Some--as Benfey in Germany, M. Cosquin in France, and Mr.
Clouston in England--have declared that India is the Home of the Fairy Tale, and that all European fairy tales have been brought from thence by Crusaders, by Mongol missionaries, by Gipsies, by Jews, by traders, by travellers. The question is still before the courts, and one can only deal with it as an advocate.
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So far as my instructions go, I should be prepared, within certain limits, to hold a brief for India. So far as the children of Europe have their fairy stories in common, these--and they form more than a third of the whole--are derived from India. In particular, the majority of the Drolls or comic tales and jingles can be traced, without much difficulty, back to the Indian peninsula.
Certainly there is abundant evidence of the early transmission by literary means of a considerable number of drolls and folk-tales from India about the time of the Crusaders. The collections known in Europe by the titles of The Fables of Bidpai, The Seven Wise Masters, Gesta Romanorum, and Barlaam and Josaphat, were extremely popular during the Middle Ages, and their contents passed on the one hand into the Exempla of the monkish preachers, and on the other into the Novelle of Italy, thence, after many days, to contribute their quota to the Elizabethan Drama.
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Perhaps nearly one tenth of the main incidents of European folk-tales can be traced to this source. There are even indications of an earlier literary contact between Europe and India, in the case of one branch of the folk-tale, the Fable or Beast Droll. In a somewhat elaborate discussion ["History of the Aesopic Fable," the introductory volume to my edition of Caxton's Fables of Esope London, Nutt, ] I have come to the conclusion that a goodly number of the fables that pass under the name of the Samian slave, Aesop, were derived from India, probably from the same source whence the same tales were utilised in the Jatakas, or Birth-stories of Buddha.
These Jatakas contain a large quantity of genuine early Indian folk-tales, and form the earliest collection of folk-tales in the world, a sort of Indian Grimm, collected more than two thousand years before the good German brothers went on their quest among the folk with such delightful results.
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For this reason I have included a considerable number of them in this volume; and shall be surprised if tales that have roused the laughter and wonder of pious Buddhists for the last two thousand years, cannot produce the same effect on English children. The Jatakas have been fortunate in their English translators, who render with vigour and point; and I rejoice in being able to publish the translation of two new Jatakas, kindly done into English for this volume by Mr. Rouse, of Christ's College, Cambridge.
For it is only about twenty-five years ago that Miss Frere began the modern collection of Indian folk-tales with her charming, "Old Deccan Days" London, John Murray, ; fourth edition, Her example has been followed by Miss Stokes, by Mrs. Knowles and Mr.
Larminie and Mr. Eliot Stock for permission to include that fine tale "Morraha" from the former's " West Irish Folk-tales ," the chief addition to the Celtic store since the appearance of my last volume. I have again to thank Dr. Hyde for permission to use another tale from his delightful collection.
Curtin has been good enough to place at my disposal another of the tales collected by him in Connaught, and my colleague, Mr. Duncan, has translated for me a droll from the Erse. Above all, I have to thank Mr.
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Alfred Nutt for constant supervision over my selection and over my comments upon it. Nutt, by his own researches, and by the encouragement and aid he has given to the researches of others on Celtic folk-lore, has done much to replace the otherwise irreparable loss of Campbell. For the "English" folk-lore district I have attempted to do what the brothers Grimm did for Germany, so far as that was possible at this late day.
But for the Celtic area I can claim no such high function; here the materials are so rich that it would tax the resources of a whole clan of Grimms to exhaust the field, and those Celtic Grimms must be Celts themselves, or at any rate fully familiar with the Gaelic. Here then is a task for the newly revived local patriotism of Ireland and the Highlands. I have done little more than spy the land, and bring back some specimen bunches from the Celtic vine.
It must be for others, Celts themselves, to enter in and possess the promised land. For Nos. This work was published before January 1, , and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least years ago. Contents For Nos. Full-page Illustration.
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