The old, the poor and the illiterate? Challenging narrator stereotypes: an Icelandic case study
Romina Werth (University of Iceland)
Paper short abstract:
While focusing on the Icelandic collection of legends and fairy tales by Jón Árnason, the aim of this paper is to get some clarity on who exactly the contributors of Icelandic folk- and fairy tales had been, who often did not fit the narrator stereotypes of old and illiterate tradition carriers.
Paper long abstract:
A widely accepted premise by folklorists is the assumption that the main fairy tale contributors had been old, poor and illiterate. The German Grimm-scholar Heinz Rölleke was one of the first who challenged these stereotypes by bringing forward his theory about old Marie and young Marie and by stating that young and educated women had been the main informants for Grimms' Household Tales. However, what kind of narrators contributed their stories to lesser known collections of folk- and fairy tales? Does it matter how the collections emerged and what kind of practices where used to collect the stories? The main focus of this paper lies on the Icelandic collection of legends and fairy tales by Jón Árnason. For the most part Jón Árnason relied on a great number of collectors, most often priests, around the country who used their social networks for accessing and collecting stories. It is in these networks where the main contributors of Icelandic folk- and fairy tales where to be found and who surprisingly often did not fit the picture of the narrator prototype as introduced by the brothers Grimm and other folklorists. By the end, this paper hopes to have shown how Jón Árnason and his helpers used their sources and who exactly the contributors of Icelandic folk - and fairy tales had been. In general that could mean that in future research we might have to reevaluate our scholarly tales on fairy tale contributors as old and illiterate tradition carriers.
Meta-visions of heritage and utopia: scholarly tales on fairy tales