Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Look At The Ash Lad With Translator Simon Hughes

Ash Lad and the Troll by Thomas Gronbukt
At first glance, a name like 'Ash Lad' might lead someone not familiar with Norwegian tales to think this popular character was just a male version of Cinderella. While the two characters share some aspects beyond the name similarities, such as a lowly position in their household and caring for the fire, Ash Lad has much more in common with the English Jack and the Russian Ivan. In their respective folklore and fairy tales, all three of them, while usually considered a little dim, or naive, are not necessarily the idiots the rest of the village (or family) would say they are. Sometimes they are quite smart, but also sometimes not, depending on the tale. What can be agreed on though, is that they're all, very, very lucky.

Interestingly, the Wikipedia article on Ash Lad (Askeladden) adds this little nugget, explaining partly why we make the Cinderella association, though the earliest known tale uses the name Askefis*:
In Asbjørnsens's first edition (1843), the name is rendered as Askepott, which in Norway is commonly associated with Cinderella. This was later turned into Askeladden by Moltke Moe.
Our guest blogger today, Simon Hughes, looks at how the name Ash Lad came to be, and why it can be confusing, even, at times, misleading.

The Ash Lad
(Behind the Name)
(re-posted in full with kind permission)

The protagonist in a good number of Norwegian folktales, Askeladden (often translated as “Boots”, or “the Ash Lad”) is an apparent naïf, though he subsequently shows himself to be witty, shrewd, and fantastically resourceful. The oldest recorded form of the name is Oskefis (“ash-blower” - although “fis” has evolved to mean “fart” in modern Norwegian), denoting one who blows the embers to keep the fire going, a job often reserved for the lowest member of the household. Later oral traditions give the name Oskeladd, Oskelabb, Oskelamp, or Oskefot, where the second stem (-ladd, -labb, -lamp, -fot) denotes a rough woollen sock or slipper, suggesting this character has his feet in, or close to, the hearth.
Theodor Kittelsen - The Ash Lad Poking in the Ashes
(FTNH Ed: We like how he is being creative with the embers!)
In some tales, Askeladden's forename is given as Espen, Svein, Halvor, Lars, Hans, or Tyrihans. Tyrihans is a household function, though, like Askeladden: “Hans who looks after the "tyrived”, tyrived being the resin-laden pinewood used as kindling. This name suggests that Askeladden has complete responsibility for the fire, from collecting kindling, to lighting it, to tending it - quite an important job on the farm, in fact.**

Thanks Simon! 

You can read more of Simon's project of translating Norwegian Folktales (that is, to complete the translation of all of Asbjørnsen and Moe's collected tales to English), at his blog HERE. Here's his explanation of the project to inspire you to explore the ever-growing treasure trove there:
About the Norwegian Folktales Project by Simon Hughes 
The collection 
Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe collected and published Norwegian folk tales and legends in the middle of the 19thcentury. Whilst some of the tales are very well known in the English-speaking world, such as "The Three Billy-goats Gruff," many more are completely unknown, never having been translated. Imagine! All the trolls and hulders and nisses you may not have read about, yet. 
(FTNH Ed. As an example, The Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library edition of Norwegian Folktales contains 36 of the 110 listed as being collected, not including the 31 additional tales from the 'Round the Yule Log' collection, which doesn't count the variants of a few of those either. All other A&M English collections we've found have the phrase "selected from the collection of" in the subtitle. Even with the final tale numbers being a little difficult to count in light-research-mode, it's clear most English collections fall far short of including the bulk, let alone all, of Asbjørnsen and Moe's collected tales, so we're very excited to learn of this project!)
The project 
My intention with this project is to give the collection the treatment it deserves as a part of our world literature, and translate and publish the folklore that Asbjørnsen and Moe collected, in English analogues to the original publications. I am beginning with Peter Christen Asbjørnsen's Norwegian Hulder Tales and Folk Legends (1845/ 48), which has not appeared in English before.As I progress, I will continue to publish each tale on this site, when I have edited it enough to call it a final draft.
Simon (click his name to learn more about him) has a mailing list to keep you in the loop for updates and new tales, which we highly recommend joining. He also has a newly published, intriguing book of Norwegian tales...
You can click on the image above to be taken to the book options.
Every purchase supports his work!

Simon is also translating the Norwegian literary fairy tales of Regine Normann! Simon writes: "She wrote two volumes of literary fairy tales, and two volumes of legends set in the north of Norway. None of these volumes has ever been translated into English, and so the English-speaking world has no idea of the riches it has been missing, for the last eighty years." Here's a small summary on Regina Normann from the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folklore and Fairy Tales (her name is highlighted):

You can find his Regine Normann project HERE.

It's probably easiest to find Simon on Twitter HERE - something we also recommend. Personable and with that true "folklorist-joy" of discussing all things fairy tale (but particularly those of Norwegian origin), he's a continual delight to tweet with. His comments and insights are most commonly seen being retweeted and discussed on our favorite day in social media each week, #FolkloreThursday.

Askeladden who got the princess
to say he was lying ( Asbjørnsen & Moe)
Artist: Erik Werenskiold (1855-1938)

Sources for Askeladden/Ash Lad:

* Askefis is the name of the joint Nordic Askeladden. The name denotes one who blows on the embers (from fisa: blow, breathe) to get the fire to flare up. In some places in the Nordic region Askefis denotes a supernatural being that is located in the firepit, "the firepit spirit"; it is likely that the fairy-tale name of the disdained, but always fortunate son, who lingers by the fireplace, is a transfer from here, but probably affected by one or more foreign names of the fairy-tale "lier-in-the-ashes". The name Askefis (Norwegian most often "Oskefis") first appears in Nordic literature in the 1400s (in proverbs). (From Norwegian Encyclopedia - updated 3/3/18 from our original posting using Google Translate, to a much better translation, with special thanks to Simon Hughes)

** Important job?! Absolutely! This is Norway we're talking about. Pre-modern technology, a family would likely freeze to death much of the year if the fire in their hearth went out! [The hottest month in Oslo, the capital, averages 64°F (18°C) while the median lowest temp in Winter is 27°F (-3°C). Brr!]

No comments:

Post a Comment