Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Old ballads of the Faroe Islands

These 1994 issue Faroese stamps on this nice cover are from one of the popular Faroese themes for stamps, namely, old ballads.

Kvæði (Kvaedi; at kvøða: "to sing a tune or kvæði"; kvæði also means verse in Icelandic, also sometimes used to mean stanza) are the old ballads of the Faeroe Islands, accompanied by the Faroese dance. Kvæði can have hundreds of stanzas plus a chorus sung between every verse.
It is generally thought that Faroese ballads, as elsewhere in Europe, began to be composed in the Middle Ages, but we have very little medieval Faroese writing so the ballads' medieval history is obscure. The subject matter of Faroese ballads varies widely, including heroic narratives set in the distant past, contemporary politics, and comic tales. The most archaic-looking layer, however, is the heroic narratives. It was once thought that these derive independently from Viking-Age oral narratives, and this may be true of a few, but it has since been shown that most derive directly from written Icelandic sagas or occasionally rímur. The traceable origins of Faroese balladry, then, seem to lie between the fourteenth century (when the relevant Icelandic sagas tended to be composed) and the seventeenth (when contacts with Iceland diminished).

Faroese ballads began to be collected by Jens Christian Svabo in 1781–1782, though Svabo's collection was not published in his lifetime; the most prominent of Svabo's successors was Venceslaus Ulricus Hammershaimb. The Danish historians Svend Grundtvig and Jørgen Bloch began the process of a complete, standard edition of the ballads, which eventually gave rise to the Føroya kvæði/Corpus carminum Færoensium, published between 1941 and 2003.[2] Ballads took an important role in the development of Faroese national consciousness and the promotion of literacy in Faroes in the nineteenth and twentieth Centuries.

Among the most famous of all kvæði is Ormurin langi written by Jens Christian Djurhuus and today played by the Faroese folk metal band Týr.

Thank you Merja.

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