IN fulfilment of the Rash Vow of Folk-lore, I offer a few words on Miss Cox's collection of Cinderella stories. On the first view of her learned and elaborate work I was horrified at the sight of these skeletons of the talc. It was as if one had a glimpse into the place where Hop o' my Thumb's Giant kept the bones of his little victims. Dry bones of child-like and charming tales are these, a place of many skulls. But science needs horrors of this kind, it seems, and I have wandered in Miss Cox's collection with admiration of her industry and method, with some despair, too, as to the possibility of ever tracing the Cinderella type to its origin and home. However, a rash vow must be kept, and an Introduction must be written, though "good wine needs no bush", and I conceive that Miss Cox, who knows so much about Cinderella, would do what is needful better than I, who only know a few Cinderellas familiarly and well.
The fundamental idea of Cinderella, I suppose, is this a person in a mean or obscure position, by means of supernatural assistance, makes a good marriage. This, of course, is the fundamental idea of Puss in Boots. In the former tale the person is usually a girl, in the latter a man. In both tales the supernatural aid, always in Puss in Boots, often in Cinderella, is given by a beast. Granting the existence of this idea, almost any incidents out of the treasure of popular fancy may be employed to enrich and complicate the plot. Taking Perrault's literary version as the normal type, the incidents are those of the Unkind Stepmother, the Jealous Sisters, the recognition of the heroine by her shoe,-- and the hostile persons may be forgiven or punished, according to the taste and fancy of the narrator. Now the cruel stepmother, the competitive sisters, arrange themselves round other central ideas of märchen, as round that of the bride who loses her lord by breaking a nuptial taboo--for example, in Cupid and Psyche. In that class of tales they may be forgiven; or we may have the "Villain Nemesis"; that is, they may be punished. Again, another popular incident may be introduced, a bird may reveal the secret! But this, too, is not peculiar to Cinderella; it occurs in all sorts of plots: the revealing animals are wood-worms in a märchen which survives in a scholion to the Iliad. Once more, the shoe need riot bring about the recognition: that may be done by a ring, or a lock of hair, or otherwise. As far as I can see, the number of possible combinations resulting in a story recognisably similar to Cinderella are infinite. Now, I would only regard such stories as necessarily borrowed, or transmitted, when the chain and sequence of incidents keeps close to a given-type; we may choose Perrault's as merely by way of illustration. Given a widower, his daughter, his second wife, her daughters, ill-treatment of his daughter, her supernatural aid to social successes, her disappearance, and recognition by lock of hair, ring, or shoe--given all these, in their sequence, and we have borrowing or transmission of a tale, as far as we can reason on chances of possible coincidence. Make the giver of supernatural aid a beast, bequeathed by a dead mother, or that dead mother in a new animal form, and we have a more archaic shape, but still the same tale, the same plot, probably the same original narrative. Dead mother as beast seems most archaic, see the last variant (p. 534); then beast bequeathed by dead mother; then fairy godmother.
While this plot and sequence is adhered to, we seem to see one original combination in different guises. Granting this much, if we want to go further, and look for the cradle of the story, whence it was originally diffused, we take up Miss Cox's book. Let us adopt the hypothesis, to please M. Cosquin, that India is the fountain of these narratives. We look up India on p. xxxi, and find that the tale occurs in Bombay, Madras, and Salsette. In the first and last the tale is in form A. "ill-treated heroine; recognition by means of shoe." In the case of Bombay, as far as the summary shows (p. 11), it is very normal. The heroine is aided by a cow: a cock is the bird-witness: a shoe helps the recognition: the foes are punished. Which of the ideas is peculiarly Indian?
Then (p. 91) we have the "indeterminate" form of Madras. It begins with a girl whose lips drop gems (Les Fees in Perrault). Her life is in a necklace. (Separable Life: familiar everywhere, as in ancient Egypt, Maspero, Contes Egyptiens.) Lost shoe, as in Rhodopis, in Herodotus. Owner found, then jealousy of prince's first wife, and no more of Cinderella here, but plenty of other popular incidents. The third case is not more valuable for our purpose.
If India preserves no more than this, why are we to look for the origin of the story in India? The shoe occurs in Annam (p. 28) absolutely involved in a mass of other données, some familiar in Cupid and Psyche, some in all tales of Grateful Beasts; the Revenge is that of Thyestes, and of Gudrun on Atli. Armenia (p. 4) mixes up "Little Brother and Little Sister" (Grimm) with a mass of casual incidents, as of heroine inside fish; the story is a hotch-potch of story formulae. The other Asiatic versions are of the Peau d'Ane variety. If India be the centre, why have we so few Indian examples; why, in lands relatively near India, is the tale so corrupted from the type which we have chosen; how do we know that the tale was not carried into India?
If we look at Europe, there is always the chance that a book so popular as Perrault's suggested the form which the tale has taken. Our only standard, as far as I can see, is archaism, the presence of elements more barbaric than Perrault offers. Such elements re unlikely to have been added to Perrault; more probably he, or earlier French taste, discarded them. In 3 (p. 2), from the Riviera, we see Perrault's Fairy Godmother mixed up with a more archaic form in a foolish way: perhaps there is here an infusion from the literary version.
One method we might use, we might examine the tale in the form which it assumes among the most primitive peoples. From America Miss Cox only cites examples of Brazil, Chili, and the West Indies: in all of which European importation is probable or certain. I confess that I see little hope of light from savage lands, unless we can find a race so remote and untouched by Europe that it can hardly have borrowed, or unless we discover märchen recorded by old travellers and missionaries. I have cited a few in various works on the topic. The Zulus can scarcely have imported their large store of märchen recently, but these may have filtered south from old Egypt, or through the Arabs or other builders of the cities in Mashonaland. The cases of Samoa and the Huarochiris seem the most singular; the märchen have long been part of the national divine and heroic myths. Among forms frond remote peoples, Miss Cox only gives the Kaffir "Wonderful Horns". Here, with a boy for hero, we have elements of "The Black Bull of Norroway": the Cinderella feature is the winning of a marriage by help of a costly mantle and ornaments magically provided. I do not believe this tale to be of recent importation.
One thing is plain, a naked and shoeless race could not have invented Cinderella. Beyond this I cannot go. As far as the evidence proves, any incident or incidents of the common store may be interwoven in any sequence. But certain sequences have been the fittest, and have therefore survived. The sequence in Perrault has been among the fittest, and I can believe that this particular arrangement was invented once for all. But all the elements appear in other combinations. Jealous stepmother and sisters; magical aid by a beast; a marriage won by gifts magically provided; a bird revealing a secret; a recognition by aid of a ring, or shoe, or what not; a denouement of punishment; a happy marriage--all those things, which, in this sequence, make up Cinderella, may and do occur in an incalculable number of other combinations.
The märchen is a kaleidoscope: the incidents are the bits of coloured glass. Shaken, they fall into a variety of attractive forms; some forms are fitter than others, survive more powerfully, and are more widely spread. This is the limit of my theorising on the affirmative side. On the negative, I see no reason for expecting to find any centre of origin, and no evidence for India as that centre. On the anthropological side, I think that we find the origin of many incidents in the early mental habits of man kind, and of a few in early custom.
Being unable to throw any more light on Cinderella, I may take advantage of the opportunity to show what I think about Popular Tales, their origin and diffusion, as, from certain criticisms, my position seems not to be understood. This may be chiefly my fault, partly that of other antiquaries, who, I think, incline to credit me with notions which I do not entertain. These criticisms were expressed at the Folk-lore Congress of 1891, in papers which I was not fortunate enough to hear, and I have only now read them in the records of the Congress. The results at which I arrived, provisionally as it were, have been a good deal criticised, as by Mr. Jacobs and M. Cosquin, the author of the learned and valuable Contes de Lorraine.1 Perhaps I may now offer a few remarks on their criticisms. It is hardly worth while to answer a suggestion that I am indifferent to the literary merit of the tales, or ignorant of the constructive art which is sometimes, by no means always, displayed in the composition of Cinderella, for example. Ever since I could read, and long before I ever dreamed that fairy-tales might be a matter of curious discussion, those tales have been my delight. I heard them told by other children as a child, I even rescued one or two versions which seem to have died out of oral tradition in Lowland Scots; I con fess that I still have a child-like love of a fairy-story for its own sake; and I have done my best to circulate Fairy Books among children. Coming from childhood into the light of common day, I found certain theories of popular tales chiefly current. They were regarded as the detritus of Myths, the last echo of stories of Gods and Heroes, surviving among the people. These myths, again, were explained, by the schools of Schwartz, Kuhn, Max Muller, as myths either of storm, thunder, and lightning, or of the Sun and Dawn. Further, the myths, and also the tales, were believed to be essentially and exclusively Aryan, parts of the common Aryan heritage, brought from the cradle of the Aryan race. The solar and the elemental theories of the origin of myths, and of their detritus, popular tales, did not convince me. The linguistic processes by which words and phrases of forgotten meaning developed into the myths, did not seem to me to be satisfactory solutions. I observed that tales similar to the Aryan in incident and plot existed in non-Aryan countries--Africa, Samoa, New Guinea, North and Central America, Finland, among the Samoyeds, and so forth. As it was then denied that tales were lent and borrowed, from people to people, I looked for an explanation of the similarities. The same stories were not likely to be evolved among peoples who did, and peoples who did not, speak an Aryan language, if language misunderstood was the source of tales. I also reached the conclusion that, when similar incidents and plot occurred in a Greek heroic myth (say the Argonautic Legend or the Odyssey) and in popular tales current in Finland, Samoa, Zululand, the tales are not the detritus of the heroic myth, but the epic legend, as of Jason or Odysseus, is an artistic and literary modification of the more ancient tale. The characters of the tale are usually anonymous, and the places are vague and nameless. The characters of the epic are named, they are national heroes; the events are localised; they occur in Greece, Colchis, and so forth. So I concluded that the donnee was ancient and popular, the epic was comparatively recent and artistic. Next I observed that the tales generally contained, while the epics usually discarded, many barbaric incidents, such as cannibalism, magic, talking animals. Further, I perceived that the tales varied in "culture" with the civilisation of the people who told them. Among savages, say Bushmen, or in a higher grade Zulus, the characters were far more frequently animals than in European märchen. The Bushman girl who answers to Medea is not the daughter of a wizard king, but the wife of an elephant. The same peculiarity marks savage religious myths. The gods are beasts or birds. These facts led me to suppose that the tales were very ancient, and had been handed down, with a gradual refining, from ages of savagery to ages of civilisation. But the peasant class which retains the tales has been so conservative and unaltered, that many of the wilder features of the original tale (discarded in early artistic and national epic) linger on in märchen. Thus, in most peasant versions of the Cinderella theme, the wonder-working character is a beast, a sheep in Scot land; sometimes that beast has been the heroine's mother. In our usual Cinderella, derived from Perrault's version (1697), the wonder-working character is a fairy godmother. Thus I seemed to detect a process of genealogy like this:
Discovering an apparent process of refinement and elaboration, and behind that ideas very barbaric, I examined the more peculiar incidents of popular tales. Talking beasts are common, beasts acting as men are common: no less common, among savages, is the frame of mind in which practically no distinction is taken between gods, beasts, and men. The more barbaric the people, the more this lack of distinction marks their usages, ritual, myth, and tales. Of magic and cannibalism it is needless to speak. The more civilised the people, the less of these elements appears in their ritual, usage, and myth: most survives in their popular tales, and even in these it is gradually mitigated. My conclusion was that the tales dated from an age of savage fancy.
Lastly, I seemed to note, in European popular tales, some relics of ancient legal custom. The constant preference of the youngest child, boy or girl, might conceivably point to a time when the youngest child was the heir, as in Borough English a very wide spread custom. On this I would not now lay stress; another natural reason may suggest the favour always shown to Benjamin. Besides, in adventures, if there is to be accumulating interest, someone must fail; the elder sons would attempt the adventure first: consequently the youngest must be the successful hero. I have endeavoured to reverse the process in the History of Prince Prigio. On the other hand, I still incline to believe that the prohibitions on naming or seeing the bride, with the supernatural sanction of punishment for infringing the taboo, account for the central incidents in stories like Cupid and Psyche If this be admitted, it points to a very remote origin .of the tale, in an ancient stratum of custom, obsolete in Europe. This, in itself; is a curious little piece of human history. Again the setting of a man to do dangerous feats, before he can win his bride, is a matter of known custom. In heroic Greece, a bride was usually bought, as now among the Zulus, by a price of oxen. But a man might make the accomplishment of difficult feats the price of his daughter's hand; such feats are the winning of the oxen of Iphiclus, the sowing of the dragon's teeth. The result of all these considerations would be that tales were first told when the incidents in them, so astonishing to a civilised mind, were matters of ordinary belief and custom, when beasts might act like men, when there were nuptial taboos, when magic and cannibalism were prevalent. The incidents would no more startle people in fiction then, than a duel, a stolen child, a discovered will, startle novel-readers now. But, as Sainte-Beuve says, had we inherited no fairy-tales, and started to tell nursery-tales in full civilisation, the incidents of Puss in Boots would not have been invented.
That is all my theory: the tales are of immense antiquity, and date from a period of wild fancy, like that in which the more backward races are still or were yesterday.
I have disclaimed any theory about the original Home,
or the diffusion of the tales. I have frequently shown the many ways in
which a tale, once conceived, might be diffused or transmitted. It might
be carried by women, compelled, by the law of exogamy, to marry into an
alien group. It might be carried by slaves all across Africa, and, in
old times, to America. A slave of Javan might tell a Greek tale among
Ph or Assyrians. Soldiers of Alexander might carry them to Egypt. A viking
expedition of early Greeks in Egypt, such as Odysseus describes (Odyssey,
xiv, 262-275), might carry off an Egyptian captive with his tales, or
the Greek himself might he taken and sold, with his tales, into Libya.
Tales might come and go, north and south, with the amber on the Sacred
Way. How tales known in the old world could be carried to the Huarochiris,
subjects of the Incas, or to Samoa, and there get incrusted in the
sacred national myths, entirely puzzles me, nor can I very readily
see how a whole mass of our tales came to be diffused among Zulus and
Bushmen, Red Indians and Eskimo. But "anything might happen in the
great backward of time", as Aristotle says. I do not deny that such
On the other hand, I have frequently said that, given a similar state of taste and fancy, similar beliefs, similar circumstances, a similar tale might conceivably be independently evolved in regions remote from each other. We know that similar patterns, similar art (compare Aztec and Mycenaean pottery in the British Museum), have thus been independently evolved; so have similar cosmic myths, similar fables, similar riddles, similar proverbs, similar customs and institutions. Mr. Fraser's learned and copious work, The Golden Bough, is full of examples. All history is full of examples, and the Spanish missionaries met Baptism, Confession, and a ghastly Communion in Mexico. Is it impossible, then, that, out of similar materials, similar märchen might be independently evolved?
Here M. Cosquin says that, in certain cases at least,
it is impossible. He may be right, I am not indissolubly wedded to the
theory of possible independent evolution of stories akin let us say, to
Cupid and Psyche. As to that tale, and most others, M. Cosquin
claims for it an Indian origin. Now, I will grant, for the sake of argument,
that this, that, and the other tale may have an original home, was invented
once for all, and was diffused into all the regions where it is found.
But why is India to be that original home? Here I cannot agree with M.
Cosquin. I have shown, in minute detail, that no single incident, or custom,
or idea, in Cupid and Psyche, is peculiar to India. All are either
universally human, or incidental to a certain ancient state of society,
which has left traces everywhere. As M. Cosquin is well aware, our oldest
märchen in literary form are derived from an Egyptian
If M. Cosquin still holds that all these, with the ancient Egyptian story of Bitiou, came from India, it would be well for him to demonstrate the point by evidence. There is no trace of ancient Egyptian or ancient Greek acquaintance with India. I am not denying that the märchen of ancient Greece and Egypt may have come from India, in course of commerce and slave-dealing. But there is no evidence that East borrowed from West, or West from East. Stories must have spread both ways, later, in Alexander's conquest, and with Buddhist wanderers, and in commerce, the Crusades, Arab adaptations done into Latin, into French, and so on, but why should India be the original home of märchen? I have destroyed the theory that the ideas and customs are peculiarly Indian. I have shown that, if Puss in Boots was originally Indian, with a Buddhistic moral, gratitude to animals, that moral does not occur in the Indian form of Puss in Boots.5 Till M. Cosquin shows that the ancient Greek and Egyptian märchen originated in India, a country unknown to ancient Greece and Egypt, I fear I cannot be converted to his theory of India as the cradle of märchen.
M. Cosquin (International Congress, p. 68) takes a case. A girl is delivered to a drag and saved by the hero, who kills the monster. I am supposed to call the sacrifice of a girl to a beast, as an expiation, a "savage idea". Eh bien, I really cannot call it civilised! The west coast of Africa, where sharks do duty for dragons, is the only place where I remember the rite in actual practice. Garcilasso de la Vega mentions a similar custom in Peru. Given the rite, the rescue would be heroic. So far, the idea might be developed among any people who practise the rite. But what follows? The hero falls asleep as he waits for the monster; the girl tends his hair ("catches vermin in it", not a civilised attention, except in the case of Prince Charles in his Highland distresses), twines a ring in the hair, sees the monster approach, drops a hot tear which wakens the hero; the dragon cries, " Hullo, here's a pair of you!" This incident is found in the Greek isle of Syra, in a modern Nubian story, details and all, in Armenia; and the " burning tear" in Wallachian and Swedish.
Do I believe that the details have been independently developed in Syra, Nubia, Armenia?
Certainly I do not believe it. I believe the scene has been invented, as it occurs in this tale, once for all, and diffused in the various ways which I have suggested.
But the sacrifice of the girl to the monster, her rescue by the hero--do I believe that to be of Indian origin?
Why should I believe that Perseus and Andromeda, Heracles and Hesione, were borrowed from India by Greece before or about Homer's time? I have no evidence to show whether Greece borrowed the incident or not, and I believe the incident might be invented wherever people were capable of sacrificing a woman to a wild beast. That coincidence of fancy is as possible as the Rescue from the Bull in modern novels.
Again, I do not say that, if we find nuptial taboos in a story in a given country, therefore that country once practised nuptial taboos. I believe that the nuptial taboo accounts for the origin of the incident in the tale, but the tale may have been borrowed, and the taboo may never have been practised in the country where we find the story.
I cannot guess why I am supposed to lay stress on this theory of independent evolution of tales. In the conclusion of "A Far- Travelled Tale" (in Custom and Myth) I give the three hypotheses, "that all wits jumped, and invented the same sequence of situations by accident"; that all men spread from one centre, and carried a tale of the centre everywhere, or "that the story, once invented, has drifted all round the world". I show how the diffusion might conceivably be accounted for by exogamy, trade, slave-dealing, war, "by all these agencies, working through dateless time." "Much may be due to the identity everywhere of early fancy; something to transmission", as M. Cosquin quotes me (Introduction to Grimm, xlii, xliii). I should have said "much" in both clauses. In fact, I am obliged to say that I know not how the stories are so similar, for transmission to the Western Pacific coast from India, Africa, or Europe is difficult to accept. But the backward of time and the possibilities of migration are infinite.
Thus no one can say that I dogmatise. But my fault is not dogmatising against the possibility of independent development. Thus, in Cupid and Psyche, M. Cosquin says: "According to Mr. Lang, a 'fortuitous combination' of fantastic elements might produce, at one moment, in a number of countries, the following sequence of adventures: Girl to be devoted to a serpent or other monster, who is really a man in a beast's skin. He marries the girl. She may not see her lord; is betrayed into disobeying this rule; the husband disappears; she wanders in quest of him; is set on impossible tasks by his mother; accomplishes them by aid of animals; she and her lord are reunited. Mr. Lang thinks this little romance, with its chain of adventures, might be invented at once in I know not how many countries, and might spring armed from I know not how many brains. That would be the miracle!" It would, indeed, only I never said anything of the sort, as far as I remember. I said that all the incidents were either universally human, like Psyche's jealous sisters, or were suggested by nuptial taboos and other customs, common in many countries. I never said that all the tale of Apuleius might spring from any number of savage brains all at once. What I said, and what I demonstrated, is, that tales of a similar character, turning on transgression of a nuptial taboo, might and did occur, probably independently, among Zulus and Red Indians. Some of the proofs are given, from Zulu and Red Indian sources, in Cupid, Psyche, and the Sun-Frog. They differ greatly in detail and "sequence of adventure". What is consistent is the disappearance of wife or husband, on the infringement, by husband or wife, of a mysterious prohibition. I argue "tales on the pattern of Cupid and Psyche might have been evolved, wherever a curious nuptial taboo required to he sanctioned, or explained, by a myth". I added that "they might also have been transmitted in the unknown past of our race". Where the sequence of adventures in Apuleius is strictly preserved, there I believe firmly in transmission, in borrowing. Where the sequence does not occur, but the essence or central point does occur, the disappearance of wife or husband, usually more or less supernatural, often occasionally invested with an animal's form--when this occurs in South Africa or North America, blended with local superstitions, there I believe that independent development is perfectly possible.
It is not hard to confute an opponent, if it may be done by attributing to him a theory which he does not hold, and disproving that. We are all prone to adopt, unconsciously, that form of reasoning, "du moins si j'en juge par la confusion regnant dans beaucoup d'esprits", as M. Cosquin says. There is a point at which the sequence and combination of incidents into a plot can only have been made once, and that point is reached wherever a tale like Cupid and Psyche exactly follows the arrangement of Apuleius. But other tales, retaining its peculiar central situation, do not present its sequence of plot. In the case of certain remote and backward peoples, their tale of this kind, to my thinking, may be of independent origin, while I do not and did not deny that they may have borrowed and altered it. In fact, I decline to dogmatise.6
Mr. Jacobs is my next critic. He insists that to study survivals in the tale is not to study the tale. I suppose I have "studied the tale", more or less. My reason for writing on it was to show that the peculiarities of the tale could be accounted for without the use of Mr. Max Muller's solar theory: this was a late performance, like the rest of the world, I first read the tale for pleasure. Mr. Jacobs likens me to one who, in future ages, should study The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, to learn the properties of hansom cabs, and argue that the story was written to illustrate these. The mystery of Mr. Jacobs' vein of humour! However, it is true that I do regard some märchen "as a species of Tendenz Roman", stories with a purpose, or capable of being used, at least, to point a moral. There is no mistake about the moral in the tales where charity or courtesy are denied by the first and second adventurer, who fail, granted by the third, who succeeds. Perrault notices, perhaps exaggerates this truth. Now, I can conceive that, when some young bride objected to the irrational taboo, then a taboo story--the awful results of breaking a taboo--was told to her: that is not out of human nature. Mr. Jacobs admits that savage customs and ideas do "obviously" occur in fairy-tales, but these are "not the essence of the story". The "obviousness" was not so manifest, I am conceited enough to say, before it was set forth. The essence of the story, as literature, is the story, of course, but, while the solar explanation prevailed, it was desirable to study the element of savage survival. As for the literature, for the tale in itself, I am so enamoured of it that I cannot, like Mr. Jacobs, "hope' for a day when, "instead of having to read the tale", we shall be content with a technical summary of its incidents having to read the tale! It is not a compulsory part of education, but, apart from the entertainment, I am prejudiced in favour of studying one's authorities.
Mr. Jacobs is curious to know "When did the story first appear, and how was it diffused?" One greatly desires, indeed, to know when it originally appeared, and I shall be the first to applaud Mr. Jacobs when he makes this valuable discovery. Märchen (if we exclude some which may have won their way into cosmogonic myth, the story of the Origin of Death, and so on) first appear, in literature, in ancient Egypt. Mr. Jacobs does not believe that the exclusively Indian origin has been demonstrated: here we can agree.
As to our "Far-Travelled Tale", of Jason, Mr. Jacobs says, "All the countries where this story is found have been in culture contact with each other," and argues from that assertion. But was Europe in "culture-contact" with Samoa, and could a European story become part of the divine mythology of an island first sighted by Europeans in 1722?
The recent European importation of the tale into Madagascar is possible; in Samoa the difficulty is greater: is very great. It is not a case of showing incident A in Samoa, incident B in Peru,7 as Mr. Jacobs says is our method. The whole story is in Samoa: the hero, the god, the daughter, the tasks, the accomplishment of them by the daughter, the flight, the magical obstacles, bush, mountain, water. All are in a Samoan myth of a god and a hero. Were they adapted from the story of a beach- comber, were they diffused in some dateless wandering of men? They are so close and similar in sequence to European versions, that the hypothesis of "wits jumping" seems to be excluded, as I have said in the Introduction to Custom and Myth. The problem is obscure.8
I know not how or why this doubt of ours should be called "The Casual Theory". But incidents found in this marchen occur, like most such incidents, in perfectly different combinations: the Flight, especially, as everyone knows, is separable from the rest of the narrative: it may be from a ghost in Hades, or from a cannibal mother (Japan, Zulu, Samoyed).
If I have anywhere said that coincidence of invention is the doe necessary explanation of the similarity of Popular Tales, I burn my faggot.
If I have ever hinted that tales are only valuable as materials of anthropology, instead of being the oldest novels, full of grace and charm, may the Folk-lore Congress hand me over to the secular arm.
I have only maintained that similar institutions and a similar imaginative condition may give rise to similarities in tales, and even to some combinations of incidents, as often occurs in modern novels, while asserting, at the same time, that diffusion of those tales is perfectly possible and conceivable. As to the place and date of the very first tales, it may be Polar, pre-glacial. To seek such a date and place seems wasted labour.
Perhaps I have made my meaning clear: I can believe in transmission; I can also believe in independent invention of many incidents. In the course of combination I can believe that some similar sequences may have been evolved independently. At a certain point, where the incidents are numerous and the sequence exact, I disbelieve in independent invention, or hold it as improbable, to use Mr. Jacobs' illustration, as that he should bowl out Dr. Grace first ball.
I believe combinations of incidents may take almost any form: some forms are fittest, and survive. Let us try a fancy combination. We may begin with the childless pair, the child magically conceived. Let the mother die, leaving a dog to daughter. The latter remarries, has two daughters, they spite the first girl. They are sent one by one to accomplish some feat, by the dog's aid the first daughter succeeds. She is rewarded by a gift of a palace with a Bluebeard chamber. Her sisters urge her to open it, she finds an enchanted young man in the form of a statue. She revivifies him, they fly and are pursued--the usual "magic flight". She is never to call him by his name, she does so; he forgets her, and is betrothed to her eldest sister. By dint of presents provided by her dog, she gets leave to cook a cake for him, and leaves her ring in the cake. He swears he will only marry the person whom it fits. Her sisters nip and clip their fingers in vain. The dog remarks that the true owner is in the kitchen. She is discovered and married to her lover.
What tale is that? Under which type is it to he grouped? Such a combination is perfectly possible, and it may, perhaps, be difficult to put a name on it. But tradition supplies abundant examples nearly as indeterminate. I suppose, then, that story tellers have always been making combinations, that the best and most dramatic survived in most vigour, that a good type, like Cinderella, once hit upon, was diffused widely. Beyond this, my theory does not go, and I am perfectly ignorant of the name, and date, and home of the first fortunate combiner.
So I leave Cinderella, entreating the gentle reader to believe that I do not prefer my stories as skeletons, that I am not insensible to their charm and life, that I do not regard them as mere collections of anthropological facts, or fancies, though, like all literature, they have their historical aspect, which it may have been worth while to insist on, for a particular purpose, and before it was obvious to the meanest capacity.9
1: Paris, 1886. See Mr. Jacobs on
the Science of Folk-tales, and M. Cosquin, Les Incidents Communs,
in International Folk-lore Congress, 1891 (Nutt).
2: Maspero, Contes Egyptiens.
3: Cypria. In Kinkel's Epicorum
Graecorum Fragmenta, p. 18.
4: Op. cit. p. 29.
5: Perrault's Tales, Puss in Boots.
6: I may have caused confusion by
saying "the tale" of Cupid and Psyche, in Introduction
to Custom and Myth. I should have said "the essential incident
in the tale".
7: International Congress,
8: In the Report of the Folk-lore
Congress (p. 65), I find that I distinctly contradicted the theory of
casual coincidence in plot and sequence of story, which I am said to entertain.
9: Miss Cox points out a passage in
my Perrault (p. cxv) which might lead a student who read that sentence
by itself to believe that I held the "Casual" theory, I have
tried to explain what I do think, and leave it to the ages.
Cox, Marian Roalfe. Cinderella: Three Hundred and Forty-five Variants of Cinderella, Catskin, and Cap O' Rushes, abstracted and tabulated. London: David Nutt for the Folklore Society, 1893.
While the original text of this book is out of copyright, the special formatting and compilation available on SurLaLune Fairy Tales is copyrighted. Be aware that while the original content has been honored, page numbering, footnote numbering, redesigned charts, links, and other aspects are unique to this site's version of the text. Use at your own risk. For private and fair use educational purposes only.