East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon Analysis

Jorgen Moe

Form and Content

The stories found in this selection from Norske folkeeventyr (Norwegian folktales) are all oral-formulaic: They are passed from generation to generation orally, and they are easy to remember since they are built on formulae—of language, of characters, of plots—which results in a certain style that separates folktales from literature. Stock phrases occur, such as “once upon a time.” Often, three brothers try their luck at winning a princess, and inevitably the younger one is successful. A cat may be a princess in disguise. The poor but clever person (possibly in the shape of an animal) outwits the rich but stupid person. These formulae—they are numerous—are easily transferable from one tale to the next at the storyteller’s discretion.

East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon contains examples of three of the major types of folktales: the magic tale, the trickster story or anecdote, and the fable. The very title of the volume refers to the setting of the magic tale, for it takes place in a never-never land, east of the sun and west of the moon, where anything can happen and where the magical is natural. A primary example is the title story. The plot of such a tale takes a well-known course: Initially, something is wrong or goes wrong; the hero or heroine sets out on a quest to right matters; he or she encounters magical helpers and/or opponents; they are subjected to tests; and, when those tests are passed, they are rewarded...

(The entire section is 586 words.)