Collecting tales in the catalan speaking territories

On 20 and 23 December 1853, Manuel Milà i Fontanals, the eminent philologist, literary critic and professor at the University of Barcelona, published a short note in the Gaceta de Barcelona (Barcelona Gazette) on the folktales of Catalonia: “Cuentos infantiles (rondallas) en Cataluña” (Children’s stories (folktales) in Catalonia), accompanied by 18 plot summaries written in Spanish. The first collection in Catalan and in book form, however, is the three volumes of Lo rondallayre, (1871-74) by the notary Francesc de S. Maspons i Labrós.

Since then the collections of Pau Bertran i Bros (1909), Sebastià Farnés (1893), Jacint Verdaguer (1905), Valeri Serra i Boldú (1922) and Joan Amades (1950) have helped to establish the folktale heritage of Catalonia.

Since the end of the 20th century, Mallorca has also been involved in the task of recording folktales. The two key figures are: (1) Mn. Antoni M. Alcover, who was from Manacor and who worked under the pseudonym Jordi des Racó. From his early work Contarelles (1885) to the last of the twelve volumes of Rondaies (1896-1931) he recreated the folktales he had collected with insuperable artistic skill; (2) the Archduke Ludwig Salvator (1895), who did significant ethnographic work on the island. Recently, the publication of the critical edition of the Aplec de rondaies mallorquines d’en Jordi d’es Racó, (The Majorcan folktales collected by Jordi d’es Racó), edited by Josep A. Grimalt and Jaume Guiscafrè (1996-), has started make available the original annotations, and will allow classification of texts which have not been synthesized by the collector, using materials furnished by different informants.

In the rest of the Catalan speaking area, tales have generally been collected and recorded during the 20th century.

In País Valenciano, leaving to one side the general collections of folkloric material by Adolf Salvà (published in 1988 but collected between 1932 and 1939) and by Francesc Martínez i Martínez (1912, 1920 and 1947) where some stories also appear, the first specific folktale collections start with the three volumes of Rondalles valencianes (Valencian Folktales) (1950-58) by the grammarian and writer Enric Valor. Valor’s legacy has been considerable, and other folklorists such as, for example, Joaquim González Caturla (1985 and 1987) and Josep Bataller (1981, 1986, 1997 and 2001), have been making up for the lack of interest in popular literature shown during the Valencian literary revival.

The area of Carxe, the little Catalan speaking zone in Murcia, has been particularly lucky in having the collection of Ester Limorti and Artur Quintana (1998).

The Fringe of Aragon is particularly noteworthy among the territories which have recently been incorporated into the research. In recent years fruitful research has been done by, on the one hand, a large team headed by Artur Quintana, and on the other, by the Aragonese researcher, Carlos González Sanz, so that it could be said that, comparatively speaking, the Strip is the most thoroughly studied area and the first to make systematic collections based on tape recordings.

In other places research up to now has not been so intense. In Cataluña del Norte, the early collection by Mn. Esteve Caseponce (?1907) respects the plots of the tales but does not always documented them as it should and at times it can be full of pious digressions. However, it is still the most extensive collection from the area.

The largest collection from Menorca, even though there have been more recent attempts, continues to be the first one carried out in 1914. It was collected by Andreu Ferrer Ginard who was from Artà in Majorca but who worked as a school teacher in Migjorn Gran in Menorca. The island of Ibiza was the object of a hard to find publication - which fortunately has been reproduced in recent times- by the Barcelonan journalist Josep Roure Torent in exile in Mexico (1948). It is based on materials collected before the war by Hans Jakob Noeggerath, a German student of Romance philology who unfortunately died young. The printer Joan Castelló i Guasch made a series of publications regarding the island between 1953 and 1976, which are very elaborate from a literary point of view.

The same author has also published the only volume specifically dedicated to the island of Formentera (1976b).

Andorra has still not been the subject of specific folklore research, however, despite this, some tales have been taken from a general study by Carme Oriol (1997) on the folklore of this old feudal state.