By the Fire: Sami Folktales and Legends, by Emilie Demant Hatt

Translated by Barbara Sjoholm. Review copy obtained through a long chain too strange to get into.

This is the translation of a 1922 work by a Danish woman who traveled extensively in the Norden collecting stories. She also made some woodcuts related to the stories, which are reproduced here–one of the places where black-and-white reproduction absolutely does a great job for the material.

It matters that Demant Hatt was a woman in this field. It matters a lot. Because the people she had access to hear stories from, the stories she got to hear, were much more evenly balanced between men and women both as tellers and as characters. Compared to other compilations of Saami [both spellings are used, this is the one I favor, both are fine though] tales, this is a far more accurate representation of range.

And it’s got so many great things. It’s got girls with agency to spare; it’s got feisty old ladies; it’s got reindeer and murder and weird northern birds. It’s got origin stories. It’s got “we don’t know anyone from OUR band who would do this but we HEARD of a girl who did this” stories. I was so excited when I heard this book existed, and it did not in any way disappoint. If you’re interested in Arctic peoples, or even if you just like folklore, this is a must-have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *