Semantic Web 2(12),
Of Lions and Yakshis
Franziska Pannach, Caroline Sporleder, Wolfgang May, Aravind Krishnan, Anusharani Sewchurran
Vladimir Propp's theory Morphology of the Folktale identifies
31 invariant functions, subfunctions, and seven classes of folktale
characters to describe the narrative structure of the Russian magic
tale. Since it was first published in 1928, Propp's approach has been
used on various folktales of different cultural backgrounds.
We built an ontology that models Propp's theory by describing
narrative functions using a combination of a function class hierarchy
and characteristic relationships between the Dramatis
Personae for each function. A special focus lies on the restrictions
Propp defined regarding which Dramatis Personae fulfill a
We investigated how an ontology can assist traditional Humanities
research in examining how well Propp's theory fits for folktales
outside of the Russian-European folktale culture.
For this purpose, a lightweight query system has been implemented.
To determine how well both the annotation schema and the query system
works, we annotated twenty African tales, and fifteen tales from the
Kerala region in India.
We evaluate the system by examining two case studies regarding the
representation of characters and the use of Proppian functions in
African and Indian tales. Our findings are in line with traditional
analogous Humanities research.
This project shows how carefully modelled ontologies can represent and
re-evaluate traditional theories of literary scholars, and how they
can be utilized as a knowledge base for comparative folklore research.