Snøvsen and other literary heroes

Writing my last post on proverbs reminded me of a series of popular Danish children’s books called Snøvsen, and I thought that since we haven’t discussed Danish literature yet, I might as well write an entry on that subject.

We have already established that music is a great place to go if you need exposure to a foreign language. It’s about time we add literature to that list. Language thrives in literature, and if you consume it in audio book format you not only get to enjoy Danish language at its best, you even get the whole spectacle served pre-read by some native actor or whatnot. Perfect diction, pronunciation and all. What’s not to like?

So the reason I thought of Snøvsen in particular is that in this brilliant series (honestly, it’s great, go read it!) some of the more obscure Danish idioms are literally incarnated. All to great comic effect. Snøvsen, for instance, is a peculiar one-footed creature wearing a scarf and beanie. That is, in the books this is what Snøvsen looks like. In the real world no one knows what a snøvs is anymore, except that it figures in the idiom Han er gået fra snøvsen, which translates to he has abandoned the snøvs or something like that (meaning that he has lost his temper, if not his mind). Thus, the Snøvs of the books spends most of his time jumping around on his one foot and being left behind, much to his dismay.


So according to the all-knowing internet a ‘snøvs’ is actually this green string keeping this sack closed. And when this closing mechanism has worn away from the sack, it is ‘gået fra snøvsen’

If you are too serious an adult to appreciate children’s books (in which case you are missing out by the way), there is literature for you too. I would recommend Inger Christensen. She is easily one of the best Danish poets. Perhaps one of the best poets regardless of nationality.

But Danish is difficult enough as it is!, you might protest. Surely Danish poetry will be complete nonsense to anyone but native Danes. And you might be right, I will grant you that. Which is why you might want to think of Inger Christensen as the reward at the end of the long hard struggle to master the Danish language. If nothing else, you will be able to appreciate this awesome poetry once you are well acquainted with the obscure cacophony of guttural groans and soft D’s we call Danish. And it’s well worth the effort.

So these are two recommendations for you. Snøvsen and Inger Christensen. If you have any recommendations yourselves, please share.



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