Story Search Engine

Stith Thompson, author of the Motif Index of Folklore and Literature

As result of work done here over the past few years, we’re proud to announce our new StorySearch Engine! It is a searchable version of the Motif Index of Folklore compiled by Stith Thompson. For those curious, there are  somewhere over 46,000 patterns (motifs) from myth, folklore and literature which can be explored freely, so please have fun playing with it!


About the collection of Folklore and Stith Thompson

Standing out among many of the greats who have tried to gather and classify patterns in Folklore is Stith Thompson, a folklorist working at the University of Indiana, who dedicated his work to creating the most practical guide for finding stories from motifs that exists. So, we are dedicating this site to Stith Thompson by making it free to the public and would like to offer an amusing anecdote about Thompson we learned during the creation of this project.

Stith originally built the motif index by cataloguing portions of stories together. Of course, before the age of computers this was to be hand written and must have been an amazingly complicated task. He managed to achieve it through a wonderful organizational tool: by collecting his motifs in shoeboxes which he had in a “lazy susan” or revolving food server, like the one I used to get cereal from in my grandmother’s pantry. Considering this database has over 46,000 patterns, and we have yet to even scratch how many myths he’s read and put in, we thought we would share this story and hope it is as endearing to you as for us.


About Story Search and Symbolic Studies

Both of the words symbol and parable come from the same greek roots: (sym / para + ballein, meaning “to throw together” and “to throw beside”, respectively) The simplest definition of a ‘symbol’ we’ve found is ‘something with multiple meanings’. Of course these meanings are debatable but we’ve found this tool to be very useful for not only folklorists and storytellers researching stories for specific purposes, but also for artists and creatives who want to hone their own stories using specific symbols which frequently arise in Thompson’s motif index.


Reporting Bugs, Giving Suggestions, and Supporting the Project

Please do keep in mind that this search engine is in its infancy and is far from being fully functional. We’re hoping that with some support from volunteers, hobbyists, folklorists and donors, we can bring this engine to our main goal for this project: be able to not only display the motif, but also let people read the stories referenced by those motifs. In order to do this, we’re going to need a lot of help.

If you find a bug, or would like to give us feedback or donate even a small amount which would be fantastically helpful, please use the form below.







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