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Title:German Translations and Criticism of the Danish Medieval Ballad to 1853
Author(s):Lansford, Mariella Virginia
Department / Program:German
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Germanic
Abstract:In this investigation we sought to examine all German translations and criticism of Danish medieval ballads published between 1766, the year in which the first German version appeared, and 1853, the year in which the first fascicle of the critical edition of the Danish ballads, Danmarks gamle Folkeviser, was published. For this investigation a Danish ballad was defined as one that appears in Danmarks gamle Folkeviser. We were interested in the kinds of translations produced, the types of ballads translated, and German criticism of the ballads. Not included was any analysis of ballad melodies or a discussion of any type of influence, such as that of the Danish ballad upon German poetry or of German folk song upon the Danish ballad.
Until the second decade of the nineteenth century, almost all German translations were based on Danish texts found in Peder Syv's enlarged version of Anders Sorenson Vedel's ballad book, Et Hundrede Udvalde Danske Viser . . . Forogede med det Andet Hundrede Viser (1695, 1739, 1764, 1787) or on the small Tragica collection (1657). After 1814 most German versions were based on texts in the Abrahamson-Nyerup-Rahbek ballad edition, Udvalgte Danske Viser fra Middelalderen (1812-1814).
Although misunderstanding of the Danish originals led to mistranslation in the German versions throughout the period 1766-1853, the German renditions reveal the translators' increasingly accurate comprehension of the Danish texts. While a number of German versions scattered throughout the period are characterized by contemporary sentimental or melodramatic literary style, most of the translators attempted to reflect not only the narrative content and form but also the style of the Danish originals as accurately as possible. With some exceptions, the translations produced were of a generally high quality. Only the first German translation--H. W. Gerstenberg's version of "Elvehoj" (1766)--is in prose. J. G. Herder's four renditions (1778-1779) and Wilhelm Grimm's versions of more than a hundred ballads (1808-1811) established standards for subsequent German translators.
Preference for particular ballad types shifted twice during the period 1766-1853. For no discernible reason, translators evinced greatest interest in the magic ballads before the early nineteenth century. From 1808-1814 interest in the heroic ballads clearly predominated, although Grimm's numerous translations of other types might seem to contradict that observation. The philological interests of Grimm and F. H. von der Hagen, the two principal translators of this era, evidently dictated their emphasis of the heroic ballads. After 1814 the interest of German translators shifted from the heroic ballad to the magic and chivalric ballads. Reason for this change in emphasis is clear only in the two instances of T. A. L. Robinson and H. Puttmann, whose studies reflect a folkloristic orientation.
German criticism of the Danish ballad in the period 1766-1853 was mainly of a summary character that was dependent upon foreign sources, usually Scandinavian or English-Scottish. Although frequently a misleading interpretation, Gerstenberg's commentary of 1766, drawn totally from Peder Syv's remarks, is significant because it was the first German commentary on the Danish ballads. Mrs. Robinson's volume (1840) is particularly noteworthy as the first comparative study of Scandinavian, English-Scottish, and German folk songs. Only Wilhelm Grimm, however, produced original scholarship of a quantity and quality that was fruitful for Scandinavian ballad scholars as well as for the German reading public.
Issue Date:1980
Description:289 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1980.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8026544
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-14
Date Deposited:1980

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