AT Types of Folktales
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In The Types of International Folktales, the "ATU Catalogue" edited by Hans-Jörg Uther (2004), ATU numbers replace AT numbers. And ATU (from the surname initials of Aarne, Thompson, and Uther) allows "the type numbers that have been in use for nearly one hundred years [to] remain unchanged," says Uther. To allow that and to accomplish that are two different things, though, for at least one Norwegian folktale that is well over a hundred years, is missing completely in the new ATU system. Its old AT number (211*) has disappeared.
Another side to the revision is that the overall content of various types of tales has been changed, in both small ways and more comprehensively. And such changes mean that old "AT umbrellas" (numbers) for the types of tales, do not serve as well as before as classification devices in every case, for example in many Norwegian folktales I have checked and commented on in Norwegian. [Link]
However, the new ATU-types are now the classification devices in force. And the overall, most recent and detailed survey of types looks like this (and you also get a former one below to compare with):
We use this scheme to survey and compare folk tales.
The AT Divisions of Tales
In the AT catalogue the tales (AT-number entries) are divided into these categories:
Most folk tales or fairy tales are classified under "ordinary tales". They comprise about half of the catalogue. The next section goes deeper into those catalogue numbers.
The A in 'AT' stands for Aarne, and the T for Thompson. More specifically: "The Finnish folklorist Antti Aarne and the American folklorist Stith Thompson." AT-numbers are practical tools of folklore: If you collect folktales they are of benefit. If you would like to have summaries of folktales, the catalogue numbers can give great help too. They help greatly those who intend to compare tales for different countries and cultures - mainly European ones, that is.
Aarne and Thompson devised a catalogue (classification system) of the types of international folktales. The initial catalogue was developed and published in 1910 by Aarne under the title "Index of Types of Folktale" in German. Aarne's system was devised to organize and index Scandinavian collections. Aarne's system was translated and enlarged by the American folklorist Stith Thompson in 1928, and revised in 1961.
In 2004 Hans-Jörg Uther published a novel edition in three volumes, called The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography Based on the System of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. The types of folktales are given ATU-numbers in it, after the surname initials of Aarne, Thompson, and Uther. The AT classification system is expanded to the Aarne-Thompson-Uther or ATU system which is far better than the older AT system and covers more ground. [Ti] [LINK]
The indexed AT motifs are limited mainly to European and European-derived tales that are known to have been told by mouth at the time they were published. The AT index yields a single classification system, and with its help different variants may be grouped or banded together under the headings of AT-number, which serve as their common reference. AT-numbers may be used to (1) identify tale types, (2) isolate motifs, (3) locate cultural variants. If there are variants that include other motifs, (more AT-numbers), the motif numbers are given too.
In the hog tale example given, there are two Norwegian variants of the folktale, and a comprehensive catalogue will give the information needed to find them if necessary, and there will be bibliographic information (not shown above).
Though this you can infer how a catalogue entry is generally designed.
Various Catalogues Are at Hand
The Types of the Folktale constitutes the most important reference work and research tool for comparative folktale analysis. The basic idea is still that in the AT catalogue tales are organized according to type and assigned a title and number and/or letter. In the highlighted example above, the tale "The hog who was so tired of his daily food" is given the index number AT 211*. But if we look for that particular tale in in D. L. Ashliman's Guide to Folktales in the English Language: Based on the Aarne-Thompson Classification System (1987), we will not find it [Agha]. This is because that Guide is a much abbreviated catalogue. For all that, Ashliman has followed the Aarne-Thompson classification system where he is not omitting entries or elements. Ashliman's Guide is fairly useful, and easier to use than the larger set devised by Stith-Thompson.
A search in Ørnulf Hodne's catalogue of Norwegian fairytale types [Tyno] for AT 211* would yield the result that is highlighted above. His catalogue follows the model of Norsk Eventyrbibliotek (below), and its folktales have been registered according to the international type system of Aarne and Thompson.
In the catalogue there is room for well known folktales, such as the ones collected, edited and published by Asbjørnsen and Moe, and the Household Märchen of the Grimm brothers. Most of these well-known folktales have been given one AT-number each, as a general rule. There are other tales that incorporate some of the elements (parts, episodes, motifs) of such tales, and still other tales that contain other elements. A comprehensive catalogue has to deal with these things. Hodne deals very much according to this:
More to know:
Despite the rich material that has been preserved in Scandinavia, much traditional material was never recorded.
Main sources: Tyno 5-15; Agha.
There are significant updates and much more to learn in Uther's recent The Types of International Folktales (2004).
THERE are about 4200 Norwegian folktale types today [Tyno 10]. Folktales may serve inspiration. And folktales are arranged in international folktale cataloges by (1) numbers, (2) titles and (3) summaries of the content (descriptions).
Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson worked out the numbers that refer to folktale types. An AT-number may cover a whole folktale, or a sequence (an episode) of a folktale. There is more on the subject further down the page.
FOLKTALES are arranged in international catalogues according to the motifs (themes) in them. A motif is given a number, a title, and a description where main traits or features of the tale are shown by way of a capsule. Example:
In case there is a chain of AT-numbers in an entry - for example AT 302+400+461+613 = AT 302 nr. 28 - it means the tale is classified as a variant of one or more tales. In this case the tale is classified as a variant of AT 613, which is called The two travellers, and tells how one traveller blinds the other, who in turn learns valuable secrets, and next becomes a mighty, rich man after his sight is restored again.
Also, many AT-numbers connected with a tale shows that the classification system is much cumbersome at times, and hardly neat enough today. Futher, both folktales and folktale variants may be classified in this way, by more than one AT-number. It shows that the tale/variant is made up of several motifs, one after another, in a "string of events" - the folktale plot or "chain of action".
In the survey that follows, most AT-numbers and titles in English are given, at least for the time being.
In this list some AT-numbers are left out, and many composite AT-numbers too, and descriptions of AT-numbers and titles. Also, listings of variants and of biographical data are omitted below.
The new ATU numbers do not correspond to all types of tales below; some of the more recently catalogised ones may have other ATU numbers.
The excellent, annotated series Norsk eventyrbibliotek (Norwegian Folk Tale Collection) edited by B. Alver (et. al) was published by Det norske Samlaget in Oslo 1967-1981, and contains 12 volumes. They are:
Agha: Ashliman, D.: A Guide to Folktales in the English Language. Greenwood. New York, 1987.
Ti: Uther, Hans-Jörg. The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography Based on the System of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. Vols 1-3. FF Communications No. 284-86, Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2004.
Ttf: Aarne, Antti. The Types of the Folktale: A Classification and Bibliography. Translated and Enlarged by Stith Thompson. 2nd rev. ed. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia / FF Communications, 1961.
Tyno: Hodne, Ørnulf: The Types of the Norwegian Folktale. Universitetsforlaget.
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