On the Transformation of Apparition Stories in Scandinavia and Germany, C. 1350-1700(1)

By Beyer, Jurgen | Folklore, Annual 1999 | Go to article overview

On the Transformation of Apparition Stories in Scandinavia and Germany, C. 1350-1700(1)


Beyer, Jurgen, Folklore


Abstract

Based on recent Central European research concerning the history of storytelling, this article explores the transformation of apparition stories in Scandinavia and Germany from the late Middle Ages through the Reformation to about 1700. A number of motifs were kept alive throughout the entire period but the stories as a whole changed considerably. This was not only due to a changing social and religious context but also to the specific transmission conditions of these stories.

Largely unnoticed by English-speaking folklorists, Central European scholars engaged in historical narrative research have in recent years reached important conclusions about the history of storytelling. Their findings undermine the very foundations on which the study of folklore hitherto has rested. The most important contributions have without doubt flowed from the pen of Rudolf Schenda.

The purpose of this essay is not to review these publications but rather to show avenues for future research. I shall therefore only give a simplified summary of the new history of storytelling from the late Middle Ages until the early-nineteenth century, when the ground for academic folklore studies was laid.

In the beginning, oral prose tales (which later came to be called legends or fairytales) were not told as fiction but as real events. Tales about supernatural beings, although containing well-known motifs and types, were told as memorates. We should remember that the boundaries between real and unreal or credible and incredible were drawn differently by lay people in those days than by nineteenth- and twentieth-century academics.

In the course of the eighteenth century the context of storytelling began to change. Fictional literature (mainly novels) became firmly established in the book-market. Reading habits changed as well: instead of studying a few books intensively, readers started to read many books more cursorily and only once. Reading societies were founded, printing presses were established in the provinces, and the authorities conceded a limited freedom of the press. It was at this time that fictionalised tales--which earlier had been rejected on religious grounds--started to reach a larger section of society. It is not surprising that this was also the period when the words for legend and fairytale in the Germanic languages took on their present meaning.(2)

The Grimm Brothers concentrated and codified literary developments of the late-eighteenth century. Their collections (Kinder- und Hausmarchen, 1812-15; Deutsche Sagen, 1816-18), despite claims to the contrary, were for the most part not collected from the "folk" but were derived from bourgeois and literary sources of various kinds (Grimm 1993; 1996). With the publication, translation and imitation of the Kinder- und Hausmarchen, as well as with the sale of individual fairytales as cheap booklets, a new literary taste spread among the lower classes, which earlier had only had access to Luther's Little (or Shorter) Catechism, the official hymnal, almanacs, penny godlies and penny dreadfuls. The collections in folklore archives therefore only document--and this may sound rather banal--the folk narratives of the period of collection. These were not stories that had been handed down unchanged by the fireside by word of mouth since time immemorial, but only records of more or less oral performances which were the result of formal (compulsory school attendance) or informal literary training, only available since the nineteenth century.

Even though the concepts of folk narrative and of its genres were an invention of the Grimm Brothers and their disciples, it would be rash to conclude that tales which today we would classify as folk narratives were not spread both orally and in writing prior to the age of romanticism. If we do not want to extrapolate the tales recorded in folklore archives backward in time, we have to study sources from the preceding centuries. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

On the Transformation of Apparition Stories in Scandinavia and Germany, C. 1350-1700(1)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.