The first Faroese book


16 May 2022
The first book in the Faroese language was printed in 1822 when H.C. Lyngbye published the snappily titled Faroese Heroic Ballads of Sigurd, the Slayer of the Dragon Fafnir and His Kindred, and now a sheet of two stamps recalls the book’s release. 

The text was a transcript of a ballad derived from the extensive Faroese oral tradition, where songs are performed by a lead singer in a closed chain of dancers chanting along to the chorus. This Faroese chain dance is a combination of narratives, melodies and bodily expressions, where the lead singer through dramatic interaction with the dancers chants the main lyrics.

The early 1800s saw a growing antiquarian interest among the scholarly elite in the traditions of the common people. Songs and folktales were written down, edited, published and often became the basis for stringent academic studies that were far removed from the colourful folk traditions. Nevertheless, these texts later became crucial to Faroese identity and the main reason for the ancient Faroese chain dance tradition being alive today.

By writing down the oral traditions, publishing it in Faroese and thus reaching larger audiences, attention was drawn to the texts of the Faroese ballad tradition. It also raised an incipient understanding that Faroese could be considered an independent language.

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The stamp issue celebrating the 200th anniversary of the first Faroese publication consists of a souvenir sheet with two stamps. The KR29 stamp (on the left) is based on the ballad of Sigurd and depicts a chain of dancers swaying to the dramatic dragon ballad with the sheet music in the background.

On the second stamp KR43, the chain dancers chant the chorus next to the title page of the original publication. The stamp issue was designed and arranged by visual artist and historian Ole Wich.

Issue date: 16 May 2022

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