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Text on one page: Few Medium Many
v. Hansel and Gretel, 15, i., 115,
though with some misgivings. Very few of his variants have his section
F, which he divides into three variants: F 1. Ducks or angels carry
the children over the stream. F 2. Or they throw out obstacles to
pursuit. F 3. Or the witch drinks up the stream and bursts. F 2 is
obviously "contaminated" by the similar incident in the Master Maid,
and the existence of such alternatives indicates, to my mind, an
absence of a consistent tradition as to the ending of the story, which
obviously ended with the baking of the witch in the oven. I have
combined, in my ending F 1 and F 2, the former from the Grimms'
"Hansel and Gretel"; I have also adapted their title, with a
reminiscence of Sir James Barrie.

The predicament of the farmer must have often really occurred in the
Middle Ages when famine was the rule rather than the exception; and
the decision to "expose" the children recalls the general practice in
ancient Greece and Rome and in Arabia. A touch of comedy, however, is
given to this grim beginning of our tale by the house made of cookies
and sweetmeats, probably derived from the myth of a Schlarafenland of
the Germans and similar imaginations of the Celts (see _More Celtic
Fairy Tales_).

The beginning of the tale occurs early in Basile, v., 8, "Nennillo and
Nennila," in which the three kings' children find their way home twice
by similar devices, but at the third time scatter peas, which the
birds eat up. Perrault has the same beginning in his "Petit Poucet,"
which has been Englished as "Hop o' my Thumb," who shares some of the
adventures of Tom Thumb, as well as of the valiant Tailor. Lang has an
interesting but, as usual, inconclusive discussion of the incidents of
our tale in his Perrault civ.-cxi., and finds many of the incidents
among the Kaffirs, Zulus, and other savage tribes, but scarcely the
whole set of incidents from A to F, and that is what we want to find
in studying the story. Dr. Bolte finds several instances where the
full formula still exists in popular tradition. It is surely easiest
to assume that they were once brought together by a folk artist whose
bright little tale has spread among various folks, with the
alterations suggested by the divergent fancy of the different folk
minds.


XXIII. CLEVER LASS

The Clever Lass is of exceptional interest to the student of the
Folk-Tale because of its exceptionally wide spread throughout Europe
and Asia, and also because it is one of those tales which have been
made the basis of the theory of the Eastern origin of all Folk-Tales.
Bolte, in his elaborate monograph on the formula ("_Anmerkungen_,"
ii., 349-73), enumerates no less than eighty-six variants, twelve in
Germany, six in other Teutonic lands, thirteen in Romance countries,
no less than thirty-seven in Slavonic dialects, seven in Finnish,
Hungarian and Tartar, six in the Semitic tongues, and also five in
India, though there the parallelism is only partial. But in the
European variants the parallels are so close and the riddles answered
by the Clever Lass are in so many cases identical, and the order of
incidents is so uniform that none can doubt the practical identity of
the story throughout the Western area. There occurs some variation in
the opening which, at times, takes the form of the father of the
Clever Girl finding a golden mortar and giving it to the King, against
the advice of his daughter who foresees that the monarch will demand
the accompanying pestle. This seems however to be confined to the
Teutonic lands or those in immediate cultural connection with them.
The riddles about strongest, richest, most beautiful, form the opening
elsewhere, and I have therefore chosen this alternative. The
variations, both in questions and answers, are many, as is perhaps
natural considering the popularity of the riddle in the folk mind,
which would make it easy for a story-teller to make changes.

The King or Prince, in some of the variants, discovers the cleverness
of the farmer's daughter on a visit to the farmer, when he elaborately
carves and divides a chicken on a method which the Clever Lass
discerns. This however does not occur so frequently except in Italy,
and I have therefore omitted it. The discovery of the theft by the
King's messenger is much more widely spread. (See Crane, 382, and
compare "Gobborn Seer," in _More English Fairy Tales_.)

The Grimms, in their notes, point to a remarkable parallel in the Saga
of Aslaug, the daughter of Brunhild and Sigurd. Here the King Ragnar
demands that Aslaug should come to him naked yet clothed, eating yet
not eating, not alone but without companion. She uses the fish-net as
in the Folk-Tale, bites into an onion, and takes her dog along with
her. From the last incident some of the Folk-Tales have possibly taken
the awkward attitude of limping along with one of her feet on the back
of a dog. But the first incident, being dragged along in a fish-net,
is so unlikely to occur to anybody's mind without prompting, that one
cannot help agreeing with the Grimms that the incident was taken into
the Folk-Tale from the Saga, or that both were derived from a common
source. On the whole subject of the curious ride, R. Kohler has an
elaborate treatment in his _Gesammelte Schriften_, i., 446-56.

The attraction of the riddle for the folk mind is well known, and
before the spread of cards appears to have been one of the chief forms
of gambling in which even life was staked, as in the case of Samson or
the Sphinx. In the Folk-Tale it often occurs in the form of the
Riddle-Bride-Wager, in which a princess is married to him that can
guess some elaborate conundrum. The first two of Child's Ballads deal
with similar riddles, and his notes are a mine of erudition on the
subject: on the Clever Lass herself see his elaborate treatment,
_English Ballads_, i., 485 _seq._

It is perhaps worthy of note that the questions as to the strongest,
most beautiful, and richest occur in Plutarch's Symposium, 152 a, and
it is a striking coincidence that, in the same treatise, 151 b, occurs
another practical riddle, how to drink up the ocean, which occurs in
several variants of the Clever Lass. But there is no evidence of any
story connection between the two riddles in Plutarch, and one can
easily imagine this sort of verbal amusement spreading from the
learned to the folk.

The plan by which the Clever Lass becomes reconciled to the King, by
carrying off what is dearest to her, is found in the Midrash probably
as early as the eighth century. A still more remarkable parallel is
that of the True Wives of Weinsberg who, when that town was invested,
were allowed by the besiegers to carry off with them whatever they
liked best. When the town gate was opened they tottered forth, each of
them carrying her husband on her shoulders. But whether the incident
ever really occurred, and if it occurred, whether the ruse was
suggested by the Folk-Tale, cannot now be ascertained.

Benfey, in an elaborate dissertation, first communicated to "Ausland"
in 1859, but now included in his _Kleinere Schriften_, ii., 156-223,
argues for the Eastern origin of the whole cycle, which he traces back
to the "Seventy Tales of the Parrot" (Suka Saptati) probably as early
as the sixth century. Here the vizier Sakatala of the King Nanda is
released from prison in order to determine which of two identical
horses is mare and which is foal, and which part of a truncated log is
root or branch. Benfey traces this and similar riddlesome difficulties
to a good deal of Eastern literature in Tibet, Mongolia and Persia,
and Arabia. But he fails to find any very exact parallels in the
European area which, at that time, was very little explored. He finds
the nearest parallel in Wuk, No. 25, but this is by no means a full
variant of the other European tales and may have even been
"contaminated" from the East. Benfey notices the Saga parallel but
goes so far as even to claim this as being influenced by Eastern
stories. Since his time a much closer parallel has been found in
Kashmir by Knowles' _Folk Tales of Kashmir_, pages 484-90, repeated in
_Indian Fairy Tales_, No. xxiv., "Why the Fish Laughed." But the
parallelism here extends only to the cleverness of the girl and the
ingenuity of her answers to the riddles, not to the actual plot of the
story which is so uniform in Europe. Altogether we must reject
Benfey's contention, at any rate for this particular story.


XXIV. THUMBKIN

I have followed, for the most part, Bolte's reconstruction, which
practically consists of a combination of Grimm, 37 and 45. But in
combining the two I have found it necessary to omit sections D and E
of Bolte's formula which form the beginning of Grimm, 45, "Thumbkin as
Journeyman."

The notion of a baby the size of a doll might be regarded as
"universally human"; even the Greeks knew of manikins no bigger than
their thumbs and weighing not more than an obolus (Athenĉus, xii.,
77); there is an epigram of the same subject in the Greek Anthology,
ii., 350. But the particular adventures of Thumbkin are so
consistently identical throughout Europe, especially with regard to
the adventures in the cow's stomach, that it is impossible to consider
the stories as independent. Cosquin, 53, has more difficulty than
usual in finding real parallels in the Orient. In England, of course,
Thumbkin is known as Tom Thumb (see _English Fairy Tales_). In the
days when mythological explanations of folk-tales were popular, Gaston
Paris, in a special monograph ("Petit Poucet," Paris 1875) tried to
prove that Tom Thumb was a stellar hero because his French name was
given to the smallest star in the Great Bear. But it is more likely
that the name came from the tale than the tale from the star.

According to Gaston Paris, the chief variants known to him were
Teutonic and Slav. Those of the Roumanians, Albanians, and Greeks were
derived from the Slavs. He concludes that the French form must have
been borrowed from the Germans, and declares that it is not found in
Italy or Spain, but Cosquin, ii., gives Basque and Catalan variants,
as well as a Portuguese one, and Crane gives a Tuscan variant, 242,
with other occurrences in Italy in note 3, p.



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