Did you know that all the Norwegian folk tales collected by Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen
Moe have recently been translated into English for the first time?
No, really! Asbjornsen and Moe’s collections have been considered landmark European folk tale collections, but there has never been a full English-language collection. I mean, there are some other mpressive English-language collections of their work. Like the one translated by Tiina Nunnally which seems to collect all the tales in Norwegian Folk Tales vol. 1 and maybe a handful of others. Here there are translations of about five different books on the subject by the eminent folklorists.
But who were Asbjornsen and Moe, you ask? Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe were a pair of 19th Century Norwegian Scholars. Their lives and work were so closely united in their lives and work that they’re rarely mentioned apart. In fact, reports say they first met as youths in 1826 and became “blood brothers”. Interestingly, they seemed to do their folk tale collecting activities separately. For example, Asbjornsen became a private tutor at age 20 in eastern Norway and started collecting folk tales there. Meanwhile, Moe also became a tutor and started spending his time off collecting folklore in southern Norway. Later, they would decide to pool their resources and publish their folklore work jointly. They managed to get around the issue of the many dialects present in Norway at the time by using the Grimms’ principle of using simple language in their place. Though, they seemed to maintain the tales national uniqueness even better than the Grimms had. Their work ended up being accepted in Europe as a major contribution to the field of comparative mythology. It also helped develop Bokmal, one of the two linguistic standards for modern Norwegian.
This massive project was undertaken by one Simon Hughes, a scholar and teacher who was born in London but spent most of his life in Scandanavia. And for his hard work, I thank him.
This website is impressive. Possibly too impressive. There are so many tales here that it would take me a long time to read them all and get a feel for the entire thing. I’ve read a couple of them and all I can say now is that there are probably a lot of trolls in it (trolls are a thing in Norwegian fairy tales).
We can talk about the pros and cons of the internet being home to folk tale collections, though.
Now, one of the things to keep in mind when I talk about “the internet” here is that I mean the “world wide web”. I’m talking about folk tales being directly posted onto websites and viewed on a browser. I’m not necessarily talking about things like downloadable e-books.
There are certain pros to having these things online. But they come with some notable “ifs” that we should keep in mind. The internet provides wide availability to these texts. This much is known. It’s one of the main selling points of the internet. It also means that Hughes can publish his translations without having to have a book deal in place, which can be difficult and costly to get. It also means that once they’re done they can be published almost immediately rather than going through the long process that leads to actual publication and sales. However, they’re only available IF you have a device to access the internet on. Which means that you can only access them IF you have the financial means to secure such a device. Plus, you can only use your device to access them IF you have a way to get on the internet like Wi-Fi or cellular data. Which device someone has can determine how their reading experience is too. For example, smart phones have small screens and can sometimes be a pain to read on, especially if you’re someone who is far-sighted or has trouble with small print. Hughes has said on Twitter that he’s looking for a publisher. Personally, I hope he finds one. You see, I’d personally like to see this collection at least take the form of a Kindle book. While reading on a PC screen is fine, sometimes I want to take my reading to work with me for my breaks. My phone’s small screen can be annoying to read on (and having the phone around can be trouble for someone as easily distracted as me). Also, I work in a place that has no wi-fi for security reasons. That means I need either a physical copy or to have a copy downloaded onto my Kindle Fire. I can’t view it remotely on my Fire.
So, here’s the Link: Norwegian Folktales. Check it out when you have time. And let’s keep our fingers crossed for a book release.
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