Thursday, 15 September 2016

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

A favourite this week. According to Clare Testoni from The Singing Bones podcast, “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” is the tale most frequently requested by her listeners (among whom you really ought to number). She will have an episode on this tale, soon; but I wanted to indulge those who love it by translating it anew. (In any case, I would have had to do it, sooner or later.)

This tale, by reason of the white-bear motif, is most closely related to “White Bear King Valemon,” though each has different narrative strengths and weaknesses. Being classified as ATU-425a (search for the lost husband), however, “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” is also related to numerous tales from various regions, including the Scottish tale, “The Black Bull of Norroway,” and “The Brown Bear of Norway,” from Ireland. Regine Normann’s “Maiden Rosenwing of Santavaja Isle” is also related, but Normann subverted the trope, and had the boy looking for a lost bride.

Illustrations for “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” from the usual suspects (Kittelsen, Werenskiold, Gude, Tidemand, Sinding, etc.) are rather scarce. Kittelsen’s iconic image of the girl riding a white bear belongs to “White Bear King Valemon,” since she is crowned a princess. The Danish artist Kay Nielsen has done some nice work on this tale, but it is all still under copyright, and so I will not post it here.

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