The Faraway North by Ian Cumpstey

  • Author/Translator: Ian Cumstey
  • Publisher: Skadi Press
  • Published Date: 2016

The Faraway North is a collection of Scandinavian folk ballads introduced and translated by Ian Cumpstey. They range from Danish, to Swedish, to Norwegian. As well as tales of trolls, daring, and wit. There are fifteen translated ballads.

The amount of work that went into these translations is commendable. He includes a list of resources in the back index, showing that he translated the ballads often from multiple sources.

The organization is also another fantastic thing about this collection. Each successive ballad feels like a natural progression. There is quite a range in topics, too, but we also get to see some of the similarities between seemingly different ballads. For example, phrases like “red gold” appear often throughout the collection. It is interesting to see how this multitude of ballads uses similar language while telling different tales. While there is a range, nothing feels out of place.

The translations themselves are readable, while keeping with the style of the originals, including rhyme, repetition, and meter. I personally feel like sometimes the wording suffered in order to fit in a rhyme; however, these were few and far between and didn’t at all affect my enjoyment of the collection.

My only real qualm is with the introductions. I wanted more than just, “Here is what the ballad is about.” And we got that on some of the ballads, such as the introduction to the last four. But sometimes I felt that some of the introductions were there out of necessity (i.e., because every ballad had to have one), but they didn’t add anything new (insight, translation method, something about the culture, etc.) to the ballad itself.

All in all, this is a great collection of Scandinavian folk ballads. If you need some good ol’ fashion trolls in your life, give this book a try.

(Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review.)


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