"The Norwegian folk tales are the best there is . . . They surpass almost any other."
Authors Peter Christian Asbjørnsen
and Jørgen Moe
were a pair of Norwegian Fairy Tale
collectors. The result of their work is an anthology of roughly 150 tales, properly called "Norwegian Folktales", but more commonly referred to simply as Asbjørnsen and Moe
.Peter Christen Asbjørnsen
was the urban one, born in the city of Christiania in 1812. He died in 1885, a vivid hobby scientist and professional zoologist, engaging in social issues, and in collecting of stories. Most of the material collected in and around the Oslo area is written by him, and also many of the legends. Asbjørnsen was the son of a glass maker, and had humble origins. He wrote and edited his own collections of stories before even meeting Jørgen Moe as early as in 1842. In later years, Asbjørnsen ended in a heavy porridge debate (called the "porridge war") with sociologist Eilert Sundt, over the necessity of eating and making porridge. Hilarity ensued.Jørgen Moe
was the son of a farmer from Ringerike, born 1813. He was the rural one of the two. He studied to become a priest, and was also a poet and writer of children`s books. Many of the dialect examples in the texts are his, and also the more lengthy tales from the upper valleys. He sought out story-tellers in remote areas, and collected some of the more rare and extensive tales from them. Regrettably, he was not always there for long, but he laid out some ground work for the next generation of collectors. His son, Moltke Moe, became the first professor of folklore in Norway. Moe had a chance meeting with Henrik Wergeland
in 1841, and Wergeland insisted that he should get to the task of collecting more thorougly. In time he became a respected priest in the parish of Krødsherad, and from there, he was able to collect more stories. Jørgen Moe died in 1882.
The "classical" mode of telling the stories derives from the mode of some particular storytellers in the eastern parts of Norway. Folklorist Rikard Berge commented later on that the western modes differed somewhat from the Asbjørnsen/Moe style, and this, he argued, showed some local characteristics in how to present the characters. The "eastern" ashlad is more of a witty trickster, while there is more of a heroic youngster in the "western" one.
The vast majority of these tales originate from three earlier anthologies:
- Asbjørnsen og Jørgen Moe's "Norske Folkeeventyr" (Norwegian Folktales) published in parts from 1841 to 1844.
- Asbjørnsen's "Norske Folkeeventyr: Ny Samling" (Norwegian Folktales: New Collection) from 1868.
- Asbjørnsen's "Norske Huldre-Eventyr og Folkesagn" (Norwegian Hulder-tales and Folk-legends) published in parts from 1845 to 1866.
A handful of other tales by Asbjørnsen and by Moe's son, folklorist Moltke Moe, have also made their way into the collection.
Tales with their own page:
They also have their own variant of The Seven Ravens
(called "De tolv villender"; that is "The Twelve Wild Ducks").
A partial translation can be found here
. J. R. R. Tolkien
singled this one out for discussion in "On Fairy-Stories
" when discussing What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?
: though the translator did not bowlderize, he did forbid children to read the last two stories, under the assumption that they were the natural audience.
Examples of tropes in Asbjørnsen and Moe's folk tales:
- An Aesop
- All the Little Norways: Unlike the brothers Grimm's Germany however, Norway was united when these tales was collected, so this is just a cultural artifact.
- All Trolls Are Different
- Author Tract: Asbjørnsen, when he decided to make a frame for his legends. Thus, he also presented his sources, wise women, hunters, grave diggers, blacksmiths and so on. He usually placed himself in their environment, passing time with hunting or fishing, and thus stumbling over storytellers on the way. Asbjørnsen was an enthusiastic hobby fisherman himself, and this was a great excuse for him to get to people. He even lampshaded this: "when the world goes against me, something it seldom declines to do when it has an opportunity to do so, i take my fishing gear and walk away..."
- Baleful Polymorph
- Beast Fable
- Beat Still, My Heart: Used as a Soul Jar in "The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body".
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Both played straight and defied/subverted as An Aesop.
- Bright Castle: Soria Moria.
- Bowdlerise: To make the stories more likable for the higher classes, the tales were amended somewhat. The name "Ashlad" stands out, as the rural name for the lad is "ash fart" (Askefisen), more to the point on blowing/"farting" on the embers. But the upper classes would never accept it, hence the Ashlad. In the very first edition, his name was "Askepot", a name more commonly associated with Cinderella.
- The City vs. the Country: "The House-mouse and the Mountain-mouse" follows this formula. The usual message is interesting enough subverted however as the Country Mouse is no better portrayed than the City Mouse.
- The Norwegian version states a classical social criticism when the Country Mouse leaves for the hills. The Cat is associated with the tax collector, a person who were thoroughly disliked by the farmers. Country Mouse says that he`d rather be at home, than be pestered by "such a hawk".
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The tale is actually called "Home Mouse and Mountain Mouse", setting the story outside of town altogether. Home Mouse (City Mouse) represents the well to do farmer in the valleys and flatlands, while the Mountain Mouse (Country Mouse) represents the mountain farmer, usually poorer and not so well off (but seemingly more free and far away from the cat).
- Classic Villain: Mostly the tax collector, sometimes the Beadle or the Sherriff. Those guys are prone to be taken by the Devil, or to make deals with him.
- Cunning Like a Fox
- Damsel in Distress
- Debut Queue: "The Ashlad and the Good Helpers".
- Deadpan Snarker: The Ashlad has his moments of this. The Narrator joins in occasionally.
- Distressed Dude
- Deal with the Devil
- Dub Name Change: In English Askeladden is sometimes translated as the Ashlad or the Cinderlad, and sometimes just called "Boots".
- Earn Your Happy Ending
- Engagement Challenge
- Fairy Godmother: Virgin Mary takes this role in one story.
- Fairy Tale: Duh.
- Fake Ultimate Hero
- Family-Unfriendly Death
- Family-Unfriendly Violence
- Folk Hero: The Ashlad.
- Forbidden Fruit
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Herding the king`s hares". A rare example of a rather direct fairy tale when coming to the actual "fooling around" done by the hero. The queen in the story is shamelessly hinting that there was "more than kissing" involved.
- A storyteller in the western part of Norway actually mocked Jørgen Moe when he came around collecting stories, by telling him the rudest stories he could think of. Naturally, those stories were never published. But they were left over for later amusement.
- Guile Hero: The Ashlad.
- Happily Ever After: "...og de levde lykkelig alle sine dager."
- Hitchhiker Heroes: The helpers in "The Ashlad and the Good Helpers".
- Impossible Task
- Interlude Of Sex And Violence: As far as the violence is concerned, read the story of "Peik". Possibly the most gory tale in the entire collection. For the rest, see getting crap past the radar.
- Involuntary Shapeshifter
- The Lost Woods
- Meaningful Name: The Ashlad, Butterbuck, Mumble-Gooseegg and more.
- Moving the Goalposts: Kings are prone to this.
- Nameless Narrative
- Once Upon a Time: "Det var en gang..."
- Parental Favoritism
- Plot Tailored to the Party: The ending of "The Ashlad and the Good Helpers".
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Why many Norwegian tales differ from the German ones. The social environment is vastly different in the Norwegian Cinderella versions, as far as the meeting with the prince is concerned. In Germany or England, the king holds a ball for the Prince attended by the heroine in disguise. In Norway, the girl in question rides to church three sundays in a row and turns heads there. Churches were the common meeting place in the old days, and Norway had few castles, if any.
- The Promise
- The Quest
- Rags to Royalty
- Royal Brat: Most princesses are this. It won't stop the main characters from trying to marry them however.
- Rule of Three
- Rule of Seven
- Shapeshifting Lover
- Standard Hero Reward "I'll give you the princess and half my kingdom."
- Soul Jar: The titular heart in "The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body".
- Take That: The officials, like the tax collectors, sheriffs, well to do farmers (big shots), and quarrelsome husbands and wives. Sometimes the priests also get it. The stories were told by farmers to other farmers, and the officials were their natural enemies.
- Talking Animal
- The Trickster: The Ashlad, Foxes, and quite a few one-off character.
- The Unreveal: Subverted, "The Casket with the Strange Content" (Skrinet med det rare i) is basically the same as the Grimm's "The Golden Key" except the contents of the box is actually reveled to be a calf's tail. The narrator snarkingly remarks that had the tail been longer the story might have been so too.
- Wealthy Ever After: The common reward for getting rid of trolls is the chance to loot all their gold afterwards.
- Youngest Child Wins: The Ashlad and quite a few others.