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Bunce - Fairy Tales Origins and Meaning - 1878

Bunce - Fairy Tales Origins and Meaning - 1878

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Published by: rogiovanetti on Dec 15, 2009
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01/28/2013

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Bunce, John Thackray.
Fairy Tales; Their Origin and Meaning with Some Account of Dwellers in Fairyland 
. London:Macmillan and Co., 1878.
 
 
Introductory Note
 
THE
substance of this volume was delivered as a course of Christmas Holiday Lectures, in 1877, at theBirmingham and Midland Institute, of which the author was then the senior Vice-president. It was found thatboth the subject and the matter interested young people; and it was therefore thought that, revised andextended, the Lectures might not prove unacceptable in the form of a Book. The volume does not pretend toscientific method, or to complete treatment of the subject. Its aim is a very modest one: to furnish aninducement rather than a formal introduction to the study of Folk Lore; a study which, when once begun, thereader will pursue, with unflagging interest, in such works as the various writings of Mr. Max-Muller; the"Mythology of the Aryan Nations," by Mr. Cox; Mr. Ralston's "Russian Folk Tales;" Mr. Kelly's "Curiositiesof Indo-European Folk Lore;" the Introduction to Mr. Campbell's "Popular Tales of the West Highlands," andother publications, both English and German, bearing upon the same subject. In the hope that his labour mayserve this purpose, the author ventures to ask for an indulgent rather than a critical reception of this littlevolume.
 
BIRMINGHAM,September, 1878.
 
Chapter 1:Origin of Fairy Stories
 
WE
are going into Fairy Land for a little while, to see what we can find there to amuseand instruct us this Christmas time. Does anybody know the way? There are no maps orguidebooks, and the places we meet with in our workaday world do not seem like thehomes of the Fairies. Yet we have only to put on our Wishing Caps, and we can get intoFairy Land in a moment. The house-walls fade away, the winter sky brightens, the sunshines out, the weather grows warm and pleasant; flowers spring up, great trees cast afriendly shade, streams murmur cheerfully over their pebbly beds, jewelled fruits are tobe had for the trouble of gathering them; invisible hands set out well-covered dinner-tables, brilliant and graceful forms flit in and out across our path, and we all at once findourselves in the midst of a company of dear old friends whom we have known and lovedever since we knew anything. There is Fortunatus with his magic purse, and the square of carpet that carries him anywhere; and Aladdin with his wonderful lamp; and Sindbadwith the diamonds he has picked up in the Valley of Serpents; and the Invisible Prince,who uses the fairy cat to get his dinner for him; and the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, just awakened by the young Prince, after her long sleep of a hundred years; and Puss inBoots curling his whiskers after having eaten up the ogre who foolishly changed himself into a mouse; and Beauty and the Beast; and the Blue Bird; and Little Red Riding Hood,and Jack the Giant Killer, and Jack and the Bean Stalk; and the Yellow Dwarf; andCinderella and her fairy godmother; and great numbers besides, of whom we haven't timeto say anything now.
 
And when we come to look about us, we see that there are other dwellers in Fairy Land;giants and dwarfs, dragons and griffins, ogres with great white teeth, and wearing seven-leagued boots; and enchanters and magicians, who can change themselves into any formsthey please, and can turn other people into stone. And there are beasts and birds who cantalk, and fishes that come out on dry land, with golden rings in their mouths; and goodmaidens who drop rubies and pearls when they speak, and bad ones out of whose mouthscome all kinds of ugly things. Then there are evil-minded fairies, who always want to bedoing mischief; and there are good fairies, beautifully dressed, and with shining goldenhair and bright blue eyes and jewelled coronets, and with magic wands in their hands,who go about watching the bad fairies, and always come just in time to drive them away,and so prevent them from doing harm-the sort of Fairies you see once a year at thepantomimes, only more beautiful, and more handsomely dressed, and more graceful inshape, and not so fat, and who do not paint their faces, which is a bad thing for anywoman to do, whether fairy or mortal.
 
Altogether, this Fairy Land that we can make for ourselves in a moment, is a verypleasant and most delightful place, and one which all of us, young and old, may welldesire to get into, even if we have to come back from it sooner than we like. It is just thecountry to suit everybody, for all of us can find in it whatever pleases him best. If he likeswork, there is plenty of adventure; he can climb up mountains of steel, or travel over seasof glass, or engage in single combat with a giant, or dive down into the caves of the littlered dwarfs and bring up their hidden treasures, or mount a horse that goes more swiftlythan the wind, or go off on a long journey to find the water of youth and life, or doanything else that happens to be very dangerous and troublesome. If he doesn't like work,it is again just the place to suit idle people, because it is all Midsummer holidays. I neverheard of a school in Fairy Land, nor of masters with canes or birch rods, nor of impositions and long lessons to be learned when one gets home in the evening. Then theweather is so delightful. It is perpetual sunshine, so that you may lie out in the fields allday without catching cold; and yet it is not too hot, the sunshine being a sort of twilight,in which you see everything, quite clearly, but softly, and with beautiful colours, as if youwere in a delightful dream.
 

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