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Title: English Fairy Tales
Author: Joseph Jacobs (coll. & ed.)
Release Date: February, 2005 [EBook #7439]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on April 30, 2003]
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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ENGLISH FAIRY TALES ***
Produced by Charles Franks, Delphine Lettau and the people at DP
ENGLISH FAIRY TALES
COLLECTED BY JOSEPH JACOBS
HOW TO GET INTO THIS BOOK.
Knock at the Knocker on the Door, Pull the Bell at the side,
Then, if you are very quiet, you will hear a teeny tiny voice say through the grating "Take down the Key." This you will find at the back: you cannot mistake it, for it has J. J. in the wards. Put the Key in the Keyhole, which it fits exactly, unlock the door and WALK IN.
TO MY DEAR LITTLE MAY
Who says that English folk have no fairy-tales of their own? The present volume contains only a selection out of some 140, of which I have found traces in this country. It is probable that many more exist.
A quarter of the tales in this volume, have been collected during the last ten years or so, and some of them have not been hitherto published. Up to 1870 it was equally said of France and of Italy, that they possessed no folk-tales. Yet, within fifteen years from that date, over 1000 tales had been collected in each country. I am hoping that the present volume may lead to equal activity in this country, and would earnestly beg any reader of this book who knows of similar tales, to communicate them, written down as they are told, to me, care of Mr. Nutt. The only reason, I imagine, why such tales have not hitherto been brought to light, is the lamentable gap between the governing and recording classes and the dumb working classes of this country – dumb to others but eloquent among themselves. It would be no unpatriotic task to help to bridge over this gulf, by giving a common fund of nursery literature to all classes of the English people, and, in any case, it can do no harm to add to the innocent gaiety of the nation.
A word or two as to our title seems necessary. We have called our stories Fairy Tales though few of them speak of fairies. [Footnote: For some recent views on fairies and tales about fairies, see Notes.] The same remark applies to the collection of the Brothers Grimm and to all the other European collections, which contain exactly the same classes of tales as ours. Yet our stories are what the little ones mean when they clamour for "Fairy Tales," and this is the only name which they give to them. One cannot imagine a child saying, "Tell us a folk-tale, nurse," or "Another nursery tale, please, grandma." As our book is intended for the little ones, we have indicated its contents by the name they use. The words "Fairy Tales" must accordingly be taken to include tales in which occurs something "fairy," something extraordinary--fairies, giants, dwarfs, speaking animals. It must be taken also to cover tales in which what is extraordinary is the stupidity of some of the actors. Many of the tales in this volume, as in similar collections for other European countries, are what the folklorists call Drolls. They serve to justify the title of Merrie England, which used to be given to this country of ours, and indicate unsuspected capacity for fun and humour among the unlettered classes. The story of Tom Tit Tot, which opens our collection, is unequalled among all other folk-tales I am acquainted with, for its combined sense of humour and dramatic power.
The first adjective of our title also needs a similar extension of its meaning. I have acted on Molière's principle, and have taken what was good wherever I could find it. Thus, a couple of these stories have been found among descendants of English immigrants in America; a couple of others I tell as I heard them myself in my youth in Australia. One of the best was taken down from the mouth of an English Gipsy. I have also included some stories that have only been found in Lowland Scotch. I have felt justified in doing this, as of the twenty- one folk-tales contained in Chambers' "Popular Rhymes of Scotland," no less than sixteen are also to be found in an English form. With the Folk-tale as with the Ballad, Lowland Scotch may be regarded as simply a dialect of English, and it is a mere chance whether a tale is extant in one or other, or both.
I have also rescued and re-told a few Fairy Tales that only exist now- a-days in the form of ballads. There are certain indications that the "common form" of the English Fairy Tale was the cante-fable, a mixture of narrative and verse of which the most illustrious example in literature is "Aucassin et Nicolette." In one case I have endeavoured to retain this form, as the tale in which it occurs, "Childe Rowland," is mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear, and is probably, as I have shown, the source of Milton's Comus. Late as they have been collected, some dozen of the tales can be traced back to the sixteenth century, two of them being quoted by Shakespeare himself.
In the majority of instances I have had largely to rewrite these Fairy Tales, especially those in dialect, including the Lowland Scotch. [Footnote: It is perhaps worth remarking that the Brothers Grimm did the same with their stories. "Dass der Ausdruck," say they in their Preface, "und die Ausführung des Einzelnen grossentheils von uns herrührt, versteht sich von selbst." I may add that many of their stories were taken from printed sources. In the first volume of Mrs. Hunt's translation, Nos. 12, 18, 19, 23, 32, 35, 42, 43, 44, 69, 77, 78, 83, 89, are thus derived.] Children, and sometimes those of larger growth, will not read dialect. I have also had to reduce the flatulent phraseology of the eighteenth-century chap-books, and to re-write in simpler style the stories only extant in "Literary" English. I have, however, left a few vulgarisms in the mouths of vulgar people. Children appreciate the dramatic propriety of this as much as their elders. Generally speaking, it has been my ambition to write as a good old nurse will speak when she tells Fairy Tales. I am doubtful as to my success in catching the colloquial-romantic tone appropriate for such narratives, but the thing had to be done or else my main object, to give a book of English Fairy Tales which English children will listen to, would have been unachieved. This book is meant to be read aloud, and not merely taken in by the eye.
In a few instances I have introduced or changed an incident. I have never done so, however, without mentioning the fact in the Notes. These have been relegated to the obscurity of small print and a back place, while the little ones have been, perhaps unnecessarily, warned off them. They indicate my sources and give a few references to parallels and variants which may be of interest to fellow-students of Folk-lore. It is, perhaps, not necessary to inform readers who are not fellow-students that the study of Folk-tales has pretensions to be a science. It has its special terminology, and its own methods of investigation, by which it is hoped, one of these days, to gain fuller knowledge of the workings of the popular mind as well as traces of archaic modes of thought and custom. I hope on some future occasion to treat the subject of the English Folk-tale on a larger scale and with all the necessary paraphernalia of prolegomena and excursus. I shall then, of course, reproduce my originals with literal accuracy, and have therefore felt the more at liberty on the present occasion to make the necessary deviations from this in order to make the tales readable for children.
Finally, I have to thank those by whose kindness in waiving their rights to some of these stories, I have been enabled to compile this book. My friends Mr. E. Clodd, Mr. F. Hindes Groome, and Mr. Andrew Lang, have thus yielded up to me some of the most attractive stories in the following pages. The Councils of the English and of the American Folk-lore Societies, and Messrs. Longmans, have also been equally generous. Nor can I close these remarks without a word of thanks and praise to the artistic skill with which my friend, Mr. J. D. Batten, has made the romance and humour of these stories live again in the brilliant designs with which he has adorned these pages. It should be added that the dainty headpieces to "Henny Penny" and "Mr. Fox" are due to my old friend, Mr. Henry Ryland.
Once upon a time there was a woman, and she baked five pies. And when they came out of the oven, they were that overbaked the crusts were too hard to eat. So she says to her daughter:
"Darter," says she, "put you them there pies on the shelf, and leave 'em there a little, and they'll come again."--She meant, you know, the crust would get soft.
But the girl, she says to herself: "Well, if they'll come again, I'll eat 'em now." And she set to work and ate 'em all, first and last.
Well, come supper-time the woman said: "Go you, and get one o' them there pies. I dare say they've come again now."
The girl went and she looked, and there was nothing but the dishes. So back she came and says she: "Noo, they ain't come again."
"Not one of 'em?" says the mother.
"Not one of 'em," says she.
"Well, come again, or not come again," said the woman "I'll have one for supper."
"But you can't, if they ain't come," said the girl.
"But I can," says she. "Go you, and bring the best of 'em."
"Best or worst," says the girl, "I've ate 'em all, and you can't have one till that's come again."
Well, the woman she was done, and she took her spinning to the door to spin, and as she span she sang:
"My darter ha' ate five, five pies to-day. My darter ha' ate five, five pies to-day."
The king was coming down the street, and he heard her sing, but what she sang he couldn't hear, so he stopped and said:
"What was that you were singing, my good woman?"
The woman was ashamed to let him hear what her daughter had been doing, so she sang, instead of that:
"My darter ha' spun five, five skeins to-day. My darter ha' spun five, five skeins to-day."
"Stars o' mine!" said the king, "I never heard tell of any one that could do that."
Then he said: "Look you here, I want a wife, and I'll marry your daughter. But look you here," says he, "eleven months out of the year she shall have all she likes to eat, and all the gowns she likes to get, and all the company she likes to keep; but the last month of the year she'll have to spin five skeins every day, and if she don't I shall kill her."
"All right," says the woman; for she thought what a grand marriage that was. And as for the five skeins, when the time came, there'd be plenty of ways of getting out of it, and likeliest, he'd have forgotten all about it.
Well, so they were married. And for eleven months the girl had all she liked to eat, and all the gowns she liked to get, and all the company she liked to keep.
But when the time was getting over, she began to think about the skeins and to wonder if he had 'em in mind. But not one word did he say about 'em, and she thought he'd wholly forgotten 'em.
However, the last day of the last month he takes her to a room she'd never set eyes on before. There was nothing in it but a spinning-wheel and a stool. And says he: "Now, my dear, here you'll be shut in to- morrow with some victuals and some flax, and if you haven't spun five skeins by the night, your head'll go off."
And away he went about his business.
Well, she was that frightened, she'd always been such a gatless girl, that she didn't so much as know how to spin, and what was she to do to-morrow with no one to come nigh her to help her? She sat down on a stool in the kitchen, and law! how she did cry!
However, all of a sudden she heard a sort of a knocking low down on the door. She upped and oped it, and what should she see but a small little black thing with a long tail. That looked up at her right curious, and that said:
"What are you a-crying for?"
"What's that to you?" says she.
"Never you mind," that said, "but tell me what you're a-crying for."
"That won't do me no good if I do," says she.
"You don't know that," that said, and twirled that's tail round.
"Well," says she, "that won't do no harm, if that don't do no good," and she upped and told about the pies, and the skeins, and everything.
"This is what I'll do," says the little black thing, "I'll come to your window every morning and take the flax and bring it spun at night."
"What's your pay?" says she.
That looked out of the corner of that's eyes, and that said: "I'll give you three guesses every night to guess my name, and if you haven't guessed it before the month's up you shall be mine."
Well, she thought she'd be sure to guess that's name before the month was up. "All right," says she, "I agree."
"All right," that says, and law! how that twirled that's tail.
Well, the next day, her husband took her into the room, and there was the flax and the day's food.
"Now there's the flax," says he, "and if that ain't spun up this night, off goes your head." And then he went out and locked the door.
He'd hardly gone, when there was a knocking against the window.
She upped and she oped it, and there sure enough was the little old thing sitting on the ledge.
"Where's the flax?" says he.
"Here it be," says she. And she gave it to him.
Well, come the evening a knocking came again to the window. She upped and she oped it, and there was the little old thing with five skeins of flax on his arm.
"Here it be," says he, and he gave it to her.
"Now, what's my name?" says he.
"What, is that Bill?" says she.
"Noo, that ain't," says he, and he twirled his tail.
"Is that Ned?" says she.
"Noo, that ain't," says he, and he twirled his tail.
"Well, is that Mark?" says she.
"Noo, that ain't," says he, and he twirled his tail harder, and away he flew.
Well, when her husband came in, there were the five skeins ready for him. "I see I shan't have to kill you to-night, my dear," says he; "you'll have your food and your flax in the morning," says he, and away he goes.
Well, every day the flax and the food were brought, and every day that there little black impet used to come mornings and evenings. And all the day the girl sat trying to think of names to say to it when it came at night. But she never hit on the right one. And as it got towards the end of the month, the impet began to look so maliceful, and that twirled that's tail faster and faster each time she gave a guess.
At last it came to the last day but one. The impet came at night along with the five skeins, and that said,
"What, ain't you got my name yet?"
"Is that Nicodemus?" says she.
"Noo, t'ain't," that says.
"Is that Sammle?" says she.
"Noo, t'ain't," that says.
"A-well, is that Methusalem?" says she.
"Noo, t'ain't that neither," that says.
Then that looks at her with that's eyes like a coal o' fire, and that says: "Woman, there's only to-morrow night, and then you'll be mine!" And away it flew.
Well, she felt that horrid. However, she heard the king coming along the passage. In he came, and when he sees the five skeins, he says, says he,
"Well, my dear," says he, "I don't see but what you'll have your skeins ready to-morrow night as well, and as I reckon I shan't have to kill you, I'll have supper in here to-night." So they brought supper, and another stool for him, and down the two sat.
Well, he hadn't eaten but a mouthful or so, when he stops and begins to laugh.
"What is it?" says she.
"A-why," says he, "I was out a-hunting to-day, and I got away to a place in the wood I'd never seen before And there was an old chalk- pit. And I heard a kind of a sort of a humming. So I got off my hobby, and I went right quiet to the pit, and I looked down. Well, what should there be but the funniest little black thing you ever set eyes on. And what was that doing, but that had a little spinning-wheel, and that was spinning wonderful fast, and twirling that's tail. And as that span that sang:
Next day that there little thing looked so maliceful when he came for the flax. And when night came, she heard that knocking against the window panes. She oped the window, and that come right in on the ledge. That was grinning from ear to ear, and Oo! that's tail was twirling round so fast.
"What's my name?" that says, as that gave her the skeins.
"Is that Solomon?" she says, pretending to be afeard.
"Noo, t'ain't," that says, and that came further into the room.
"Well, is that Zebedee?" says she again.
"Noo, t'ain't," says the impet. And then that laughed and twirled that's tail till you couldn't hardly see it.
"Take time, woman," that says; "next guess, and you're mine." And that stretched out that's black hands at her.
Well, she backed a step or two, and she looked at it, and then she laughed out, and says she, pointing her finger at it:
"NIMMY NIMMY NOT, YOUR NAME'S TOM TIT TOT!"
Well, when that heard her, that gave an awful shriek and away that flew into the dark, and she never saw it any more.
THE THREE SILLIES
Once upon a time there was a farmer and his wife who had one daughter, and she was courted by a gentleman. Every evening he used to come and see her, and stop to supper at the farmhouse, and the daughter used to be sent down into the cellar to draw the beer for supper. So one evening she had gone down to draw the beer, and she happened to look up at the ceiling while she was drawing, and she saw a mallet stuck in one of the beams. It must have been there a long, long time, but somehow or other she had never noticed it before, and she began a- thinking. And she thought it was very dangerous to have that mallet there, for she said to herself: "Suppose him and me was to be married, and we was to have a son, and he was to grow up to be a man, and come down into the cellar to draw the beer, like as I'm doing now, and the mallet was to fall on his head and kill him, what a dreadful thing it would be!" And she put down the candle and the jug, and sat herself down and began a-crying.
Well, they began to wonder upstairs how it was that she was so long drawing the beer, and her mother went down to see after her, and she found her sitting on the settle crying, and the beer running over the floor. "Why, whatever is the matter?" said her mother. "Oh, mother!" says she, "look at that horrid mallet! Suppose we was to be married, and was to have a son, and he was to grow up, and was to come down to the cellar to draw the beer, and the mallet was to fall on his head and kill him, what a dreadful thing it would be!" "Dear, dear! what a dreadful thing it would be!" said the mother, and she sat her down aside of the daughter and started a-crying too. Then after a bit the father began to wonder that they didn't come back, and he went down into the cellar to look after them himself, and there they two sat a- crying, and the beer running all over the floor. "Whatever is the matter?" says he. "Why," says the mother, "look at that horrid mallet. Just suppose, if our daughter and her sweetheart was to be married, and was to have a son, and he was to grow up, and was to come down into the cellar to draw the beer, and the mallet was to fall on his head and kill him, what a dreadful thing it would be!" "Dear, dear, dear! so it would!" said the father, and he sat himself down aside of the other two, and started a-crying.
Now the gentleman got tired of stopping up in the kitchen by himself, and at last he went down into the cellar too, to see what they were after; and there they three sat a-crying side by side, and the beer running all over the floor. And he ran straight and turned the tap. Then he said: "Whatever are you three doing, sitting there crying, and letting the beer run all over the floor?"
"Oh!" says the father, "look at that horrid mallet! Suppose you and our daughter was to be married, and was to have a son, and he was to grow up, and was to come down into the cellar to draw the beer, and the mallet was to fall on his head and kill him!" And then they all started a-crying worse than before. But the gentleman burst out a- laughing, and reached up and pulled out the mallet, and then he said: "I've travelled many miles, and I never met three such big sillies as you three before; and now I shall start out on my travels again, and when I can find three bigger sillies than you three, then I'll come back and marry your daughter." So he wished them good-bye, and started off on his travels, and left them all crying because the girl had lost her sweetheart.
Well, he set out, and he travelled a long way, and at last he came to a woman's cottage that had some grass growing on the roof. And the woman was trying to get her cow to go up a ladder to the grass, and the poor thing durst not go. So the gentleman asked the woman what she was doing. "Why, lookye," she said, "look at all that beautiful grass. I'm going to get the cow on to the roof to eat it. She'll be quite safe, for I shall tie a string round her neck, and pass it down the chimney, and tie it to my wrist as I go about the house, so she can't fall off without my knowing it." "Oh, you poor silly!" said the gentleman, "you should cut the grass and throw it down to the cow!" But the woman thought it was easier to get the cow up the ladder than to get the grass down, so she pushed her and coaxed her and got her up, and tied a string round her neck, and passed it down the chimney, and fastened it to her own wrist. And the gentleman went on his way, but he hadn't gone far when the cow tumbled off the roof, and hung by the string tied round her neck, and it strangled her. And the weight of the cow tied to her wrist pulled the woman up the chimney, and she stuck fast half-way and was smothered in the soot.