Telling Tales

Today’s post comes to us from Cynthia.

Every April for the past 11 years I have gone to a weekend Norwegian language camp for adults at Concordia Language Camp near Bemidji MN.  Last year one of the attendees gave a presentation on the Norwegian poet Olav Hauge with several references to Robert Bly’s translations. So this past April I volunteered to do a little presentation about my friendship with Robert (and Ruth) and tell three fairy tales.

I met Ruth and Robert when they first moved to Moose Lake, MN, in 1980…a town just down the road from Mahtowa, where I live. Many of our first conversations were about fairy tales.  On Robert’s 63rd birthday, Ruth organized us to do an enactment of “Vasalissa the Beautiful” as a gift for him.  It is a Russian fairy tale that features Baba Yaga, a witch who lives in a house that revolves on a chicken leg. I played the witch. We had recently butchered chickens and I used rooster legs for my hands.  Robert fell asleep. When he woke up he asked to keep the legs.

In 1984 while traveling around Ireland on a tour with Robert, Ruth and Gioia Timpanelli, I was mesmerized by Gioia’s telling of the Irish legendof Diarmuid and Grania.

Sometime around 1986 or so, Robert began an annual Valentine’s Day free reading in Moose Lake. He read his poetry;, he read other poets’ poems. And he almost always told a fairy tale.

So started me on my love affair with fairy tales. But then Ruth and Robert moved to Minneapolis so I had to learn to tell the fairy tales myself.  I loved telling them to children when I taught day care, but this year I discovered that telling them to adults is equally fun. At Norwegian camp I told three of my favorite Asbjørnson and Moe tales: Askeladden (The Ash Lad), Lurvehette (Tatterhood), and Tre Bukkene Bruse.  I told the first two in English, the third in Norwegian.  For fun, I am sharing Tre Bukkene Bruse with you in the Norwegian, because it is such fun to tell it that way and I trust you will recognize the story from your childhood even if you don’t know norsk.

Tre Bukkene Bruse

Det var engang tre bukker som skulle gå til seters og gjøre seg fete, og alle tre så hette de Bukkene Bruse. På veien var det en bro over en foss, som de skulle over, og under den broen bodde et stort, fælt troll, med øyne som tinntallerkener, og nese så lang som et riveskaft.

Først så kom den yngste Bukkene Bruse og skulle over broen.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen.

“Hvem er det som tripper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Å, det er den minste Bukkene Bruse; jeg skal til seters og gjøre meg fet,” sa bukken, den var så fin i målet.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” sa trollet.

“Å nei, ta ikke meg, for jeg er så liten jeg; bi bare litt, så kommer den mellomste Bukkene Bruse, han er mye større.”

“Ja nok,” sa trollet.

Om en liten stund så kom den mellomste Bukkene Bruse og skulle over broen.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen.

“Hvem er det som tripper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Å, det er den mellomste Bukkene Bruse, som skal til seters og gjøre seg fet,” sa bukken; den var ikke fin i målet, den.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” sa trollet.

“Å nei, ta ikke meg, men bi litt, så kommer den store Bukkene Bruse, han er mye, mye større.”

“Ja nok da,” sa trollet.

Rett som det var, så kom den store Bukkene Bruse.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen; den var så tung at broen både knaket og braket under den!

“Hvem er det som tramper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Det er den store Bukkene Bruse,” sa bukken, den var så grov i målet.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” skrek trollet.

“Ja, kom du! Jeg har to spjut, med dem skal jeg stinge dine øyne ut! Jeg har to store kampestene, med dem skal jeg knuse både marg og bene!” sa bukken. Og så røk den på trollet og stakk ut øynene på ham, slo sund både marg og ben, og stanget ham utfor fossen; og så gikk den til seters. Der ble bukkene så fete, så fete at de nesten ikke orket å gå hjem igjen, og er ikke fettet gått av dem, så er de det ennå.

Og snipp snapp snute, her er det eventyret ute.

What was your favorite childhood fairy tale?  Do you have a favorite now?




65 thoughts on “Telling Tales”

  1. How lovely! I like the biggest goat saying “Ja, kom du” to the troll. I don’t speak Norsk at all, but I could understand this story.

    I love fairy stories, especially scandanavian ones. The Brothers Grimm are a lttle dour, although the Bremen Town Musicians are fun. It seems that German tales are more for moral lessons than wonderment. Daughter briefly dated a young man whose great grandfather was the inspiration for “The Adventures of Nils”, a Swedish fairy tale.

    Both our children were lulled to sleep at night by our reading to them, as well as hearing innumerable story tapes and, later story cd’s . I still have them all in the basement and need to transfer them to digital media somehow. I have suggested recorded stories to parents lately for sleepless children. The parents have found bedtime story apps that have worked really well. Such a simple solution to child insomnia.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. 35 years ago I gave an assignment in journalism class to turn a fairy tale or nursery rhyme into a straight news story. The point was to teach about news tone and structure,. The kids could not do it, for one simple reason. They did not know fairy tales or nursery rhymes. So I bought three books of tales and rhymes for them to use. Is something lost in the culture and for the kids from that gap in their childhood?
    In A. P. English at the end of the year when we were all tired and the A. P. test and come and gone, I assigned for the kids to choose a favorite childhood book and present an analysis of it to the class, a la literary analysis but add how the book had impacted them as a child. That was worked so well. Sandy loved it because some of her favorite childhood library patrons came back to get books and she got to talk to them.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Just a suggestion, NS, but it seems likely that the Grimm Brothers and Mother Goose have been replaced by newer voices and a new technology. Fred Rogers, Sesame Street and Thomas the Tank Engine now fill that need. And of course, as always with change, there are gains and losses.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nicely done, Cynthia. I’m likely the only baboon who can read and nod in recognition to Tre Bukkene Bruse, or as we say in Danish, De Tre Bukke Bruse.

    I grew up on fairy tales, mostly H.C. Andersen’s but also the brothers Grimm’s. As a kid I loved them, and as an adult I’ve come to appreciate them for different reasons.

    Picking a favorite is tricky, I loved so many of them. I loved The Emperor’s New Clothes, and still do, but Klods Hans or Clumsy Hans (or Blockhead Hans) was also delightful. These stories, of course, take on a whole different meaning when you read them as an adult.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates is a novel written by an American writer. I had never heard of it when I first came to the US, but because so many American’s don’t know the difference between the Dutch and the Danes, a lot of them would ask me if I was familiar with the story. I was not, and have still not read it, but I can’t imagine that it’s anything like Klods Hans.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. i remembered it a and the silver skates. when the whole neighborhood wanted hockey skates i wanted speed skates like hans. what for i dont know. hans got to skate a mile in one direction on the river then come back, i got tyo got across the ice rink . stop turn around and come back or go around the outer edge doing the crossover step style i didnt ever get very good at


      1. I think most Scandinavians can understand each other’s language. My relatives on the west coast of Norway say they understand Swedish better than Oslo Norwegian. Though I’ve heard that spoken Danish is the most difficult to understand, is that true, PJ?


        1. I think it’s easier for a Dane to understand spoken Norwegian and Swedish than it is for them to understand Danish. One reason is that Danes are exposed to more Swedish TV programming. The written languages are to a large extent mutually understandable. That said, all three languages have very distinct local dialects that can be very difficult to understand, even by their own fellow countrymen.

          One phenomenon that I’ve noticed in the last fifteen years or so, is that both Danish and Swedish films sometimes have a cast of actors from both countries. I suspect this is the case because neither country has enough depth in terms of viable actors for certain roles. This, of course, is likely not noticeable unless you happen to know the languages involved.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. I am particularly fond of many shows and actors from all three countries. For example, The Bridge, The Eagle, The Protectors, Heavy Water War, Nobel, Occupied, and various crime series…filmsMother of Mine, As It Is In Heaven, the Dragon Tattoo in Swedish…and The Cuckoo which is actually (I believe) a Russian film featuring Russian, Finnish and Sami characters. I could go on, but…will refrain…and go back to the Spanish series (Cathedral of the Sea) I am watching now. (I do love foreign language films even though I am totally dependent on the closed captions.)


    1. I love the Scandinavian tales that end with something of a joke. A friend and I spent the summer translating Mumle Gåsegg (Mumble Goose Egg — for the non-norsk readers) which ends with Mumle kicking the king who betrayed him up into the air and a bag of food for him after to sustain him while he was up there..then marries the daughter.


  4. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    This is fun. And what a fascinating story—never once have I played a character in which my hands were chicken bones. I do not read any Scandinavian language, but it is interesting how much I could pick up. Similarly, when I was visiting the Netherlands, I was amazed how much Dutch I could stitch together after growing up near 2 Dutch settlements in Iowa.

    I used to just love fairy tales as a child. My favorite stil is “The Ugly Duckling,” which I think had some sense of truth in my own life. I never felt I belonged in my mother’s family or in the small town where they/we lived. But I moved to the city and felt I found my place.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hansel and Gretel really stayed with me – I had such angst when the children were losing their way, but liked how clever they were to leave the trail of white pebbles, and I loved how the father finally dumped his evil wife.

    I know they’re not real fairy takes, but some of my favorite stories to read aloud were from WInnie the Pooh, i.e. “In Which Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets Into a Tight Place.” Also the Beatrix Potter stories…
    And I’ve probably mentioned before that at bedtime we sometimes reviewed the day with our son in “A Story about a Boy Named Joel”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love Winnie the Pooh too…and AA Milne poems. “King John was not a good man…” (and all he wanted was for Father Christmas to bring him a big red rubber ball)….


      1. And “The Train”..
        Let it rain, who cares?
        I’ve a train — upstairs,
        With a brake that I make from a string sorta thing —
        Which works — in jerks,
        ‘Cause it drops in the spring and it stops with the string,
        And the wheels all stick so quick that it feels
        Like a thing that I make with a brake, not string.
        Let it rain, — who cares?
        I’ve a train — upstairs,
        With a brake that I make from a string sorta thing —
        Which works — in jerks,
        ‘Cause it drops in the spring and it stops with the string,
        And that’s what I make when the day’s all wet,
        It’s a good sort of brake, but it hasn’t worked yet!

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I heard an interesting YouTube tape yesterday: “The real Christopher Robin hated Winnie the Pooh.” As a young man Milne’s son resented the fact his identity was locked forever as the owner of a teddy bear. Before he died he became reconciled with that, partly because the Pooh books had made him and his parents wealthy for life.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. First; Love Edward Everett Horton’s voice.
      Second; since we’re doing an adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin for the fall kids play, I was able to watch that and call it scenic design research. Got some ideas too.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I like the part where the king nails all the boards over the door, and then Rumplestiltskin just opens the door and walks in. Kings don’t excel in carpentry skills, apparently.

        I love EEH’s voice, too.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Because I define myself as a storyteller I have a special slant on this question. My favorite fairy tale is Scheherazade. (Such a pretty name to hear!) And because I adore wolves, my least favorite fairy tales are Peter and the Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. definitely one of my favorites as well…especially the Broadway version with Bernadette Peters as the witch. I confess I haven’t seen the movie version.


  7. i grew up with stories and fairy tales but i dont remember being told them to go to bed. i dont have a clue when they were introduced but i sucked them up. my mom was a reader and im sure that reading to me kept me form jumping around and making her crazy but the stories are a,ive and well. grimm anderson aesop per and the wolf the three bears and three pigs, my favorite story was the one about the talking train my dad made up. little tim got on a train to go visit someone all by himself and the train talked to him in a whiste voice only tim could understand. it told hime the wheel was going to fall off and no one would believe him at first. after pulling the emergency cord after being told not to they finallly agreed to go out an look and sure enough the wheel was all ready to fall off and cause a big accident and little tim saved the day.
    ove rand ver and over
    i used to tell my kids one about two boys (art and hal) who discovered a werewolf and helped him deal with life when the wolfbane bloomed. they asked for it over and over and over

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I always liked East of the Sun, West of the Moon – even as a kid, I loved polar bears so any fairy tale featured a big white bear was right up my alley. I think the original is Scandinavian, but I don’t know for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is in the Ambjørnsen and Moe collection. Kittelsen did the original illustrations, I believe. Reading the wikipedia summary, it reminds me of the tale of Psyche/Eros.


  9. I loved the Andrew Lang fairy books. Got them from the library one by one. They were in colors – blue, red green, yellow, orange, violet, brown, and so on. They were charming, and only a little bit scary.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.