Introduction To Notes

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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