Saturday, September 05, 2009

Edda, Jetta, and Hans

I devoted a large chunk of my afternoon watching Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairy Tale on a commercial television channel that managed to infuse this nearly three-hour-long movie with three more hours of commercials. It was painful to wait between segments, but, being a long time devotee of Andersen, I pressed on. I enjoyed the film a great deal, and I particularly appreciated the way the film was written, even though most of the film's plot was indeed a fairy tale. Terri Windling's article about Andersen's life will help anyone separate fact from pure fiction, or fairy tale.

The film's writer was able to mold the story of "The Snow Queen" to fit the needs of the film's plot, and he was also able to make Jenny Lind a central dramatic character. I was rather impressed with the fictional character of "Jetta," (the woman with the dark hair in the above film clip) who served as the third member of a love triangle with Jenny Lind. I wonder if Kit Hesketh-Harvey, the film's writer, gave the Jetta (pronounced "Yetta") character her name because of the Edda, the source from which Andersen might have drawn some of the mythic material he used in his stories.

In my Snow Queen opera, published in 2003, two years after this film was made, by the way, I gave the grandmother character in the story the name Edda. I knew about the name because my step-grandmother was named Etta (pronounced "Edda") and it seemed perfectly appropriate, almost serendipitous to give her that name. The Edda-Jetta connection here, if it is one made from the folkloric connection, is also serendipitous. In searching (in vain) for a way of contacting the screenwriter, I learned that we share the same birthday. Triple serendipity.


Maria Ljungdahl said...

I believe Jetta- with an A - is not uncommon as a first name in Denmark and maybe Germany. Surely the form Jette - with an E - is common! Can't think that it has anything to do with the icelandic Edda literature.

Maybe Jette, Jytte, Jetta, Gitta and Gitte are regional versions of Birgitta and Bridget or perhaps Judy or Judith? Just a guess.

Anonymous said...

The Danish variant is likely Jytta, akin to Judit/Judith. The name is not common in Denmark, and is unknown to me in Germany.