Among the folk tales collected during the past two centuries across Serbo-Croatian speaking area, there is quite a number of fairy tales about the persecuted girl. Their basic types, established in accordance with the international index of motives [1], are also illustrated in variants from Vuk’s collection [2]. They are characterized by one narrative flow (Cinderella / AaTh 510 A, Evil stepmother / AaTh 706) expressed by sequencing of the episodes or by the parallelism on the levels of activity and character (Stepmother and stepdaughter, Stepmother and stepdaughter again, It served them right /AaTh 431, 327 A + 480, 480). This narrative cycle is, however, much more complex both in the possibilities of the realization of syuzhet and in semantic potential.

As the material shows, the basic plot is closely connected with the category of the hero. Besides the usual typified character of the stepmother, differently named protagonists also appear within its range. For example, when the devil is included in the plot as the persecutor, then the variant structured in this way is very similar to the fabula of the child who was promised to the demon. Similar modifications characterize those fairy tales where the girl is persecuted by her father, her uncle or other family members (elder sisters, mother-in-law), by a rival who can be a false heroine (Gypsy woman, woman servant, woman from court), by fantastic beings (witch), by persecutors denoted as Jews, tradesmen, outlaws, servants, and so on. The change of nomenclatures and attributes of the characters has multiple reflection on the narrative structure in so far as other fabulae and motifs (incest, slandered bride, switched letters) become of primary importance or as the possibilities appear for doubling the narrative flow and for making it more complex. In the second composition segment, the abusive behaviour towards the girl continues after she gets married and the role of the hero (i. e. the victim) is transferred to her newborn children who possess amazing characteristics. The narrative process is then directed towards their adventures or their transformations until final discovery of the truth, until the rewarding and rehabilitating of the typified carriers of positive characteristics and the obligatory punishment of negative heroes.

When the stable character of the stepmother occurs within the range of the persecutor, but where the stepchild or stepchildren appear instead of the girl, the transformations of fabular structure can also be detected, as well as the consequences on the level of composition complexity and in the structure of the genre itself. It is most probable that all these variations in the basic pattern of Cinderella are newer in origin, although N. Nodilo thought that they carried archaic meanings. In the variant on the persecuted stepdaughter who lived in Boot town, Cold town and Sabre town, Nodilo saw the three faces of  ‘‘darkened nightly Dawn’’ [3].

The great and widespread popularity of the fairy tales dealing with misfortunes of innocent heroines allowed the implementation of different research methods. P. Popovic examined in detail written stories about the girl without hands. V. Latkovic put them, because of the domination of realia, into a separate group of fairy tales about family and social relationships. N. Milosevic-Djordjevic compared folk tales with folk poems containing the motif of incest. D. Antonijevic interpreted the tales about persecuted stepdaughters in the context of ‘‘basic oppositions of the social code – between endogamy and exogamy’’. B. Bethelheim explains Cinderella from the perspective of the child’s experience in such a phase of development when it feels the rivalry inside the family, Oedipal desire and guilt. [4] Interestingly enough, V. Prop’s deliberations on historical roots of the fairy tale do not include tales about the persecuted girl on which, according to Prop’s morphological analyses [5], relatively small number of functions can be applied. 

Three basic types of this thematic cycle show different degrees of changeability. Fairy tales about the girl without hands or about the father’s incestuous intentions pave the way for the most liberal combinations with other motifs. The variants where the behaviour of the stepdaughter is compared by contrast with the behaviour of the stepmother’s daughters are somewhat more stable, although there are many examples of the branching of the composition or, on the contrary, of incomplete structures and even of the genre dominated etiological tradition over the fairy tale. The most consistent kernel of fabula has been preserved in the model of Cinderella. The material gathered in our lands, with unavoidable variations, reveals somewhat static quality of initial and final formulas as well as an outstanding coincidence of certain segments and symbols.            

The Cinderella that Vuk Karadzic had heard in Trsic, and later wrote down according to his memory, stands out among all other variants. This variant, in fact, united all the elements that in smaller or larger number had already been present in the texts of other collectors. According to the internationally widespread fabula, Vuk’s story about the persecuted girl, named Mara, differs mostly in its beginning and its ending. The specialness of general segments is reflected in the totality of syuzhet structure so that the already reduced number of Prop’s functions has additionally been modified.     

The usual introductory formula of these fairy tales consists in the statement of mother’s death. But however insignificantly it may seem, Vuk’s account changes the ‘‘heightened aspect of estrangement (e2) ’’. The uncovering and punishing of the rival, which is the characteristic of the ending, has been completely neutralized in Vuk’s version. It is in this way that the initial situation has become perfectly complementary with the conclusion of the narrative sequence. Considering that Prop’s function I stands in inversion with functions II and III, the actual articulation of a taboo and its violation have been particularly emphasized (k1: q1). Typified abuse of the stepdaughter is not the consequence of the appearance of a new family member, but is the result of the violation of the initial taboo. That is the reason why the absence of the stepmother’s punishment does not disturb either the coherence of the text or the logic of narration. Neither does it betray the horizon of expectations of the readers because it is in accordance with the semantic potential of the story.

The heroine herself causes the disruption of balance, which is essential for the rhythm of adventures in the story. In spite of the warning given to her by ‘‘some old man’’, the girl approaches the hole and drops her spindle in it. The meaning of the hole [6] as topos, as the border between the world of the dead and the world of the living, is well known. After ‘‘she drops her spindle and it falls into a hole’’, the most beautiful among the girls is marked as (twice) unclean according to the cult. Her contact with the wool, developed and given in gradation with the first unfeasible task set to her by her stepmother, is heightened in the initial position by the forbidden relationship with the dead. That breach of conduct causes the transformation of the mother into a cow, the arrival of the stepmother and the further sequence of Cinderella’s separation from other girls, from family members and from her surroundings. 

The initial situation in other variants often represents the girl herself as the moving force of events. When the loss of the spindle (which can also be dropped into a well) is replaced with some kind of agreement among the spinners [7], the exposition initiates the transformation of the mother into a cow that is followed by the arrival of the stepmother and her conflicts with the stepdaughter. However, according to the mechanism of a happy ending proper to the genre, which in a fairy tale implies reward for positive heroes and punishment for the negative ones, the customary destiny of the stepmother is, generally speaking, not absent from the narrative sequence.                 

In difference to dynamic heroes, typically the youngest sons from various social groups, the persecuted girl in the variants of the Cinderella type has very narrow margin of movement. The space that segments the sequences of the plot is named in the context of oppositions - outside versus inside (the garden plot versus the house) while almost all activities are performed by day. The culmination point, intensified by gradation, is discreetly connected, according to Vuk’s tale, with the ‘‘holy’’ Sunday. Although this serves, after the contours of the realia of patriarchal Serbian village, to motivate the meeting of the girl with the prince, the possible meaning of the day of the week completes the semantic complex of the story. “According to church teachings, it can be said that every Sunday is small Easter (…) because the resurrection is the basis of the Christian religion, and because Jesus Christ was resurrected on a Sunday”. [8]

Time perspective is subdued and subjected to space modifiers:
Pasture (a hole) – house – pasture – hearth
Hearth – grave – church – heath (trough).

The points of Cinderella’s movement/rest are not recognized only in relation -sacred versus profane, but they are included in all the rites of passage and in the rituals dedicated to the dead. The grave (the centre of new birth, the transformation of body into spirit) and the hearth (the symbol of the connection between man and woman, the sacral centre of the house where sacrifices are made and where the souls of ancestors reside) as well as church (simultaneously virgin and mother) [9] are directly connected with the female archetype. In other words, the deep hole, the hearth and church establish a specific vertical that joins the underground with the earthly and with the heavenly. In such context the mother transformed into a cow that carried the meanings of fertility, regeneration and new birth finds perfect analogy in the symbolism of church as the entrails of the Great Mother [10].

The connection of fertility cult with paying homage to the dead has also been established in the semantic abundance of other notions – the symbols of Cinderella. On the occasions of posing riddles, for example, the cow is considered identical with the hearth (“A red cow stood on the edge”) and with the spindle (“A daughter-in-law took a small pail and poured milk in it”) [11]. In fact, all the objects, animals and plants that Vuk’s Mara gets in touch with semantically overlap and have a specific role in the rituals devoted to the dead. 

Ananka turns the world around a diamond spindle. The spindle is the symbol of eternal return and the attribute of the Parcae. The bones that the girl buries are kernels of immortality. In these bones as well as in the stone beside which the funeral ceremony is held, remain the souls of the dead often incarnated in birds. Both in pagan and Christian religions a pair of pigeons or a white dove has a clear meaning. 

Spinning and weaving, the main women’s activities are followed by a great number of yearly taboos and regulations. Wool, as ritually unclean material, is also used in magic. [12] In contrast to this, a very interesting custom had been written down in Zajecar only a few years before it disappeared forever. After the priest blesses water, going from house to house, the deacon gives the girls “two threads of wool, one of white colour and the other of red”. The next day they are supposed to spin a braid from it, turning the spindle in the water and singing. [13] The archaic background has obviously been covered with Christianized layer although Holy Cross Day and Epiphany have not been chosen by accident. As a holiday that ends twelfthtide, Holy Cross Day marks Christ’s preparation for baptism, for the passage from one status to another. 

Irrespective of the surroundings where the tale of Cinderella takes place, the name of the heroine is always derived from the place where she lives. As in the phrase “to cover oneself with ashes”, ashes are a symbolic mark of repentance and of ascetic denial. Since they remain after the extinguished fire, ashes have a function in rites of cleansing and in the solar cult. Ashes are related to the cyclical course of life and the properties of a phoenix.

The central task set to the stepdaughter in the majority of internationally widespread variants consists in her collecting spilled cereals (barley, oats, millet, lentil, etc). Mara’s stepmother intensifies the gradation of household duties, ordering Mara to gather the millet she had purposefully spilled in the house. Millet is basic, original foodstuff and a ritual gift to the dead. It connects the worlds and on certain days it is spilled in rooms, in the garden, in sheepfolds and barns; it was also found in the foundations of buildings. Its characteristics have later been transferred on wheat and corn, which are used, in combination with other cereals, for making a special dish, a kind of offering to ancestors. [14] The complex symbolism of the grain of wheat is not only present in biblical sayings but can also be found in the meaning of the uninterrupted cycle of life and death in rituals of initiation, in the sharing of secret on the occasion of passing from one world into another, from one state into another. Even in somewhat modified structure of the syuzhet, when Cinderella goes down to the underworld, the connection between the cult of the dead and the cult of fertility is clearly preserved. The Sun’s mother gives the girl a grain of each cereal and a grain of salt as a gift.         

Isolated from everybody in the house, Cinderella is the only person who is subjected to a taboo. This segment can be marked as XII, XIII and XIV in accordance with Prop’s function as “testing the hero while acquiring an assistant (D3), performing a certain favour to the assistant (H3) and the assistant’s independent appearance (Zvi)”. But even before this episode takes place the mother-cow helps Mara and the condition that she is faced with represents a new ordeal in itself. The taboo on eating meat is motivated from the inner perspective of the text by Cinderella’s awareness of the fact that the killed cow is her transformed mother. By respecting this taboo and by burying the bones following a regulated procedure, the heroine is subjected to a specific test essential for the subsequent narrative flow. Hidden in her home and made so ugly in order not to attract anybody’s attention, Cinderella gets the permission to go to liturgy from her dead mother herself (i. e. ancestors). Without this permission, the conflict of the fairy tale could not be solved, although the girl remains consistently disguised and since no one at church recognizes her. 

The details of Cinderella’s losing the slipper and her total concealment near the end of the story are particularly interesting. Footwear also falls into the category of numerous objects whose meanings become clear in the context of the cults of ancestors and fertility. Losing her slipper after the third liturgy, Cinderella goes back home limping. This quality is characteristic of underworld divinities and demon forces. Limping, the heroine completes one cycle, one stage of her journey, and she is ready to start a new one. In ancient Rome, the girl named Cora symbolized the initiated person who passed through death in order to be reborn. Hidden under the trough, Cinderella is for the last time, before she becomes a woman (of the prince), in direct contact with the dead. It could even be said that she herself has died, and was then resurrected in new attire, because the overturned trough has the shape of a coffin and is associated with the grave. Inaccessible to sunlight, Cinderella is subjected to the final stage of her cleansing process. At that moment, she receives unexpected help.

The ambivalent nature of the rooster is associated with its roles in both solar and lunar cults. The rooster (along with the cow and the deer) escorts souls to the other world, and stands beside Hermes, but beside Leta as well, symbolizing the solar god who died and was then resurrected; the rooster drives away the unclean and evil forces and is sacrificed to ancestors. Such qualities of the rooster are present in riddles where it is depicted as born out of white stone, where it praises God with its crest, where it calls the dead and brings them back to life: “All the world has died, but an old man with a shepherd’s flute, made from bone, started to play and the whole world became alive.” The dominant colour of the rooster as described in riddles is red - the colour of blood and fire, of coming to life and of dying. The sounding of the rooster that reveals the hiding place of the future bride, signals the end of the test that Cinderella was put to by her ancestors and her acquisition of a new status in the community.

The possible archaic meaning of fabula concerning the persecuted girl can best be reconstructed on the basis of Vuk’s variant, although the fairy tales of this type keep to some extent the sense of the symbols in other surroundings as well. [15] When the narrative flow is based on the polarization between the stepdaughter and the stepmother’s daughter then the consequences of the test become even more obvious. Although the fairy tale as a genre is characterized by the lack of deep perspective [16], all negative heroines are left deformed, blinded or brutally dismembered. In contrast to them, the stepdaughter not only gets the husband but also sumptuous presents, which significantly changes the attitude of the family towards the girl. After (appropriate) ordeals, the stepdaughter can acquire new attributes: hands of gold, pearls instead of tears or golden roses when she speaks. These later acquired magical characteristics imply that the testing process of the heroine has been completed and her transformation achieved. [17]

All rites of passage “include symbolic, temporary excommunication of a person from the social structure, certain tests, contacts with demon forces from outside the social environment, ritual cleansing and return” [18]. Despite stylization, the rituals of initiation of female members of the primitive community are incredibly identical with the narrative flow of the fairy tale. Fraser has devoted a separate chapter of his Golden bough to ritual isolations of girls during puberty. Taking into consideration the nuances in their manifestations, all regulations are mutually identical no matter whether they are applied in India, among the Indians in North or South America, or if they belong to the tradition of African and Australian tribes. The girl is locked in the house or in the special hut built outside the village; she may lie in her hammock above the hearth, she may be covered with thick layer of leaves or she may even be buried. During this period of isolation, which can last from several days to several years, she does not communicate with the outer world, obeying in that way the strict rules that have been imposed on her. One of those rules is the prohibition of eating meat. The girl’s mother is excluded from all the accompanying rituals while a certain old woman or a cousin from the female lineage plays the role of the mediator, if necessary. [19] 

Although the process of reaching biological maturity has not been specifically represented in traditional Serbian culture, the actual taboo contacts between the man and the woman as well as the limited activities of women have been preserved in it for a long time. In periods when the woman was identified with the “unclean” being, it was believed that she possessed dangerous properties and was able to harm her surroundings. On the other hand, it was then that she herself needed protection because she was most susceptible to evil forces. In addition to these periodical taboos, “in some areas it was considered extremely dangerous for a man (…) to meet a woman who was spinning hemp”, while in Zeta it was forbidden to the woman to touch the man with a spinning wheel. [20] 

Ritually unclean and dangerous objects, sacral space, and the elements of pagan and Christian rituals function to perfection within the tissue of Vuk’s Cinderella. The components and meanings of a forgotten ritual seem to be absorbed and reintegrated in the tale. That’s why the thematic cycle on persecuted stepdaughter could represent the other pole of the fabula about a hero ready to be included in the order of adult men, because he had risen from the dead and had passed the test of his ancestors. [21]

The semantic closeness of the two patterns has with time enabled their mutual combination. The story about the persecuted stepdaughter started to branch in different directions, as the actual rituals of initiation went on losing their relevance, their role and their sense. New episodes and new plots influenced the semantic potential of the whole narrative cycle, so that the archaic background kept on fading or became hardly discernible under the deposits of fantasy in the structure of the oral genre. That’s how it was possible for the stepdaughter to leave the house, trying to fulfill the stepmother’s impossible task. So when “the girl has been driven out, and there is no one looking for her, then the narration follows the departure of the hero-victim and his adventures” [22]. In difference to the prince or the young man whose sequence of feats begins in the forest, in the mountains or in another kingdom, the girl in such surroundings still remains passive. Whether she is supposed to find strawberries in the middle of the winter, to get the fire from the haunted town or to live in the water mill, in the log cabin in the woods or in Yaga’s hut, the event is generally reduced to one particular situation. The contact with the supernatural is compulsory and implies adequate testing of the heroine’s character and behaviour. And while the stepmother sets the impossible task, the magical assistant most frequently asks the girl to rid it of fleas or to do the usual housework. The stepdaughter and the stepmother’s daughter are tested by a female demon, sometimes in the form of a dragon, the anthropomorphous being living by the water, or most often in the form of an old woman who controls the animals of the underworld, in other words, the complete fauna. The gift bearer who has the power to reward and punish rarely appears in the form of an old man or in the form of a wind or as forest people or months, although it is then that the yearly (biological) cycle participates in the multiple significance of the story. The sequence of adventures of the youngest brother in the lower world is clearly marked by the opposition – the living versus the dead. The process of the girls’ moving away from home lays stress on the relation – the human being versus nature, which tacitly implies the changing rhythm of the moon phases and of the stages of development of living beings.

The conflict with the rival has basically been left out from the event of the stepdaughter’s return home (XX, I) and even from the event of her marrying the prince, which makes the story an incomplete narrative construction. The energy of the omitted functions makes it possible and requires the continuation of the narrative sequence whereby the stepmother’s attributes are taken over by her own daughter. In parallel segments of the plot, the contrast between the girls is confirmed, until the suffering of the new heroine eliminates the persecutor/the rival of the stepdaughter. The final formula consistently based on the binary pair – prize versus punishment, well liked in fairy tales, has been realized in this narrative type through the relationship between the beginning of a new life (of the stepdaughter) and the death (of her stepsisters). 

Another aspect of the modification of the basic pattern unfolds in the direction of doubling the narrative flows. It is more frequently present in the tales of incest and of the girl without hands, when chronotopos delineates the two composition members. The sphere of activity of the persecutor also becomes more complex, because the stepmother or the father from the first segment is replaced in new episodes by the mother-in-law, the courtiers, and the rival. In these variants, metamorphoses become the active factor of the plot. When they are not in the initial position, the transformations related to the main hero are involved in the (in)stability of the genre norms. Dynamic changes of characters from form to form are proper to fairy tales. However, there are different examples, too. The one-way metamorphosis in the final scene becomes the semantic centre of the story with various functions. The final part of the variant about the princess turned into a sheep emphasizes the inadmissible marriage-like relationship between the father and the daughter. The biased result and didactic attitude modify in a particular way the happy outcome of the tale. An even more conspicuous destruction of the genre system can be seen in the records in which the only purpose of the segment on the stepmother’s impossible task consists in explaining the origins of a specific animal (female bear). The transformation, therefore, lacks the metaphoric dimension present in the basic kernel of the fabula in Cinderella. Similar processes, the mixing and intertwining of the two initiation models, reflect estrangement from the ritual, its oblivion, and the complete passage from ritual practice into stylized form.            

The variations based on the change in nomenclature of the stepmother’s victim took different roads. However, the structure of syuzhet containing the persecuted and banished stepchildren has not neutralized the semantic potential of the original matrix. The variant of Kravaric Marko present in Cajkanovic’s collection is particularly interesting. At first, poor Marko is advised by “some old, very old woman” while he is later fed and taught by a cow. The initial accusations concerning the stepmother’s abuse represent a separate narrative flow, which is in the function of a long exposition that motivates the hero’s leaving home. The first segment is followed by the hero’s adventure in the woods, then by a certain number of his accomplishments in the lower world after which a female eagle brings him back to this world. Entirely in accordance with the formulas of this narrative type, the bird will heal the hero’s leg because he was forced to cut off a piece of his own flesh. This new form has spontaneously united the memories of the two ancient ritual activities having the same significance. 

Other stepchildren, as well as other persecuted girls, fall into the category of the passive hero. In addition, the nature of their assistants coincides with the character whose help is essential to the denouement of Cinderella. Running away from home because of his father’s new wife, Milos takes away the ox called Divonja whose right horn is always full of food. The right horn is also the horn of abundance as in the case of the cow named Barulja, the assistant of the banished stepson in the records made by D. Preradovic [23]. Both these variants illustrate a discreet change of limits in the sphere of activity, having in mind that the narration is to the highest degree directed towards the assistants. The culmination of the one-way plot is represented in the duel between the animals. The rivals of Divonja and Barulja – the male goat and the deer are the exponents of ambivalent significance. The goat stands for the ending of one and the beginning of another cycle while the deer is compared to the tree of life and connected with the souls of the dead and the images of cyclical regeneration. The duel is fought with the horns, which sets in motion a certain system of associations. They are emblematic of the Great Mother, of the divinities of death and fertility; they represent the union of the active and passive principle, maturity and balance. 

There is another interesting coincidence. Only the right horn of the hero’s assistant has magical properties. Running away to hide, Cinderella loses the right slipper. One of the main oppositions is the relation - right versus left. The right side is connected with the male principle, the Sun, the positive characteristics, and the future. The left side describes the nightly and demonic aspect, the female principle, the passive attitude, and the past. Bringing the lost right slipper back to the virgin, the prince finally establishes the balance not only on the level of the narrative flow but also in the deep, intricate meanings of the fairy tale.

By changing, by becoming diluted and by vanishing on the roads of culture, the rituals tended to take refuge in specific word plays, in the stylized figures of speech, in the structures of oral formulas and in simple forms. The tales about stepdaughters may have, as integral part of the international fund, spread the primordial mystery of growing up and maturing, forming thus, first of all, the basis for survival of the species and then the basis for reaching internal as well as family harmony.

Translated by  Dragana Starcevic



[ 1] A. Aarne – S. Thompson, The types of the Folktale, Second revision, F. F. Communications, vol. LXXV, 184, Helsinki, 1961.
[ 2] V. S. Karadžić, Srpske narodne pripovijetke, Sabrana dela Vuka Karadžića, knj. III, prir. M. Pantić, Beograd, 1988. For other variants see: the study by P. Popović; notes and explanations in following collections: V. Čajkanović, Srpske narodne pripovetke, Beograd, 1927, 19992; D. M. Đorđević, Srpske narodne pripovetke i predanja iz Leskovačke oblasti, prir. N. Milošević-Đorđević, Beograd, 1988; S. Samardžija, Narodne pripovetke u ''Letopisu matice srpske'', Novi Sad – Beograd, 1995.
[ 3] N. Nodilo, Stara vjera Srba i Hrvata, Split, 1981, p. [17]9.
[ 4] P. Popović, Pripovetka o devojci bez ruku, Studija iz srpske i jugoslovenske književnosti, SKA, Beograd, 1905; V. Latković, Narodna književnost I, Beograd, 1975; N. Milošević-Đorđević, Zajednička tematsko-sižejna osnova srpskohrvatskih neistorijskih epskih pesama i prozne tradicije, Beograd, 1971; D. Antonijević, Značenje srpskih bajki, Beograd, 1991; B. Betelhajm, Značenje bajke, Beograd, 1979.
[ 5] V. Prop, Historijski korijeni bajke, Sarajevo, 1990; Morfologija bajke, Beograd, 1982 (all distinctive functions have been quoted after this Prop's work). 
[ 6] V. Čajkanović, Mit i religija u Srba, Beograd, 1973.
[ 7] D. M. Đorđević, Quoted collection, stories number 59-62.
[ 8] M. Nedeljković, Godišnji običaji u Srba, Beograd, 1990, p. 126.
[ 9] J. Chevalier – A. Gheerbrant, Rječnik simbola, Zagreb, 1983.
[10] Lj. Radenković, Narodna bajanja kod Južnih Slovena, Beograd, 1996, p. 192.
[11] S. Novaković, Srpske narodne zagonetke, Beograd – Pančevo, 1877.
[12] V. Čajkanović, Quoted work, pp. 193-194.
[13] M. Đ. Milićević, Život Srba seljaka, Beograd, 1984, p. 179.
[14] V. Čajkanović, Rečnik srpskih narodnih verovanja o biljkama, Beograd, 1985, str. 193-195.
[15] Within the international corpus the naming of assistants is also important along with the stepmother's tasks, the role of birds in the development of the plot and the recognition of characters after their footwear. According to Prop's version, Cinderella is the protegée of the fairy godmother while in Grim's tale the soul of the dead mother is tied to the shady hazel tree, which grows above the grave. The contrast between the stepdaughter and the stepmother's daughters is stressed by physical properties. After the mother mutilates the daughter's foot, the blood in the shoe confirms that the real heroine has been replaced with the false one.  
[16] M. Liti, Evropska narodna bajka, Beograd, 1994.
[17] When fantastic attributes are emphasized and moved to the beginning of the fairy tale, the motif of the persecuted heroine can be combined with miraculous conception (the girl is a bouquet of sweet basil), with supernatural origins (she was born from an apple or an orange), and  can also be intertwined with the fabula about the enchanted fiancée (the girl-bird) or with the one about a supernatural marriage etc. The isolation proper to the genre of fairy tale enables the switch of the girls to be made imperceptibly, although, for example, the fantastic fiancée of the prince differs from all other girls (on her head ''the rose blossoms, in her step the grass grows and this grass is eaten by the golden horse''). This type of transformation of the character, indispensable for the development of the plot, darkens the semantic potential of the basic pattern.
[18] E. M. Maletinski, Poetika mita, Beograd, 1983, p. 230.
[19] Dž. Dž. Frejzer, Zlatna grana, II, Beograd, 1992, pp. 316-332.
[20] D. Bandić, Tabu u tradicionalnoj kulturi Srba, Beograd, 1980, p. 324.
[21] V. Matić, Psihoanaliza mitske prošlosti, II, Beograd, 1979, pp. 148-179.
[22] V. Prop, Morfologija bajke, p. 46.
[23] In the quoted collection by V. Čajkanović, these are the stories number 10 and number 195 (Kravarić Marko, Miloš i Divonja); Barulja, collected by D. Preradović, Letopis Matice srpske, 1884, 137, pp. 120-123.



On the basis of the material published in different collections of folk tales in Serbo-Croatian speaking lands (19th and 20th centuries), this paper debates one of the most developed and internationally widespread thematic cycles of folk tales (AaTh: 510 A, B; 480; 706-712). The possible typology has been evaluated on the basis of the analyses of narration techniques, the relationships between realistic and fantastic elements, the function of the sphere of activity of the persecutor and on the basis of the possibility of its intertwining with other thematic cycles. The basic course of research has been directed towards the semantic potential of this fabula and towards more or less expressive stylization founded on archaic beliefs and ritual activities.

Snezana Samardzija, PhD, associate professor, was born in 1957, in Belgrade, where she completed her primary and secondary education. She graduated in 1979 from the Department of Yugoslav literatures at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade. She got her master’s degree at the same Faculty of Philology in 1984 (the title of her thesis was “The work of Vatroslav Jagic on studying Serbo-Croatian folk literature”). In 1992, she got her PhD after successfully defending her dissertation entitled “Printed collections of folk tales in the Serbo-Croatian language in 19th century”. 

In the Department of Yugoslav literatures (Serbian literature with South Slavic literatures) at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade, Snezana Samardzija started to work as a trainee assistant for the subject Folk literature in 1981. In 1986, she became an assistant for the same subject. In 1994, she was promoted to assistant professor and in 2000 she got the title of associate professor. Snezana Samardzija has been doing research work in the history and poetics of oral literature.