The Exposition We most often assume that the reason for creation in this folktale is that the elderly couple cannot have children of their own; therefore they bake a food object to serve as a surrogate child. However, when studying this motif across cultures, this reason for creation appeared only in “original” (not fractured) versions originating in the United States, as was the case in The Gingerbread Boy by Egielski and The Gingerbread Man by Aylesworth. Most often found was the object was created for the purpose of eating the food item and that the characters already had a child or children already. This was the case with versions found in Russia, Norway, England, Sweden and Germany, as well as in the fractured The Runaway Tortilla by Kimmel. The Jewish version and the Chinese version explained the creation of the runaway food item as a preparation for a holiday celebration.
The Conflict There were two significant distinctions in the manner in which the fleeing object escapes. However, could not be grouped culturally. The versions from Sweden, Germany, England and United States all show the object jumping from on oven. Norwegian, Chinese and the two fractured versions had the runaway food escape directing from the frying pan or griddle. In the Russian version, The Bun, the object rolls away after being placed on a windowsill to cool.
The Climatic Event The next place where divergence is seen is in the climatic event. Although there are no distinctions between versions to compare culturally, there are three notable points in plot change. First, who is involved in the capture of the food? This is discussed previously in the character section of this analysis, but will be restated as it also has cultural characteristics as well. The motif of being captured by a fox is found most often in numerous different cultures, such as United States, Germany, England, and Russia. The motif of being captured by a pig in found in Norway. Three variants show the captors as human--The Runaway Latkes by Kimmel, The Runaway Rice Cake by Compestine, and The Gingerbread Baby by Brett. Second, is the method of capture--which varies widely. The two most commonly recognized motifs include: Offering a ride over a body of water until water gets so deep the fleeing food get too close to mouth of the captor and feigning hearing difficulties until the fleeing food gets too close to mouth of the captor. However, other variants show capture by trickery: retrieving a grasshopper stuck in the throat in The Runaway Tortilla by Kimmel and enticing into a gingerbread house and shutting the doors as in The Gingerbread Baby by Brett. Two other version show completely different methods of capture--The Runaway Rice Cake by Compestine show the rice cakes being captured by bumping into an old woman and The Runaway Latkes by Kimmelman show the latkes rolling into a river of applesauce. Third, how is the food consumed is the final variation in the climatic event. Seven of the ten versions analyzed showed the runaway food being swallowed or gobbled up by the captor. In The Runaway Latkes and The Runaway Rice Cake both are eaten bite-by- bite by the humans that capture them. The difference is in the former, the food is shared among a group and in the latter, one woman eats the food. The Gingerbread Baby by Brett is the only version in which the fleeing food is not eaten! Instead, the author gives a not-so-tragic twist to the ending by allowing the gingerbread baby to stay alive and live “happily ever after” in a house built just for him.
In a final assessment of this study’s findings, it is difficult to determine any true consistencies between cultural variants. The only consistent trait discovered was the main character depicted as a