FFC 254

Rey-Henningsen, Marisa 1994:
The World of the Ploughwoman. Folklore and Reality in Matriarchal Northwest Spain. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia (Academia Scientiarum Fennica). 293 pp.

ISBN 951-41-0746-2 (hardback)
ISBN 951-0745-4 (paperback)

28 euros (hardback)
23 euros (paperback)

This study is a contribution to the discussion of folklore as a mirror of society. Spanish Galicia offers a special opportunity for examining wellknown folktales in a different context because of the cultural and economic dominance of women and the matriarchal life style which characterized the region until recently. That matriarchy was deeprooted in Galicia and did not result from male migration in modern times, is demonstrated in the historical chapters of the book, while the anthropological chapters (on family systems, work patterns, matriarchal ideology, sexual behaviour, religion and magic) tend to show that all aspects of Galician culture have been “canonized” in folklore; folklore therefore must have gone through radical changes in order to conform with the local ideology. While the women in Galician folktales almost always appear in active and aggressive hero roles, this has nothing to do with “wishful thinking” or “poetic fiction”, for according to the matriarchal concept it is just the natural order of things. Surely the correlation demonstrated here between the social structure, gender roles, and ideology may also be observed in male-dominated societes, once we learn to disengage from the patriarchal concept of the “natural order of things”.

MARISA REY-HENNINGSEN grew up in Galician family in Madrid with a living folktale tradition from both her parents and the servant girls, who were preferably hired from Galicia. In the 1960’s she and her husband, Danish folklorist Gustav Henningsen, spent several years doing fieldwork in Galicia. In 1977 she returned alone on a trip dedicated to the recollection of folktales. Her postgraduate studies at the University of Copenhagen were concluded in 1990 with a Ph.D. degree for a dissertation on Galician folktales and a paper on the concept of matriarchy (published in 1989).

Apart from the present publication which is a revised version of her dissertation, the author has published books and articles on women’s history and translated Danish literature into Spanish. She is also a writer and has published a novel, a children’s book and several short stories.

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