The Hasluck Collection
of Albanian Folktales
Edited by Robert Elsie
Albanian Studies, Vol. 14
Centre for Albanian Studies, London 2015
The 115 folktales of this collection were gathered and translated into English by the noted Scottish anthropologist Margaret Hasluck (1885-1948) in the late 1920s and 1930s. She collected them, for the most part, not from experienced storytellers, but directly from the children, young people and elementary school teachers she met during her long years of stay in Albania. The narratives are accordingly simple, taken, so to speak, from the mouths of babes. They are, however, enough to enthrall the modern reader, adult or child, and provide sufficient material to keep experts and analysts of oral literature happy, who delve into the deeper structures behind them.
Margaret Hasluck was in Albania for the first time in or around 1919 and, when she returned to Scotland, she knew that her place was in the Balkans. With a scholarship from Aberdeen University as a Wilson Travelling Fellow (1921-1923, 1926-1928), she began collecting folklore in western Macedonia and increasingly in Albania, where she moved definitively in 1923. Her interest in Albanian folktales continued throughout her years of residence in Albania and, no doubt with the help of her Albanian friend and scholar, Lef Nosi, she amassed a substantial collection. Hasluck acquired a good knowledge of Albanian over the years and was therefore able to translate the material into English. This was a notable achievement in itself since the folktales, collected from peasant children and adults, were recorded in various dialect forms. Her material was augmented by a collection of folktales assembled by the Albanian Ministry of Education, gathered from school teachers throughout Albania, probably some time in the late 1920s.
With the exception of sixteen minor folktales that appeared as an appendix to her book “Këndime Englisht-Shqip or Albanian-English Reader” (1931), Margaret Hasluck’s vast folktale material remained alas unpublished up to now. It is by far the largest collection of Albanian folktales ever translated into English.