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Communities Claiming Tales: Local Stories

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The scholarly project the DOC Volksverhaal has embarked on during the planning period (2006-2010) is entitled ‘Communities Claiming Tales’. The research focuses on the appropriation and claiming of folktales by groups in Dutch society. This may concern cities, towns, or villages trying to establish a particular profile for themselves by means of folktales, like the city of Hulst, using Reynard fable material, the city of Terneuzen, availing itself of the Flying Dutchman legend, the island of Terschelling, using the legend of the Stryper Wyfke, and the town of Beesel, referring to the saint’s life of Saint George and the Dragon. The story can be exploited in a tourist context, but it could also play a part in the demarcation of one’s identity, in which processes of inclusion and exclusion enter the field. It must be noted, however, that stories meant for self-characterization are not only claimed, but sometimes also adapted or even invented. In some cases, contending communities are known to claim one and the same story (for instance the legend of Kiste Trui by both the village of Mook and the village of Middelaar), causing friction.

The claiming and employment of folktales was researched by trainee Saskia van Oostveen (Utrecht University) in the first year. In August 2007, she subsequently dedicated an excellent master’s thesis to the aforementioned topic, entitled Kiste Trui, Amersfoortse Keientrekkers en de Peelkabouters van Horst. Het claimen van volksverhalen door gemeenten en de rol van identiteit (Kiste Trui, Boulder Pullers from Amersfoort and the Peel Gnomes of Horst. The Claiming of Folktales by Cities, Towns, and Villages and the Role of Identity).

Ethnic groups are also known to claim tales: Creole Surinamese and Antilleans from the West Indies claim Anansi, Nasreddin Hodja belongs to the Turks, and Kantjil can be linked to the inhabitants of the area once known as the Dutch East Indies. Finally, we can also distinguish religious groups laying their claims on particular stories (such as saints’ lives, tales of confession, or legends about Satanism). All stories claimed can be interpreted as vehicles to establish one’s identity in some way or other.

Apart from some smaller popular partial studies in the magazine Vertel eens …, the research into claimed folktales will result in a study and overview publication entitled Lokale Verhalen in 2009. This book will be published by Bert Bakker; editors and primary authors will be Theo Meder, Ruben Koman, Jurjen van der Kooi and Willem de Blécourt. Moreover, the following authors have been found willing to make one or several contributions to the book: Oscar Strik (DOC Volksverhaal), Marie van Dijk, MA (DOC Volksverhaal), Marianne van Zuijlen (DOC Volksverhaal), Dr Ludo Jongen (Leiden University), Peter Burger, MA (Leiden University), Prof. Dr Fred van Lieburg (VU University Amsterdam), Minke Priester, MA (Breda), and Prof. Dr Eric Venbrux (Radboud University Nijmegen).