Monday, 8 June 2015

Eventyr! A beauteous new book and personification inspiration

I have just bought the beautifulest, weightiest, whopping great brick of a tome and I'm so excited I could pop!!

Entitled Eventyr (isn't that just the most magical word? It means fantastical, fairytale escapade in Norwegian. What could be more evocative? It sounds like 'adventure' and 'eventide' squished together! Mm, adventures at eventide, anyone??... *disappears in a sigh to a mystical land*). The book is enormous and stuffed to the spine with folk tales and faery tales from Norway, with illustrations by my beloved Theodor Kittelsen among some lovely others who I'm getting to know. The text is all in Norwegian so it's good practice for me to flex my dusty braincells and translate!

The front cover of the book features this gorgeous Kittelsen painting, an illustration to a tale called Kvitebjørn kong Valemon (White Bear King Valemon) Stories combining human beans and personified wild forest animals ignite so many fireworks in my heart... throw in a pawful of shadowy woodland and I'm sold!

I've read the first six stories and about to embark on Østenfor sol og vestenfor måne (East of the sun and west of the moon), which is a longer tale than those I've tackled so far, and also features a walkin' talkin' white bear. I think it will be an inspiring one!

The previous story I read, Risen som ikke hadde noe hjerte på seg (The giant who had no heart in him) was also a golden chestnut! At one point in the tale, Askeladden (Ash Lad in English - a recurring character in Norwegian faery tales who, though small, packs a punch when it comes to outwitting foes) is riding on the back of an anthropomorphic grey wolf (who has grown quite sizeable  after being permitted to gobble up Askeladden's horse - gotta love those dark gory twists), hunting for the heart of the giant on a faraway island so he can squish it! He needs to enlist the help of several other animals along the way, one of them being the raven. I love the image of Askeladden and the oversized grey wolf, on a little misty island, calling to the raven. Would he call with an instrument, a horn, maybe? Would the wolf howl to help? You can almost hear raven's wings flapping! This would be such a beautiful painting!

When our oldest munchkin Caspian was a babby, he loved to play in the ashes at the open kindergarten at the historical museum up our road and Hilde, one of the tutors there, pointed out he was just like Askeladden. That's my babe! He has moved on these days to whizzing trains about at Japanese high-speed bullet train speeds but is still a crafty wee fox, very good at outwitting his (gullible) mamma (especially when it comes to sjokolade!!!)

Caspian Askeladden

On a separate note, while poking about hunting for other magical tales online, I came across The North Wind and the Sun. This is from Aesop's Fables and features a personified wind and sun, who try to strip a traveller of his cloak. It is about persuasion triumphing over force. I love the idea of personified weather! Fantastic!

An illustration by Milo Winter from a 1919 edition of Aesop's Fables, showing the personified north wind attempting to strip the traveler of his cloak

'The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak.
They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other.
Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him;
and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak.
And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two. '


Rowan said...

I've just discovered your blog via Ravenwood Forest. I like the sound of the White Bear King - do you happen to know whether it would be available in English? It's the kind of story that my grandsons - and their grandmother:) - would love.

Pippa said...

Hi Rowan! Thank you so much for your shooting star! I found this lovely book on amazon - weaving together the White Bear King, East of the Sun and West of the Moon and The Black Bull of Norroway - I wonder if that would be your grandsons' (and your) cuppa tea?xx

Rowan said...

Thank you for this Pippa, I've found it on Amazon and am going to order it. I shall be reading it myself before I give it to the boys:)