About the Type Index for Medieval Ballads

The Types of Scandinavian Ballads (TSB)

The (medieval) ballads found in the Nordic countries are closely linked, regarding both content and language. The Nordic region is therefore often seen as one of the European ballad areas. Many of the ballads exist in different versions in the different countries, and there was therefore a desire to create a joint Nordic catalogue.

Based on older publications such as Sven Grundtvig’s Danmarks Gamle Folkeviser (1853-1976), A.I Arwidsson’s Svenska fornsånger (1834, 1837) and Leiv Heggstad & H. Grüner Nielsen’s Utsyn yver Gamall Norsk Folkevisedikting (1912), The Types of the Medieval Scandinavian Ballad (TSB) functions as a catalogue of ballads known in one or more of the Scandinavian languages (in this case Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Faroese and the extinct Norn). The catalogue was published in 1978, edited by three folklorists from Norway and Sweden; Bengt R. Jonsson, Svale Solhiem and Eva Danielson. They also collaborated with the Faroese folklorist Mortan Nolsøe and the American folklorist and ballad scholar W. Edson Richmond.

TSB is divided into six groups of ballad types based on the ballads’ content and motifs: Ballads of the Supernatural (A), Legendary Ballads (B), Historical Ballads (C), Ballads of Chivalry (D), Heroic Ballads (E) and Jocular Ballads (F). Each ballad type has been given a number. The ballad known as Horpa or The Two Sisters, is categorized as a ballad of the supernatural and given the number TSB A 38. The chivalry ballad Bendik and Årolilja has been given the number TSB D 432, and the jocular ballad Kråkevisa has been given the number TSB F 58.

The catalogue was published in English, and each ballad has therefore an English language heading which describes the narrative content of the type. This is a classificatory device and not a translation of the title. For each type there is also an English summary of the narrative and references to the ballad’s type number in ballad editions of the individual Scandinavian countries. The TSB catalogue was intended as a practical guide to the standard editions of the Scandinavian ballads. It has become a useful tool for researchers and performers.