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Folk Tale and Folk Motif Indexes

Stith Thompson Motif-Index of Folk Literature and Aarne-Thompson-Uther Classification of Folk Tales

Motif-Index of Folk-Literature by Stith Thompson.

There is an easy to use online version  of the Thompson The Motif-Index  
and there is also a scanned six volume e-book copy at the HathiTrust.
For an overview of this scheme please see the Wikipedia article.  


Classification of Folk Tale Types

 There are several versions of this classification scheme. The earlier, designated
AT (for Aarne and Thompson) was later revised. The revision is referred to as
the ATU classification (Aarne, Thompson, Uther). 
See this Wikipedia article for an overview.

The complete ATU classification in available only in print in a book called: 

The types of international folktales : a classification and bibliography, 
based on the system of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson / by Hans-Jörg Uther.  
Published    Helsinki : Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2004.

This was published in a series of books called 

FF communications.   and is volumes no. 284, 285, and 286.

These books are NOT ONLINE. You will have to locate them in your local library.  

While incomplete, a GREAT PORTION of the AT and ATU classification schemes can be found here.

PLEASE BE AWARE that the entries in both the online Thompson Motif-Index and ATU classifcation
DO NOT link to examples of the folk-tale.  If you are trying to find a folk tale online, please see below. 


Finding Folktales Online

Finding folktales by / with ATU.

D.L Ashliman's site has most of Grimm's Fairy Tales online and gives their ATU classication.
He has also bundled stories with the same ATU classification.
These pages organize Ashliman's stories by ATU. 

Wikipedia is another great place to find folk tales.
This page organizes them by country and gives the ATU classification for many of the tales. 

Folktales without ATU. 

Aesop's Books has most of Aesop's Fables with wonderful illustrations. They are numbered
by Perry Number, which has nothing to do with AT or ATU numbers. 

The Golden Scales organizes tales by country and region. also has a number of tales organized by country and region. 

Locating the Tales cited in the Thompson Motif Index

The Thompson Motif Index is a finding aid as well as classification scheme. 
Many of the works used and cited by Thompson are out of copyright, and are available at the HathiTrust.
The Bibliography for the Motif Index and links to those digitized books can be found here.  


Finding a Motif in the Index or a Folk Tale Type in the Classification

If you are trying to find a motif or type for a particular folk tale, you do not have an easy job. 


Finding Thompson Motifs

For the Thompson Motif index, look at this help section for a explanation of the categories and help in finding motifs. 

If you need a motif for a Grimm's Fairy Tale or for a well-known folk tale, try the Folk Tales Online section. You can find the ATU type for Grimm's Fairy Tale and then find the ATU number in the ATU-AT-Motif sections. With luck it will list all the major Thompson Mofifs associated with the tale. 

Story Search, is an online database of  "Motifs" from the Stith Thompson Motif Index of Folk-Literature.  
It will only search single words, but it is a quick way to finding a motif classification for a story. 
For example, if you search "LION", you will find all the motifs that involve lions. 

I believe that Story Search has all the contents of Volume 6, the Index, of the  Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, but I have
no way to check it. If you choose, you can search the index volume of the Motif-Index at the HathiTrust. You can also search by keyword in that volume,
though it is slower than Story Search.

Another way to find motifs is to search the online version of the Thompson Motif Index.  You can open each section one by one 
and search the page for a keyword by using the Ctrl + F command. If you prefer to search all the pages at once, use an  
Advanced Google Search.  At Advanced Google Search  enter your keywords, then scroll down to SITE OR DOMAIN and enter this url:

Once you select a page, you will still have to use Ctrl + F to search through it.   If you find a motif, you might get the folk tale type at the same time because the Thompson Motif Index often also lists the AT classification type. For example this motif: 

A661.0.1.2. †A661.0.1.2. Saint Peter as porter of heaven. *Types 800, 801, 804; *Köhler Aufsätze 48; *Fb. "Sankt Peder". --Irish: Beal XXI 329; Preton: Sébillot Incidents s. v. "Antoine" (St. Anthony); French Canadian: Barbeau JAFL XXIX 25; U.S.A.: *Baughman.

is used in folk tale types 800, 801, and 804. 

Most of the numbers in the ATU classification are the same as the numbers in the AT classification scheme. 


Finding AT - ATU types.

-- The Folk Tales Online section gives the ATU for many tales and for all of Grimm's Tales. The Wikipedia link goes to a page where many of the tales have an ATU type.

-- The ATU - AT - Thompson Motif Index  pages might also be useful in finding ATU types. For now, you will have to open sections and perform Ctrl + F searches.

-- If you know a tale with a similar story, search for the tale on Wikipedia. Many of the articles on particular folk tales give the ATU number.

-- Try a search on Google Scholar. Enter the title of the tale (put quotation marks around the title to get an exact search) plus ATU.

    For example:  "dragon slayer" ATU

-- If you have access to JSTOR, you can run a similar search there. 

-- The biggest problem I have found is that folk tale titles are not uniform.