More CELTIC FAIRY TALES
For the last time, for the
present, I give the children of the British Isles
a selection of Fairy Tales once or still existing among them. The story store of
Great Britain and Ireland is, I hope, now adequately represented in the four
volumes which have won me so many little friends, and of which this is the last.
My collections have dealt with the two folk-lore regions of these Isles on
different scales. The "English" region, including Lowland Scotland and
running up to the Highland line, is, I fancy, as fully represented in "
English" and "More English Fairy Tales" as it is ever likely to
be. But the Celtic district, including the whole of Ireland and the
Gaelic-speaking part of Scotland, still offers a rich harvest to the collector,
and will not be exhausted for many a long day. The materials already collected
are far richer than those which the "English" region afford, and it
has accordingly been my aim in the two volumes devoted to the Celts, rather to
offer specimens of the crop than to exhaust the field.
In the present volume I have proceeded on much the same lines as those which
I laid down for myself in compiling its predecessor. In making my selection I
have attempted to select the tales common both to Erin and Alba. I have
included, as specimen of the Irish medieval hero tales, one of the three
sorrowful tales of Erin: "The Tale of the Children of Lir." For the
"drolls" or 'comic relief" of the volume, I have again drawn upon
the inexhaustible Kennedy, while the great J. F. Campbell still stands out as
the most prominent figure in the history of the Celtic Fairy Tale.
In my method of telling I have continued the practice which I adopted in the
previous volume: where I considered the language too complicated for children, I
have simplified; where an incident from another parallel version seemed to add
force to the narrative I have inserted it; and in each case mentioned the fact
in the corresponding notes. As former statements of mine on this point have
somewhat misled my folk-lore friends, I should, perhaps, add that the
alterations on this score have been much slighter than they have seemed, and
have not affected anything of value to the science of folk-lore.
I fear I am somewhat of a heretic with regard to the evidential value of
folk-tales regarded as capita mortua of anthropology. The ready transit
of a folk-tale from one district to another of the same linguistic area, robs it
to my mind of any anthropological or ethnographical value; but on this high
topic I have discoursed elsewhere.
This book, like the others of this series, has only been rendered possible by
the courtesy and complaisance of the various collectors from whom I have culled
my treasures. In particular, I have to thank Mr. Larminie and Mr. Eliot Stock
for permission to include that fine tale "Morraha" from the former's
"West Irish Folk-tales," the chief addition to the Celtic store since
the appearance of my last volume. I have again to thank Dr. Hyde for per-mission
to use another tale from his delightful collection. Mr. Curtin has been good
enough to place at my disposal another of the tales collected by him in
Connaught, and my colleague, Mr. Duncan, has translated for me a droll from the
Erse. Above all, I have to thank Mr. Alfred Nutt for constant supervision over
my selection and over my comments upon it. Mr. Nutt, by his own researches, and
by the encouragement and aid he has given to the researches of others on Celtic
folk-lore, has done much to replace the otherwise irreparable loss of Campbell.
With this volume I part, at any rate for a time, from the pleasant task which
has engaged my attention for the last four years. For the "English"
folk-lore district I have attempted to do what the brothers Grimm did for
Germany, so far as that was possible at this late day. But for the Celtic area I
can claim no such high function; here the materials are so rich that it would
tax the resources of a whole clan of Grimms to exhaust the field, and those
Celtic Grimms must be Celts themselves, or at any rate fully familiar with the
Gaelic. Here then is a task for the newly revived local patriotism of Ireland
and the Highlands. I have done little more than spy the land, and bring back
some specimen bunches from the Celtic vine. It must be for others, Celts
themselves, to enter in and possess the promised land.
1892 JOSEPH JACOBS