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The History of Fairy Tales. Sacred Texts. CHAPTER IVTHE HISTORY OF FAIRY TALES The gods of ancient mythology were changed into the demi- gods and heroes of ancient poetry, and these demi- gods again became, at a later age, the principal characters of our nursery tales.- -MAX MULLER Stories originally told tbout the characters of savage tales, were finally attracted into the legends of the gods of ancient mythology, or were attributed to demi- gods and heroes.- -ANDREW LANG. I. THE ORIGIN OF FAIRY TALES Now that we have indicated the worth of fairy tales, have observed those principles which should guide the teacher in choosing and in interpreting a tale, and have stated those rules which should govern the story- teller in the telling of the tale, we may well ask a few further questions concerning the nature of these fairy tales. What is a fairy tale and whence did it come, and how are we to find its beginning? Having found it, how are we to follow it down through the ages?
How shall it be classed, what are the available types which seek to include it and show its nature? And lastly, what are the books which are to be the main practical sources of fairy tales for the teacher of little children? The remaining pages attempt to give Some help to the teacher who wishes to increase her resources with an intelligent knowledge of the material she is handling. Chesterton has said: . A legend is a fairy tale told to men when men were sane. The Myth proper and the Fable are both excluded here, while the pourquois tale, a myth development, and the Beast tale, a short- story fable development, are both included. The various forms of the root were: -- Latin .
Fairy represented: -- (1) Illusion, or enchantment. After the appearance of Spenser's Faerie Queene distinctions became confused, and the name of the real fairies was transferred to . Fairies were identified with nymphs and elves. Shakespeare was the principal means of effecting this revolution, and in his Midsummer Night's Dream he has incorporated, most of the fairy lore known in England at his time. But the tales are older than their name. What has been discovered resolves itself mainly into four different origins of fairy tales: -- 1.
Fairy tales are detritus of myth, surviving echoes of gods and heroes Against this theory it may be said that, when popular tales have incidents similar to Greek heroic myths, the tales are not detritus of myth, but both have a more ancient tale as their original source. There was: -- (1) A popular tale which reflected the condition of a rude people, a tale full of the monstrous and the miraculous. A local and historical character was given by the introduction of known places and native heroes. Tone and manners were refined by literary workmanship, in the Rig Veda, the Persian King- book, the Homeric Epics, ctc. The origin is in the fancy of a primitive people, the survival is through Marchen of peasantry, and the transfiguration into epics is by literary artists. Therefore, one and the same tale may be the source of Perrault's Sleeping Beauty, also of a Greek myth, and also of an old tale of illiterate peasantry.
This was the opinion held by Lang, who said, . We gain an idea of the savage mind through Leviticus, in the Bible, through Herodotus, Greek and Roman geographers, Aristotle, Plutarch, Pliny, etc., through voyagers, missionaries, and travelers, and through present savage peoples.
Savage existence is based on two great institutions: -- (a) The division of society into clans.- -Marriage laws depend on the conception that these clans descend from certain plants, animals, or inorganic objects. There was the belief in human descent from animals and kinship and personal intercourse with them. The leading ideas of savage peoples have already been referred to in the list of motifs which appear- in the different fairy tales, as given by Lang, mentioned under the .
Fairy tales are myths of Sun, Dawn, Thunder, Rain, etc. They were the poetic fancies of light and dark, cloud and rain, day and night; and underneath them were the same fanciful meanings. These became changed by time, circumstances in different countries, and the fancy of the tellers, so that they became sunny and many- colored in the South, sterner and wilder in the North, and more home- like in the Middle and West.
To the Bushmen the wind was a bird, and to the Egyptian fire was a living beast. Even The Song of Six- Pence has been explained as a nature- myth, the pie being the earth and sky, the birds the twenty- four hours, the king the sun, the queen the moon, and the opening of the pie, daybreak. Andrew Lang tells how Kephalos the sun loved Prokris the dew, and slew her by his arrows. Then when the first meaning of the names for sun, dew, and rays was lost, Kephalos, a shepherd, loved Prokris, a nymph, and we have a second tale which, by a folk- etymology, became the Story of Apollo, the Wolf. Tales were told of the sun under his frog name; later people forgot that frog meant .
But all scholars agree that some tales are evidently myths of sun and dawn. If we examine the natural history of savages, we do find summer feasts, winter feasts, rituals of sorrow for the going of summer and of rejoicing for its return, anxious interest in the sun, interest in the motion of the heavenly bodies, the custom of naming men and women from the phenomena of nature, and interest in making love, making war, making fun, and making dinner. Fairy tales all arose in India, they are part of the common Aryan heritage and are to be traced by the remains of their language They were first written in the Vedas, the sacred Sanskrit books of Buddhism.
This theory is somewhat allied to the Sun- Myth Theory. This theory was followed by Max Muller and by Sir George Cox. Old tales were current in Egypt, 2. B. C., and were brought from there by Crusaders, Mongol missionaries, the Hebrews, and Gypsies. And Jacobs says that at least one- third of all the stories common to the children of Europe are derived from India, and by far the majority of the drolls. He also says that generally, so far as incidents are marvelous and of true fairy- like character, India is the probable source, because of the vitality of animism and transformation in India in all time.
Moreover, as a people, the Hindus had spread among their numbers enough literary training and mental grip to invent plots. According to Sir George Dasent, . They became the Greeks, the Latins, the Teutons, the Celts, and the Slavonians. The Aryans who stayed at home, remained to reflect, and were distinguished by their power of thought. They became a nation of philosophers and gave to the world the Sanskrit language as the basis of comparative philology. Dasent shows how legends, such as the Story of William Tell and Dog Gellert, which have appeared in many Aryan peoples were common in germ to the Aryan tribes before migration.
Joseph Jacobs has more recently settled the travels of Gellert, tracing its literary route from the Indian Vinaya Pitaka, through the Fables of Bidpai, Sindibad, Seven Sages of Rome, Gesta Romanorum, and the Welsh Fables of Cottwg, until the legend became localized in Wales. Fairy tales owe their origin to the identity of early fancy Just as an individual, after thinking along certain lines, is surprised to come upon the exact sequence of his thought in a book he had never seen, so primitive peoples in remote parts of the world, up against similar situations, would express experience in tales containing similar motifs. A limited set of experiences was presented to the inventive faculty, and the limited combinations possible would result in similar combinations. The Aryan Jackal, the Mediaeval Reynard, the Southern Brer Rabbit, and the Weasel of Africa, are near relations. THE TRANSMISSION OF FAIRY TALES Oral transmission.
The tale, having originated, may have been transmitted in many ways: by women compelled to marry into alien tribes; by slaves from Africa to America; by soldiers returning from the Crusades; by pilgrims returning from the Holy Land or from Mecca; by knights gathering at tournaments; by sailors and travelers; and by commercial exchange between southern Europe and the East- -Venice trading with Egypt and Spain with Syria. Ancient tales of Persia spread along the Mediterranean shores. In this way the Moors of Spain learned many a tale which they transmitted to the French. Jack the Giant Killer and Thomas Thumb, according to Sir Walter Scott, landed in England from the very same keels and warships which conveyed Hengist and Horsa and Ebba the Saxon. A recent report of the Bureau of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution of the United States expressed the opinion that the Uncle Remus Tales have an Indian origin.
Slaves had associated with Indian tribes such as the Cherokees, and had heard the story of the Rabbit who was so clever that no one could fool him. Gradually the Southern negroes had adopted the Indian tales and changed them. Joseph Jacobs claims to have found the original of the . A tale, once having originated, could travel as easily as the wind. Certainly a good type when once hit upon was diffused widely. Sir Walter Scott has said: . The mythology of one period would then appear to pass into the romance of the next century, and that into the nursery tales of subsequent ages.
Such an investigation would show that these fictions, however wild and childish, possess such charms for the populace as to enable them to penetrate into countries unconnected by manners and language, and having no apparent intercourse to afford the means of transmission. Selecting Jack the Giant- Killer, he has shown that it is the same tale as Grimm's The Brave Tailor, and Thor's Journey to Utgard in the Scandinavian Edda. Similar motifs occur also in a Persian tale, Ameen of Isfahan and the Ghool, and in the Goat and the Lion, a tale from the Panchatantra.