THE FAIRY MYTHOLOGY

Conclusion

   Here, then, we conclude. The task which we imposed on ourselves was to collect, arrange, classify, and give under one point of view the various ideas and legends respecting Fairies and similar beings of the popular creed, which lay scattered in a variety of books and a variety of languages. We have marked resemblances, traced coincidences, and offered etymologies. Many legends, especially German ones, we know, exist, which are not to be found. in this work; but, in general, they offer no new traits of popular lore, and most persons will, we apprehend, be content with what we have given.
   The labours of MM. Grimm in this department of philosophy can never be too highly praised. They have been, in fact, the creators of it; and the German Mythology is a work of the most extensive learning, and written in the spirit of true philosophy. And this is no light praise; for of all subjects, Mythology appears to be the one on which imagination is most apt to run riot. Hence, it has been frequently almost brought into contempt by the wild vagaries of those who have presumed to write on it without judgement or common sense. Though all may not agree with the opinions or deductions in the preceding pages, we trust that they will find in them no traces of ill-regulated imagination.
   As works of this kind have no bearing on material enjoyments, the number of those who will think lightly of them in these days will, of course, not be small. But in the view of sane reason and philosophy, the subject is by no means unimportant, nay, it is even more important than many of higher pretensions. To trace the corruption and degradation of the pure religion of the Gospel, has always been held to be a task worthy of the highest intellect: we should not, therefore, despise the present one, which is the same in kind though different in degree. We have seen that all these legendary beings and their characters and acts are remnants of ancient religious systems, the mental offspring of deep-thinking sages. It is surely, then, not uninteresting to trace them to their present form and condition. Even in a historic point of view they are not undeserving of attention. Thus, should our theory on the subject be correct, it is of importance to observe how the tribes around the Baltic, when they made conquests in the Roman Empire, brought with them the religious ideas of their forefathers, and left traces of them, which are discernible even at the present day. Again, nothing more interests the botanist than to find the same plants, modified by local circumstances, growing in widely-distant regions. The interest is similar when we find the same legends, modified also by circumstances, springing up in distant countries, and amongst tribes and nations who could hardly have had any communication.    This work is therefore to be regarded as a part of the philosophy of popular fiction. It is not by any means intended to be a work of mere amusement, and those who view or represent it in that light will do it manifest injustice. Many of the legends, no doubt, may possess attractions even for children; but the same is true of the narratives of Herodotus, and still more of those of the Old Testament, and therefore should not derogate from its real importance. At the same time, we have adopted a light and facile style, as that which we deemed best suited to the character of the subject and the taste of this country; but we trust that this will not lower either our subject or ourselves in the eyes of our readers.1

NOTES:

1. The legends from the German and other languages are, in general, faithfully translated, whence the style is, at times rude and negligent; English legends are for the most part, also, merely transcribed.