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Introduction To Notes

from Europa's Fairy Book





Ever since the Brothers Grimm in 1812 made for the first time a fairly
complete collection of the folk-tales of a definite local or national
area in Europe, the resemblance of many of these tales, not alone in
isolated incidents but in continuous plots, has struck inquirers into
these delightful little novels for children, as the Italians call them
(_Novelline_). Wilhelm Grimm, in the comparative notes which he added
to successive editions of the _Maehrchen_ up to 1859, drew attention to
many of these parallels and especially emphasized the resemblances of
different incidents to similar ones in the Teutonic myths and sagas
which he and his brother were investigating. Indeed it may be said
that the very considerable amount of attention that was paid to the
collection of folk tales throughout Europe for the half century
between 1840 and 1890 was due to the hope that they would throw some
light upon the origins of mythology. The stories and incidents common
to all the European field were thought likely to be original
mythopoeic productions of the Indo-European peoples just in the same
manner as the common roots of the various Aryan languages indicated
their original linguistic store.

In 1864 J. G. von Hahn, Austrian Consul for Eastern Greece, in the
introduction to his collection of Greek and Albanian folk tales, made
the first attempt to bring together in systematic form this common
story-store of Europe and gave an analysis of forty folk-tale and saga
"formulae," which outlined the plots of the stories found scattered
through the German, Greek, Italian, Servian, Roumanian, Lithuanian,
and Indian myth and folk-tale areas. These formulae were translated and
adapted by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould in an appendix to Henderson's
_Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of England_ (London, 1866), and he
expanded them into fifty-two formulae. Those were the days when Max
Mueller's solar and lunar explanations of myths were in the ascendant
and Mr. Baring-Gould applied his views to the explanation of folk
tales. I have myself expanded Hahn's and Baring-Gould's formulae into a
list of seventy-two given in the English Folk-Lore Society's
_Hand-Book of Folk-Lore_, London, 1891 (repeated in the second
edition, 1912).

Meanwhile the erudition of Theodor Benfey, in his introduction to the
Indian story book, _Pantschatantra_ (Leipzig, 1859), had suggested
another explanation of the similarities of European folk-tales. For
many of the incidents and several of the complete tales Benfey showed
Indian parallels, and suggested that the stories had originated in
India and had been transferred by oral tradition to the different
countries of Europe. This entirely undermined the mythological
theories of the Grimms and Max Mueller and considerably reduced the
importance of folk tales as throwing light upon the primitive
psychology of the Aryan peoples. Benfey's researches were followed up
by E. Cosquin who, in the elaborate notes to his _Contes de Lorraine_,
Paris, 1886, largely increased the evidence both for the common
European popularity of many of the tales and incidents as well as for
the parallels to be found in Oriental collections.

Still a third theory to account for the similarity of folk-tale
incidents was started by James A. Farrer and elaborated by Andrew Lang
in connection with the general movement initiated by Sir Edward Tylor
to explain mythology and superstition by the similar processes of
savage psychology at definite stages of primitive culture. In
introductions to Perrault and Grimm and elsewhere, Andrew Lang
pointed out the similarity of some of the incidents of folk
tales--speaking of animals, transference of human feeling to inanimate
objects and the like--with the mental processes of contemporary
savages. He drew the conclusion that the original composers of fairy
tales were themselves in a savage state of mind and, by inference,
explained the similarities found in folk tales as due to the
similarity of the states of minds. In a rather elaborate controversy
on the subject between Mr. Lang and myself, carried through the
transactions of the Folk-Lore Congress of 1891, the introduction to
Miss Roalfe Cox's "Cinderella," and in various numbers of "Folk-Lore,"
I urged the improbability of this explanation as applied to the
_plots_ of fairy tales. Similar states of mind might account for
similar incidents arising in different areas independently, but not
for whole series of incidents artistically woven together to form a
definite plot which must, I contended, arise in a single artist mind.
The similarities in plot would thus be simply due to borrowing from
one nation to another, though incidents or series of incidents might
be inserted or omitted during the process. Mr. Lang ultimately yielded
this point and indeed insisted that he had never denied the
possibility of the transmission of complete folk-tale formulae from one
nation and language to another.

During all this discussion as to the causes of the similarity of
folk-tale plots no attempt has been made to reconstitute any of these
formulae in their original shape. Inquirers have been content to point
out the parallelisms to be found in the various folk-tale collections,
and of course these parallelisms have bred and mustered with the
growth of the collections. In some cases the parallels have run into
the hundreds. (See "Reynard and Bruin.") In only one case have
practically all the parallels been brought together in a single volume
by Miss Roalfe Cox on Cinderella (Folk-Lore Society Publication for
1893; see notes on "Cinder-Maid"). These variants of incidents
obviously resemble the _variae lectiones_ of MSS. and naturally suggest
the possibility of getting what may be termed the original readings.
In 1889 the following suggestion was made by Mr. (now Sir) James G.
Frazer in an essay on the "Language of Animals," in the _Archaeological
Review_, i., p. 84:

"In the case of authors who wrote before the invention of printing,
scholars are familiar with the process of comparing the various MSS.
of a single work in order from such a comparison to reconstruct the
archetype or original MS., from which the various existing MSS. are
derived. Similarly in Folk-Lore, by comparing the different versions
of a single tale, it may be possible to arrive, with tolerable
certainty, at the original story, of which the different versions are
more or less imperfect and incorrect representations."

Independently of Sir James Frazer's suggestion, which I have only
recently come across, I have endeavoured in the present book to carry
it out as applied to a considerable number of the common formulas of
European folk-tales, and I hope in a succeeding volume to complete the
task and thus give to the students of the folk-tale as close approach
as possible to the original form of the common folk-tales of Europe as
the materials at our disposal permit.

My procedure has been entirely similar to that of an editor of a text.
Having collected together all the variants, I have reduced them to
families of types and from these families have conjectured the
original concatenation of incidents into plot. I have assumed that the
original teller of the tale was animated by the same artistic logic as
the contemporary writers of _Contes_ (see notes on "Cinder-Maid,"
"Language of Animals"), and have thus occasionally introduced an
incident which seemed vital to the plot, though it occurs only in some
of the families of the variants. My procedure can only be justified by
the success of my versions and their internal coherence. As regards
the actual form of the narrative, this does not profess to be European
but follows the general style of the English fairy tale, of which I
have published two collections (_English Fairy Tales_, 1890; _More
English Fairy Tales_, 1894).

In the following notes I have not wasted space on proving the European
character of the various tales by enumerating the different variants,
being content for the most part to give references to special
discussions of the story where the requisite bibliography is given.
With the more serious tales I have rather concerned myself with trying
to restore the original formula and to establish its artistic
coherence. Though I have occasionally discussed an incident of
primitive character, I have not made a point of drawing attention to
savage parallels, nor again have I systematically given references to
the appearance of whole tales or separate incidents in mediaeval
literature or in the Indian collections. For the time being I have
concentrated myself on the task of getting back as near as possible to
the original form of the fairy tales common to all Europe. Only when
that has been done satisfactorily can we begin to argue as to the
causes or origin of the separate items in these originals. It must, of
course, always be remembered that, outside this common nucleus, each
country or linguistic area has its own story-store, which is equally
deserving of special investigation by the serious student of the
folk-tale. I have myself dealt with some of these non-European or
national folk-tales for the English, Celtic and Indian areas and hope
in the near future to treat of other folk-tale districts, like the
French, the Scandinavian, the Teutonic or the Slavonian.

I had gone through three-quarters of the tales and notes contained in

the present book before I became acquainted with the modestly named
_Anmerkungen zu Grimm's Maehrchen_, 2 vols., 1913-15, by J. Bolte and
E. Polivka. This is one of those works of colossal erudition of which
German savants alone seem to have the secret. It sums up the enormous
amount of research that has been going on in Europe for the last
hundred years, on the parallelism and provenance of the folk-tales of
Europe, and in a measure does for all the Grimm stories what Miss
Roalfe Cox did for Cinderella. Only two volumes have as yet appeared
dealing with the first 120 numbers of the Grimm collection in over a
thousand pages crammed with references and filled with details as to
variants. The book has obviously been planned and worked out by Dr.
Bolte, who had previously edited the collected works of his chief
predecessor, R. Koehler. Dr. Polivka's contribution mainly consists in
the collection and collation of the Slavonic variants, which are here
made accessible for the first time. I therefore refer to the volume
henceforth by Dr. Bolte's name. The book is indispensable for the
serious students of the folk-tale, and would have saved me an immense
amount of trouble if I had become acquainted with it earlier.

In thirty-eight or nearly a third of the tales Dr. Bolte gives a
formula, or radicle, summing up the "common form" of the story, and I
am happy to find that in those cases, which occur in the early part of
the present volume, my own formulae, agree with his, though of course
for the purposes of this book I have had to go into more detail. Dr.
Bolte has not as yet expounded any theory of the origin of the Folk
Tale, but, with true scientific caution, judges each case on its
merits. But his whole treatment assumes the organic unity of each
particular formula, and one cannot conceive him regarding the
similarities of the tales as due to similar mental workings of the
folk mind at a particular stage of social development.

Finally, I should perhaps explain that in my selection of typical
folk-tales for the present volume, I have included not only those
which could possibly be traced back to real primitive times and mental
conditions, like the "Cupid and Psyche" formula, but others of more
recent date and composition, provided they have spread throughout
Europe, which is my criterion. For instance "Beauty and the Beast" in
its current shape was composed in the eighteenth century, but has
found its place in the story-store of European children. A couple,
like "Androcles and the Lion" and "Day Dreaming," owe a similar spread
to literary communication even though in the latter case it is the
popular literature of the _Arabian Nights_. These must be regarded as
specimens only of a large class of stories that are found among the
folk and can be traced in the popular mediaeval collections like
Alfonsi's _Disciplina-Clericalis_ or Jacques de Vitry's _Exempla_, not
to speak of the _Fables of Bidpai_ or _The Seven Wise Masters of
Rome_. These form quite a class by themselves and though they have
come to be in many cases Folk-Lore of European spread, they differ in
quality from the ordinary folk-tale which is characterized by its
tendency to variation as it passes from mouth to mouth. Still one has
to recognize that they are now European and take their place among the
folk and for that reason I have given a couple of specimens of them,
but of course my main attention has been directed to attempting to
reconstruct the original form of the true folk-tale from the
innumerable variants now current among the folk.





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