A Motif-Index of Traditional Polynesian Narratives

  • About the Book
  • This reference work analyzes and classifies the story themes of Polynesian myths, tales, and legends according to an internationally employed system developed by Stith Thompson in his Motif Index of Folk-Literature ( 1955-1958). Thousands of tales, including those from almost all of the major original collections from the Polynesian area, have been examined and their thematic contents cataloged in this work.

    In his introduction, the author explains the concept of the motif as a basis for cataloging. He quotes from Professor Thompson's definition of a motif: “the smallest element in a tale having the power to persist in tradition,” for example, gods, marvelous creatures, magic objects, and certain kinds of incidents. The author believes “the function of an index of motifs is to cite bibliographical sources of narratives containing these viable (often irreducible) story elements, and thus to provide the investigator of specific story ideas with comparative
    Information.”

    The present work is an attempt to survey thoroughly the totality of Polynesian oral tradition and to indicate the distribution and relationships of narrative materials. Not since the publication of Roland B. Dixon's work on Oceanic mythology in 1916 has this been attempted. This index will be an invaluable reference tool for anyone doing research in Oceanic ethnology and folklore.

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