Motifs for "Story": 35

X Code Original Cultures
 A737.10 Eclipses because sun cannot endure tragic happenings of history. Jewish: Neuman. Jewish
 A1599.16 Origin of allusive expression for the story of gods‘ incest and trickery. Marquesas: Handy 123. Marquesas
 B122.6 Bird summarizes history. Irish: Cross. Ireland
 C564.1 Tabu: chief being in ale-house when there is no story-telling. Irish: Cross. Ireland
 D1266.3 Magic story. Irish: Cross. Ireland
 D1316.10 Pig cooked when true story is told. (Cf. †D1281.1.) Irish: *Cross. Ireland
 D1325 Magic object reveals future history. (Cf. †D1812.3.)
 D1380.13 Magic story protects. (Cf. †D1266.3.) Irish: *Cross. Ireland
 H11 Recognition through story-telling. Telling of a story known to both persons concerned brings about recognition. Icelandic: *Boberg; Arabian: Burton Nights III 96ff., S V 155, 164, S VI 34f., 476; India: *Thompson-Balys; Indonesia: De Vries’s list No. 224. Arabian, Iceland, India, Indonesia
 H11.1 Recognition by telling life history. *Type 506; Köhler-Bolte II 351ff.; Icelandic: *Boberg; French Canadian: Barbeau JAFL XXIX 19; India: *Thompson-Balys. Canada, French Canadian, Iceland, India
 H11.1.2 Recognition: life story painted on wall. India: Thompson-Balys. India
 H11.1.3 Recognition by life history sung. (Cf. †H12.) India: Thompson-Balys. India
 H84.3 Flail substantiates story of witnessing threshing in heaven. Type 852; German: Grimm No. 112. German
 H331.1.2 Suitor contest: riding to fourth story of tower. *Type 530; *BP III 112 n. 1.
 H1382.2 Quest for unknown story (epic). Irish: *Cross. Ireland
 J571.5 King restrained from hasty judgment by being told story. India: Thompson-Balys. India
 J1177 Story told to discover thief. Judge tells story of the lady, her husband, her lover, and the robbers (†H1552.1). Which was the most generous? Witness says that robber was. This shows that he has robber‘s point of view. *Type 976; Jewish: Gaster Exempla 206 No. 111, bin Gorion Born Judas III 97, 303; India: Thompson-Balys. India, Jewish
 J1177.0.1 None should interrupt or leave the room while story is told: treachery revealed. India: Thompson-Balys. India
 J1177.1 Story told to discover thief: sundry tales. India: *Thompson-Balys. India
 J1185 Execution escaped by story-telling. Cf. Browning‘s “Balaustion’s Adventure.”
 J1185.1 Scheherazade: story with indefinite sequels told to stave off execution. *Chauvin V 190 No. 111. Scheherazade
 J1223 Rebuke for telling a poor and long-winded story. Italian Novella: *Rotunda. Italian
 J1849.1 Fool believes realistic story. Inappropriate action.
 J1849.1.1 Story told about a deer: fool starts chase. India: Thompson-Balys. India
 K341.20 The story about theft. One thief steals, the other relates the situation, in the form of a tale, to the gentleman who is being robbed. Lithuanian: Balys Index No. 1525J*; Russian: Andrejev 1525II*; India: *Thompson-Balys. India, Lithuanian, Russian
 K2111.0.1 Telling a story to allay a woman‘s amorous desires. India: Thompson-Balys. India
 K2371.3 Ingeniously worded boon asked of God combines riches, issue, and restoration of eyesight: ”Oh God! I want to see from above the seventh story of my mansion my great-grandsons playing in the streets and eating their cakes from golden vessels.“ India: *Thompson-Balys. India
 L111.9 Hero of story neglected grandson of raja. India: Thompson-Balys. India
 M231 Free keep in inn exchanged for good story. *Fb ”kro“ II 303a.
 N641.2 Frog removed from queen‘s nose by telling such interesting story that she gives quick breath and dislodges him. India: Thompson-Balys. India
 P14.14 King requires everyone who comes before him to tell a story. Irish: Cross. Ireland
 Q482.4 Cast-forth wife must sit at horse-block of palace and tell story to each newcomer and offer to carry him inside. Irish: *Cross; Welsh: MacCulloch Celtic 94. Ireland, Welsh
 W185.3 Temper lost from reading history. Man so angered that he refuses to pay his workmen. Italian Novella: Rotunda. Italian
 Z13.2 Catch tale: teller is killed in his own story. Canada, U.S.: *Baughman. Canada, U.S.
 Z24.1.1 Life story in ten hours: “At one I was born .... at ten my child‘s soul was crowned in heaven.” *Taylor JAFL XLVI 80 No. 2012B.

About StorySearch

The Project

This website is a search engine of almost 50,000 patterns within stories world over called "Motifs" and several projects fueled by this search engine.

The Motif Collection

The work comes from a folklorist named Stith Thompson who spent his life reading and cataloging these stories which he published as the Motif Index of Folklore and Literature. You can read more about his work here: Wikipedia page for Stith Thompson

The Goal

While we have Mr. Thompson's motifs, we have yet to track down all of the stories he read, which is our ultimate goal. We then will provide the stories for all to read, explore and see the connections and commonalities between these stories which we hope to further understandings between cultures and deeper into ourselves.

The Stories

Of course, since there are a current total of 46,248 motifs, we've estimated there to be as many as 51,822 stories which might take some time to collect.

The Strategy

For now, we are working to build a crowdsourcing application to help us collect, organize these stories along with tagging the motifs within them.

Until then, please use the following FAQ.

Frequently Asked Questions about Story Search

What do you use this site for?

We use it to find stories, or to know there are stories worldwide with patterns in them. From there, we've found three common uses:

Writing, Films & Other Creative Story-based Projects
We might write a story with a motif as it's seed, develop more interesting aspects to a character in a story, or help develop hidden symbols within a film. We also frequently get asked for consulting help if you'd like help, please let us know.
Lectures, Professional & other Metaphor Development
Another common request is from people wanting to tell better stories in their work. This might be someone trying to communicate a tricky idea which is in need of a good metaphor. Since we know these "story seeds" have proven themselves to be quite memorable, we try to adapt motifs to fit as a solid and simple metaphor. We've helped Scientists, Lawyers, Medical Organizations, and even those in the Financials Industry to help better convey what they are doing by telling a better story.
Storytelling, Mentoring & Narrative Therapy
And last (usually the most important in the story world) but not least, we do a lot of work with how people can grow and develop parts of who they are and the connection therein through story. So, we might tell research specific stories to tell a child or youth who is working through an issue, such as dealing with anger, attention issues, or life changes by carefully choosing a motif which can help them understand what they're dealing with. (This works well for adults too.)

If you find a new usage for these, please tell us.

What exactly is a Motif?

A Motif is a trait common between two stories. They can be from nearby places, but the interesting ones (we find) are from very different parts of the world. That is to say, two ideas that simultaneously erupted most likely independently. This is because we can then develop a theory about well, pretty much anything.

Let's give you an example of two excerpts from stories so you can spot their motifs.

Sedna - Eskimo

In this mortal peril the father determined to offer Sedna to the birds and flung her overboard. She clung to the edge of the boat with a death grip. The cruel father then took a knife and cut off the first joints of her fingers. Falling into the sea they were transformed into whales, the nails turning into whalebone. Sedna holding on to the boat more tightly, the second finger joints fell under the sharp knife and swam away as seals; when the father cut off the stumps of the fingers they became ground seals.

Handless Maiden - Germany

The devil still could not approach her, he was very angry, and ordered the miller, "Chop off her hands, so I can get to her."
The miller was horrified and answered, "How could I chop off my dear child's hands? No, I will not do it."
"Then do you know what? I will take you, if you don't do it!"
That frightened the miller terribly, and driven by fear he promised to do what the devil had ordered. He went to his daughter and said, "My child, the devil will take me if I don't chop off both your hands, and I have promised him that I will do it. I beg for your forgiveness."
"Father," she said, "do with me what you will," stretched forth her hands, and let him chop them off.


What could we infer about this story? Well, we might use it to interpret a major plot point in another storyline such as Star Wars, Winter's Bone or Game of Thrones.

We might see it as a symbol for the the loss of ability, that is to say, the loss of the ability to do things.

And so, it might be a useful story to tell someone who has issues with motivation, or the lack of the ability to do things.

We'd also be very curious what the relationship between the symbolic "father" is in each of these stories is, including the three newer stories we mentioned.

Where did you get all of the info about Motifs and Stories?

This search engine is a digitized version of the life work comes of a folklorist named Stith Thompson who spent his life reading and cataloging stories which he published as the Motif Index of Folklore and Literature. This book is very hard to come by, as are many of the books Mr. Thompson referenced. We will be collecting the stories (with the help of folks on the internet) to allow everyone to enjoy and educate themselves about this work.

I have a story I'd really like to find. Can you send it to me?

If we can find it, yes, we will definitely try to so you're always welcome to ask. We don't have digital copies of all of the books referenced in the search engine yet, but we currently have more than two thirds of the 800 or so. Feel free to use the contact form, and we will let you know what we can do.

When I be able to read all of the stories online?

That is hard to tell because it is dependent on two things: our helpers and funds.

  Feedback - If you have feedback to offer as far as features you'd like, or requests for stories, this helps us polish the new systems we are putting in place in order to collect all of Stith's stories. Don't hesitate to use our contact form.

  Donate Time - If you would like to donate some of your time to help comb stories, please fill out the form below.

  Donate Funds - Or, you can use the fully tax deductible donation to our 501(c)3 non-profit hosting organization the Center for Symbolic Studies via a form at

Story Search Contact / Signup

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One of three ways:


Give Feedback.


p.s. our contact form helps with these.


We've created a twitter feed for StorySearch, and since it is using his work, we've put the feeds under the name @StithThompson.

Every 15 minutes, a new random motif is tweeted. Below are the 20 most recent tweets:



TEDx - Lower East Side

Here is a talk by the creator of the Story Search, Richard Schwab, did on myth featuring stories about ways we use this site. October 25th 2013.


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