The Genre of Trolls: The Case of a Finland-Swedish Folk Belief Tradition

By Camilla Asplund Ingemark. 2004. Åbo: . xiii + 320 pages.


Reviewed by David Elton Gay, Indiana University

[Review length: 331 words • Review posted in 2005]


[Cover ofThe Genre of Trolls: The Case of a Finland-Swedish Folk Belief Tradition]

Camilla Asplund Ingemark’s recently published dissertation, The Genre of Trolls, is a study of troll legends from the Swedish-speaking area of Finland. The first chapter of her book outlines her theoretical approaches, which rely heavily on the notion of intertextuality, especially as it has been developed recently by the Finnish folklorist Lotte Tarkka. Ingemark also draws on other theorists, such as Richard Bauman, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Julia Kristeva. Ingemark’s second chapter outlines her sources, which are primarily the very rich folklore collections, both published and archived, of the Swedish Literature Society in Finland. This second chapter also discusses the historical, social, and religious contexts for the legends. Ingemark’s third chapter is a detailed description of the troll traditions themselves. Her fourth and fifth chapters take up the issues of intertextuality as ideological and as social critique, respectively. The sixth chapter of this monograph is about genre and parody, and it focuses on the stories of a storyteller named Johan Alén. Chapter Seven looks at “the problems of unfinalizability and dialogue,” and the book closes with Ingemark’s reflections on the materials.

Though Ingemark spends quite a lot of time explaining the theories that she uses, her book nonetheless is a useful survey of the troll legends of Finnish Swedish tradition, and, because the Finnish Swedish traditions are part of the wider Scandinavian traditions about trolls, her work is relevant to work throughout Scandinavia as well. The connections she draws between the troll traditions and Christianity are especially to be noted. Ingemark observes that because “nineteenth-century rural culture was permeated by the Christian tradition . . . the folklore of the period cannot be understood in isolation from religion”(143). In fact, she employs the idea of intertextuality to best effect in her discussion of the relationship of these narratives to Christianity, arguing a convincing case for intertextual links between troll legends and Christian texts. She demonstrates that the troll legends are part of a Christian folk culture, not something separate from it.

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© Journal of Folklore Research, 2010. Last revised June 21, 2010.