Classifying Fairy Tales




Aarne-Thompson Folktale Types and Motif Index


This is the most accepted standard method to catalogue folk and fairy tales. The A-T Index covers only the Indo-European folktales. Yet, thanks to recurring motifs across cultures, most tales from other lands fit smoothly into the index. “The Maiden Without Hands” appears in Africa, Cinderella in China, and so forth. Below is, not a complete listing of tales, but many popular ones, especially those relevant to this study.





Tales of Magic 300-745


Supernatural Adversaries 300–399

AT 300 The Dragon Slayer

AT 301 The Three Stolen Princesses

AT 301A Quest for a Vanished Princess

AT 302 The Ogre’s (Devil’s) Heart in the Egg

AT 303 The Twins or Blood-Brothers

AT 304 The Hunter

AT 305 The Dragon’s Heart-Blood as Remedy for King

AT 306 The Danced-out Shoes (The Twelve Dancing Princesses)

AT 307 The Princess in the Shroud

AT 310 The Maiden in the Tower (Rapunzel)

AT 311 How the Devil Married Three Sisters (Fitcher’s Bird)

AT 312 Bluebeard

AT 313 The Girl as Helper in the Hero’s Flight (The Mastermaid)

AT 313H: Magic Flight from Witch (Baba Yaga)

AT 314 The Youth Transformed to a Horse

AT 315 The Faithless Sister

AT 316 The Nix of the Mill-pond

AT 317 The Stretching Tree

AT 317A The Peasant Girl Rescues the Prince

AT 318 The Faithless Wife

AT 321 Eyes Recovered from a Witch

AT 325 The Magician and his Pupil

AT 326 The Youth Who Wanted to Learn What Fear Is

AT 327 The Children and the Ogre

AT 327A Hansel and Gretel

AT 328 The Giant Killer (Jack and the Beanstalk or Molly Whuppie XE "Molly Whuppie" )

AT 330D Bonhomme Misere

AT 332 Godfather Death

AT 332B Death and Luck

AT 333 Red Riding Hood


Supernatural or Enchanted Relatives 400-459

AT 400 The Swan Maiden

AT 402 The Animal Bride

AT 402A The Marriage of Sir Gawain

AT 403 The Black and White Bride

AT 410 Sleeping Beauty

AT 425 The Search for the Lost Husband

AT 425A Cupid and Psyche

AT 425C Beauty and the Beast

AT 425J The Heroine Serves in Hell for her Bridegroom

AT 425N The Bird Husband

AT 432 The Prince as Bird

AT 440 The Frog Prince

AT 451: The Brothers Who Were Turned Into Birds (The Six Swans)


Supernatural Helpers 500–559

AT 500 The Name of the Helper (Rumpelstiltskin)

AT 501 The Three Old Woman Helpers

AT 502 The Wild Man

AT 505 The Grateful Dead

AT 507A The Monster’s Bride

AT 510 The Persecuted Heroine (Love Like Salt)

AT 510A Cinderella

AT 510B The Dress of Gold, of Silver, and of Stars (Tattercoats)

AT 513 The Helpers

AT 514 The Shift of Sex

AT 519 Brunhilde, The Strong Bride

AT 530 The Princess on the Glass Mountain

AT 531 Ferdinand the True and Ferdinand the False

AT 533 The Goose Girl

AT 545B Puss in Boots

AT 555 The Fisherman and His Wife


Magic Objects 560–649

AT 560 The Magic Ring

AT 561 Aladdin

AT 612 The Three Snake‑Leaves

AT 613 The Two Travelers

AT 621 The Louse Skin


Supernatural Power or Knowledge 650-699

AT 653A The Rarest Thing in the World

AT 673 The White Snake

AT 676 Ali Baba


Other Tales of the Supernatural 700-749

AT 700 Tom Thumb

AT 703 The Artificial Child (The Snow Maiden)

AT 704 The Princess on the Pea

AT 706 The Maiden without Hands

AT 709 Snow White

AT 711 The Beautiful and the Ugly Twin

AT 720 The Juniper Tree


Religious Tales 750-849

AT 756 The Three Green Twigs

AT 756B The Devil’s Contract

AT 759 God’s Justice Vindicated

AT 766 Sleeping Hero Legends

AT 780 The Flower of Lily‑Lo

AT 812 The Devil’s Riddle


Realistic Tales 850-992A

AT 851 The Princess Who Cannot Solve the Riddle

AT 859 Poor Suitor Pretends to Wealth

870-879 The Heroine Marries the Prince

AT 870 The Entombed Princess (Maid Maleen)

AT 873 The King Discovers his Unknown Son

AT 874 Ariadne

AT 875 The Clever Peasant Girl Who Solves the King’s Riddles

AT 879 The Basil Maiden

AT 882 The Falsely Accused Wife

AT 883A The Innocent Slandered Maiden

AT 888 The Faithful Wife

AT 891 The Man Who Deserts His Wife and Sets Her the Task of Bearing Him a Child

AT 900 King Thrushbeard

AT 901 Taming of the Shrew

AT 910B The Servant’s Good Counsels

AT 924 Sign Language Misunderstood

AT 926C: Wise Judges


930-949 Tales of Fate

AT 931 Oedipus

AT 945 Luck and Intelligence

AT 955 The Robber Bridegroom

AT 981 Wisdom of Hidden Old Man (or Woman) Saves Kingdom


Jokes and Anecdotes 1000-1965

AT 1353 The Old Woman as Devil’s Helper

AT 1354 Death for the Old Couple

AT 1364 The Blood‑Brother’s Wife

AT 1380 The Faithless Wife

AT 1408 Trading Places (family members exchange jobs with disastrous results)

AT 1418 The Equivocal Oath

AT 1539 Tricksters and their Victims

AT 1654 The Robbers in the Death Chamber

AT 1730 The Entrapped Suitors

AT 1741 A Woman Convinces a Guest that her Husband (or Employer) Wants to Cut Off his Ears





Mythological Motifs

A0 Creator

A110 Origin of gods

A112 Birth of gods

A163 Contests among the gods

A188 Gods in love with humans

A220 Sun Deity

A220.1.1 Amaterasu

A240 Moon Deity

A301 Mother Earth conceived as mother of all things

A310 Deity of the world of the dead

A316 Persephone

A421.1.2 Sea Goddess

A493.1 Pele

A483.1 Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin

A510 Origin of the culture hero (demigod)

A526.7 Culture hero performs remarkable feats of strength and skill

A560 Culture hero’s departure

A610 Creation of universe by creator

A673 Hound of hell

A736.1 Sun and moon as man and woman

A773 Origin of Pleiades

A800 Creation of earth

A822.2 Land created from dripping spear

A1010 Deluge

A1030 World‑fire

A1150.2 Winter while Persephone is in underworld

A1231 First man descends from sky

A1241 Man made from clay

A1270 Primeval human pair

A1335 Origin of death



B20 Beast-men

B50 Bird-men

B80.1 Seal-men

B81 Mermaid

B401 Helpful horse

B411 Helpful cow

B600.2 Animal husband provides characteristic animal food

B611.3 Horse paramour

B848.21 Lion’s whisker



C12 Devil invoked appears unexpectedly

C30 Tabu: Offending supernatural relative

C31.1.2 Melusine

C32.1 Tabu: Looking at supernatural husband

C35.4 Tabu: Returning skin of animal wife

C321 Pandora

C400 Speaking taboo

C611 Forbidden chamber

C932 Loss of spouse for breaking taboo



D100 Transformation: Person to animal

D150 Transformation: Man to bird

D161.1 Transformation: Man to swan

D190 Transformation: Person to reptile

D300 Transformation: Animal to person

D361.1 Swan maiden

D361.1.1 Selkie bride

D454.3 Transformation: Cloth to other object

D672 Obstacle flight

D735 Disenchantment through kiss

D758.2 Disenchantment by maintaining silence for a year or more

D855.5 Magic object as reward for good deeds

D1611 Magic object answers for fugitive

D1652.8 Inexhaustible cloth

D1960.3 Sleeping Beauty


The Dead

E30 Resuscitation by arrangement of members

E234.3 Return from dead to avenge death

E235 Return from dead to punish indignities to corpse

E480 Abode of the dead

E632 The singing bone

E710 External soul



F17.1 Changing Woman

F81 Descent to lower world of the dead

F81.1 Orpheus

F81.1.0.1 Izanagi and Izanami

F92.2.1 Persephone

F251.4 Underworld people from children which Eve hid from God

F302.4 Animal brides

F321.3 Person enters fairyland to rescue a child

F324.3.1 Tam Lin

F329.1 Thomas the Rhymer

F848.1 Rapunzel

F1015.1.1 Twelve dancing princesses



G10 Cannibalism

G200 Witch

G205 Witch stepmother

G211 Witch in animal form

G266 Witches steal

G271 Breaking spell

G284 Witch as helper

G412.1. Hansel and Gretel

G530.2 The Mastermaid



H36.1 Slipper Test

H41.1 Princess on the Pea

H56 Recognition by wound

H71.1 Star on forehead as a sign of royalty

H94 Recognition by ring

H121 Identification by cup

H310 Suitor tests

H465A King Thrushbeard

H561.1 The clever peasant’s daughter

H602.1.1 Symbolic meaning of numbers one to twelve (or other number)

H1091.1 Task: sorting grains: performed by helpful ants

H1091.2 Task: sorting grains: performed by helpful birds

H1199.12.4B Maria Morevna

H1226.4 Pursuit of rolling ball of yarn leads to quest

H1242 Youngest child alone succeeds on quest

H1385.4 Wife seeks lost husband XE "husband"  

H543 Riddle contest with the devil



The Wise and the Foolish

J1185.1 Scheherazade

J1545.4 “Exiled wife’s dearest possession”

J1675 Clever dealing with a king

J1795 Image in mirror mistaken

J1804 Conversation by sign language mutually misunderstood

J2461.1 Literal following of instructions



K841 Substitute for execution obtained by trickery

K1310 Seduction by disguise or substitution

K1810 Deception by disguise

K1811 Gods in disguise visit mortals

K1814.5 Girl in disguise courted by husband

K1816.0.2.1 Maid Maleen

K1837.6.1 Mulan


Reversal of fortune

L13 Compassionate youngest son

L100 Unpromising hero or heroine

L310 Weak overcomes strong in conflict

L145.1B Kate Crackernuts


Ordaining the Future

M21 King Lear judgment

M300 Prophecies

M400 Curses


Chance and Fate

N50 Wagers

N452 Secret remedy overheard in conversation of animals

N512 Treasure in underground chamber

N531 Treasure discovered through dream

N813 Helpful genie

N825.3 Old woman helper



P17 Succession to the throne

P230 Parents and children

P250 Brothers and sisters

P253.2 Sister faithful to transformed brothers


Rewards and Punishments

Q2 Kind and unkind

Q40 Kindness rewarded

Q65 Filial duty rewarded

Q86 Reward for industry

Q91 Cleverness rewarded

Q280 Unkindness punished


Captives and Fugitives

R221 Heroine’s threefold flight from ball (Cinderella)

R111.1.3C The Dragon slayer

R260 Pursuit


Unnatural Cruelty

S10 Cruel parents

S31 Cruel stepmother

S62.1 Bluebeard

S143 Abandoned in forest

S160 Mutilation

S241 Child unwittingly promised: “first thing you meet”



T54 Miraculous birth

T62 Princess to marry first man to ask her

T91 Unequals in love

T91.4.1.2 Lady Ragnell

T97 Father opposed to daughter’s marriage

T111 Marriage of mortal and supernatural being

T121.3.1 Princess marries lowly man

T510 Miraculous conception


Traits of Character

W10 Kindness

W11 Generosity

W28 Self-sacrifice

W32 Bravery

W34 Loyalty

W121 Cowardice


Compiled from Margaret Read MacDonald, The Storyteller’s Sourcebook (Detroit, MI: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc, 1982) and D.L. Ashliman, A Guide to Folktales in the English Language (New York: Greenwood P, 1987).



The Aarne-Thompson Folklore Index

Folktale Types - an explanation of the AT-number system.

Structural Analysis of Variants of Tale Type 361: an example of the Aarne-Thompson analytic method which can be applied to other tales

A search tool for AT numbers geographic distribution

Classifying folktales - The Third Revision of the Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index and its progress.