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The Soldier’s Tale: Military Storytelling in Revolutionary Europe

  • 06/04/2021
  • 18:00-19:30
  • Online talk.

An online talk for The Folklore Society, by David Hopkin (Professor of European Social History, University of Oxford)

Soldiers’ storytelling inculcated military values. Recorded by folklorists, their tales influenced literary developments in Nineteenth-Century Europe.

Oral storytelling is often associated with ‘Mother Goose’ figures, elderly and female, but when folktale collecting started in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, soldiers turned out to be among the most fluent narrators.  Soldiers of all European nations possessed a repertoire of tale-types, including ATU562 which gives us Andersen’s ‘The Tinderbox’ and ATU713 which gives us Stravinsky’s and Ramuz’s ‘The Soldier’s Tale’.  Soldiers’ tales share characters such as the hero ‘La Ramée’, his helpers and antagonists Saint Peter and the Devil; they share common motifs, common language even, and a common outlook on life.  Soldiers’ memoirs often refer to storytelling – in camp, in barracks, in hospital and military prison.  Stories passed the time, but they also inculcated a particular military outlook on discipline, social hierarchies, fate and fortune, and the opposite sex.  The influence of military storytelling can be traced in literary developments from romanticism to realism to modernism.

Tickets £5. Booking via Eventbrite, ticket sales open Weds 17 March