Type and motif indices belong to the tradition of folkloristic methodology. Some of us have not been very enthusiastic of this practice of cataloguing haphazard collections of variants available to researchers, because it may create wrong expectations toward type stability in living folklore where variation, combination of different types and new conglomerates of motifs predominate. Even if “the indexing euphoria of past years has been abandoned”, the “indexes remain the basic reference tool for folkloristic study and they provide the very fundament of the international and comparative efforts of folklore scholars”, as Lutz Röhrich put it in 1979 at the ISFNR congress in Edinburgh (see ARV 1980 , p. 28).
Another good word for indices was heard from Heda Jason last month in Innsbruck at the 10th ISFNR congress. In the summary of her paper she writes: “The very first need indices serve to answer is locating materials. The textologist, the literary historian, the ethnopoetician, the historian, the historian of culture, the ethnologist, the psychiatrist – all of them and many others need to know whether there exist other versions of a particular narrative content which they are interested in, and where to find such versions; additional versions will elucidate the text they are working with. — a good index is at the same time a first description of the repertoire of the literary unit chosen for analysis, both content-wise and genre-wise. It is a first, but necessary, step on the way to the analysis of the culture’s oral and folk literary repertoire.”
In other words, type and motif indices are useful in the first orientation. They also signal the folklorist’s serious quest for better and thicker corpora of research material. From the point of view of scholarly identity the respect for primary material may be as important as the material itself.
As a reminder we publish here the list of all type, motif and comparable indices published so far in the FFC. They are 63 volumes (out of 251), i.e. every fourth issue of the series is an index. Most of them are still available and new printings are in the plans. Presently we consider the possibility of a Spanish translation of the Aarne-Thompson index. They – as well as indices published elsewhere – would probably deserve a more systematic analysis by a folklorist interested in the history and practice of our discipline.
(FFN 5, August 1992: 6)