Motifs in Literature

Below is a short list of common literary motifs.  This does not even remotely cover the literary motifs that are out there.  Use this list as a guide.
 if you would like to use a motif on this list, by all means go ahead, but feel free to venture out on your own.







Apparent death

Supernatural Adversaries

Supernatural Helpers

Extraordinary Animals

Magical Objects

Magical Powers

Magical Transformations 

Deep Sleeps




Consequences of Greed

Beautiful Princess



Foolish or Dimwitted Hero

Importance of Threes



The Beauty and the Beast

The Temptation

The Returning Soldier

The (Victorious) Underdog

The Bewitching Woman

The Damsel in Distress

The Wicked Ogre

Struggle of the Poor/Rich

The Journey of Escape

The Lost

The Miracle

Journey from Innocence to   Awareness

Sacrificial Friend/ Savior

The Inward Struggle

The Quest

The Faithful Friend

The Love Triangle

The Betrayal


Meeting the Supernatural

The Search for Identity

Justice for All

Born Again/Recalled to Life

The Corruption of Power

Oppression of the Poor

Big Brother is Watching

The Wild Woman









Use the following links as you research for the definition and historical use of the motif and for additional examples found in novels, artwork or movies.



Book Sources        eBooks        Databases        Websites        MLA Guide



                                      Book Sources


**When looking for early examples conduct a Power Search for your motif in Destiny or browse the stacks in the following sections.  Remember to use the Index and Table of Contents of each book.

Bible/ Religious Stories: 220s

                                Mythology: 200s & 290s

                                       Folklore & Fairy Tales: 390s

Download eBooks to your Mobile Devices and Phones  -  Click Here for Directions

The following book sources are a great place to begin your search for definitions & early examples: 



Call Number
101 myths of the Bible : how ancient scribes invented biblical history. 221.6 GRE
After the apple : women in the Bible : timeless stories of love, lust, and longing. 220.9 ROS
Archetypes and motifs in folklore and literature : a handbook 398 ARC & EB 398 ARC
The archetypes and the collective unconscious 154.2 JUN
Archetypes in Life, Literature and Myth P 398.012 NIT
Beauties and beasts 398.21 BEA
The Bible, designed to be read as living literature : the Old and the New Testaments in the King James Version. 220.5203 BIB
The Bible for Children 220.9 Wat
Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk & Fairy Tales 398.2 Zip
The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction  823.087 Cam
The children's illustrated Bible R 220.9 HAS
The complete writer's guide to heroes & heroines : sixteen master archetypes 808.3 COW
A dictionary of literary and thematic terms R 803.21 QUI
A Dictionary of Literary Symbols E 809.9 FER
Dictionary of literary themes and motifs R 809.933 DIC
Dictionary of symbolism R 302.23
Divine Madness:  Archetypes of Romantic Love 809 Hau
Enchanted Hunters:  The Power of Stories in Childhood 809 TAT
Encyclopedia of creation myths R 291.2 LEE & EB 291 LEE
Encyclopedia of folk heroes 398.03 SEA & EB 398 SEA
  Encyclopedia of folklore and literature EB 803 ENC
Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines 202 Mon
The Facts On File dictionary of classical and biblical allusions 809 FAC
Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion 398.2 Zip
Folklore : an encyclopedia of beliefs, customs, tales, music, and art.    398.03 FOL & EB 398 FOL
Four archetypes : mother, rebirth, spirit, trickster 150.19 JUN
From the Beast to the Blond: 398.2 War
From Girl to Goddess: the Heroine's Journey through Myth and Legend 202 Fra
Gods and men : myths and legends from the world's religions. 291 BAI
The Grail Legend 809.91 Jun
Grimm Pictures:  Fairy Tale Archetypes in Eight Horror and Suspense Films 791.43 RAN
The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales 398.21 Tat
The hero with a thousand faces 291.13 Cam
Heroes 291.2 NAR
The Heroic Ideal 220.Ken
The Hero's Journey 809.93 Her
The Holy Grail 809 Ter
The Illustrated Bible Story 220 Ill
The interpretation of fairy tales.    398 FRA
An Introduction to the Interpretation of fairy Tales 398 FRA
Jewish legends.    296.19 Gol
King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering Archetypes of the Mature Masculine 155.6 Moo
Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked 398.2 Ore
Landscape and Memory 304.23 Schu
The Macmillan illustrated encyclopedia of myths & legends. 291.1303 Cot
Man, myth & magic; the illustrated encyclopedia of mythology, religion, and the unknown. R 133.03 MAN
Medieval folklore : an encyclopedia of myths, legends, tales, beliefs, and customs. 398.03 MED & EB 398 MED
Men and women of the Bible : a reader's guide. R 220.9 TIS
Monsters. 398.21 NAR
Monsters and Mythical Creatures  10 volumes 393 Mon
Movies and the Mind: Theories of the Great Psychoanalysts Applied to Film (archtypes, motifs and symbols 791.43 Ind
Mythology Bible 398.2 Bar
Myths and legends 398.03 MYT
Myths and motifs in literature 808.8 MYT
Nectar & ambrosia : an encyclopedia of food in world mythology. 398.27 AND & EB 398 AND
Popular tales and fictions their migrations and transformations When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition EB 398 CLO
The psychological meaning of redemption motifs in fairytales. 398 VON
Off with Their Heads: Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood 398.45 Tat
Origins: Creation Texts from the Ancient Mediterranean 291.2 Ori
Quests and journeys 291.13 NAR
The reader's Bible, a narrative : selections from the King James Version 220.52 BIB
Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine: King, Warrior, Magician, Lover 155.6 Moo
Shadow and evil in fairy tales 398.042 VON
Shakespeare and Jungian Typology 822.3 Tuc
  The Six Archetypes of Love:  from Innocent to Magician 152.4 Hun
Spinning Straw into Gold 398 GOU
The uses of enchantment : the meaning and importance of fairy tales. 398.45 BET
When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition 398.21 Zip
The Witch Figure 133.4 New
Women who run with the wolves : myths and stories of the wild woman archetype 398 EST


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Click the icon to search the IMC's collection of eBooks from Gale Virtual Reference Library that contain information for this assignment including the Dictionary of Literary Symbols & Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature.


ABC-CLIO eBook Collection

This database include eBooks on folklore and mythology including: Popular Tales and Fictions, Encyclopedia of Folklore and Literature and Medieval Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs and Customs.


                                                        Databases            You Must Use these Links when at Home

From School ABC CLIO eBook Collection
Bloom's Literary Reference Online Online from Facts on File Bloom's Literary Reference Center
Cambridge Collection Cambridge Collection
Gale Virtual Reference Library Gale Virtual Reference Library
Literature Resources from Gale combines LitFinder, Literature Resource Center, and Gale Virtual Reference Library Literature Resources from Gale
History Reference Center History Reference Online
Literature Resource Center Literature Resource Center
Literary Reference Center from Ebsco Literary Reference Center
Oxford Art Online from Oxford University Press
Oxford Reference Online from Oxford University Press      Oxford Reference
World Folklore and Folklife from Greenwood        World Folklore and Folklife


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Art Resource  Digital library contains over 250,000 keyword-searchable fine art images

Bible Gateway   Online Bible searchable by keyword, phrases, or scripture reference.  Electronic and searchable version of Bulfinch's Mythology- The Age of Fable

The Catholic Encyclopedia  More than 11,000 articles on Catholic topics

Encyclopedia Mythica   Internet encyclopedia of mythology, folklore, and religion.

Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts  Contains a list of electronic text organized by theme.

Heartlight's Search God's Word   SearchGodsWord is a searchable online edition of the Bible

Internet Movie Database

World Myths and Legends in Art  Created by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, this site explores world myths through 26 works of art from its collections.


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