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Reviewed by:
  • Catalogue of Portuguese Folktales
  • Christine Goldberg (bio)
Catalogue of Portuguese Folktales. By Isabel Cardigos with the collaboration of Paulo CorreiaDias Marques J. J.. FFC 291. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 2006. 406 pp.

With this catalog, Portugal claims its rightful place in international folktale scholarship. The material indexed consists of seven thousand texts taken from major and minor books and periodicals as well as several private (unpublished) collections. In addition to modern texts, literary versions, mostly from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, are included. The numbering system is based on the recent revision, by Hans-Jörg Uther, of the tale type index, now The Types of International Folktales (FFC 284–286, 2004, abbreviated ATU), where Portuguese tales are listed as “Cardigos (forthcoming).” At the cost of a delay in its publication, Cardigos’s catalog could be cited in The Types of International Folktales and still was able to benefit from Uther’s revised tale type descriptions.

Regional folktale catalogs vary in the amount of details they convey about the variants (texts) they list. This one, fortunately, is relatively specific. For complex tales, the summaries have been broken into sections and details, which are coded. Then comes the list of variants, with codes to indicate which motifs [End Page 194] appear in each. Variants that consist of more than one tale type are noted. When a single type exists in two forms, each variant is labeled “A” or “B.”

National folktale catalogs have three functions. Most obviously, such a catalog is an inventory of the country’s oral tradition, showing how large and various—and thus how important—it is. Second, the listing for each tale type directs a researcher to the variants, so it is a simple matter to discover what stability and variation the tale type exhibits. The researcher may have a local purpose (the Portuguese tradition of such-and-such a tale); or, third, may want to add Portuguese evidence to a broader study (the European or worldwide tradition of the tale type or of some of its motifs). In the last case, the international acceptance of the Aarne-Thompson numbering system facilitates international folktale scholarship.

Portuguese folktales are most similar to Spanish ones, and this catalog has made good use of the many existing Spanish and Spanish American Aarne-Thompson-based catalogs. A list identifies non-ATU tale types (approximately fifty) taken from such catalogs, created especially for Portuguese material (more than one hundred types), or retained from the old Aarne-Thompson catalog. Most of the tales with “Cardigos” numbers, indicating that they are (apparently) uniquely Portuguese, could be considered subtypes of widely known tale types; nevertheless, adding these numbers creates an opportunity to add more information about the particulars of the variants. The fact that the vast majority of Portuguese tales are easily fitted into ATU types shows that ATU has escaped the northern European ethnocentrism of the earlier international tale type indexes.

A number of the tale types here (as also in ATU) never became popular in Germany or France or elsewhere in northern Europe. Some of these are primarily Hispanic (Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American)—for example, type 516D, The Serpent Maiden (cf. type 533*, The Serpent Helper, which seems to be Portuguese only). A couple of local (Portuguese and Hispanic) subtypes of type 480, The Kind and the Unkind Girls, can, thanks to existing scholarship, be fitted into the wider tradition of that tale type. The Hispanic type 650D includes the tar baby motif, which is otherwise African and African American and is very rare in Europe. Other tale types are popular throughout the Mediterranean region and the Middle East—for example, type 310B, The Maiden in the Tower Escapes by Magic Flight; type 894, The Stone of Pity (cf. types 710A and 438); and the cumulative tale type 2023, Little Cockroach (Little Ant Marries). In type 311B*, The Singing Bag, a kidnapped girl hidden in a sack identifies herself by singing.

For a long time, most folktale scholars prized oral tradition over historical sources, and folktale catalogs considered literary sources outside of their scope. Now this attitude has changed, and in this catalog a special effort has been made to...


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