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I had often heard repeated in infancy, and which I 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 been 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 them 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 Wapshotts 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, and Ebba the Saxon.
To begin with the rudest species of these inventions, we may notice the nursery tale heard by Dr. Leyden, 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:
My minny me slew.' It would occupy too much room to abstract the tale of the • Machandel Boom, or the Holly Tree, which was substantially the same; but the Nether-Saxon stanza, corresponding with the Scottish verse, may be given for the sake of comparison.
3. Min Moder de mi slacht't,
Min Vader de mi att,
Kyritt! Kyvitt! ach wat een schön vogel bin ick.
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.
• Mader Watt! Mader Watt!
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 Brondhoë, 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 Goodmun Platt; 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 Brondhoë, there came out a Trold, who spake to me, saying
ci Hör du Plat,
Siig til din kat
Hear thou Platt,
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 pipk'in 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 Murre dead! then I may go 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 Frous, and is alluded to in several ancient German writers. The rhythmical address of the aquatic lover,
who is, of course, an enchanted prince, corresponds in the two languages.
• Open the door, my hinny, my heart,
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 Kur,' 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 Naugasuna 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 Aying swords, and hobgoblios and fairies in abundavce. 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 iinport is yet a favourite anjongst 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
merry priest, Arlotto, told it before the Lord Mayor was born or thought of,* These circumstances, tritling as the subject may ap
pear, * Facezie del Piorano Arlotto, p. 23.--Arlotto relates how the adventure betela
pear, will lend their aid in tracing the fictions of the inhabitants of Europe from the first seat of the Caucasian tribes.
Whittington, however, will claim less attention than Tom THUMB and Tom 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 adorn 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 not, 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 ihat 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. This is a traditionary story of the Germans: but there
Geneway merchant, upon which another, hearing of the profitable adventure, makes a voyage to Rat Island with a precious cargo, for which the king repays him with one of his cats.
* See Hearne's Benedictus Abbas, p. 54.
+ 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 putos, 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 Thunb'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 récol
is a little book in the Danish language, analyzed by Professor Nierup, of the University of Copenhagen, who censures it, and perhaps with some degree of justice, as a very childish history It treats of Swain Tomling, a man no bigger than a thumb, who would be married to a woman three ells and three quarters long.' The Danish title-page, which we transcribe below,* enumerates other of Tomling's adventures which are not found in the History of his Marvellous Acts of Manhood,' as preserved in England; the manhood, however, which emboldened the Swain to venture on a wife of three ells and three quarters' in length is yet commemorated in the ancient rhyme which begins. I had a little husband no bigger than my thumb.'
According to popular tradition Tom Thumb died at Lincoln, which it may be recollected was one of the five Danish lowns of England; we do not, however, therefore intend to insist that the story was handed down by the northern invaders. There was a little blue flag-stone in the pavement of the Minster which was shewn as Tom Thumb's monument, and the country folks never failed to marvel at it when they came to church on the Assize Sunday; but during some of the modern repairs which have been inflicted on that venerable building, the flag-stone was displaced and lost, to the great discomfiture of the holiday visitants.
The prose history of Tom Thumb is manufactured from the ballad; and by the introduction of the fairy queen at his birth, and certain poetical touches which it yet exhibits, we are led to suppose that it is a rifacciamento of an earlier and better original. One of Tom's sports deserves note; it is when, in order to be revenged on his playmates, he
took in pleasant game
lect right, was not originally a Bramin, but became one by adoption, like some of the .worthies in the Ramayuna. Compare the multiplicity of Tom Thumb's metamorphoses with those of Taliessin as quoted by Davies; we shall then see that this diminutive personage is a slender but distinct thread of communication between the Braminical and Druidical superstitions. Even independent of the analogy between his transformations and those of Taliessin—his station in the court of King Arthur (evidently the mythological Arthur) marks him as a person of the highest fabulous antiquity in this island; while the adventure of the cow, to which there is nothing analogous in Celtic mythology, appears to connect him with India.'
**Svend TOMLING, et Menneske ikke större end en Tommelfinger, som vil giftes med en Kone, țre Alen og tre Quarter lang, Kommer til Verden med hat paa og Karde ved siden, driver Plov; bælges til en herremand som forvare ham i sin Snuusdaase,' &c. G 3