Legend Collections in European Literature of the Mid 19th Century
In the present paper, I analyze peculiarities of legend collections in European literature of the mid-19th century, taking into consideration their Swiss, Spanish and Belgian variants. Starting with the history of the legend in European literature, I compare three volumes of legends – Sieben Legenden by Keller, Leyendas by Bécquer,Légendes flamandes by De Coster. What is being dwelt upon are their attitude to the source (pre-text), conflict, composition, setting, personage type. The conclusion is made that the three collections are similar in their authors’ understanding of the legend, which is presented as a tale that depicts a conflict between a person and some established set of values. In Sieben Legenden this set of values is given as most natural for people and despised by the official religion. The protagonists go through a series of trials to return to the harmonious family. In Leyendas the established order is mainly embodied into an old tradition or superstition, which the protagonist tries to ignore, with a fatal outcome. In Légendes flamandes the protagonist may disregard some ethical or moral concepts, only to happily understand their mistake later on. Though all the books appeared in the time of the late Romanticism in non-dominant European cultures, they present different sides of Romantic philosophy: romantic irony (Keller), love to the supernatural (Bécquer), attitude to history (De Coster).