The Blue Fairy Book - online childrens book

Illustrated classic fairy tales for children by Andrew Lang

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xii                                 FAIRY TALES
every classical student lias the fable of ' Eros and Psyche' brought back to his memory, while every anthropologist recol­lects a similar Marchen among Kaffirs and Bassutos. These resemblances and analogies recur on every page. Our ' Bronze Bing,' from the Levant, with the mice which make the Jew sneeze by tickling his nose, has a variant among Mongolian tribes. The Finns, the Santhals, the Kaffirs have a Cinderella of their own, like the Scotch and the Celts. Parts of • Hop o' my Thumb ' (' The Little Thumb ') are current in Tartary ; the incident of the changed crowns and the murder by the ogre of his own children is part of that ancient Minyan legend of Athamas, Phrixus, and Helle. The tale of Jason was old when the ' Odyssey ' was composed—old and ' familiar ' (like the ship Argo) ' to all men.' Here we have a shadow of its main events in ' The Master Maid,' and there are other echoes in Samoa, and among the red men of the North American continent. The papyri of the second Barneses contain fairy tales recognisably like ours ; there is no speech nor land where their voice is not heard.
To explain these curious correspondences, these echoes out of some far-off time, is the object of the science of the lower mythology—call it Folk-Lore, or by what name we will. But that science does not at all exhaust the interest of nursery stories. It struggles with their history, asks—Have they come from a common source ? have they been independently invented in various centres ? have mankind inherited them all from far­away first ancestors ? or have they been scattered like the seeds of flowers in the course of commerce, slavery, marriage with strange wives, and war ? To answer, or at least to put, these questions is the business of science, of that science which is concerned with origins, popular antiquities, the earlier deve­lopments of human thought, life, and art. "We shall not say over again here what we have already repeated, perhaps too frequently, concerning these problems.1
1 The writer's own ideas may be found in the preface to Mrs. Hunt's
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