Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

have taken considerable pains, and often with considerable success, to shew the relationship between these ' Kinder M'archen,' or Children's Tales, and the venerable Sagas of the North, which, in good sooth, were only intended for children of larger growth. 'The real worth of these tales,' continue Messrs. Grimm, ' is indeed to be highly estimated, as they give a new and more complete elucidation of our ancient German heroic fictions than could be obtained from any other source. Thornrosa, who is set a sleeping in consequence of the wounds inflicted by her spindle, is Brynhilda cast into slumber by the sleep-thorn of Odin. The manner in which Loke hangs to the giant-eagle is better understood after a perusal of the story of the Golden Goose, to which the lads and lasses who touch it, adhere inseparably. In the stories of the Wicked Goldsmith, the Speaking Bird, and the Eating of the Bird's Heart, who does not recognize the fable of Sigurd ?* In these popular stories is concealed the pure and primitive mythology of the Teutons which has been considered as lost for ever; and we are convinced that if such researches are continued in the different districts of Germany, the traditions of this nature, which are now neglected, will change into treasuries of incredible worth, and assist in affording a new basis for the study of the origin of our ancient poetical fictions.'—Kindermarchen, vol. ii. p. 7.

Messrs. Grimm are ardent and enthusiastic. Our lamented Leyden, who took an analogous view of popular narrative, was rather inclined to connect its history with ancient romance, as he overlooked the mythological basis of the system. 'In the repetition of an unskilful reciter the metrical romance or fabliau seems often to have degenerated into a popular story; and it is a curious fact that the subjects of some of the popular stories which I have heard repeated in Scotland, do not differ essentially from those of some of the ancient Norman fabliaux, presented to the public in an elegant form by Le Grand. Thus when I first perused the fabliaux of the Poor Scholar, the Three Thieves, and the Sexton of Cluni, I was surprised to recognize the popular stories which

* These fables, familiar to Messrs. Grimm, are not equally so to our readers. Sigurd passes through the flames which surround the castle, where he finds Brynhilda cast in a magic slumber: he releases her, and she speaks.—' Two kings warred upon each other, the one was named Hialmgunnar, and he was old and a mighty warrior, and to him hud Odin promised viciory. The name of the other was Agnar, the brother of Aud. I killed Hialmgunnar in battle, and Odin wounded me in the head, with the thorn of sleep.' The corresponding traditionary story is nearly the same as Perrault's Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, which, as we have observed, is also said to be founded in tradition.

The Golden Goose and the other adventures are too long to be epitomized in this place: those who choose may consult the Volsunga Saga, and the Second Part of the edition of Rcsenius, c; IS!.

1 had often heard repeated in infancy, and which f had often repeated myself when the song or the tale repeated by turns, amused the tedious evenings of winter. From this circumstance I am inclined to think that many of the Scottish popular stories may have teen common to the Norman French.' Whether these tales be derived immediately from the French during their long and intimate intercourse with the Scotch nation, or whether both nations borrowed therri from the Celtic, may admit of some doubt.'

In ascribing a common origin to the popular fictions of our island and the continent we cannot be far from the truth; but since the people of England and the Scottish Lowlands are undoubtedly offsets and grafts from the Teutonic stock, it is probable that our popular fables also are chiefly of Teutonic origin. These idle stories boast a higher antiquity than romances and poems of much greater pretensions. Our proud baronial families can trace their line only up to Battle Abbey Roll, whilst the yeomen and franklins of Essex and , Sussex, and Kent, the Spongs and the Pungs, and the Waps}wtts and the Eppses, bear in their names the evidence of their descent from the Saxon and Danish conquerors of Britain: and even the knights of the romances of the Round Table in their present form are mere striplings when compared to the acquaintance of our early childhood, who troop along by the side of the go-cart and help to rock the cradle. Jack, commonly called the Giant Killer, and Thomas Thumb landed in England from the very same keels and warships which conveyed Hengist and Horsa, andEbba the Saxon. To begin with the rudest species of these inventions, we may notice the nursery tale heard by Dr. Ley den, and reported by him to be' very similar, in many respects, to the " Grim white woman" of Mr. Lewis, in which the spirit of a child in the form of a bird is supposed to whistle the following verse to its father:

'Pew-wew—pew-wew,

My minny me slew.' It would occupy too much room to abstract the tale of the 'Machandel Room,' or the Holly Tree, which was substantially the samp; but the Nether-Saxon stanza, corresponding with the Scottish verse, may be given for the sake of comparison. :' 'Min Moder de mi slacht't,

Min Vader de mi att, Min Swester de Marleeniken, Socht alle mine Beeniken Un bind't se in een siden Dook Legt's untier deu Machandel boom Kyvitt! Kyvitt! ach wat een sch'un vogel bin ick.' Our Scottish friends will not be displeased at our offering them another proof of the antiquity of their popular fictions. Dr. Ley

VOL. XXI. NO. XlI. G <fen den ' recollected to have heard a story, wherein a spirit gives the following injunction to a terrified ghost seer;' which, by the way, has settled the important doubts respecting the gender of a gib cat.

'Matter Watt! Mader Watt!
Tell your gib cat
Auld Girniegae o' Cragend's dead.'

The same story is told in Denmark as having occurred at a town called Lyng, near Soroe. Not far distant from this village is a hill, called ' Brondhoe,' which is inhabited by the Troldfolk—a set of beings somewhat between men and devils, though more akin to the latter. Amongst these Trolds was an old sickly devil, peevish and ill-tempered, because he was married to a young wife: this unhappy Trold often set the rest by the ears, whence they nick-named him ' Knurre-Murre,' or Rumble Grumble. Now, it came to pass that Knurre-Murre discovered that his young wife was inclined to honour him with a supplemental pair of horns; and, to avoid Knurre-Murre's vengeance, the amorous Trold who excited his jealousy was forced to fly for his life from the cairn, and take refuge, in the shape of a tortoise-shell-cat, in the house of Goodman Piatt; who harboured him with much hospitality, let him lie on the great wicker chair, and fed him twice a day with bread and milk out of a red earthenware pipkin. One evening the goodman came home, at a late hour, full of wonderment—' Goody,' exclaimed he to his wife, ' as I was passing by Brondhoe, there came out a Trold, who spake to me, saying— "Hor du Plat, Siig til din kat At Knurre-Murre er dad."

Hear thou Piatt,

Say to thy cat

That Knurre-Murre is dead.

The tortoise-shell cat was lying on the great wicker chair and eating his supper of bread and milk out of the red earthenware pipkin when the Goodman came in; but as soon, as the message was delivered he jumped bolt upright upon his two hind legs, for all the world like a Christian, and kicking the red earthenware pipkin and the rest of the bread and milk before him, he whisked through the cottage door, mewing ' What! is Knurre JViurre dead! then I maygo home again!'

The tale of the frog-lover, given by Dr. Leyden, and popular in Scotland, is known in every part of Germany under the name of the King of the-Frogs,' and is alluded to in several ancient German writers. The rhythmical address of the aquatic lover,

who

who is, of course, an enchanted prince, corresponds in the two Ian*

guages.

'Open the door, my hinny, ray heart,
Open the door mine ane wee thing,
And mind the words that you and I spak
Down in the meadow at the well spring-'

'Koni'gstochter, jungste
Mach mir auf -

Weiss du nicht was gestern

Du zu mir gesagt .'

Bei dem Kuhlen Brunnenwasser
Konigstochter jungste
Mach mir auf.'

These enchanted frogs have migrated from afar, and we suspect that they were originally crocodiles; we trace them in a tale forming part of a series of stories entitled ' The Relations of Ssidi Kvr,' extant amongst the Calmuck Tartars. It appears that the 'adventures which befel the wandering Chan' were originally written in Thibet, and the author commences with an invocation to one of the lesser gods of Lamaism. 'Glorified N augasuna Garbi! thou, art radiant within and without!—the holy vessel of existence, the second of our instructors, I bow before thee.' The tales of witchery learnt from the wonderful bird Ssidi are singularly wild and strange, and the scene of the romance is placed in the middle kingdom of India. All the magical machinery of the popular tales of Europe is to be found in these tales, which have a genuine Tartar character: there are wishing-caps and flying swords, and hobgoblins and fairies in abundance. Ssidi also tells a story of a benevolent Bramin, who receives the grateful assistance of a mouse, a bear, and a monkey, whom he had severally rescued from the hands of their tormentors. A fable founded on nearly the same plot is given in the Gesta Romanorum, though the details differ widely; Calila and Dimnah furnish others of the same class: but we consider it as an extraordinary fact, that a fable precisely of the same import is yet a favourite amongst the peasantry in the Schwalmgegend, (somewhere in Hesse,) where, as Messrs. Grimm inform us, it has been preserved by tradition: they do not seem to be aware of its Tartar origin. It will be shewn below that even Jack the Giant Killer is under some obligation to the fictions of the Calmucks. We learn from Mr. Morier's entertaining narrative that Whittington's cat' realized his price in India; the story rested in Italy by the way, and the merry priest, Arlotto, told it before the Lord Mayor was born or thought of,* These circumstances, trifling as the subject may appear, pear, will lend their aid in tracing the fictions of the inhabitants of Europe from the first seat of the Caucasian tribes.

* Facczie del 1'iuvano Arlotto, p. 23.—-Arlotto relate* how the adventure betel a Geneway merchant, upon which another, hearing of the profitable adventure, makes a voyage to Rat Island with a precious cargo, for which the king repass him with one of his cats.

Whittington, however, will claim less attention than Tom Thumb andToM Hickathrift. The learned Doctor William Wagstaffe, Physician to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Fellow of the College of Physicians and of the Royal Society, and whose name was so analogous to his humour, hath given a very strong 'testimony' respecting the merits of these histories, which, according to the good old custom of classical editors, we intend to prefix to our proposed critical edition of these works ' cum notis variorum.' The Doctor says' that the lives in question are more proper to ad'orn the shelves of Bodley or the Vatican, than to be confined in the retirement and obscurity of a private library. I have perused the former of them (he adds) with more than ordinary application, and have made some observations on it which will nof, I hope, prove unacceptable to the public' He has confined himself, however, to the poetical beauties of the work; we hope therefore it will be equally ' acceptable to the public' if we attempt to contribute our mite towards its literary history.

Tom Hearne* would almost have sworn that Tom Thumb the fairy knight was 'King Edgar's page.' On ballad authority we learn that' Tom a lyn was a Scottsman born.' Now Tom Hearne and the ballad are both in the wrong; for Tom a lin, otherwise Tamlane, is no other than Tom Thumb himself, who was originally a dwarf, or dwergar, of Scandinavian descent, being the Thaumlin, i. e. Little Thumb of the Northmen. Drayton, who introduces both these heroes in his Nymphidia, seems to have suspected their identity.

The German ' Daumerling,' i. e. little Thumb, is degraded to the son of a taylor;—he has not much in common with Tom Thumb the Great, except the misfortune of being swallowed by the dun cow, which took place in Germany just as it did in England, f This is a traditionary story of the Germans: but there

is

* See Hearne's Bencdictus Abbas, p. 54.

t ' Many years ago,' (a literary friend writes to us,) 'I had persuaded myself that several of our common nursery tales were the remnants of antient pvdoi, and that Tom Thumb, for instance, if the truth should be discovered, would be found to be a mythological personage. Though fully convinced at the time that so strange a fiction could not have arisen from any other source, I had not the least expectation that any thing would ever occur to me in confirmation of such an apparent paradox. Tom Thumb's adventure bears a near analogy to the rite of adoption into the Braminical order, a ceremony which still exists in India, and to which the Rajah of Tanjore submitted not many years ago. In Dubois work there is an account of a diminutive deity, whose person and character are analogous to that of Tom Thumb. He too, if I recollect

« AnteriorContinuar »