The relationship between oral and literary tradition as a challenge in fairy-tale research: the case of Finnish folktales

Citation metadata

Author: Satu Apo
Date: Apr. 2007
From: Marvels & Tales(Vol. 21, Issue 1)
Publisher: Wayne State University Press
Document Type: Essay
Length: 6,154 words

Document controls

Main content

Full Text: 

The incidence of four international/European fairy tales in Finnish folk tradition--"Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "Snow White," and "Beauty and the Beast"--opens several questions about relationships between the traditions of oral and literary fairy tales. (1) Drawing upon international research of these four tales, one could claim that "Beauty and the Beast" came about through writing; "Sleeping Beauty" most probably grew from a literary tradition; and "Snow White" has at least been strongly influenced by written fairy tales; while only "Cinderella" seems to be a prototypical folktale, its distribution stretching from Ireland to India, with a wealth of different versions recorded throughout Europe.

The history of these four tales may explain the quantitative distribution of the corresponding Finnish folktales. The collections of the Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society contain 14 versions of "Beauty and the Beast," 29 texts about "Snow White," yet not a single one about "Sleeping Beauty." Contrastingly, there are 196 recordings relating to "Cinderella."

The first three literary tales I have mentioned seem to have inspired relatively few narrators, forty in all. It may well be that the misfortunes of princesses and merchants' daughters failed to resonate in a storytelling community made up of peasants and farm laborers. Also, fairy-tale collectors and archivists were prejudiced against texts that had demonstrably assimilated literary elements. It was only in the 1930s that the Folklore Archives started to record more thoroughly their methods of selection. At that time, archivists were put under an obligation to exercise strict criticism of their sources even at the early stages of the archiving process, when the new texts were being classified according to genre. A memorandum written in the 1970s describes the policy: "items containing even the slightest hint of literary influence, idiosyncratic authorship or exhibiting a non-traditional style were discarded and written off as 'Trash, f.'" (2)

The process of purification within the Folklore Archives stemmed from the romantic conception of folklore whereby researchers looked far into the past, generally as far back as the Middle Ages or into prehistory, for the origins of authentic folktales. The poems and tales collected in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were seen as messages from ancient times, times when the life and oral tradition of the people had not been influenced by modern institutions such as literature, reading, and writing. If folklorists accepted these premises, they would not have to concern themselves with any printed material circulating in Europe after Gutenberg other than in a purely source-critical sense. They removed from their research material any texts contaminated by literature and concentrated instead upon the history of tales born and spread orally. Such practices are outlined in Antti Aarne's methodological guide of 1913, Leitfaden der vergleichenden Marchenforschung (10, 18-19, 63). Many scholars criticized the historic-geographic comparativists' tendency to belittle literary tradition. Perhaps the most strident criticism came from Albert Wesselski, who put forward his view in Versuch einer Theorie des Marchens (144-46, 166-67, 178).

This romantic conception of folklore--in which the researcher looks as far back in history as possible and not to the rime at which materials were recorded; in which folktales and songs are assumed to be merely oral; and in which the so-called folk is assumed to be "unmodern," or in other words, illiterate--has been widely criticized in recent decades (see, for example, Abrahams 9-13). The reason for bringing up the myth of orality once again is that this very myth has had a very long and profound impact on Finnish folkloristics, the ramifications of which were still being felt as recently as the 1970s. This can be seen not merely in the system of categorization at the Folklore Archives, bur also in several presentations of Finnish fairy tales (see, for example, Virtanen and DuBois 192-95). Finnish scholars have paid little attention to the impact of literature on narrative traditions. For the most part, this indifference can be explained by the main focus of Finnish folklore research: Kalevalametre poetry, the representative of orally transmitted folklore par excellence.

Because Finnish folklorists were not required to take the literary tradition of fairy tales into account, they did not know this tradition well enough to recognize which tale text was "impure" and which had its roots in the oral tradition. Consequently, the collections of the Folklore Archives contain plenty of copies and summaries of printed fairy tales. Especially well represented are the translations of Children's and Household Tales. Some of these texts even found their way into the first scholarly anthology of Finnish magic tales. (3)

Research History and Ideological Factors

When we examine research that defines the relationship between oral and literary fairy-tale traditions, we often encounter surprisingly stern and emotionally charged views. Folklorists and literary researchers alike have been passionate about the subject. During the 1900s two questions about tale origins in particular caused great agitation: first, whether the genre of the wonder tale arose from writers' creative processes or from traditional oral narrative, and second the extent to which fairy tales published in modern rimes have influenced the tales of folk narrators recorded during the 1800s.

The opinions of researchers who have taken a stance on these matters can be divided into three categories, each of which emphasizes different tale sources: (1) the creative work of the folk in a democratic spirit; (2) the role of the writing elite; and (3) a new, pluralistic cultural history that posits multiple sources. The folk of the "democratic" concept of the fairy tale can be considered the ethnos in a nationalistic sense, or it can be reduced to mean only the lower strata of society in a Marxist or a sociohistorical sense. The role of the lower levels of society was also underlined in nationalist thinking, particularly with reference to peasants, who, in the manner of Rousseau, were understood to have a close affinity with nature and to have remained unspoiled by the effects of Western civilization. (4)

One folklorist who linked the wonder-tale genre to the peasantry was Vladimir Propp. He considered in Morphology of the Folktale where folklorists might find the best structured fairy tales. He wrote: "uncorrupted tale construction is peculiar only to the peasantry--to a peasantry, moreover, little touched by civilization. All kinds of foreign influences alter and sometimes even corrupt a tale. Complications begin as soon as we leave the boundary of the absolutely authentic tale" (100). Propp wrote this in 1928, 150 years after Herder and 100 years after the Grimm brothers. It would be interesting to know whether Propp wrote this statement extolling the narrative skills of the peasantry because it was required in the context of Soviet culture, or because he truly believed it.

When we examine elitist conceptions of the genesis and development of the wonder-tale gente, these lower levels of society are shown in a somewhat different light. In 1921 the Germanist Hans Naumann, a contemporary of Propp, first introduced his principle of sunken cultural materials ("gesunkenes Kulturgut"). In this he states that folklore--including, for instance, folk songs--had been greatly influenced by elements of culture stemming from the upper classes of society. (5) In a similar vein, Jan de Vries, a researcher of religion and folklore, claimed in 1954 that in two senses the wonder-tale genre ("das Marchen") had its origins among the elite. He held that professional poets had forged these tales and that their work represented a mentality common to the aristocracy--that is, an optimism and a playful view of life. De Vries wrote provocatively: "Old women and shepherds have not reached the level achieved by the professional poets who created the tales" (179). In this model the role of the peasantry ("das Volk") is one of merely preserving and shaping tales made available to them.

In these claims questioning the creative abilities of the people, we hear echoes of certain cultural-critical statements from the early twentieth century expressing fear that the power and tastes of the masses will endanger high culture and the position of creative individuals. (6) In the background we can make out--if we want to--the ghost of Friedrich Nietzsche. A far more important context, however, was the prevailing political climate from the 1920s to the late 1940s. Indeed, the democratic values and procedures for achieving them in political life were contested matters in many European countries right until the end of the Second World War.

It was with the classic works of Walter Ong (1958) and Albert Lord (1960) that questions regarding the history of communication and the technique of oral composition first appeared. The relationship between orality and literacy was initially viewed as linear and mutually exclusive: these modes of communication did not live side by side, let alone closely bound to each other; rather, they followed each other sequentially. The spread of literacy was seen to corrupt authentic folklore and even to destroy narrators' oral competence. Later on, this paradigm was given an ideological slant: those who were critical of modernization reminded us that it was with the help of literacy that those in power (the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, the church) distinguished themselves from the people and used the written word to control them. Oral culture was often idealized in the manner of Jean-Jacques Rousseau: it represented originality and authenticity--in other words, the opposite of alienation.

After the intellectual changes of the 1960s, researchers of fairy tales were also forced to take a stance in the orality-versus-literacy dichotomy. For "Democrats," the formula of the fairy tale was now "people + orality = authenticity and originality." Even though collectors began to turn their attention to orally transmitted tales only in the 1800s, the genre was projected into a bygone era, extending from the Ice Age to feudal rimes. The folktale was assumed to be the obvious and primary source of the literary fairy tale. (7) Printed narratives, in turn, were seen as tainted with the ideology of their authors. Because writers, for one reason or another, generally modified or discarded popular motifs, folktales suffered: they lost their original, deep meanings derived from folk belief and praxis of life. (8)

Of Nordic folklorists, perhaps it is Bengt Holbek who has most clearly underlined the orality of fairy tales in his research. In his doctoral thesis, Interpretation of Fairy Tales, he describes the tales of Danish narrators as stemming from the tradition of the illiterate rural proletariat, a tradition that was barely influenced by the literary tradition of fairy tales (46). Although the tales at the focus of Holbek's study were recorded as late as the 1870s and 1880s, he claims that "the traditional storytellers" would not have been able to read, nor would they have had the means to buy books (254). Apparently these traditional narrators lived in a distant century, for Holbek thus describes the state of Danish schooling: "School education was not uncommon in the 18th century even in rural districts, but it became compulsory in 1814" (63). Holbek also admits that fairy-tale literature was available cheaply in the form of chapbooks and broadside prints, but, according to him, this literature primarily reached the urban public (254).

This model of opposition between oral and literary tradition has been widely criticized by both anthropologists (for example, Jack Goody 1987) and folklorists (for example, Ruth Finnegan 1988). Based on empirical observations it was claimed that oral and literal modes of communication have indeed lived in constant dialogue with each other in many cultures for hundreds of years. This led social and cultural historians to sharpen their focus, particularly on the cultures of Western Europe. Harvey Graff (1987) and Robert Houston (1988) are key examples. (9) More and more new research dealing with the history of reading and writing has moved in a similar direction and claimed that literature has belonged to everyone--including the so-called folk--since as early as the eighteenth century.

"Elitists," those who stressed the literary roots of the fairy tale, found support in recent cultural and social history. In 1986 Rudolf Schenda wrote: "It is above all the spread of literacy and the act of reading that promotes storytelling in the lower strata of society" (46). Schenda's position here is in diametric opposition to Holbek's view. Classic literary fairy tales by Giovan Francesco Straparola, Giambattista Basile, and Charles Perrault have been the subject of much scrutiny and reevaluation since the 1980s. Earlier researchers (Marc Soriano, for instance) had claimed that the work of these writers stemmed largely from oral tradition; new research suggests that classical tale collections have only a small number of folktales. (10) Researchers such as Elizabeth Harries, Cristina Bacchilega, and Sophie Raynard have, on the other hand, brought to attention a wealth of information on French women writers publishing contes de fees during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

This new direction within fairy-tale research brought into question our previous understanding of the age of the genre. Elizabeth Harries and Ruth Bottigheimer, for instance, assume that the wonder tales we know came into being between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries and that they were greatly inspired by models available within the literary tradition. The argument put forth by both Harries and Bottigheimer is empirical: fairy tales passed on orally were first recorded relatively late, during the nineteenth century. We have very little evidence of what oral fairy tales were like before this. Indeed, we know even less about whether the fairy tales familiar to us were told during the Middle Ages or before that time. (11)

Orality, Literacy, and Finnish Fairy Tales in the Nineteenth Century

I will now examine the relationship between the traditions of oral and literary fairy tales in the light of Finnish fairy-tale material. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of the texts were recorded during the 1880s and 1890s. Previous researchers have considered the Finnish fairy tale as primarily oral, displaying very, few influences from written fairy tales. The narrators of these tales have been perceived as people in whose lives reading and writing played no part.

Finnish social and cultural history undermines these assumptions. Written culture using the vernacular had been an inseparable part of people's lives since the sixteenth century, when the Bible was translated into both Swedish and Finnish. Hymnals, catechisms, and books of homilies came into the picture during the seventeenth century. High levels of literacy had been achieved in Finland by the end of the eighteenth century. (12) In 1800, in a population of approximately one million, more than 80 percent of Finnish ten-year-olds could read (Tommila and Salokangas 27, 78). Popular literature intended for the masses, available at low cost, arrived in Finland about the middle of the eighteenth century in broadsheet form. Fairy tales were published in both broadsheets and chapbooks. Publishers and traveling peddlers began spreading this primed material effectively from about 1840 onward (see Apo 39-45). With a literate population, sales appear to have been brisk.

It was only in the 1810s that the Finnish scholars began to follow the example of their German and Scandinavian colleagues in recording folklore. When Elias Lonnrot began collecting oral poetry a decade later, he had to go to the backwoods along Finland's eastern border and to northwestern Russia to find poetry in the old unrhymed trochaic tetrameter (Kalevala metre). Even in the 1820s, the central areas of the country were already far too modernized for a purely oral culture to survive.

The most intense period of collecting Finnish folk poetry took place during the last decades of the nineteenth century. By this rime the population had reached two million, almost 100 percent of whom could read. The numbers of those who could write grew during the above period from 15 percent to 40 percent. In the remote districts these numbers were naturally lower (Tommila and Salokangas 27, 78).

What fairy tales did the narrators of those days read? The following list of Finnish-language literary fairy tales published between 1847 and 1881 (Apo 42-43) gives a few examples:

1847 Wiron satuja (Estonian Fairy Tales)

1848-64 Tales by H. C. Andersen (individually or in publications of several tales)

1848-67 Grimms' fairy tales (as broadsheets)

1849 Grimms' fairy tales: anthology Kaksitoista kummallista satua (Twelve Miraculous Stories)

1852-66 Suomen kansan satuja ja tarinoita (Folk Tales and Legends of the Finnish People) by Eero Salmelainen

1855 The Thousand and One Nights: anthology Itamaan satuja I-III (Tales of the Orient I-III)

1869-72 H. C. Andersenin satuja 1-4 (The Tales of H. C. Andersen 1-4). Translated into Finnish by Julius Krohn

1876 Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: Koti-satuja lapsille ja nuorisolle (Household Tales for Children and Young People, 50 tales)

1881 P Chr. Asbjornsen: Norjalaisia satuja ja tarinoita (Norwegian Folk Tales and Legends)

This list is a bare outline, as only a fraction of the broadsheets and booklets have survived. Additionally, entertaining tales were printed in newspapers and periodicals, particularly during the time of strict press censorship from 1830 to 1850.

Beauty, the Beast, and Finnish Narrators

I shall now take a closer look at a prototypical example of the "gesunkenes Kulturgut" ("sunken cultural materials") process by examining how Finnish narrators dealt with the tale of "Beauty and the Beast." This classic tale dates back to the 1700s and has two known authors, the French noblewomen Gabrielle de Villeneuve (1740) and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (1756; see Lemirre 771-73, and Barchilon 7-11). The latter's version spread throughout Europe either in the original, as part of Leprince de Beaumont's compilation Magasin des enfans (sic), in translations, or in oral narratives. Because records about older popular literature are incomplete, I have been unable to ascertain how ordinary Finns who were not versed in French first became acquainted with "La Belle et la Bete." Probably the Swedish translations of the tale have been the source of transmission.

There are thirteen recordings of "Beauty and the Beast" ("Kaunotar ja hirvio," ATU 425C) in the Folklore Archives. The majority of these (nine texts) date from the period 1882-1894, two texts were recorded in the 1850s, and two are from the beginning of the twentieth century. The gender of nine narrators is known: six women and three men. All were between fifty and ninety years of age, with the exception of one sixteen-year-old logger.

Ten of the thirteen informants lived in the more developed areas of Finland along the western and southern coasts. Only three of the narrators were from central Finland (Hame). Three of the narrators lived in towns. The coastal towns and the areas around them were Swedish-speaking or bilingual at that time. People speaking both Finnish and Swedish lived along the entire coastal region, not merely in towns. Fairy-tale literature published in Swedish was available in this region, as Gun Herranen has proved in her study of a blind narrator living near the town of Ekenas (Tammisaari). (13) Even a body of material as small as these versions of "Beauty and the Beast" can shed light on the narrators of folktales. He or she may have been an illiterate village dweller, but may also have been a town dweller, bilingual, and able to read.

Some of the narrators at the end of the nineteenth century could also write. Some of them even had literary ambitions--they wanted to create a beautiful and enchanting fairy tale, like those of their idols, the Grimm brothers, Hans Christian Andersen, and the unknown authors of other printed tales. With a love of both fairy tales and the Finnish language, these people sent many colorful texts to the collections of the Finnish Literature Society. The material they used for these narratives ranged from tales they had heard from others or had collected themselves to those they had read in books. In addition, some of the narrators made up idiosyncratic fairy tales of their own (see Apo 131-35).

These literate, writing narrators used either formal language or a mixture of formal language and dialectic expressions; sometimes this was deliberate, but in general it was unwitting. There are two examples of such texts in the material dealing with "Beauty and the Beast." Here, the narrators tended to textualize their fairy tales according to models they had learned from literary culture. In other words, some Finnish narrators assumed the role of both the literary re-creator and the creative, individual author. The majority of the Finnish versions of "Beauty and the Beast" (a total of nine texts), however, came about as the recorder followed the oral performance of the informant and then textualized the story based on what he or she heard.

What then do these different attempts at textualization look like? Below is an extract from the original tale of "Beauty and the Beast"--more precisely, the scene in which the merchant father is about to set off on his fateful journey. Leprince de Beaumont's text has been translated by Maria Tatar:

   When they [the two elder sisters] saw that their father was ready
   to leave, they begged him to bring them dresses, furs, laces, and
   all kinds of baubles. Beauty did not ask for anything, because she
   thought that all the money from the merchandise would not be enough
   to buy everything her sisters wanted. "Don't you want me to buy
   anything for you?" asked the father. "You are so kind to think of
   me," Beauty answered. "Can you bring me a rose, for there are none
   here?" (Tarar 33)

Oral narrative style clearly differs from literary style, as the following example shows. The narrator is a fifty-eight-year-old man, Vanha Eeki (Old Eeki). His fairy tale was recorded by Tuomas Tuomi in 1891. Both the narrator and the collector here are from the same dialect area (the dialect is not evident in the translation): "Once a merchant and his servant set off on a long journey, and when the merchant was to say farewell, his daughter said: 'Father, bring me back a beautiful flower.' The merchant promised to bring her a flower and set off." The other Finnish example recounts the same scene and comes from a female narrator, Mathilda Osterberg. She wrote her own version of "Beauty and the Beast" and sent it to the Folklore Archives in 1888.

   One winter's day a father said to his daughters: "I am to set off
   with my servant and travel abroad. Tell me each of you what you
   wish me to bring you back as a gift when I return." The elder
   sisters asked for beautiful and precious clothes and jewellery, but
   the youngest said: "Father dear, bring me a briar flower, not from
   distant lands but from the farthest north. Bring me that and you
   will be welcomed back home." Her father said: "My child, if only
   you had asked for an immensely precious gift from abroad, I would
   have better been able to fulfil your wishes."

If we compare the texts of Vanha Eeki and Osterberg in their entireties, we notice that they both display key distinguishing features of oral and literary narrative. These features have been listed by Jack Goody (263-64) and others. Of these, I shall mention a few: Oral narrative generally progresses quickly, concentrating primarily on the action; there is little description, and attributive adjectives are rare. Syntactic structures are simple, and the vocabulary is relatively limited. The same traits appear in transcriptions of taped fairy tales and have been analyzed from the linguistic point of view by Pertti Virtaranta (3-5).

To the sophisticated reader, most of the transcriptions of oral narrative found in the Folklore Archives seem bare and incomplete compared with literary fairy tales. At this point the folklorist will remind the discontented reader that recordings that ended up in the archives did not originate in authentic narrative situations. The richness of the oral fairy tale stems above all from the paralinguistic and extraverbal techniques employed by the narrator. The former includes intonation, volume, pitch, and rhythm of speech, whereas the latter comprises visually observable components of performance--that is, gaze, facial expressions, bodily postures, and gestures. (14) In fact, these aspects were impossible to record even by those collectors who wrote in shorthand (for example, Kaarle Krohn) in the nineteenth century; this required the further development of recording techniques from wax cylinders to the tape recorder and to the video camera.

Finnish tale-tellers typically made the following types of modifications to the story of "Beauty and the Beast." First, they tend to omit the machinations of Beauty's envious sisters, thus shortening the story line. Second, they often recast certain roles. For instance, Beauty's helper is no longer a beautiful fairy but an old man or woman. In this respect storytellers' narratives conform to the nineteenth-century Finnish folktale tradition, which does not include the types of fairies to be found in French or Italian traditions. Finally, the majority of storytellers are specific about the image of the Beast. Leprince de Beaumont does not define the species of her Beast. Rather she uses expressions such as "a hideous monster" and "a dreadful beast." While four of the Finnish tellers settle for such general terms as "dreadful creature" and "furry animal," other informants are more specific, making Beast a bear (three texts), a snake (two texts), a dog (two texts), or a moose (one text). Thus storytellers select animals based on northern Eurasian folklore and folk belief.

Most interesting, however, is to examine how the interaction between the hero and heroine of the French tale has been adapted to fit the norms and conventions of Finnish folk life. Leprince de Beaumont describes how the protagonists' love affair develops gradually, maintaining the good manners of the rime. The attraction between Beauty and the Beast is born of conversations at the dinner table, the Beast's gestures of goodwill, the hero's sighs, and the heroine's thoughtful reflections. The process of falling in love and the expression of emotions connected to it is something alien to Finnish folklore and appears very seldom indeed, if ever. Narrators have, however, solved this problem most naturally. They have situated Beauty and the Beast in a bit of, as it were, night courting. A young man would be able to visit the girl by night--young girls slept separately from the rest of the family, either in the storehouse or in the attic. Thus it is that the Finnish Beast sleeps in Beauty's bed, licks the girl's legs, and places his paws upon her breasts.

On the whole, folk narrators describe emotions as physical action rather than as speech or thought. The Beast puts his head on Beauty's lap and weeps "so that water ran across the chamber floor." In the same way, the girl pets and kisses the moose. When Beauty believes she sees the Beast--this rime in the form of a snake--lying dead at the bottom of a well, she, too, jumps without hesitation straight into the well.


The main conclusion is a familiar one: oral fairy-tale tradition was strongly influenced by literary tradition at the end of the nineteenth century. The literary tradition in turn seems to form subcategories. The first of these is fairy-tale literature composed in a literary style (Straparola, Basile, Johann Karl August Musaus, and most of the conte de fees writers). In the nineteenth century many fairy-tale writers were influenced by oral narrative (the Gritam brothers and in Finland Eero Salmelainen). An important but little-studied subcategory is popular entertainment literature (chapbooks, broadsheets, newspapers). Those who produced this latter kind of literature drew on fairy-tale material from the two other categories but also from oral narrative tradition. All of the above subcategories of the literary fairy tale display themes, motifs, and indeed entire plots for which there exist equivalents in folklore recordings from the nineteenth century.

Fairy tales told by "the folk" have proved far less monolithic than previously thought. At the time when the widespread collection of folklore began, reading skills had been common in Western Europe for a long time. The situation was the same in Finland, which had belonged to Sweden for more than seven hundred years. Finnish narrators had had several decades to acquaint themselves with the most popular parts of European fairy-tale literature. Many elements of plot and motif were borrowed from literary tradition. As yet it has not been ascertained to what extent literary models influenced the overall structure of oral narratives, particularly on the levels of story line and textual coherence.

If we examine the style and textualization of popular narrative in the light of fairy-tale recordings available from nineteenth-century Finland, we see a clear continuum. At one end there is elliptical oral narrative using simple syntactic structures and a limited vocabulary, while at the other there is a descriptive, colorful written narrative, full of subordinate clauses and participial constructions. It is possible to draw a rough picture of the verbal level of oral folk narratives in the nineteenth century by using recordings written down in shorthand.

It seems apparent that it will be difficult to find a folk culture in nineteenth-century Western Europe that is devoid of literature. This, in turn, fundamentally changes our perception of folk narrators. Certainly toward the end of the nineteenth century one has to take into account all aspects of the narrator. They were masters of oral narrative and performance. They made use of traditional fairy-tale themes and motifs, but some of them also wanted to create new, individual stories. Many of them enjoyed reading and even writing tales in the same style as those familiar to them from the literature they had read.

This seems to suggest that research into European folktales is to a large extent interdisciplinary. Folklorists should deepen their understanding of literary history, while researchers of literary tales should acquaint themselves with folkloristics more thoroughly. And both folklorists as well as literary scholars require a profound understanding of the social and cultural historical contexts of the material at the focus of their study.

Translated by David Hackston

Works Cited

Aarne, Antti. Leitfaden der vergleichenden Marchenforschung. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1913.

Abrahams, Roger. "Phantoms of Romantic Nationalism in Folkloristics." Journal of American Folklore 106 (1993): 3-37.

Apo, Satu. The Narrative World of Finnish Fairy Tales. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1995.

ATU. See Uther.

Bacchilega, Cristina. Postmodern Fairy Tales: Gender and Narrative Strategies. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1997.

Barchilon, Jaques, ed. Nouveau Cabinet des fees. Geneve: Slatkine Reprints, 1978.

Bausinger, Hermann. "Gesunkenes Kulturgut." Enzyklopadie des Marchens. Ed. Rolf W. Brednich. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1987.5: 1214-17.

Bottigheimer, Ruth B. Fairy Godfather: Straparola, Venice, and the Fairy Tale Tradition. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2002.

--. "France's First Fairy Tales: The Restoration and Rise Narratives of 'Les facetieuses nuictz du Seigneur Francois Straparole.'" Marvels & Tales 19 (2005): 17-31.

Briggs, Charles L. Competence in Performance: The Creativity of Tradition in Mexicano Verbal Art. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1988.

Delarue, Paul. Le conte populaire francais. Vol. 1. Paris: Editions Erasme, 1957.

Fabian, Johannes. "Keep Listening: Ethnography and Reading." The Ethnography of Reading. Ed. Jonathan Boyarin. Berkeley: U of California P. 1993.80-97.

Finnegan, Ruth. Literacy & Orality: Studies in the Technology of Communication. Oxford: Basti Blackwell, 1988.

Goody, Jack. The Interface between the Written and the Oral. Cambridge: Cambridge UE 1987.

Graff, Harvey J. The Legacies of Literacy: Continuities and Contradictions in Western Culture and Society. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987.

Harries, Elizabeth W. Twice upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2001.

Herder, Johann Gottfried. "Ahnlichkeit der mittlern englischen und deutschen Dichtkunst, nebst Verschiednem, das daraus folget." (Aus dem Deutschen Museum, 1777.) Herders Sammtliche Werke. 29 vols. Ed. Bernhard Suphan. Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1893.9: 522-35.

Herranen, Gun. "A Big, Ugly Man with a Quest for Narratives." Studies in Oral Narrative. Ed. Anna-Leena Siikala. Studia Fennica 33 (1989): 64-69.

Holbek, Bengt. Interpretation of Fairy Tales: Danish Folklore in a European Perspective. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1986.

Houston, Robert A. Literacy in Early Modern Europe: Culture and Education, 1500-1800. London: Longman, 1988.

Kaivola-Bregenhoj, Annikki. Narrative and Narrating: Variation in Juho Oksanen's Storytelling. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1996.

Lemirre, Elisabeth, ed. Le Cabinet des fees. Arles: Editions Philippe Picquier, 2000.

Lipponen, Ulla, and Kari Laukkanen. "Muistio 18.8.1978: Kansanrunousarkiston ns. f-kokoelman uudelleenkasittely ja -sijoittaminen." F-sidos 1. Helsinki: Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society, 1978. 1-4.

Lord, Albert. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1960.

Makinen, Anui. "Nodvandighet af LainaKirjasto": Modernin lukuhalun tulo Suomeen ja lukemisen instituutiot. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1997.

Naumann, Hans. Primitive Gemeinschaftskultur. Beitrage zur Volkskunde und Mythologie. Jena: E. Diederichs, 1921.

Ong, Walter. Ramus: Method and the Decay of Dialogue. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UE 1958.

Ortega y Gasset, Jose. The Revolt of the Masses. New York: New American Library of World Literature, 1950.

Peltonen, Matti. Matala katse. Kirjoituksia mentaliteettien historiasta. Helsinki: Hanki and Jaa, 1992.

Osterberg, Mathilda. Recording of ATU 425C = Lohja. Mathilda Osterberg a) 78.1888. Helsinki: Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society.

Propp, Vladimir. Morphology of the Folktale. 2nd ed. Austin, TX: American Folklore Society, 1970.

Rausmaa, Pirkko-Liisa, ed. Suomalaiset kansansadut I. Ihmesadut. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1972.

Raynard, Sophie. La seconde preciosite: Floraison des conteuses de 1690 a 1756. Tubingen: Gunter Narr, 2002.

Schenda, Rudolf. "Telling Tales--Spreading Tales: Change in the Communicative Forms of a Popular Genre." Fairy Tales and Society: Illusion, Allusion, and Paradigm. Ed. Ruth B. Bottigheimer. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1986. 75-94.

Shamy, Hasan El-. "Gesunkenes Kulturgut." Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Castores, Tales, Music, and Art. Ed. Thomas A. Green. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1997. 1: 419-22.

Simonsen, Michele. Perrault. Contes. Etudes litteraires. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1992.

Soriano, Marc. Les Contes de Perrault: Culture savante et traditions populaires. Rev. ed. Paris: Gallimard, 1977.

Stafford, Fiona J. The Sublime Savage: A Study of James Macpherson and the Poems of Ossian. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1988.

Tatar, Maria, ed. The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.

Tommila, Paivio, and Raimo Salokangas. Sanomia kaikille: Suomen lehdiston historia. Helsinki: Edita, 1998.

Tuomi, Tuomas. Recording of ATU 425C = Eurajoki. Tuomas Tuomi a) 48.1891. Narrator: Old Eeki. Helsinki: Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society.

Uther, Eians-Jorg. The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography. 3 vols. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2004.

Velay-Vallantin, Catherine. L'histoire des contes. Paris: Fayard, 1992.

Virtanen, Leea, and Thomas DuBois. Finnish Folklore. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2000.

Virtaranta, Pertti. Kultarengas korvaan: Vienalaisia satuja ja legendoja. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1971.

Vries, Jan de. Betrachtungen zum Marchen, besonders in seinem Verhaltnis zu Heldensage und Mythos. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1954.

Wesselski, Albert. Versuch einer Theorie des Marchens. Reichenberg i. B.: Sudetendeutscher Verlag Franz Kraus, 1931.

Zipes, Jack. Breaking the Magic Spell: Radicar Thories of Folk and Fairy Tales. London: Heinemann, 1979.


(1.) I define the fairy tale as a relatively long, fictional narrative with a human protagonist and fantasy elements (a magic object, a speaking animal, a supernatural character, a transformation, a superhuman deed, etc.). The plots or tale types numbered 300-749 ("Tales of Magic") in the Aarne, Thompson, and Uther (ATU) typology are examples of international fairy tales that have been told orally. As a folklorist, I focus my attention on tales that are represented in both oral and literary tradition.

(2.) The late 1970s saw a reexamination of the f-texts, also known as Trash This fresh look at the texts led to the recodification of the great majority of them as genuine folklore. See Lipponen and Laukkanen.

(3.) See Rausmaa, texts 59, 66, 155, 172.

(4.) The notion that culture is at its best when uncorrupted by foreign influences was already present in writings from antiquity. It also pervades the eighteenth-century discussions about "nature poetry." According to James Macpherson, language and manners can be found in their purest and most original form among the people who have lived "free from intermixture with foreigners." See Stafford 153. In the essays be wrote in the 1770s, the young Johann Gottfried Herder advocated a new German poetry that would be based upon the vernacular tongue and folk song ("Volkslied"). In Herder's view, the German emulation of foreign literatures, particularly that of the French, resulted in only second-rate poetry See Herder 528-31.

(5.) "Volksgut wird in der Oberschicht gemacht." See Bausinger 5: 1215, and El-Shamy 419-20.

(6.) One such cultural critic was Jose Ortega y Gasset, whose work The Revolt of the Masses appeared in 1930.

(7.) See Holbek's review of this discussion (251-57).

(8.) According to Jack Zipes, the literary versions of "Beauty and the Beast," written by Gabrielle de Villeneuve (1740) and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (1756), are "didactic stories which totally corrupt the original meanings of the folk-tale motifs and seek to legitimize the aristocratic standard of living in contrast to the allegedly crass, vulgar values of the emerging bourgeoisie" (8). According to Michele Simonsen, Charles Perrault (1697) had left out many motifs from the "Dttle Red Riding Hood" folktale that can be seen in the tale's oral versions (58-62). These, however, were captured in writing beginning in only the 1830s. See Delarue 29-30, 373-83, and Velay-Vallantin 14-15.

(9.) See Peltonen 64-92, and Fabian.

(10.) See Bottigheimer's Fairy Godfather 1-10, 84-87, 117-32.

(11.) See Harries 71-79, and Bottigheimer, "France's First Fairy Tales" 18-19. Researchers convinced of the antiquity of the wonder-tale genre tend to base their argument on the Egyptian tale Anup and Bata (1200 BC) and Apuleius's narrative of Cupid and Psyche (AD 100), as well as the Chinese and Indochinese "Cinderella" tale (AD 800). Also, the vast number of plots of international tales of magic (ATU types)--more than 250--has been considered evidence of the genre's venerable age.

(12.) In the Swedish Kingdom, to which Finland belonged until 1809, every citizen had to learn to read. The requirement was part of the 1686 canon law. Without a priest's attesting to a person's ability to read, it was impossible to receive Holy Communion or to marry. The ability to write was not, however, a requirement. See Makinen 61-66.

(13.) Berndt Stromberg (1822-1910), a Swedish-speaking Finn, broadened his repertoire by listening to fairy tales read to him from books (Herranen 65-66). It was possible to borrow books of fairy tales from parish libraries, of which there were more than 150 in western Finland in the mid-nineteenth century (Makinen 341-47).

(14.) Among others, Charles Briggs (56, 233-52) and Annikki Kaivola-Bregenhoj (158-67) have presented the components of oral performance.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A177101323