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are, like the Christmas Pantomime, ostensibly brought forth to tickle the palate of the young, but are often received with as keen an appetite by those of graver years. There is, moreover, a debt of gratitude due to these ancient friends and comforters. They have been the revivers of drowsy age at midnight; old and young have with such tales chimed mattins till the cock crew in the morning; batchelors and maides have compassed the Christmas fireblock till the curfew bell rang candle out: the old shepheard and the young plow-boy, after their daye's labor, have carold out the same to make them merrye with ; and who but they have made long nightes seem short, and heavy toyles easie ?”
Much might be urged against that too rigid and philosophic (we may rather say, unphilosophic) exclusion of works of fancy and fiction from the libraries of children, which is advocated by some. Our imagination is surely as susceptible of improvement by exercise as our judgment or our memory; and so long as such fictions only are presented to the young mind as do not interfere with the important department of moral education, there can surely be no objection to the pleasurable employment of a faculty in which so much of our happiness in every period of life consists.
But the amusement of the hour was not the Translators' only object. The rich collection from which the following tales are selected is very interesting in a literary point of view, as affording a new proof of the wide and early diffusion of these gay creations of the imagination; apparently flowing from some great and mysterious fountain-head, whence Calmuck, Russian, Celt, Scandinavian, and German, in their various ramifications, have imbibed their earliest lessons of moral instruction.
It is probably owing principally to accidental causes that some countries have carefully preserved their ancient stores of fiction, while they have been suffered, in England, to pass to oblivion or corruption, notwithstanding the patriotic example of a few such names as Hearne, Spelman, and Le Neve; who did not disdain to turn towards them the light of their carefully-trimmed lamp, scanty and ill-furnished as it often was
A very interesting and ingenious article in
the “Quarterly Review” (No. XLI.), to which the Translators readily acknowledge their particular obligations, first revived attention to the subject, and showed how wide a field lay open, interesting to the antiquarian as well as to the reader who only seeks amusement.
Since that period, and especially since the appearance of the Translators' first publication, the subject has been actively enough investigated. Mr. Keightley, in his "Fairy Mythology" and his " Tales and Popular Fictions, has pretty well exhausted the subject, and has elevated it into a branch of literary science, from which probably the public will be glad to turn to the practical and more amusing form in which the stories themselves elucidate their own nature and history.
The collection from which the following Tales are mainly taken is one of great extent, obtained for the most part by MM. Grimm from the mouths of German peasants. The result of their labours ought to be peculiarly interesting to English readers, inasmuch as many of their national tales are proved to be of the highest northern antiquity, and common to the parallel classes of society in countries whose populations have been long and widely disjoined Strange to say, “Jack, commonly called the Giant-killer, and Thomas Thumb," as the Quarterly Reviewer observes,
landed in England from the very same hulls and warships which conveyed Hengist and Horsa, and Ebba the Saxon." The Cat, whose identity and London citizenship, in the story of Whittington, appeared so certain ; Tom Thumb, whose parentage Hearne had traced ; and the Giant-destroyer of Tylney, are equally renowned among the humblest inhabitants of Munster and Paderborn.
The connexion between the popular tales of remote and unconnected regions is very remarkable, in the richest collection of this sort of narrative which any country can boast-disguised as it is under a bombastic and almost un. readable style--we mean the “ Pentamerone, overo Trattenemiento de li Piccerille,”—“Fun for the Little Ones,"published by Giov. Battista Basile, early in the 17th century, as compiled from the stories current among the Nea. politans. It is singular that the German and the Neapolitan
tales (though the latter were till lately quite unknown to foreigners, and never, we believe, translated), bear the strongest and most minute resemblances. The elements of some of “The Nights [Notti piacevoli] of Straparola were published first in 1550 ; but in the latter collection this class of fictions occupies apparently only an accidental station, the bulk of his tales being of the Italian School of Novelle. The Pentamerone seems drawn from original sources, and was probably compiled without any knowledge of Straparola, although the latter is earlier in date. The two works have only four pieces in common. The French “ Contes des Fées” have many points in common with the Pentamerone and the German Stories.
The nature and immediate design of the present publication exclude the introduction of some of those stories which would, in a literary point of view, be most curious. With a view to variety, the Translators have rather avoided than selected those, the leading incidents of which are already familiar to the English reader; and have therefore often deprived themselves of the interest which comparison would afford. There were also many stories of great merit, and tending highly to the elucidation of ancient mythology, customs, and opinions, which the fastidiousness of modern taste, especially in works likely to attract the attention of youth, warned them to pass by. In those tales which they have selected they have occasionally made variations which divers considerations dictated. They have, however, generally noticed these variations, when they are substantial, in the Notes ; but, in most cases, the alteration consists merely in the curtailment of adventures or details, not affecting the main plot or character of the story ; or amounts to little more than the license necessarily taken in recounting a popular story, according to the humour of the reciter.
A few Notes are added, but the Translators trust it will always be borne in mind that their little work makes no literary pretensions ; that its immediate design precludes several of the subjects which would be most attractive to many as matters of research ; that professedly critical dissertations would therefore be out of place; and that such subjects have, as before observed, been abundantly eluci. dated in works professedly directed to that object.
With regard to style, the Translators have been anxious to adopt that which they have ever found, by experience, most suitable to the class of readers whose tastes and capacities they had mainly in view ; and, indeed, that which appears in every respect best adapted to the subjectnamely, the purely English elements of our language. From these they have very rarely, and only under the pressure of almost absolute necessity, departed.
Our GAMMER GRETHEL, the supposed narrator of the stories, in fact lived, though under a different name. She was the Frau Viehmännin, the wife of a peasant in the neighbourhood of Hesse-Cassel, and from her mouth a great portion of the stories were written down by MM. Grimm. She died not long after MM. Grimm's first publication, her family having suffered much in the latter part of the last French war. M. Ludwig Grimm himself sketched her intelligent and characteristic features for the frontispiece to a later edition of his brother's collection ; and we, with great satisfaction, place a copy of it at the head of this volume. His designs, also, form the bases of our illustrations of ROSE-BUD, THE GOOSE-GIRL (tailpiece), SNOWDROP, and HANSEL AND GRETHEL. Most of the others are from the old designs of Geo. Cruikshank; the whole being now engraved on wood by Byfield.
On, the happy, happy scanon,
But the fays and all are gone,