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Motif in Literature

Stith Thompson's Motif-index Of Folk-literature

The "alphabetical" organization of Thompson's six-volume motif-index may at first seem counterintuitive. Thompson arranges material into twenty-three index categories—A to Z (excluding I, O, and Y)—but the category headings themselves are not arranged alphabetically. There is no correspondence, in other words, between a category's letter and its topic—category A collects Mythological Motifs; category B, Animal Motifs; category C, Motifs of Tabu; D, Magic; E, the Dead; F, Marvels; G, Ogres; H, Tests; J, the Wise and the Foolish; K, Deceptions; L, Reversals of Fortune; M, Ordaining the Future; N, Chance and Fate; P, Society; Q, Rewards and Punishments; R, Captives and Fugitives; S, Unnatural Cruelty; T, Sex; U, the Nature of Life; V, Religion; W, Traits of Character; X, Humor; and Z, Miscellaneous Groups of Motifs. Each index category is subdivided, some much more so than others. For a detailed list of the categories and their divisions, see the beginning of volume one: "General Synopsis of the Index," 29–35.

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