The Ramayana: a Story of Abduction

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The Ramayana: A Story of Abduction In Morphology of the Folktale, Vladimir Propp proposes thirty-one functions that make up all Russian fairytales. Propp’s Formalist approach to analyzing folktales can be extended beyond stories of the Russian tradition and even beyond fairytales. Proppian analysis of the Hindu epic, The Ramayana, reveals that the story is driven forth by function eight whereby “the villain causes harm or injury to a member of family” (31). Because Rāvana’s abduction of Sita was not one of the eight legal forms of marriage allowed by Ancient Indian Dharmasūtra specifically a Ksatriya marriage, Rama must follow after Rāvana in order to avenge the dishonor done to him by his wife’s captor contributing to the advancement of the plot (Hara 298). According to Propp, these functions are the “fundamental components of a tale,” “the number of functions known to the fairytale is limited,” and “the sequence of functions is always identical” (Propp 22-23). A story does not need to contain all thirty-one functions, but they must follow a specific order. Propp says, “A tale usually begins with some sort of initial situation. The members of a family are enumerated, or the future hero is simply introduced” (25). The Ramayana as told in The Mahabharata begins with an anecdote of Rāvana’s rise to power and introduces the hero, Rama. The Rāksasa king, Rāvana, is given a boon by the god Brahmā that makes him invincible over all creatures except men. Rāvana stirs up so much trouble on earth that Brahmā is asked to put an end to this. Visnu reincarnates himself among the sons of Daśaratha: Rama, Laksmana, Bharata, and Satrughna (Buitenen 727-731). This introduction is not one of Propp’s functions, but it is still an essential part of the story. At this point, the story begins to follow the morphological units outlined by Propp. His first function is “one of the members of a family absents himself from home” (Propp 26). Of his four sons, Daśaratha names Rama as


Cited: Buitenen, Johannes. The Mahābhārata. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1975. Print. Hara, Minoru. "A Note on the Rākṣasa Form of Marriage." Journal of the American Oriental Society 94.3 (1974): 296-306. Print. Jamison, Stephanie W. "Draupadí on the Walls of Troy: "Iliad" 3 from an Indic Perspective." Classical Antiquity 13.1 (1994): 5-16. Print. Propp, Vladimir. Morphology of the Folktale. Trans. Laurence Scott. Ed. Louis Wagner. 2nd ed. Austin: University of Texas, 1971. Print. Rinehart, Robin. Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture, and Practice. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Print.

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