xiv FAIRY TALES
lost chances, not for all our service, all our singing, not for all our waiting seven or twice seven long years. But, in the fairy tale, he heard, and he turned to her. ' And she telled him a' that had befa'en her, and he telled her a' that had happened to him.' Where have we heard these simple words before, and known the long lost, the long divided, the reunited hearts, brought ' to the rites of their ancient bed,' and telling each other all the story of their sorrow ? It is at the close of the ' Odyssey,' and Homer is the story-teller.
By private experience, then, one is led to hope and believe that much reading of nursery stories, even through the microscope of science and the spectacles of literature, need not make one incapable of relishing the old and friendly narratives. We do not forget our old nurse, the Marchen. If any one differs, it is easy for him to pass over these few pages, only placed in front of a limited edition of the Blue Fairy Book, only meant for grown-up people, and never for children. But there may be readers who will care to hear a little about the literary sources whence our tales come, and to know how far they are truly traditional, how far the art of later times has altered or embellished the original data.
To begin with, I doubt if any of our tales are absolutely pure from literary handling, absolutely set down as they drop from the lips of tradition. The Grimms, for example, did not treat their matter sentimentally, as Hans Christian Andersen did, nor in a light courtly way, aiming at an audience of great ladies, as Madame d'Aulnoy and Madame Le Prince de Beaumont did. But one can hardly help suspecting a literary touch in ' The Boy who set out to learn shivering.' Some nameless Hoffmann has put his hand to that startling and amusing tale, so much better than Mrs. Eadcliffe, where Mrs. Badcliffe is at her best. That dead body of a kinsman so strangely coming on the scene, the vampire-like malignity of the corpse, the black cats with their ghastly game at cards, are ' ugsome ' incidents, as the story of the ' Red Etin ' says,