Accepted Paper:

Seeking belief legends: getting life stories and personal narratives   


Eija Stark (University of Helsinki, Finnish Literature Society)

Paper short abstract:

Notions of ideal folklore genres were strong among the Finnish field collectors still in the 1980s. The paper discusses the clash between the informants and field collectors defining what is worth and desirable to narrate within the collector-informant interaction.

Paper long abstract:

The paper explores the folklore scholarship and field collection methods as a complex mix of historical continuity and change in encounters between researchers and informants. The legacy of the historic-geographic method, "the Finnish method", for the researchers working with folklore was long evident among the folklore scholarship. Although from the 1960s on, folklore scholars turned their attention to individuals using folklore in their daily activities, informants preferring to narrate their life stories and oral history were not encouraged, and sometimes even forbidden, by the scholars. For example, in Finland as late as in the 1980s, many of the folklore collections were conducted by searching particular, "authentic" genres. The most common method of collecting was for an interviewer to ask a member of the "folk" to mention or recite from memory all the "pure" oral lore or tale types, such as memorates and charms in versed form. The Finnish method was based on the idea of folklore serving as a mirror of a common human or European tradition instead of individual informants as active users of these texts. In this paper, I will examine the views of one Finnish female informant, born in 1902, who was interviewed by the researcher of the Finnish Literature Society in 1984 in order to record her belief legends and narrative folklore. However, the informant was not interested in telling legends and other formulaic tales but rather, her own life story, which from the researcher's side, represented "wrong kind of tradition".

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