UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Their feet grimed from the hearth : visual motifs in Aschenputtel, Catskin and Cap o’ Rushes MacMath, Russell D.


This study is based on the hypothesis that the concept of literary motifs logically includes the three subsets of textual motifs, visual motifs and oral motifs. This study has established the viability - the validity, practicality and usefulness - of a model of visual motifs for the analysis of illustrated folktales. The validity of the concept was established two ways. First, a literature review established that, while no formal models of visual motif analysis were evident, discussion of illustrated folktales described illustrators' conventions and practices in terms analogous to those used to describe textual motifs. Second, the instrument, procedures and definitions developed in this thesis were based on the assumption that the concept of visual motifs as a subset of literary motifs was supportable. That it was supportable was evidenced by its integrity in application. The practicality of the visual motif model as a basis for the analysis of illustrations was established three ways. First, the findings of this thesis are based on a visual motif analysis of sixty-eight variations of three specific folktales: Aschenputtel, Catskin and Cap o' Rushes. Second, a selection of eleven Key Books and four Notable Illustrations was identified to form a practical basis for the study of visual motifs with students. Third, the instrument and procedures developed for the collection and analysis of data in this thesis became a model of visual motifs specific to the folktales being studied. That the concept of visual motifs was useful was established four ways. First, the findings established that generally lamented stereotypical portrayals of folktales do not preclude the existence of extensive, diverse, variations in visual interpretation. Second, the findings established that the norms for the portrayal of visual motifs vary greatly between Aschenputtel and Catskin / Cap o' Rushes. Even though all three tales are part of the recognized Cinderella cycle, the markedly different portrayal of the protagonists and the principal motifs has implications for the study of cultural variations in folktales. Third, the findings established that there are significant variations in the portrayal of specific motifs during different chronological periods. The relative importance of different visual motifs at different times as evidenced by the extent of their occurrence has implications for the study of a folktale's changing role in changing times. Fourth, the diversity and evolving interpretations of a single folktale by different illustrators is a testament to both the living literature of folklore and the role of the illustrator as storyteller, reinterpreting the tale for new audiences. This thesis has established the viability of the concept of visual motifs and the effectiveness of the procedures and instrument thereby designed. Implications for theory, research, and practice have been proposed to build on the availability of the diverse material analyzed, and to explore both the reasons for, and varied interpretations of, the phenomenon documented herein.

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