Hayden's Ferry Review


Foreign Tongues: Faroese

HFR publishes contributors from all over the world, in languages and from places that some people (we're not pointing fingers) have never heard of. This recurring post Foreign Tongues will give you a little culture and a little history, a way to better understand the background behind some not-so-familiar peoples and languages.

Jørgen-Frantz Jacobsen was a Scandinavian writer. He is from one of the islands close to Iceland. I researched him because of the post I did on Iceland. He is not in Hayden's Ferry Review but his work has been around for a while now. He wrote a single novel titled Barbara: Roman before he died at the age of 37 (he was sick a lot). He is also one of only five writers born between 1900 and 1903 who represent literature from a country that had no recognized prior literary tradition. The country is the Faroe Islands and the language is Faroese. Jacobsen is internationally known although most of his notoriety came after his death. His novel Barbara:Roman was even made into a movie in 1997 nearly sixty years after his death. Barbara:Roman is a story about a minister who falls in love with a sexually promiscuous woman, marries her, and all the drama that is involved with marrying a promiscuous woman. I love it.

Faroese is a language spoken by about 73,000 people in the world. Most of the people who speak the language live in the Faroe Islands. It is an Indo-European language directly descended from the Old West Norse language, with Icelandic being its closest relative. Like many languages that are spoken by a minority people in the world, Faroese was abolished--by the Danes after the Reformation in 1536. The Danes banned its use in schools, churches, and official documents.

The Faroe Islands are wreathed in mystery; it is unknown when the Faroese people came to the islands. There is a great deal of speculation that some of the people came to the islands due to persecution from Norway and Denmark. Others speculate that they are of Celtic decent and moved due to proximity. According to scientific evidence that traced the Faroe Islanders' DNA, the Faroese are half Scandinavian and half Scots/Irish.