Monday, July 20, 2009

Huldra Press

a huldra chatting with a collier

I'm sure some of you are wondering where my press name comes from and this entry will answer that question. I read a great deal of folklore and mythology. This started about four years ago when I read Bulfinch's Mythology, a time-honored retelling of mythology spanning from the classical Greek fables to medieval tales of such as that of Perceval and the stories of the Welsh Mabinogen. It's so good...

What fascinated me about these stories was that they suggested our humanity was a changeable state. People turned into plants, disguised themselves as animals, and were always in danger of being led astray into stranger, looking glass worlds that overlapped theirs.

So Bulfinch's Mythology had a brief introduction into Norse mythology, which I just thought was the weirdest stuff I'd ever read, and I loved it. I started reading Scandinavian folklore. I love the oddness of the stories and the superstitions they contain. For example to find out if you want to find out if your kid is a changeling, you brew beer in an eggshell. The changeling will exclaim, "I'm as old as the hills, but I've never seen beer brewed in an eggshell!" Case closed.

I first read about the Scandinavian huldra in a book called theThe Forest in Folklore and Mythology by Alexander Porteous. A huldra is a woman who appears human from the front but like a hollow tree from the back. She also has a fox or a cow's tail depending on the origin of the story. In many stories, she is friendly to colliers and others who are kind to her, like in this lovely story.

A boy in Tividen went fishing, but he had no luck. Then he met a beautiful lady, and she was so stunning that he felt he had to catch his breath. But, then he realized who she was, because he could see a fox's tail sticking out below the skirt. As he knew that it was forbidden to comment on the tail to the lady of the forest, if it were not done in the most polite manner, he bowed deeply and said with his softest voice, "Milady, I see that your petticoat shows below your skirt". The lady thanked him gracefully and hid her tail under her skirt, telling the boy to fish on the other side of the lake. That day, the boy had great luck with his fishing and he caught a fish every time he threw out the line. This was the huldra's recognition of his politeness. (Hellström, AnneMarie (1985). Jag vill så gärna berätta)

After the Christianization of Scandinavia, the huldra became a more villified temptress. So Typical... But that aspect does not interest me.

To the contrary, what I love about the folklore of the huldra and European folklore in general is the banality of it. That these creatures longed for the same things we did, that they farmed and married and had children like we do. That there was a time when these stories were traded as truth and they reveal so much about our fears and desires, and about our relationship with the natural world.

So I hope that sheds some light on my press name and what inspires a great deal of my work.

1 comment:

  1. Your perspective on the northern folkloristic characters reminds me of our old religious tales. The gods we believed in up here in Scandinavia from before Christianity, were very human with down to earth conflicts and needs that reflects their believers. For an example, if you compare the viking beliefs of the afterlife with the Christian one, the vikings had much more tangible and earthly expectations: A fighter would be rewarded with lots of drink, food, and the thrill of fighting each other every day and regaining their health every evening. The spiritual pleasures of Christianity was difficult for Scandinavians to understand and to value, but once a Christian guy won all the battles and told us to take on his believes, we did - and when Christianity became a vital part of the everyday rituals, we became believers from the sheer habit of it. Norwegians are truly one simple and down to earth people. Always was. Always will be.

    Solveig Stokkeland