a lot of food. When he asks for food, the author plainly tells us that “the maiden set the table and brought all kinds of foods and drinks which he ate to his fill.” Another example is the description of the three houses. The colors copper, silver, and gold sharply but plainly distinguish the three of the houses.
- The most definitive feature of folklore, isolation and universal interconnection is also present in this the three kingdoms. This trait manifests itself when the main character in this story, Ivashko, is left by his two elder brothers in the seat for fearing that he may deny them a bride. His trusting nature shows universal interconnectedness. Ivashko trusts all the other characters he comes across and follows their orders without questioning any of their intentions.
The discussion has summarized the Max Luthi’s theory of fairy tales analysis. He uses four main elements as the key features that distinguish folklore from other stories. The four features include one dimensionality which combines the supernatural and natural world, depthlessness and abstract style which show the lack of realism, and finally isolation and universal interconnection. Four tales have been used in the discussion to provide examples of the application of the elements mentioned above.