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Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know

FAIRY TALES

Every Child Should Know


INTRODUCTION

TO

"FAIRIES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW"

The fairy tale is a poetic recording of the facts of life, an interpretation by the imagination of its hard conditions, an effort to reconcile the spirit which loves freedom and goodness and beauty with its harsh, bare and disappointing conditions. It is, in its earliest form, a spontaneous and instinctive endeavor to shape the facts of the world to meet the needs of the imagination, the cravings of the heart. It involves a free, poetic dealing with realities in accordance with the law of mental growth; it is the naïve activity of the young imagination of the race, untrammelled by the necessity of rigid adherence to the fact.

The myths record the earliest attempt at an explanation of the world and its life; the fairy tale records the free and joyful play of the imagination, opening doors through hard conditions to the spirit, which craves power, freedom, happiness; righting wrongs and redressing injuries; defeating base designs; rewarding patience and virtue; crowning true love with happiness; placing the powers of darkness under control of man and making their ministers his servants. In the fairy story, men are not set entirely free from their limitations, but, by the aid of fairies, genii, giants and demons, they are put in command of unusual powers and make themselves masters of the forces of nature.

The oldest fairy stories constitute a fascinating introduction to the book of modern science, curiously predicting its discoveries, its uncovering of the resources of the earth and air, its growing control of the tremendous forces which work in earth and air. And it is significant that the recent progress of science is steadily toward what our ancestors would have considered fairy land; for in all the imaginings of the childhood of the race there was nothing more marvellous or more audaciously improbable than the transmission of the accents and modulations of familiar voices through long distances, and the power of communication across leagues of sea without mechanical connections of any kind.

The faculty which created the fairy tale is the same faculty which, supplemented by a broader observation and based on more accurate knowledge, has broadened the range and activities of modern man, made the world accessible to him, enabled him to live in one place but to speak and act in places thousands of miles distant, given him command of colossal forces, and is fast making him rich on a scale which would have seemed incredible to men of a half-century ago. There is nothing in any fairy tale more marvellous and inherently improbable than many of the achievements of scientific observation and invention, and we are only at the beginning of the wonders that lie within the reach of the human spirit!

No one can understand the modern world without the aid of the imagination, and as the frontiers of knowledge are pushed still further away from the obvious and familiar, there will be an increasing tax on the imagination. The world of dead matter which our fathers thought they understood has become a world of subtle forces moving with inconceivable velocity; nothing is inert, all things are transformed into other and more elusive shapes precisely as the makers of the fairy tales foresaw and predicted; the world lives in every atom just as their world lived; forces lie just outside the range of physical sight, but entirely within the range of spiritual vision, precisely as the tellers of these old stories divined; mystery and wonder enfold all things, and not only evoke the full play of the mind, but flood it with intimations and suggestions of the presence of more elusive and subtle forces, of finer and more obedient powers, as the world of fairies, magi and demons enfolded the ancient earth of daily toil and danger.

In a word, the fairy stories have come true; they are historical in the sense that they faithfully report a stage of spiritual growth and predict a higher order of realities through a deeper knowledge of actualities. They were poetic renderings of facts which science is fast verifying, chiefly by the use of the same faculty which enriched early literature with the myth and the fairy tale. The scientist has turned poet in these later days, and the imagination which once expressed itself in a free handling of facts so as to make them answer the needs and demands of the human spirit, now expresses itself in that breadth of vision which reconstructs an extinct animal from a bone and analyzes the light of a sun flaming on the outermost boundaries of space.

This collection of tales, gathered from the rich literature of the childhood of the world, or from the books of the few modern men who have found the key of that wonderful world, is put forth not only without apology, but with the hope that it may widen the demand for these charming reports of a world in which the truths of our working world are loyally upheld, while its hard facts are quietly but authoritatively dismissed from attention. The widest interpretation has been given to the fairy tale, so as to include many of those classic romances of childhood in which no fairy appears, but which are invested with the air and are permeated with the glorious freedom of fairy land.

No sane man or woman undervalues the immense gains of the modern world in the knowledge of facts and the application of ideas to things in order to secure comfort, health, access to the treasure in the earth and on its surface, the means of education and greater freedom from the tyranny of toil by the accumulation of the fruits of toil; but no sane man or woman believes that a mechanical age is other than a transitional age, that the possession of things is the final achievement of society, and that in multiplication of conveniences civilization will reach its point of culmination.

We are so engrossed in getting rich that we forget that by and by, when we have become rich, we shall have to learn how to live; for work can never be an end in itself; it is a "means of grace" when it is not drudgery; and it must, in the long run, be a preparation for play. For play is not organized idleness, frivolity set in a fanciful order; it is the normal, spontaneous exercise of physical activity, the wholesome gayety of the mind, the natural expression of the spirit, without self-consciousness, constraint, or the tyranny of hours and tasks. It is the highest form of energy, because it is free and creative; a joy in itself, and therefore a joy in the world. This is the explanation of the sense of freedom and elation which come from a great work of art; it is the instinctive perception of the fact that while immense toil lies behind the artist's skill, the soul of the creation came from beyond the world of work and the making of it was a bit of play. The man of creative spirit is often a tireless worker, but in his happiest hours he is at play; for all work, when it rises into freedom and power, is play. "We work," wrote a Greek thinker of the most creative people who have yet appeared, "in order that we may have leisure." The note of that life was freedom; its activity was not "evoked by external needs, but was free, spontaneous and delightful; an ordered energy which stimulates all the vital and mental powers."

Robert Louis Stevenson, who knew well how to touch work with the spirit and charm of play, reports of certain evenings spent at a clubhouse near Brussels, that the men who gathered there "were employed over the frivolous mercantile concerns of Belgium during the day; but in the evening they found some hours for the serious concerns of life." They gave their days to commerce, but their evenings were devoted to more important interests!

These words are written for those older people who have made the mistake of straying away from childhood; children do not read introductions, because they know that the valuable part of the book is to be found in the later pages. They read the stories; their elders read the introduction as well. They both need the stuff of imagination, of which myths, legends, and fairy tales are made. So much may be said of these old stories that it is a serious question where to begin, and a still more difficult question where to end. For these tales are the first outpourings of that spring of imagination whence flow the most illuminating, inspiring, refreshing and captivating thoughts and ideas about life. No philosophy is deeper than that which underlies these stories; no psychology is more important than that which finds its choicest illustration in them; no chapter in the history of thought is more suggestive and engrossing than that which records their growth and divines their meaning. Fairy tales and myths are so much akin that they are easily transformed and exchange costumes without changing character; while the legend, which belongs to a later period, often reflects the large meaning of the myth and the free fancy of the fairy tale.

As a class, children not only possess the faculty of imagination, but are very largely occupied with it during the most sensitive and formative years, and those who lack it are brought under its spell by their fellows. They do not accurately distinguish between the actual and the imaginary, and they live at ease in a world out of which paths run in every direction into wonderland. They begin their education when they begin to play; for play not only affords an outlet for their energy, and so supplies one great means of growth and training, but places them in social relations with their mates and in conscious contact with the world about them. The old games that have been played by generations of children not only precede the training of the school and supplement it, but accomplish some results in the nature of the child which are beyond the reach of the school. When a crowd of boys are rushing across country in "hounds and deer," they are giving lungs, heart and muscles the best possible exercise; they are sharing certain rules of honor with one another, expressed in that significant phrase, "fair play"; and they are giving rein to their imaginations in the very name of their occupation. Body, spirit and imagination have their part in every good game; for the interest of a game lies in its appeal to the imagination, as in "hounds and deer," or in its stimulus to activity, as in "tag" and "hide-and-seek."

There are few chapters in the biography of the childhood of men of genius more significant than those which describe imaginary worlds which were, for a time, as real as the actual world in which the boy lived. Goethe entertained and mystified his playmates with accounts of a certain garden in which he wandered at will, but which they could not find; and De Quincey created a kingdom, with all its complex relations and varied activities, which he ruled with beneficence and affection until, in an unlucky hour, he revealed his secret to his brother, who straightway usurped his authority, and governed his subjects with such tyranny and cruelty that De Quincey was compelled to save his people by destroying them.

These elaborate and highly organized efforts of the young imagination, of which boys and girls of unusual inventiveness are capable, are imitated on a smaller scale by all normal children. They endow inanimate things with life, and play and suffer with them as with their real playmates. The little girl not only talks with her dolls, but weeps with and for them when disaster overtakes them. The boy faces foes of his own making in the woods, or at lonely places in the road, who are quite as real to him as the people with whom he lives. By common agreement a locality often becomes a historic spot to a whole group of boys; enemies are met and overcome there; grave perils are bravely faced; and the magic sometimes lingers long after the dream has been dissolved in the dawning light of definite knowledge, Childhood is one long day of discovery; first, to the unfolding spirit, there is revealed a wonderland partly actual and partly created by the action of the mind; then follows the slow awakening, when the growing boy or girl learns to distinguish between tact and fancy, and to separate the real from the imaginary.

This process of learning to "see things as they are" is often regarded as the substance of education, and to be able to distinguish sharply and accurately between reality and vision, actual and imaginary image is accepted as the test of thorough training of the intelligence. What really takes place is the readjustment of the work of the faculties so as to secure harmonious action; and in the happy and sound development of the nature the imagination does not give place to observation, but deals with principles, forces and laws instead of with things. The loss of vision is never compensated for by the gain of sight; to see a thing one must use his mind quite as much as his eye. It too often happens, as the result of our educational methods, that in training the observer we blight the poet; and the poet is, after all, the most important person in society. He keeps the soul of his fellows alive. Without him the modern world would become one vast, dreary, soul-destroying Coketown, and man would sink to the level of Gradgrind. The practical man develops the resources of the country, the man of vision discerns, formulates and directs its spiritual policy and growth; the mechanic builds the house, but the architect creates it; the artisan makes the tools, but the artist uses them; the observer sees and records the fact, but the scientist discovers the law; the man of affairs manages the practical concerns of the world from day to day, but the poet makes it spiritual, significant, interesting, worth living in.

The modern child passes through the same stages as did the children of four thousand years ago. He, too, is a poet. He believes that the world about him throbs with life and is peopled with all manner of strange, beautiful, powerful folk, who live just outside the range of his sight; he, too, personifies light and heat and storm and wind and cold as his remote ancestors did. He, too, lives in and through his imagination; and if, in later life, he grows in power and becomes a creative man, his achievements are the fruits of the free and vigorous life of his imagination. The higher kinds of power, the higher opportunities of mind, the richer resources, the springs of the deeper happiness, are open to him in the exact degree in which he is able to use his imagination with individual freedom and intelligence. Formal education makes small provision for this great need of his nature; it trains his eye, his hand, his faculty of observation, his ability to reason, his capacity for resolute action; but it takes little account of that higher faculty which, cooperating with the other faculties, makes him an architect instead of a builder, an artist instead of an artisan, a poet instead of a drudge.

The fairy tale belongs to the child and ought always to be within his reach, not only because it is his special literary form and his nature craves it, but because it is one of the most vital of the textbooks offered to him in the school of life. In ultimate importance it outranks the arithmetic, the grammar, the geography, the manuals of science; for without the aid of the imagination none of these books is really comprehensible.

HAMILTON WRIGHT MABIE,


March, 1905.


FAIRY TALES

CONTENTS

PAGE
INTRODUCTIONv

ONE EYE, TWO EYES, THREE EYES1
(Grimm's Fairy Tales)

THE MAGIC MIRROR11
(Grimm's Fairy Tales)

THE ENCHANTED STAG26
(Grimm's Fairy Tales)

HANSEL AND GRETHEL35
(Grimm's Fairy Tales)

THE STORY OF ALADDIN; OR, THE WONDERFUL LAMP48
("Arabian Nights' Entertainments")

THE HISTORY OF ALI BABA, AND OF THE FORTY ROBBERS KILLED BY ONE SLAVE
("Arabian Nights' Entertainments")109

THE SECOND VOYAGE OF SINDBAD THE SAILOR140
("Arabian Nights' Entertainments")

THE WHITE CAT147
(From the tale by the Comtesse d'Aulnoy)

THE GOLDEN GOOSE166
(Grimm's Fairy Tales)

THE TWELVE BROTHERS173
(Grimm's Fairy Tales)

THE FAIR ONE WITH THE GOLDEN LOCKS180
(From the tale by the Comtesse d'Aulnoy)

TOM THUMB195
(First written in prose in 1621 by Richard Johnson)

BLUE BEARD204
(From the French tale by Charles Perrault)

CINDERELLA; OR, THE LITTLE GLASS SLIPPER212
(From the French tale by Charles Perrault)

PUSS IN BOOTS222
(From the French tale by Charles Perrault)

THE SLEEPING BEAUTY IN THE WOOD229
(From the French tale by Charles Perrault)

JACK AND THE BEAN-STALK236
(Said to be an allegory of the Teutonic Al-fader, The tale written in French
by Charles Perrault)

JACK THE GIANT KILLER254
(From the old British legend told by Geoffrey of Monmouth, of Corineus the Trojan)

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD273
(From the French tale by Charles Perrault)

THE THREE BEARS276
(Robert Southey)

THE PRINCESS ON THE PEA279
(From the tale by Hans Christian Andersen)

THE UGLY DUCKLING281
(From the tale by Hans Christian Andersen)

THE LIGHT PRINCESS294
(George MacDonald)

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST352
(From the French tale by Madame Gabrielle de Villeneuve)


FAIRY TALES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW


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