Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale: Character Types-Functions-Actions

Literary texts share with folk tales certain familiar character types (hero, villain, helper, donor, object of "lack" or quest).  Readers interpret the actions in literary texts by unconsciously mapping them on folk tales' invariant action patterns. 

Seven roles which any character may assume in the story:

1. the Villain, who struggles with the hero;
2. the Donor, who prepares and/or provides hero with magical agent;
3. the Helper, who assists, rescues, solves and/or transfigures the hero (can be merged with Donor);
4. the Princess, sought-for by the hero (and/or her father) who exists as goal and often recognizes and marries hero and/or punishes villain;
5. the Dispatcher, who sends the hero off (can be merged with Donor and/or Helper);
6. the Hero, who departs on a search (seeker-hero), reacts to the Donor, defeats the Villain, and weds/rules at end;
7. the False Hero, who claims to be the Hero, often seeking and reacting like a real Hero but always discovered/punished (sometimes merged with Villain role).

Tale Episode-Actions (usually in this order, but all may not occur in any one "parole" or text)

1) Someone is absent from home.
2) An “interdiction” or ban or rule is announced.
3) The interdiction is violated.
4) The villain seeks information, seeks to deceive the hero, succeeds.
5) A "lack" or "misfortune" is announced; sometimes the lack/misfortune is caused by the villain.
6) The hero is dispatched to repair the lack or misfortune.
7) The hero leaves home.
8) The hero is tested or challenged or questioned.
9) A donor enters the plot and offers a magical agent or introduces a “helper” character.
10) The hero acquires a magical agent and arrives at the object of the search.
11) The hero and villain fight.
12) The hero is marked/branded/defaced.
13) The villain is defeated and the lack or misfortune is repaired.
14) The hero returns.
15) The hero is not recognized, confronts false hero, is tested (strength, riddle, danger).
16) The hero is recognized by a deed or mark or object, and the false hero/villain is revealed/punished.
17) The hero marries (often the object of the quest) and/or is made the ruler.