Berta E. Vidal de Battini
Ediciones Biblioteca Nacional, 2013.
This books was recommended to me by an Argentinian storyteller friend. It is a selection from a larger, multi-volume folklore collection project; it is almost four hundred pages long, and has dozens of tales in it, with an extensive introduction. The latter talks about the language of the stories, which was very useful, since the tales were transcribed in the dialects they were told in: They wrote "güeno" instead of "bueno," or "jue" instead of "fue," and most of the time I only understood what a sentence meant when I read it out loud phonetically. The tales also contained indigenous words and animal names, all of which were explained in footnotes. Every story was marked with the storyteller's name and age, as well as the place and year of its collection. The volume opens with animal tales, then it has wonder tales, local legends and beliefs, and some humorous tales at the end. The only things missing were some maps, and a folktale motif index, but the book was a very entertaining read, all in all. I especially loved that several tale types were included in more than one version; it was fascinating to see how the same story is told slightly differently in different regions of Argentina.
|Tatu, armadillo, quirquincho, piche|
|Owlets are cute though|
I also liked the legends about the protectors of the animals (sometimes called La Coquena, or Yastay), who were responsible for scaring or warning hunters when they killed unnecessarily, or killed too much at once.
Among the wonder tales I really enjoyed the about The greedy, the gluttonous, and the kind brother, where each brother met an old beggar who asked for food. The elder two demanded a wish in exchange of the food; the first one got the Midas touch (and the curse with it), and the second asked for an endless supply off food (which soon became too much). The youngest gave food freely, and was rewarded with always having money in his pocket. I liked seeing the Midas myth embedded into a tale like this.
I also liked the Argentinian version of the Three Spinners, here titled The souls from Purgatory. A mother and her daughter summoned souls from Purgatory to help them with their work; when a prince proposed to the girl, the souls spun and wove for them, and then appeared in the shape of the three spinners to scare him away from giving her any more work. Then they went to Heaven.
In a tale about a man who sold his soul to the Devil, the only was to escape being dragged to Hell was to recite The twelve words, an ancient chant no one remembered. The (otherwise kind and good-natured) sinner searched all over the world, until he found one ancient woman who had learned the chant as a child, and she managed to recall it. A living oral tradition can save lives, people...
There was also a very intriguing flood myth, where some people tried to burrow underground and hide in jars (which is why you can find jars with human bones in them in the ground), and some turned into giant cacti - the mother is the trunk, and the arms are the children.
I also liked the Argentinian Snow White, here titled The jealous queen. The queen was the princess' birth mother (á la original Grimm), and the girl found shelter with twenty-five bandits, who took her in as their little sister. In the end, she only agreed to marry the prince when he promised to pardon the bandits...
There were kings with antlers instead of donkey ears (Midas again), a tree that opened to "Open, sesame!", and little devils singing the days of the week, just like the Irish fairies do in Lushmore. But even the stories that were very familiar had a local flavor to them, and made for a very fun read...
Where to next?