Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century

GUEST,Pseudonymous 23 Jul 18 - 12:05 PM
leeneia 23 Jul 18 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,Jack Campin 24 Jul 18 - 07:30 AM
GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie 26 Jul 18 - 06:08 PM
Jack Campin 27 Jul 18 - 03:40 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 27 Jul 18 - 06:24 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 27 Jul 18 - 06:39 AM
Anne Lister 27 Jul 18 - 03:24 PM
GUEST,Ebor Fiddler 28 Jul 18 - 10:58 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 29 Jul 18 - 05:01 AM
Steve Gardham 29 Jul 18 - 06:02 AM
Jack Campin 29 Jul 18 - 07:55 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 29 Jul 18 - 08:28 AM
GUEST,Anne Lister 29 Jul 18 - 11:34 AM
mg 29 Jul 18 - 03:52 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 29 Jul 18 - 05:52 PM
Steve Gardham 29 Jul 18 - 06:40 PM
Steve Gardham 29 Jul 18 - 06:46 PM
Richard Mellish 30 Jul 18 - 02:44 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 31 Jul 18 - 04:59 AM
Steve Gardham 31 Jul 18 - 09:50 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 31 Jul 18 - 10:05 AM
Steve Gardham 31 Jul 18 - 10:22 AM
Stanron 31 Jul 18 - 11:06 AM
Steve Gardham 31 Jul 18 - 02:58 PM
Steve Gardham 31 Jul 18 - 03:29 PM
GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie 31 Jul 18 - 05:34 PM
Steve Gardham 31 Jul 18 - 06:02 PM
Stanron 01 Aug 18 - 09:04 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 01 Aug 18 - 09:50 AM
Jack Campin 01 Aug 18 - 11:22 AM
Steve Gardham 01 Aug 18 - 03:40 PM
GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie 01 Aug 18 - 04:25 PM
Jack Campin 01 Aug 18 - 04:34 PM
Steve Gardham 01 Aug 18 - 04:57 PM
Steve Gardham 01 Aug 18 - 05:11 PM
GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie 02 Aug 18 - 05:34 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:









Subject: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 23 Jul 18 - 12:05 PM

A couple of radio programmes started me thinking about how folkloric material and other aspects of culture moved across Europe, as evidenced by similar ballads cropping up all over the place.

The story is set in what is sometimes called The 12th Century Renaissance, a time when people in Western Europe were engaging with Greek texts they had lost touch with and also with Arabic knowledge, especially of maths via Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily. Toledo was mentioned as a place where cultures met and mingled at this time. This was also said to be a time when people started to write 'fiction' again. And a lot of ballads seem to me to be 'fiction' of a sort. Though they seem to have emerged as a genre later.

I've padded out what I remember from the radio programmes with information from Wiki.

In about 1183 an Anglo Norman poet called Thomas of Britain set down a version of 'Tristan and Iseult' a tragic love story. Tristan was from Cornwall, Iseult from Ireland.

This was then translated into 'Old Norse' at the command of no less a person than the King of Norway, Haakan Haakanson. He is a fascinating character, who seems to have ruled some Scottish islands at one time, and who wanted to promote Angevin-French culture at his court. It seems he was once offered the High Kingship of Ireland. (King Henry II of England was Angevin and ruled a large part of France as well as parts of Britain.) The translation for Haakan was done by Brother Robert, a cleric.

The story also got written in 'high German' by Gottfried von Strassburg, who also said he had used Thomas of Britain's version as the basis of his work. Then a Czech version was produced based on Strassburg's work.

And a fragment of a translation of Thomas' work into Dutch has also been found.

So there we have a number of languages already. And an early interest at a very high level in the folklore of other countries.

I wonder how many more people like Haakan there may have been with an interest in other cultures, and how far this may help explain the way that similar stories crop up in different places.

Also, this interchange of learning with the Islamic world seems an interesting alternative to the 'crusades' explanation of elements of similarity between western and eastern mythology I have come across in some books about folklore. I wasn't convinced that when they were sacking Constantinople and generally getting involved in schisms the Crusaders were very interested in cultural interchange.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07z6vzq

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06sny88


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: leeneia
Date: 23 Jul 18 - 01:05 PM

Hello. Thanks for the interesting info. I've thought of another work which shows the cultural interchange in those early centuries, and that is the 'Cantigas de Santa Maria,' which feature characters from different countries.

I can't listen to the bbc shows, because if I do, my MIDI software stops playing music. Bummer!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 24 Jul 18 - 07:30 AM

One community at that time where there was likely to be a lot of translating was among religious dissidents. Following the Albigensian Crusade, many Cathars relabelled themselves as Bogomils and ended up in the Balkans. And when the Byzantines crushed the Bogomils, they converted to deviant or crypto-Gnostic forms of Islam, as Pomaks in Bulgaria or Bektashis in Albania and Bosnia. And the Bektashis had already merged with mystical forms of Shiism in Turkey, creating the Alevi religion in Anatolia and the (not really Islamic at all) Yarsani (aka Ahl-e-Haq) group in Iraq and Iran. And the Bektashi/Ahl-e-Haq in turn were a late manifestation of central Asian shamanism given an Islamic veil. So in the late Middle Ages, you had a fairly solid chain of two-way influences running beneath the radar all the way from France to Mongolia, but with no common language.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie
Date: 26 Jul 18 - 06:08 PM

I'm working on a PhD thesis at the moment about an Arthurian tale which was written (I'm fairly sure) in 1225 for James I of Aragon. Probably based on orally transmitted folk tales, but made into a connected and structured story by the writer in the thirteenth century. It was written in Occitan, and the story remained popular in Spanish via chapbooks (and Don Quixote, who had a copy of the story in his library, according to Cervantes). James I of Aragon was married at the time to Leonor, a granddaughter of Alienor of Aquitaine, whose family were largely responsible for the Arthurian stories to spread across Europe. My research has involved looking at material from Wales, Brittany, France, Aragon, Castile and Italy and I've recently been looking at what is known of storytelling in Al-Andalus. Yes, Leeneia, the Cantigas de Santa Maria (which were a bit later) were wonderfully full of cultural interchange, but so were many of the European courts, where Moslem, Jewish and Christian scholars, philosophers and musicians worked together. Toledo was one major and rich meeting point, but so was the Crown of Aragon, Castile and Sicily. The only trouble for my brain is that I've also had to read articles and books in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Catalan in order to cover all the bases ...I have plenty of material now to write a number of historic novels based on the various royal families and their extended connections, ranging from Zaragoza to Byzantium. All of this, and I'm based in the School of Welsh at Cardiff University. And no, so far I haven't written any songs about it, but you never know, once the thesis is done ...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Jul 18 - 03:40 AM

I'd guess there were also versions of that in Aquitainian, though finding them when the language died out unwritten 200 years ago would be a challenge.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 27 Jul 18 - 06:24 AM

Jack

I bow before your esoteric knowledge.

Anne

I had understood that most stories of Arthur were written by the Anglo Normans. It makes sense that they would have used any legends they had found about such a figure in England, or even Wales, though. Also that they might have used any stories they knew already, or that Arthur may have originated abroad. Fascinating.

What evidence is there of this character appearing before then?

I know some people think some versions of Tristan and Iseult are a bit like some of the Guinevere bits in Arthurian legend.

Hoping your thesis goes well.

Another example of interchange via literate folk would be Boccaccia who doesn't appear to have been translated into English till quite late but Chaucer was apparently aware of him. Maybe via French.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 27 Jul 18 - 06:39 AM

This has something about Chaucer's contacts with Italian literature. The connection was probably direct rather than via French.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influence_of_Italian_humanism_on_Chaucer

Some people think there was a mutual influence between Dante and the Turkish mystical poet Yunus Emre. It's hard to see how it could happened, even though they did have rather similar ways of expressing themselves.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Anne Lister
Date: 27 Jul 18 - 03:24 PM

There's evidence that Arthur was known in various parts of Britain and Europe before the Anglo-Norman poets. Geoffrey of Monmouth (not an Anglo-Norman, as best we can ascertain, although he worked with them) wrote his History of the Kings of Britain in Latin, basing it on earlier stories he had found or been told. There are mentions in chronicles much earlier again, and in the Welsh triad poems. Wace put the whole thing into Norman French, and later writers took it on, both in the Angevin kingdom and in Germany. But really, there's a lot about all of this available on the web... some of the troubadour poets were also mentioning characters from the Matter of Britain (writing in Occitan) quite early on and there's evidence in the form of some sculptures and mosaics in southern Italy that the stories had reached that far afield by the mid-12th century. The writer of the work I'm focussed on knew some stories we don't have any more, going by some of the references, and another work in Occitan from around the same time also lists a wonderful variety of stories, many of which we no longer know. Some scholars are also working on some manuscripts from the time of Al-Andalus which were written in a language they simply called "Roman" but in Arabic script. Some have been transcribed and contain stories clearly influenced by Arthurian material.
As to Aquitanian - unfortunately, we can only work on manuscripts which exist!
This particular obsession of mine was, as I said, well respected in Spain but didn't travel as a piece of storytelling to the English-speaking parts of the world. There's a very 19th century English adaptation based on a French adaptation (note that I'm not saying "translation"), and a very poor 1930s American version, but other than that it's just us medievalists. It did turn up in a metrical version in the Philippines, however ... probably taken over there by the Spanish.
However, I am taking it around as a piece of storytelling, and once the thesis is out of the way I shall be writing my own adaptation for that wonderful beast, the "general reader", because it's a rollicking good story!
As to Dante and a Turkish poet - why would that not have happened? It's clear that stories, poets, musicians and philosophers travelled throughout the earlier middle ages - why not in Dante's time?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Ebor Fiddler
Date: 28 Jul 18 - 10:58 AM

And then there's The Meanderings of Gildas which is Early Middle (mustn't say "Dark") Ages who refers to Arthur in unflattering terms in the fifth century.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 29 Jul 18 - 05:01 AM

Leenia


I don't know whether you could listen to these via some 'podcast' app; it might be possible. They are sent out in podcast form.

In case you aren't familiar with them, Melvyn Bragg takes a topic and selects academic experts on it as guests. They submit notes to him in advance, on the basis of which he guides the discussion.
The 'experts' for the Tristan episode were

Laura Ashe Worcester College, University of Oxford
Juliette Wood Cardiff University
Mark Chinca University of Cambridge

There is a reading list for each programme on the website: here is the one for T and I:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06sny88

Mark Chinca, an expert in medieval German, was there because the story appears in German, of course, and Dutch.

Ann

'The Matter of Britain' was mentioned in the Radio 4 Programme about Tristan and Iseult that I mentioned.

Jack

Florence linked to "Turkey": I am very vague on dates here, though in theory I like to have them clear, and but just maybe via Venice which at one point had an empire including surprising bits of land round the Adriatic. This discussion is making me look at bits of European history we never did in school, where even the 'wars of the three kingdoms' was unhelpfully (I now think) taught as the English Civil War so that until recently I had little idea how the Irish and the Scots a) were intertwined historically and culturally and b) were involved in those wars in complicated and surprising ways. The sort of crap teaching of English History that the Conservatives want to see a return to I suppose.

Ebor:

No, we shouldn't say 'dark ages'.

I'm thinking how much Latin was a common language across culture for a long time.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Jul 18 - 06:02 AM

Just a thought, what evidence have you that any of this is 'folklore' as opposed to literature of the elite?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Jul 18 - 07:55 AM

With the Cathar/Bogomil/Bektashi... stuff, being faced with genocide has a way of eradicating class distinctions.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 29 Jul 18 - 08:28 AM

Steve's question is a good one, and, I fear, it may be intractable.


I think whether this is about 'song' or other cultural phenomena, all historians can do is construct narratives and theories on the basis of what evidence they have. I rather think that this is what all 'historians' and 'archaeologists' do. And I feel that the narrative and theories they construct will always to some extent reflect their own times, and that objectivity, as commonly understood, may not be possible.


But the way in which 'stuff' passed across continents is nevertheless fascinating to me at any rate.

Genocide had occured to me in this context!

But then some thinkers do posit some 'communistic' golden age. (The one essay I read by Child on the origins of his ballads had a similar sort of thinking about their origins. And in the same piece he was quite clear that the lowly people did not write them. It's a piece published in a Cyclopedia -by Johnson, I think. Not that I think Child was 'communistic himself.) This was referenced in something I read and I found it by googling, cannot quite think where now.)

I once read that Child and other early US folkorists were working within or close to a discipline of 'philology', which is not quite 'history' and which I don't fully understand so I'd probably not try to say too much about it. But it was to do with looking at texts, originally classical Greek and Latin ones, and making deductions/inferences about culture.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Anne Lister
Date: 29 Jul 18 - 11:34 AM

It's a good question, Steve, and there's absolutely no way for anyone to be certain. I'm looking at whatever indications there are in the text to see what expectations the writer had for his audience - it was almost certainly intended to be read aloud - and any clues as to where the building blocks for the story might have come from. Apart from a couple of passages of praise for the king, there's nothing to suggest it was written for an elite, particularly. It's not exactly realistic fiction as it's all about a knight and adventure and love, with no consideration for how anyone actually lives, day by day, and pays for food and clothing, but I haven't come across anything of that era that mentions any of that stuff. It is, however, entertaining in the way a fairytale is (which doesn't mention much in the way of practicality either). And then again, a lot depends on how you define "folklore". Because of the relative lack of literacy skills the assumption we have to make is that a lot of material was transmitted orally. Is that enough to make it "folklore"? Gervase of Tilbury and Gerald of Wales in the twelfth century both collected stories from people to put into their books, and these stories are generally referred to by scholars as "folktales". The readers of their books, however, would, by definition, be literate, but not all literate people were from the upper reaches of society and not all of the upper reaches of society could read.
We will never know where most of this material came from originally.
There's also the big sociological question of who you define as "folk", and just who is the "elite". As well as what imitated what, when so many medieval narratives are so very similar to oral tales - chickens and eggs come to mind. R S Loomis, who did so much to encourage people to think that everything was "Celtic", was of the firm belief that folk tales were from "plowmen, goose-girls, blacksmiths, mid-wives, yokels”. However, blacksmiths and mid-wives are not necessarily to be grouped in with yokels so again it's all a question of definitions and classifications and ultimately it probably doesn't matter a jot.
This is a bit incoherent (just surfaced after trying to classify a vast quantity of oaths and asseverations and the brain is struggling a bit), but I suppose the gist of this comment is that there's a huge danger in applying 21st century terminology to social groupings and literary genres that had very little importance at the time the material was written down. The survival of the story I'm working on, via chapbooks, suggests that even if it was written for an elite group of people it managed nonetheless to enter the popular consciousness and stay there.
Back to the experts on the Tristan and Iseut story - Juliette Wood is one of the people at Cardiff University I've been lucky enough to be able to consult over the past few years.
On folklorists - there's a huge amount of work been done on the oral-formulaic theory, which looks at how pieces like the Iliad or Beowulf or Turkic epics could have been be put together, and still more on how the nature of composition may have been influenced by technology such as writing and printing. Folklorists like Richard Bauman have worked on all manner of "folklore" (inverted commas because it's such a minefield) including American lay preachers and storytellers in all manner of situations. Some of the discoveries in both fields are useful information for someone like me, trying to work out what may or may not be "folklore" from 900 years ago.
And now it's time for a therapeutic cup of tea.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: mg
Date: 29 Jul 18 - 03:52 PM

on how it gets passed...from the top of my brain..

1. marriage of royalties, with their bringing their courts etc. with them.
2. traveling merchants
3. sailors, soldiers
4. trade routes like the tin trade route across france
5. pilgrams intermingling
6. general migrations
7. various exploitations, kidnappings, etc.
8. conquering various peoples


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 29 Jul 18 - 05:52 PM

mg adding to the 'guesswork'

9 diplomats (eg Chaucer was one at one time I believe)

10 via universities and scholars making cross-national and cross-cultural contact (eg the 12th century 'Renaissance', perhaps)

11 ?nomadic peoples, (as opposed to migrations)?

Anne

Might have guessed it would be a 'minefield'. :(

Thanks for comments; enjoy the cuppa!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Jul 18 - 06:40 PM

We are still talking I presume about the 13th century. Am I wrong in thinking by and large the specific people who made records/wrote things down were scribes/clerks who were either part of the elite or specifically employed by them? Monks were often employed in this work. Entertainers might also have done this.

Regarding folk items moving from one language to another, where this does not have a specific form like a ballad the movement could easily be facilitated by any of the 11 methods suggested, and others; likewise where the story of a ballad has moved from one language to another, easy peasy; but something with a specific form like a ballad or similar structured item would surely need to have been a specific translation by a bi-lingual person with an interest in doing so.

Having said that I remember reading about a German ballad being translated into French in the early 19th century, and then presumably into Portuguese as the ballad later became very common in Brazil. Once a ballad has been through a literary process, either translated and published or just published it is remarkable how quickly that ballad can become quite widespread in oral tradition.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Jul 18 - 06:46 PM

There is a very good example on the current Child ballad thread regarding Lord Randall. To me it seems very obvious that this is a good example of direct translation through many languages, in my opinion the Italian being the earliest, but one can never be absolutely certain with such an early ballad.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 30 Jul 18 - 02:44 PM

A somewhat more recent (1700s?) example of direct translation (though there's a suggestion that the original dates from the middle ages) is the song of Marlborough/Malbrouck/Mallebrok (choose your spelling according to the language). See this thread.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 31 Jul 18 - 04:59 AM

I'm interested in this 'oral formulaic' idea. Does it mean people had 'templates' in their heads, or is it something more like 'floating verses' of blues and folk music?

The other thing with translation however achieved would be the need for the new words to fit to the metre of the tune or be fitted to a new tune or a bit of both depending on cross-cultural tastes in tunes.

A snippet that fascinated me from the Bragg programmes was that somebody said that it was mostly rich medieval women who paid minstrels. I gather that 'minstrels' is itself another minefield.

On the classes/social strata question, I can see lots of ways that songs might go across these barriers, though in some cases they would need translation eg for a long time the upper strata in England spoke French then French and English. See David Crystal's Encyclopedia of the English Language on this. Also, given differing dialects of what came to be English as a national language, a fair amount of change if songs moved through lower classes across England. Within my lifetime I have occasionally had difficulties understanding broad dialect/accent eg once in Birmingham. If somebody from 12th century England was here, I doubt we would understand much of what they said.
I'm thinking even with Shakespeare it would take a while to get attuned. Vowel shifts, grammar and lexical changes, etc.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 31 Jul 18 - 09:50 AM

Don't forget folklore isn't a static thing. I don't just mean individual items being altered in an oral tradition, I mean changing fashions and ideas. Whilst some pieces of folklore last for centuries, others come and go rapidly within a generation. Even in today's so-called advanced society folklore is still being created all the time.
The ballads as we know them weren't around in the 13th century. They seem to have been largely created after 1500 though some of their stories are undoubtedly earlier.

>>>the need for the new words to fit to the metre of the tune<<<
I don't think this would have been a massive problem. Some ballad metres are pretty much universal and there are only about 3 or 4 common ballad metres in English language ballads.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 31 Jul 18 - 10:05 AM

Another approach to translation is macaronicity.   You can get this with almost any pair of languages, but usually the idea is that the "foreign" bits act as a kind of slogan, asserting identity or authority rather than expressing content, and the "foreign" bit often has the most memorable part of the tune (e.g. "Deo gratias Anglia", "Hosanna in excelsis", "Shule aroon"). How folky these things are I'm not sure.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 31 Jul 18 - 10:22 AM

'Suil Aroon'. The chorus might well be Irish but the standard text is pretty definitely Scottish. The tune, as you say, pretty universally used. Wouldn't like to even guess where that originated or how it evolved. There are plenty of instances of tunes being carried abroad in a variety of ways. Ach du Liebe Augustin is pretty universal. Huntsman's Chorus from Der Freischutz has long been a standard part of the English folk sessions repertoire. (Excuse spellings)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Stanron
Date: 31 Jul 18 - 11:06 AM

First of all thanks for reminding me of how good the 'In Our Times' series was.

Steve Gardham asks;

"Just a thought, what evidence have you that any of this is 'folklore' as opposed to literature of the elite?"

As soon as Thomas of Britain wrote it down it became 'literature of the elite'. Before that it appears to be not known to the elite and therefor possibly 'folklore'. Thomas talks about different versions with different plots. He compiles different bits into his own single version. This gets picked up and translated into other languages. We know this because the written records survive. In earlier cultures, particularly Celtic and Norse, records were memorised and not written (other than by clergy). So there cannot be 'evidence' of it being folklore other than it's actual existence and possibly what Thomas or others write about it.

I find the question itself rather disturbing.

Is it saying 'Elite literature bad, folklore good'? Are we, the folk, not allowed to engage with it because it has been polluted by it's elite provenance? Is this a kind of folk iconoclasm?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 31 Jul 18 - 02:58 PM

In what way could it be saying 'Elite literature bad, folklore good'?
Simply asking a question out of curiosity. I'm absolutely certain the 'elite' would have had their own lore as they do today, but whether that lore overlaps with the lore of the people is another matter. I'm not asking loaded questions, just curious. I know nothing about 13th century lore. You have answered my question fairly well.

I'm also curious as to why you find the question disturbing.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 31 Jul 18 - 03:29 PM

Tzu,
From what I've read 'oral formulaic' can mean quite different things to different cultures. For instance trying to apply the composition of Eastern European ballads (Albert Lord) to those of 18th century Scotland is somewhat naïve (IMO). However there are some elements of it in the English and Scottish ballads in the use of commonplaces and reiteration. Unfortunately this has been confounded beyond clear serious study by the editorial practices of the ballad editors and their suppliers who also used these devices, sometimes way over the top, as noticed by Child.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie
Date: 31 Jul 18 - 05:34 PM

First: In the 13th century we don't really know the full story of how or why things were written down, or who they were written for. The concept of "elite" doesn't really mean anything as a result. As far as we can tell, there were stories written down which may well have been performed to people in the street as well as to the nobility (I assume that's what "elite" means here?). There were the chivalric tales as well as the fabliau, which were earthy, scatological and crude at times. There were some songs which needed an understanding of courtly love and others which are very similar to what we would consider a folk song today (as in "Go from my window", or "A la claire fontaine"). Who knows which ones came from "folklore" and which didn't, and who knows if any of them were only intended for one part of society? In the work I'm looking at, the narrator refers to people "buying and selling" while he's telling the story, which suggests a market place or trading floor of some kind. These stories and songs are being written down in a language many would understand as opposed to Latin. We don't know how much the person who created the written story would have changed from what he heard originally (he specifically talks of hearing the story, not reading it anywhere). We don't know how the performers were trained, but there were two classes of performer (at least) - one class was the joglar (in Occitan/Catalan), from the term joculator, or jongleur in old French. These are described as doing all manner of entertaining things, from acrobatics and juggling to playing instruments, singing and telling stories. Some of them may well have been able to read. It doesn't follow that those who could read could necessarily write as well. And then there were the trobador or troubadors, who were the poets and songwriters, who were placed very high in the social order and some of whom were indeed members of the nobility. But not all of them were noble.
Applying contemporary views of society in this context is therefore misleading, and that's why I for one find the word "elite" disturbing. Yes, a book or manuscript would have been a prestige item, but it was also a tool for the joglar and the trobador - and the trobador appears to have trained joglars, so perhaps they taught them to read. We don't know.
As to what is and what isn't folklore - again, with all respect, we simply don't know. The act of writing something down doesn't mean it goes out of the oral tradition.
Oral-formulaic theory has a number of problems associated with it, no matter which culture you look at. There is a degree of formulicity in most traditional ballads and narratives, but what constitutes the formulae will, of course, vary. I'm not sure I have the energy to go into it all on a Mudcat thread, however ... if you're interested, I'd suggest reading the various books and deciding for yourself! I know that it's all of limited application to what I'm looking at myself but I have to show that I'm aware the debate exists and why I'm not going into more detail with it.
One of the biggest discussions, though, is on orality and just sophisticated an orally composed and delivered narrative (or, presumably, ballad - but I'm looking at 11,000 lines myself) might be. Anyone who hears Shonaleigh tell some of her frametales will know that oral delivery can handle remarkably intricate storylines.
But we started on the poly-cultural richness of parts of Europe in the 13th century - and no amount of theorising can detract from that!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 31 Jul 18 - 06:02 PM

I apologise for using the word 'elite' in this context. That is only showing my ignorance as I couldn't think of a better word. I was considering those who would have been literate and those who would have had access to literature, but I have no idea what proportion of the population that would have included in the 13th century.

>>>>The act of writing something down doesn't mean it goes out of the oral tradition.<<<<< I hope my clumsy expression didn't suggest this.

I know Shonaleigh and have seen her perform many times and I agree with what you're saying. I would suggest even further, the more a culture relies upon oral transmission surely the more skilful the practitioners will be.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Stanron
Date: 01 Aug 18 - 09:04 AM

Steve Gardham wrote: I'm also curious as to why you find the question disturbing.
If the question does not contain an implication of comparative value then what is the purpose of the question?

Quote

"I'm absolutely certain the 'elite' would have had their own lore as they do today, but whether that lore overlaps with the lore of the people is another matter."

I worry that this distinction is politically rooted. That Folk music was heavily politicised in the 20th Century, I think, is beyond question. To transfer that politicisation to an earlier work is worrying. The possibility that adding politicisation to comparative value could lead to iconoclasm is disturbing. Maybe it's just me.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 01 Aug 18 - 09:50 AM

I suppose the In Our Time programmes caught my interest partly because I had been reading A L Lloyd who seems to have been claiming all sorts of ancient origins (far longer back than the 12th century) for a ballad generally known as Lady Isabel and the Elfin Knight. He asked 'How may English ballads are based, wholly or in part, on such venerable and far-travelled stuff?' He did not seem to have his Marxist in the mould of historian A L Morton head on at this point. Also they caught my attention because of general discussion on this site.


And when I read the question above about 'folkore' as opposed to the elite, I personally related it to debates within the folksong community (where I guess I am really an outside observer) about the origins of 'folk songs', as opposed to 'folklore' generally. Were they written by the 'lower orders'/'working class'/'folk' or by the educated and literary? (Yes, what does 'folk' mean is the question?)

Even if we limit 'folk songs' to those songs collected by Victorian and Edwardian collectors, there are lively disagreements about whether these mostly originated in written broadsheets or ballads or whether, for example, they originated with the non-literate lower orders but got used in broadsheets while the non-literate oral tradition of the lower orders continued alongside uses or time-lines for those songs based on broadsheets.


As far as I can make out, Child, a great and highly-respected collector and scholar of ballads took the view that they originated in some pre-literate but not primitive age but not among the lower orders, who mostly despoiled them in passing them down when the originators had moved on to other things.

There is a range of opinion on the topic, but it seems to be divorced from discussion of other 'stuff' eg old tales such as Tristan.

I don't really know what to think, to be honest, but the discussions are interesting and enjoyable when not splenetic.

Anne might not know about this sort of dispute, but it might help to fill in the background for her in respect of this site and the discussions that sometimes arise.

I have found what Anne says interesting, so thanks for these contributions. But if she had to suggest say just two books on this oral/formulaic thing, what would they be?

The question of 'memory' is interesting, if another divergence. I studied Psychology once and they have various theories and quite a bit of research into it. It's amazing what people can memorise given the right strategies even in terms just of lists of playing cards. Psychologists and linguists both have theories of schemas which might be relevant. Some people think memory is to an extent actually 'reconstructive' not just reading off of stuff stored in the brain. There is also some research on musical improvisation, which seems in part to draw upon rehearsed 'routines'. I don't know much about this except that it exists and occasionally gets discussed on Radio 4. All this might explain prodigious feats of memory involved in learning and then re-telling lengthy sagas. I do find the idea credible, especially if you take into account some sort of apprenticeship for the story teller. I'm guessing that some of the 'oral-formulaic' theories may be similar to these psychological ideas in some ways.

We read bits of Grendel at Uni and it is quite different from modern poetry; it doesn't rhyme and is very alliterative, so if you claim that folk songs come from sources like that there has to be a time when the old wine of the stories gets poured into the new bottle of the ballad form.

Enough rambling from me.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Aug 18 - 11:22 AM

There is a version of the "Marrow Bones" story in the Panchatantra (I posted a link to it here). I can't read Sanskrit, but in translation it doesn't stand out as being of higher literary quality than the folk versifications of it in English. So "despoiled" doesn't seem to fit.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 Aug 18 - 03:40 PM

>>>>>>If the question does not contain an implication of comparative value then what is the purpose of the question?<<<<<

The purpose of the question was for an unlettered researcher to glean a little more information from the learned people here. What little history I was taught at school regarding the feudal system seemed to imply that the people further up the social pyramid had power of life and death over those below them and the masses at the bottom were little more than slaves. To suggest that the lore of those at the bottom of the pile might be the same as those who dwelt in the castles seems unlikely but I am happy to be corrected. I'm also quite happy to accept Anne's assertion that we simply don't know.

I have never read anything by Thomas but would like to. Are there no clues within the material itself as to who the material belonged to?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie
Date: 01 Aug 18 - 04:25 PM

For books on the oral-formulaic theory, as I currently have a cat immobilising my left arm and it's therefore not as simple as it might be to gain access to my bibliography, I'd suggest a Google or Wikipedia search. The key names are Lord, Milman Parry and Bauman - Bauman does a good job of putting the information together. Lord was the one who kicked it off with The Singer of Tales, but some of his conclusions have been challenged, so Richard Bauman is probably the best bet. Another interesting read (but also challenged by linguists) is Walter Ong, who raised the issue of how much technology like writing and printing have altered the whole psychology (for want of a better word) of creating literature (for want of a better word). His key work is called "Orality and Literacy", dated 1982, I think.

I don't think I'm necessarily suggesting that the "lore" of anyone is the same as anyone else's, Steve - I'm suggesting that a lot of what has been recorded as folk tales may have a complicated history, and it's not necessarily a question of affluence or nobility or even formal education. Some of those folk tales then also turn up as folk ballads and it all gets even more confusing. No one thought it necessary to collect folklore at that time, although, as I said, both Gerald of Wales and Gervase of Tilbury did record a number of fascinating things including the tale of King Herla (which I have made into a song myself). I wish we did have some answers, although I suppose it might shorten my thesis somewhat. The big difficulty is that it's a fairly random issue as to what has survived and what hasn't. We know things have been lost. We suspect that other things have turned up re-worked in different ways, or maybe not. We can, as I said earlier, only work on and draw conclusions from what we have.

Clues in the material are also sparse - some authors did name themselves within their work, but not all. Those who did often simply give a name and a place, like Marie de France (Mary from France) or Chrétien de Troyes (Christian from Troyes), and that doesn't help a great deal. We know that Chrétien also names his patrons, which helps a bit more. "My" author has left very few clues indeed, and it's easier to find out about the scribes who copied his work than the person (I'm assuming a male, for various reasons of content, because there were women poets and writers at that time) who wrote the original. Or dictated it, because we don't know if he could write. I was excited a few months back to see the two manuscripts which have survived and now live in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and to be told the name of one of the scribes, but both manuscripts are copies (there are mistakes within them which show that) made probably 40 years after the original. I'm currently working on a theory that "my" author had some church-based training as there are huge numbers of references to the Bible and lines which sound similar to prayers used even now, but I could be wrong because not all of those with literacy skills were church-taught and this may be a reflection of how he thought people should talk in this kind of a story.

As to versification and ballads - the tale I'm working on is told in octosyllabic rhyming couplets. It also includes some passages which are very similar to troubadour poetry formats (whilst maintaining the metre and rhyme scheme). Prose narratives in the vernacular (as opposed to Latin) mostly came a bit later. They may of course have been based on rhymed or metred ways of telling the tale.

Finally - feudal history is also probably a lot more complicated than whatever we were taught in school. Those at the top of the pyramid had every reason to try and maintain a full and functioning workforce, because without that they wouldn't have lasted long themselves. But that's a story for another day, and now my left arm has gone to sleep and it's time for me to move away from the computer and disturb the cat. I've spent most of the past three days attempting to categorise the frankly bewildering number of oaths and interjections in "my" story, so I could do with a break!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Aug 18 - 04:34 PM

The ruling class in the Middle Ages was not very literate. If you spent a lot of time writing, you were probably a monk, lawyer, merchant or something equivalent to what we would call a manager. Monks might not have needed to have much contact with the illiterate lower orders, but the others would have done. Hence we get things like the trial records of Montaillou or the miller researched by Carlo Ginzburg. And the clerical class could look back to precedents like the historians of classical antiquity, who made a point of interviewing any eyewitness they could find. The literate stratum of society was well positioned to package the expressions of the illiterate and pass them on.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 Aug 18 - 04:57 PM

I had read that, Jack, but didn't have the confidence to suggest it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 Aug 18 - 05:11 PM

David Buchan in 'The Ballad and the Folk' tried to apply oral-formulaic
theory to the Scottish ballads but was shot down almost immediately by other academics.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Translating Folklore in the 13th century
From: GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie
Date: 02 Aug 18 - 05:34 PM

One of the many things I'm learning and have learnt about the medieval era is that you really can't generalise across centuries and across geography, still less across "ruling classes". Quite a number of 12th century rulers in Europe, Byzantium and north Africa were quite able to read and write, and, as I've mentioned before, it seems some relatively low-class entertainers could read, too. I've singled out those areas just because I've been looking at them - there is bound to be a lot of information out there about other parts of the world and other social classes. On the other hand, quite a few clerics weren't literate at all. It is because of the 12th century ruling classes in Europe that we have as much European written material as we do, as it was either written for them directly or sponsored by them, and some was written by them. The "nobility" was far more fluid than you might think in what we now call Europe, certainly.
And just as a postscript - I've been looking at some of the legal documents issued by James I of Aragon (from 13th century). His provisions for ensuring that Muslim communities in his lands stayed relatively stable and protected even when he had defeated their own rulers (and thus brought their lands under his control) would be a salutory lesson in how to co-exist in Israel and Palestine. But it's only history, and no one takes lessons from that, do they?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 22 September 4:37 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.