Article published in:Reinardus: Yearbook of the International Reynard Society
Edited by Richard Trachsler and Baudouin Van den Abeele
[Reinardus 31] 2019
► pp. 252–268
The dancing bear from Spain
On the eighteenth-century Swedish reception of Tomás de Iriarte’s Fábulas literarias (1782)
The article depicts the intense and at times unpredictable fable transfer in eighteenth-century Europe by tracing the source text of one of the most acclaimed works in Swedish fable history, Anna Maria Lenngren’s “Björndansen” [The dance of the bear]. This verse fable, published in Stockholms Posten in 1799 and bringing questions of literary quality and literary criticism into focus, was classified by the poet herself as “Original.” Twentieth-century scholars have identified a prose fable, “Björnen, Apan och Swinet” [The bear, the ape, and the swine], printed in the same daily paper in 1784 and translated from Spanish, as her probable source text. Eagerness to safeguard the poetical autonomy of Lenngren seems, though, to have restrained scholars from trying to find the Spanish original of the prose translation or to detect its author. Following the trails of French and German renderings of the Spanish fable about the dancing bear, the article demonstrates that “Björndansen” is a skilful Swedish recasting of “El Oso, la Mona y el Cerdo” [The bear, the ape, and the swine], one of the 67 verse fables in Tomás de Iriarte’s innovative Fábulas literarias (1782), a collection presenting a neoclassical poetics in the form of fable. Placing “Björndansen” within this larger international fable historical context, the article also manages, by means of comparative analysis, to throw new light on the literary devices of the Swedish masterpiece.
Published online: 17 April 2020