Long ago, before children, when Nige and I used to talk about profound things like the universe and stuff rather the regularity of the children’s bowels and such like, we used to ponder the question of the so-called ‘42 stories’ – that there were only 42 plots or stories in the world we used to wonder what they might be. Try as I might I couldn’t find anything on this until I found this book which has narrowed down the plots still further and they are:
- Overcoming the Monster
- Rags to Riches
- The Quest
- Voyage and Return
The author struggled for a while with a whole bunch of stories that didn’t fit until he’d realised they were within the basic plot of ‘Voyage and Return’. The interesting points (so far, I’m on the first chapter of a very fat and daunting book).
- That the plots in stories from 1000s of years ago to the modern day and in totally different cultures are scarily similar – Cinderella alone is retold in over 2000 different ways in cultures from the frozen north to Ancient Egypt. This he seems to be attributing to a Jungian style ’sea of consciousness’ type idea, that we all have certain processes in our psyches which mean we would all share similar needs and therefore tell stories in similar ways
- he, uniquely draws on modern popular stories such as Jaws (which mirrors the classic Beowulf very closely) as well as literary greats, generally studies of this kind have only dealt with so-called classics
- and the scary bit is that in the last 100 years or so stories have started to ‘go wrong’ or literally ‘lose the plot’, the twists and turns which have featured in the different genres have gone and the stories ‘jar’. He explains this later on in the book but hey, I’m a slow reader and not there yet but it sounds a bit sinister and apocalyptic to me… I’ll keep you informed
And now for the competition! Which story has all 7 of the basic plots within it? Answers on an email… (please do, so many of you say you read this blog but you don’t feel shy about posting). The prize is a copy of Barefoot Books‘ version of Lafontaine’s (the inventor of the fable?) Hare and the Tortoise AND a packet of very posh hare and tortoise shaped organic kids biscuits – fancy eh? I’m also doing a second prize of Barefoot’s Tales of Odysseus which is fab (that’s not the answer by the way).
*incidentally if you buy from Amazon via my links here I stand to make about 5p per book so please do bear it in mind, every little helps as the nice people at Tesco like to say…