Agnete og Havmanden

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Agnete og Havmanden (Danish) or Agneta och havsmannen (Swedish) ('Agnete and the merman') is a ballad (The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad A 47, Merman's wife returns to earth; Danmarks gamle Folkeviser 38; Sveriges Medeltida Ballader 19). It is also found in Norway[1] and as a prose folktale published by Just Matthias Thiele in his 1818 Danske Folkesagn, though Thomas Bredsdorff has argued that this prose version is of literary rather than folkoric origin. The ballad too is generally thought to be relatively late in its composition, perhaps from the eighteenth century.[2]

Synopsis[edit]

In the ballad, a merman woos Agnete to leave her children behind and come and live with him in the sea. She does so and has several children by him. But one day she hears the ringing of church bells and with the merman's permission returns to land to visit the church. In some versions, the images of saints in the church turn away from Agnete when she enters. She meets her mother, telling her about her new aquatic life. In most variants, she then abandons the merman and stays with her previous family. In some versions from all regions, however, she returns to the sea.[3]

Reception[edit]

The ballad was the basis for Matthew Arnold's 1849 poem 'The Forsaken Merman' and Henrik Ibsen's 1888 play Fruen fra havet.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad: A Descriptive Catalogue, ed. by Bengt R. Jonsson, Svale Solheim and Eva Danielson, Skrifter utgivna av svenskt visarkiv, 5 (Stockholm: Svenskt visarkiv, 1978), p. 38.
  2. ^ Thomas Bredsdorff, 'Nogen skrev et sagn om "Agnete og Havmanden": Hvem, hvornår og hvorfor?', Fund og Forskning, 30 (1991), https://tidsskrift.dk/index.php/fundogforskning/article/view/1585/2620.
  3. ^ The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad: A Descriptive Catalogue, ed. by Bengt R. Jonsson, Svale Solheim and Eva Danielson, Skrifter utgivna av svenskt visarkiv, 5 (Stockholm: Svenskt visarkiv, 1978), p. 38.
  4. ^ Per Schelde Jacobsen and Barbara Fass Leavy, Ibsen's Forsaken Merman: Folklore in the Late Plays (New York: New York University Press, 1988).