Once upon a time, before books, film, radio, television, or the Internet, folk and fairy tales served as a primary source of entertainment for both children and adults. These oral-traditional stories often incorporate fantastic elements: talking animals, enchanted forests, witches, trolls, spells, and curses—but they are also about fundamental relationships between men and women, young and old, rich and poor, good and evil. Both the folktale collection movement and folktale scholarship have been especially strong in the Nordic countries—Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden—where interest in the preservation of these tales has historically been tied to issues of national identity. This course will explore Nordic versions of such international tale-types as Dragon Slayer (ATU 300), Cinderella (ATU 510), and Hansel and Gretel (ATU 327) in their historic and cultural contexts. We will also read important works of Nordic and international folktale scholarship, representing a wide range of approaches. This course will develop your critical thinking and close textual analysis skills, and will deepen your understanding and appreciation of a genre that continues to pervade our popular culture, while also exposing you to other cultures, histories, and worldviews.
All instruction and readings in English translation.