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Delaine Ulmer SLIS 5440 Spring 2002

Catch Me if you Can! : Looking for the Gingerbread Man

A Thematic Story Collection Study

by Delaine Ulmer

Thematic Description and Rationale

Throughout history, gingerbread has taken many shapes (men, animals, hearts and flowers) and forms (cookies, cakes, and breads), not only in it’s manufacturing, but also in folklore and legend. The eleventh century brought about gingerbread as a popular fairground treat. In England, there was even village tradition for unmarried women to eat a “gingerbread husband” during the fair in order to increase their chances of finding a real husband. However, it was during the nineteenth century, when the Grimm brothers collected German fairy tales and found the tale of Hansel and Gretel who find a gingerbread house in the woods, that gingerbread began to be romanticized.

This is a thematic collection of variations of the traditional English Gingerbread Man folktale. It is not meant to be exhaustive, but instead, a starting place in comparing/contrasting adaptations. There are numerous variations to the Tale Type 2025, The fleeing pancake, many of which will be analyzed in this study. They can be found in many cultures--including Latvia, Sweden, Norway, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland, Russia and the United States. Even within cultures some tales were very different. This tale type has evolved in many fractured versions as well. I also found, in researching this tale type, were variants of the “runaway cookies” motif that entailed princes/husbands made from dough and boys made from clay that rampage through cities. For the purpose of this study, I choose to stay with only the original tale type--although a bibliography of this tale type, fractured versions and related variants is included as well.

The purpose of this project is to compare and contrast 10 different versions within three form of


This study focuses attempts to incorporate as many cultural versions as possible.

The main

concentration of this paper is to examine the cultural morphology of the Gingerbread Man tale in

relation to three aspects:

characters, setting and plot.

The main character changes in relation to the

culture of origin and assumes characteristics of that culture. The culturally adapted main character then often requires a new setting. The setting changes to become culturally appropriate for the new main character. The progression of plot in this tale remains, at heart, the same. However, this study found that the plot consistently morphs in certain places.

Characters Do the characters change to fit the culture of the story? Does the gender or age differ between cultures? What are the characters motives and goals? How do the characters change physical form? Are there are relevant personality types displayed? Setting What is the time and place? What country or city? How does the setting differ between versions from different cultures? How does the story change based on the cultural setting? How does the story change based on the time when it was written?



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