Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

homes of the poorer classes, you can some way he run together, or get interhave an exhibition of the manner in mingled one with another. Numbers, which this is done. For there the old however, have survived all mishap, and grand-dame sits down and tells the story have been very perfectly preserved, of some witch or hobgoblin, just as she while, notwithstanding the changes that received it from her mother or grand- others have undergone, they all still remother; and if, by chance, she makes a tain distinct traces of what they were mistake, or strays off the right path in the long gone past. altogether, there is always sure to be It also surprises ove very greatly to some one present, either amongst the learn that each nation was telling very girls and boys, or the older folks, who many of the same stories that were being is ready and eager to correct her, and told at the very same time by the others, not only give the event that follows and that they had been so telling them next in order, but supply the very words for many, many centuries. This fact in which it should be told. And so was so singular that it could not but they have been preserved for dear knows occasion a great deal of surprise, and how long with so much care as if every the attempt to explain the coincidence one was fully aware that the time was has led to results that have placed the surely coming when the young and old folklore of these nations in a very differof to-day would find the way to put ent position from that which it held bethem to some good use

fore. For you must remember that all The large majority of the stories that of these nations were not only separated we have been familiar with all our lives, from each other by distance, but that have thus been preserved. They were each spoke its own language, had its not composed for our amusement a few own religion, social laws and customs, years ago, but are as old almost as the and in every way constituted an inhills, and a great deal older than the dependent nation,—that they had very oldest cities that are now crumbling to little intercourse with each other, and ruin in Europe and Asia. Not all tales seldom met except on the battle-field, of the fancy which are now written and or when one went to raid on the terripublished are of this character, to be tory of another. If it had been othersure, for many are being composed now wise, there would have been no room and are entirely new, but all the old for surprise, for the simple explanation standard tales such as the Sleeping that one nation derived its folklore Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and from another would have done away those I have already named, with with the mystery at once. But such an Mother Goose's Melodies, the Arabain explanation will not do, and it has been Nights, the stories told by Grimm, abandoned almost as soon as it was many of those related by Hans Chris- offered. No, there is another reason tian Andersen, those about King Arthur given, and one which far better meets and the Knights of the Round Table, the difficulties of the case, though it and those of the Nibelungenlied, with rather increases than lessens our astonishwhich many of you are doubtless ment. But before I give that, let us familiar. They are not called fairy compare several of these stories so that tales, however, but folklore, because we may be quite certain that there is they seem to be peculiarly the property no mistake about the resemblance. I of the common people, and were not will begin with a story that is, no doubt, originated by scholars. Nor are they familiar to many of you, for it belongs related to-day in the exact form in to Grimm's famous collection of German which they first appeared. For, not fairy tales, and is known by the name withstanding the utmost care exercised of Faithful John. to preserve them, they have undergone Once upon a time there lived a prince great changes. Sometimes, no doubt, who fell desperately in love with a the narrator deliberately gave a new beautiful maiden whose portrait he turn to the series of events he was re- found hanging in his father's gallery. counting, or supplied a new character Having once seen the portrait he canwhere he thought it was needed. Some not be withheld from going to seek her. times parts of different stories would in Loading a ship with costly presents and gifts of all sorts, with which to tempt is entreating his forgiveness is turned the maiden to become his wife, he be into stone. Filled with vain remorse, gins his journey accompanied by his de- the prince has the statue placed near voted friend and servant, Faithful John. his bed, and daily invokes from on After many adventures, the prince sets high the power to restore it to life. out on his return home, having been After the lapse of many years, he bevery successful in his enterprise, for the comes the father of two beautiful little lovely maiden has become his wife, and boys; and one day as he is uttering his sails with him. As they draw near the usual prayer for the restoration of his end of their journey, three crows light servant, the statue speaks, and says that on the yard-arm, and Faithful John, it can be brought back to life if the who understands the language of birds, prince will cut off the heads of his sons, overhears them talking about three and sprinkle the statue with their blood. great dangers which await the prince as The prince obeys, the servant is restored soon as he lands.

to life, and when he places the heads of On reaching the shore, a fox-colored the children on their bodies, the little horse would spring to meet him, which ones spring up and play as merrily as on his mounting into the saddle, would ever; so the poor father has his prayer immediately gallop away with the granted without losing his children. prince, and never return. No one can Now let us take a journey over land save the prince except by shooting the and sea to that far off and mysterious horse. But if any one does this and country, India, where the people differ then gives the true explanation of his from the Germans, not only in their strange conduct, he will be turned into manners and customs, language and restone from the toe to the knee. If this ligion, but also in the very color of their danger is escaped, another awaits the skins and shape of their bodies. And prince; a bridal shirt will be offered here we find the following story, which him, woven apparently of gold and while differing from the one just related silver, but in reality of sulphur and in the names of its leading characters, pitch, which will burn him to death if and in many particulars, yet bears an he dares to put it on. Whoever takes astonishing resemblance to it. the shirt with his gloved hand and casts There once lived in India a prince it into the fire, will save the prince; but named Rama, who in a dream which he if he knows and tells him why he has had one night was visited by a most been served such a trick, the faithful charming princess. Though warned by friend will be turned into stone from the his faithful servant Luxman of the knee to the heart.

terrible dangers and difficulties that If this peril is averted, a third re- awaited him should he be so foolhardy mains to be encountered; for during as to attempt to gain possession of this the dance that follows the feast given in lovely creature, he resolves to search honor of the prince's return home, his the world over until he finds her. Lur. bride will suddenly turn pale and fall to man accompanies his master, whom be the floor as if dead, and unless some one has served from boyhood with unfailing draws three drops of blood from her devotion, and bas the pleasure of seeing bosom, she will die; but if he does this him surmount all dangers, and not only and dares to give the reason, he will be find the beautiful lady, but win her turned into stone from head to foot. hand in marriage. Faithful John at the hazard of his life After a time the prince, who has beresolves to save his master, and succeeds come homesick, sets out on his return to in killing the horse and burning the his native land. As they journey along, shirt with no greater harm to himself Luxman, who understands the speech than a dreadful scolding. But when he of birds, overhears two owls conversing attempts to save the bride in the only together, and learns, to his dismay, that way in which it can be done, the prince, three dangers await his beloved master, who is already much enraged against one from the rotten branch of a banyan him, orders him to be put to death. tree, another froin an insecure arch, and

At the scaffold, Faithful John ex- a third from the bite of a deadly serpent, plains his motive, and while the prince called the cobra. From the first and

[ocr errors]

second Luxman will just save his friends him, he is overcome with shame and by dragging them forcibly away; but grief, and falling at the feet of the the serpent, the owls said, Luxman silent and senseless statue, clasps its would kill with his sword,

stony knees, and weeps bitterly. Eight “But a drop of blood shall fall on years pass on, and at length a child is her forehead. The servant will not born. * A few months more, and, in try. care to wipe off the blood with his ing to walk, the little one stretches out hands, but shall, instead, cover his face its tiny hands, and catches hold of the with a cloth that he may lick it off with foot of the statue, and immediately his tongue; and for this Rama will be Luxman comes back to life, and, stoopangry with him, and his reproaches ing down, seizes the little baby in his shall turn his poor servant into stone." arms and kisses it.

« Will he always remain stone?!! Now, with all the striking points of asked the lady owl.

difference between this story and the “Not forever,” replied the husband, one that precedes it, no one can fail to “but for eight long vears he will remain see that, not only in the moral which

each teaches, but in the general unfold“And what then ?" demanded she. ing of the plot, the two are the same.

“Then,” answered the other, “when Yet one is told in Germany and the the young prince shall have a son, it other in India. The difference is just shall come to pass that one day the of that kind which might readily be child shall be playing on the floor, and, brought about if someone should to help itself along, shall clasp hold of attempt to tell in the advanced years of the stony figure, and at the touch of the his life a story which he learned in inbaby's hand the servant shall come to fancy, which though in a general way life again."

maintaining its hold on his mind has Then the owls flew away, and Lux- lost so much of its clearness that in his man hurried to rejoin his friends, think- effort to relate it, he recasts it in a ing of the sad fate that awaited him, somewhat different form. The most and puzzling his mind with plans and striking features of the story he rememdevices by which he might escape it. bers, the rest has faded away, and so he All, however, turns out as the owl pre chooses new names, changes this part dicted ; and when Luxman sees the and that, adding something here and deadly serpent approaching the princess, there from his own imagination ; but as she and her husband refresh them with all this, still reproducing the old selves with sleep under the deep shadows story that he learned in infancy. Perof a forest tree, be knows that his life haps we are not far wrong in supposing must be forfeited to his devotion. He that somewhat similar causes actually had prepared himself for the worst, by produced this difference. writing on a roll of paper a record of In Spain, Egypt, India, Scotland, and the owl's talk and of his life-long faith other countries a number of myths are fulness to his master. This roll he now found which have for their common takes from his bosom and lays beside point of interest, a wonderful thief, the sleeping king. Then seizing his whom no walls are thick enough to sword dispatches the cobra. The prince withstand, no treasures too closely hidstarts up just as Luxman is licking the den to be discovered, and no one wise blood from his wife's forehead, and enough to outwit. The Egyptian story very naturally misunderstanding the is as follows: A certain carpenter whom act overwhelms his servant with sting- the king had employed to build a ing reproaches; Luxman is immediately treasure-house in which he could hide changed into stone.

the wealth that he had wrung from his Then, and not till then, does Rama people by extortion, reveals the secret discover the roll of paper; and when he on his death-bed to the younger of his reads in it the startling facts recorded two sons. The boy tells his brother, there, and has brought to mind the and the two resolve to rob the king. upnumbered acts of love and friendship They are at first very successful, and which his faithful servant has, since his carry off much wealth. But when the earliest youth, constanıly shown toward king discovers that his riches are diminishing, he sets a trap to catch the Shifty Lad, who cares nothing for any thief, and the younger brother is so unfor- one but himself, stepping in his shouldtunate as to fall into it. At his own reers, enters the treasure-house, and after quest the elder brother cuts off his head removing as much wealth as he can and carries it away with him. The king, carry, heartlessly slices off the head of astonished at finding a headless body in his master, in order to save himself from the trap, bids his guards impale it on discovery, and then makes off with it, the wall, laying strict charge upon them leaving the body sticking in the pitch. to bring before him any one whom they The seneschal, whose counsel is asked a might hear mourning for the dead man. second time, advises the king to have When the mother sees her son's body his soldiers set the body aloft on the exposed in this cruel manner, she points of their spears, and in this position threatens to tell the king everything carry it through the streets of the city, unless the corpse is brought back to in order to detect the criminal by the her. Seeing no way of escape from this signs of grief which he may show at the dilemma, the elder brother undertakes sight of the body of his companion. As to steal the body from the guards. they pass the house of the carpenter, Loading several asses with skins full of his wife screams with grief when she wine, he, approaching the guard, slyly thus unexpectedly catches sight of her loosens the string of two or three wine. husband's dead body. But the Shifty skins, and allows the wine to trickle out Lad, with his usual cunning, succeeds in upon the ground. The soldiers, seeing escaping detection by dealing himself a so much good wine running to waste, slight blow with an axe, and then decarelessly desert their post, and while luding the soldiers into the belief that apparently doing their utmost to soothe the outcry of grief was occasioned by the distracted owner, cunningly catch his accident. The body is then hung on the liquor in their cups. This is just a tree, the soldiers receiving strict what the master thief wanted them to orders to arrest any one who should do, and he soon has the pleasure of see- attempt to remove it. But the Shifty ing them stretched out at full length on Lad is quite equal to the emergency. the ground, lost to all the world in Driving before him a horse loaded with drunken sleep. Then the sly rogue two kegs of whisky, he approaches the takes down the body of his brother and guard as though he wished to steal by hastens home with it. Again and again them, and when they catch the horse's the king tries by means of various de- bridle, he runs off, leaving the whisky vices to entrap him, but without success. in their hands. The soldiers cannot reIn the end he is so won by admiration sist the temptation to drink, and are for the skill displayed in frustrating all consequently soon wrapt in profound his best laid schemes, that he bestows the sleep. The Lad then returns, and withhand of his daughter in marriage upon out difficulty removes the body of his the very man whose life he had so master. The story ends with the zealously sought.

marriage of the Shifty Lad and the Now turn from this to the story as daughter of the king. told in Scotland. The thief here is In the story as told in India, there called the Shifty Lad. He has learned are two brothers, named Gata and his craft from the Black Rogue himself, Karpara, who break into the king's whom, however, he outwits and puts to treasure house not only to obtain his death. Then he engages himself to a riches but also to steal his daughter. carpenter, whom he induces to break The elder of the two is caught and into the king's storehouse. Discovering hung, but not until he has had an opporthe theft, the king consults his seneschal, tunity to request his brother to carry the superintendent of his household, and off and save the princess. Karpara's is advised by him to place a hogshead body is then exposed for the purpose of of soft pitch near the entrance of his catching his accomplice. The guards treasure-house. The plan is successful, are duped in very much the same way for the following night the carpenter, in in which the Shifty Lad tricks the making another venture, sinks into the soldiers, and Gata succeeds in stealing pitch, and cannot be extricated. So the the body of his brother. He burns it in accordance with the funeral customs the Ogre whose castles he found in the of his country, and mourns for his skies, the pipe of the piper Hamelius, brother by dashing on the ground a and also the fiddle which in Grimm's Karpara, or pot of rice, and then betales forces the Jew to dance a hornpipe wails his loss, exclaiming, “Alas for my amongst the briars and brambles; all precious. Karpara!" words which the of which musical instruments, however soldiers naturally apply to the broken they may differ in kind, possessing the pipkin and lost rice. The king makes marvellous power of the harp of Hermes every effort to catch the thief, but, fol- and Orpheus. Many different nations lowing the advice of the princess, the tell of a wonderful heaven-tree whose two go off into a foreign country where roots are in heaven and whose branches they dwell together in safety.

reach to the earth, by which ascending The points of resemblance and of heroic men have again and again difference between these stories are of mounted the skies and brought down to exactly the same nature as those found earth some gift greatly needed by the in the tales of Faithful John, though human race. We have the fiery shirt the character of the Master Thief seems of sulphur and pitch offered to the to be much more universally known. prince in the story of Faithful John, While the deeds he performs in one land the fiery shirt which is given to Hercules often differ very widely from those re- and which burns him to death, and the lated of him in another. Yet the lead- fiery shirt in the tales of Arabian ing traits of his character are always Nights. And, alas for all! We have preserved, and we cannot escape the not one William Tell only, but many. conviction that we are dealing with the In Denmark, in England, in Norway, same person. So it is with many other in Finland, in Russia, in Turkey, and in stories.

Persia, the hero appears under various There are tales in many lands of guises. The wild Samoyeds relate the sleeping maidens like Briar Rose; of story, chapter and verse, of one of their men endowed with supernatural strength own marksmen; while all the different and skill, who travel over the world stories correspond in the account of a working prodigies of valor, like Her- marvellous archer, who, at the command cules, Samson, St. George, and Jack the of a tyrant shoots an apple or a very Giant Killer, of young men and maid- small object from the head of a boy, ens like Cinderella, who though endowed who is generally his son. In the Engwith surpassing wit and beauty, are lish ballad of William of Cloudes the condemned by tyrannical relatives to dauntless bowman says: sit in dust and ashes, or hide themselves in obscurity, and who arise and show “I have a sonne seven years old, themselves at intervals, only to return,

He is to me full dere;

I will tie him to a stakehowever, impelled by a power over

All shall see him that be herewhich they have no control, to their

And lay an apple on his head, former obscurity; of young knights and

And go six paces him froe, princes, who go to the rescue of lovely

And I myself with a broad arrowe ladies, guarded in the most awful and

Shall cleave the apple in towe.” mysterious manner from all intrusion, and who succeed in their attempts | The Danish tale resembles that of though scores and hundreds of others Switzerland almost exactly, with this as brave as they have perished in the difference that in the former the archer effort. We have not only the wonder- belongs to the army of the king, who ful horse Pegasus, and the wonderful overhears the vain fellow boasting of horse of the Alhambra, but the wonder- his ability to shoot an apple from the ful horse of the Arabian Nights, and head of his son, and who then, in a fit the wonderful horse ridden by Sculloge, of tyranny, compels the poor father to the Irish hero, when he sets out to find make good his boast. As in the Swiss the sword of light which will ransom version the archer hides a second arrow his soul from the power of the devil. amongst his clothing, and when asked We have the harp of Hermes and Or- to give the reason for such strange conpheus, the harp which Jack stole from duct, replies as Tell did to the demand

« AnteriorContinuar »