Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

How the Book Muittalus Samid Birra Was Created: Johan Turi's Classic Sami Narrative as a Publishing Project

Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

How the Book Muittalus Samid Birra Was Created: Johan Turi's Classic Sami Narrative as a Publishing Project

Article excerpt

THE EARLY SAMI MASTERPIECE Muittalus samid birra was initially written by Johan Turi in Sami in the form of notebooks during e fall of 1908. The Danish painter and traveler Emilie Demant [later Demant Hart] had encouraged Tuff to write the narratives and explanations of Sami culture and beliefs. She took these notebooks back to Denmark, where over the next two years, she translated them into Danish and edited them into book form. The bilingual Sami-Danish edition of Muittalus samid birra/En bog om lappernes liv [Turi's Book of Lappland], which also included reproductions of drawings by Turi, was financed by Swedish mining director Hjalmar Lundbohm and published in 1910.

Demant Hatt's role in the process has been called everything from housekeeper to muse to collaborator. Although there are those who see the relationship as romantic, in general the focus has been on the ethnographic aspects of their work together. This article looks at the creation of Muittalus samid birra/En bog om lappernes liv from a different approach--that of a publishing project begun before Tuff and Demant Hart sat down together in August and September of 1908 and lasting long beyond. It involved the contributions, advice, and skills of scholars, printing professionals, and reviewers.

In December of 194-0, Emilie Demant Hatt arrived in Stockholm to accept the Hazelius Silver Medal at a ceremony at Nordiska Museet for her writing on the Sami and in particular for her work with Johan Turi on Muittalus samid birra/En bog om lappernes liv. Her appearance at the museum was part of a special Lapplandsafton [Lapland Evening] arranged by Ernst Manker, the curator of the Sami collection at the Nordiska. The event had originally been scheduled for April but had to be postponed because the German occupation of Denmark on April 9 made it impossible for Demant Hatt to travel.

Emilie Demant Hatt delivered a speech that December evening that was printed a year later in the Nordiska's annual journal, Fataburen. "Johan Turi og hvordan bogen Muittalus samid birra blev til" [Johan Turi and How the Book Muittalus samid birra was Created] told an abbreviated story of Demant Hatt's working relationship with Johan Turi, the Sami wolf-hunter and guide, who became a writer. Demant Hatt reconstructed her chance meeting with Turi on the iron ore train in northern Sweden in 1904 and drew a warm, literary portrait of Turi, which has been the basis for countless descriptions since. Demant Hatt recounted how she told him that it had been a childhood dream of hers to live a year with the Sami and how he told her (through a fellow passenger who spoke Finnish and Swedish) that he would help her find good people to live with when the time came. In her talk, she described how she returned to Lapland in June of 1907 to live with Turi's brother Aslak Turi, his wife Siri, and their four children in their siida, a tent community near Tornetrask. After a year in their company, she joined a group of Karesaundo Sami in making their annual migration with reindeer over the mountains to Tromsdalen. On her return to Tornetrask, she and Turi set to work on the narratives that would become M.S.B.

Although initially Demant Hatt's crucial part in the creation and publication of M.S.B. was well-known and discussed in reviews and interviews, over the years her role has often been diminished while Turi's stature as an iconic Sami writer has grown. In his introduction to the Sami-only version of M.S.B. (1965), Israel Ruong repeated a common view: "[M.S.B.] first appeared in 1910 in Lappish with a Danish translation by Emilie Demant who had inspired Turi to write the book" (Ruong xv). Demant Hatt's introduction is not included in that still definitive Sami edition, nor is there mention of Hjalmar Lundbohm's role as the original publisher. (1) In some translations to other languages Demant Hatt's name has been erased entirely; in others she appears only on the copyright page. …

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