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New York Folklore Vol. 10. Nos. 1-2, Winter-Spring, 1984
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NEW YORK FOLKLORE
Vol. 10. Nos. 1-2, Winter-Spring, 1984

TRAITS OF THE FEMALE HERO:
THE APPLICATION OF RAGLAN’S CONCEPT OF HERO TRAIT PATTERNING
by Mary Ann Jezewski

Folklorists have recognized that regular patterns exist in the life stories of traditional heroes. VonHahn (1876), Rank (1909) and Raglan (1934) identified hero patterns independently of each other, but the frameworks they devised demonstrate that a similarity of pattern exists in the life stories of selected male heroes of tradition. In an attempt to see whether there is a pattern to the life stories of female heroes as well, and if so whether the pattern is valid cross-culturally, I attempted to apply Raglan’s hero traits to the female hero of tradition but found that many of the traits he developed for the male hero did not "fit" the female. Consequently I developed a set of traits that reflect the life story of the female hero. The traits were compiled by investigating the life stories of female heroes in Greek mythology and by extracting certain motifs common to their legends. These were subsequently applied to selected female heroes cross-culturally and in various historical periods.

I define the hero as a person whose life story is passed on by oral tradition and/or written accounts and is remembered for exceptional deeds that have as their basis qualities exemplified in courage, power or magic. The hero may be a character of folktale, legend, myth or history.

The historicity of the hero of tradition has been discussed by various folklorists including Raglan ( 1936) and Dundes (1980). A major conceptual issue for Raglan was the existence of the traditional hero as a real person. He argued that the traditional hero most likely did not have a basis in history. But Raglan’s use of the term myth to categorize the accounts of his heroes’ life stories confuses his discussion of the historicity of the traditional hero. He refers to the myth and ritual surrounding the traditional hero when it would be more appropriate to discuss the influence of legend and folktale in patterning the life stories of heroes. Dun des ( 1980), indeed, states that Raglan’s hero narratives are not myths but would be folklorically categorized as folktale or legend. By using legend and folktale in the folkloric sense, as a basis for patterning the life stories of heroes, the existence of the traditional hero as a real person does not present itself as a methodological problem as it did for Raglan and his mythical hero.
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