Author Topic: Finland receives first PhD in trolls  (Read 1935 times)

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Finland receives first PhD in trolls
« on: February 06, 2005, 03:38:13 AM »
Finland has received what appears to be the first doctoral dissertation on traditional forest trolls.

Master of Philosophy Camilla Asplund Ingemark, 30, has researched the subject for six years. She will defend her doctoral dissertation, which is classified as a work on folklore, at the Åbo Akademi University in Turku on Friday.

The study describes the world of trolls according to the beliefs in the folklore of Swedish-speaking Finns.
     
The first stories on trolls appear in the Swedish-language folklore in the mid-19th century. Before then, the tales were passed down from one generation to the next as oral heritage.
"In the 1920s, trolls disappear from folklore, but they persist for a longer time in spoken traditions", Asplund Ingemark explains in Swedish in a telephone interview.

In fact, she limited the material used in the research to the years 1850-1920.

The troll tales of the Scandinavian language region are related to one another. Different cultural environments have shaped them into varying repetitions of the same themes, the soon-to-be PhD explains.
     
An atmosphere of threat and fear is present in troll tales. In the countryside in particular, loved ones have been kept on the right path in life by frightening them with trolls. According to the beliefs, a troll could also appear in the form of a beautiful woman, or give stolen goods as presents.

If a villager disappeared in the woods, others would say that the trolls had taken him. If he returned home, there was nothing to fear from trolls at that time: the spell evaporates immediately if one manages to escape the trolls.
     
The people of old transferred the fear of trolls to the framework of Christianity. According to Asplund Ingemark, it is important to remember that troll tales have been told even in Christian surroundings. Written documents show that people understood the troll tales and the stories in the Bible in the same way.

Both Christian and pagan stories described the relationship between man and supernatural forces. Folklore and Christian tales and sermons influenced each other.
      "I chose trolls as the subject of my research because I suspected that troll tales could reveal something about the relation between folk beliefs and Christianity. I am interested in that relationship."
     
Asplund Ingemark used intertextual theories in her research. She compared the style and content of folklore and the stories of the Bible.
The world of the trolls resembles the paradise of the Garden of Eden. Trolls live without needing to work, and without a care in the world, the researcher reports.
In the time period under study, the Christian message played a significant role in the life of ordinary people. It was heard in sermons, songs, and by confirmation students. Christian literature was widely read. People discussed what new things they had learned with their family members.
     
In past centuries, the Lutheran church scoffed at the people’s belief in trolls. Priests sent out the message that belief in trolls was the opposite to Christianity. Priests regarded the traditional beliefs with animosity.
      "I have also grown increasingly interested in how folk beliefs describe everyday life and living circumstances, and what significance folk beliefs had in the life of ordinary people", Vaasa native Asplund Ingemark muses. She has lived in Lund in Sweden for the past several years.
      "As I did my research, I gained a much better understanding of how people lived in the 19th century and the early 20th century", she says.
     
This doctoral dissertation is a part of a broader magic and troll boom in literature and the visual arts. The adventures of trolls were also recounted in the novel Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi (“Before sundown you cannot”) by Johanna Sinisalo. Her trolls are a species that is a cross of cats and monkeys. Sinisalo was awarded the Finlandia Prize for her work in 2000.
The troll has been seen as a humorous phenomenon or a symbol of fears.
But Tove Jansson’s ultra-sympathetic Moomintroll is a different story altogether.
The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist.” - Charles Baudelaire (French and monstrous poet).