Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Ash Lad

The protagonist in a good number of Norwegian folktales, Askeladden (often translated as “Boots”, or “the Ash Lad”) is an apparent naïf, though he subsequently shows himself to be witty, shrewd, and fantastically resourceful. The oldest recorded form of the name is Oskefis (“ash-blower” - although “fis” has evolved to mean “fart” in modern Norwegian), denoting one who blows the embers to keep the fire going, a job often reserved for the lowest member of the household. Later oral traditions give the name Oskeladd, Oskelabb, Oskelamp, or Oskefot, where the second stem (-ladd, -labb, -lamp, -fot) denotes a rough woollen sock or slipper, suggesting this character has his feet in, or close to, the hearth.

In some tales, Askeladden's forename is given as Espen, Svein, Halvor, Lars, Hans, or Tyrihans. Tyrihans is a household function, though, like Askeladden: “Hans who looks after the tyrived”, tyrived being the resin-laden pinewood used as kindling. This name suggests that Askeladden has complete responsibility for the fire, from collecting kindling, to lighting it, to tending it - quite an important job on the farm, in fact.

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