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_Preparing for Publication_,


_A Further Contribution to Serbian Folk-Lore_,































It is only within the last few years that the importance of folk-lore,
the popular legends, tales, drolls, and extravagances which have been
handed down from generation to generation among the labourers,
peasants and youth of a nation, has been frankly recognised. It is
now, however, generally acknowledged that this kind of literature,
which more than all other deserves the name of popular, possesses a
value beyond any momentary amusement which the tales themselves may
afford, and it has assumed an honourable post side by side with other
and graver materials, and has obtained a recognised use in deciding
the conclusions of the historian and ethnologist. It is fortunate that
the utility of these 'tales and old wives' fables' should have been
thus recognised, otherwise the dull utilitarianism of modern educators
would soon have trampled out these fragments of the 'elder time,' and
have left to our children no alternative than that of 'being crammed
with geography and natural history.'[1] The collection of Serbian
popular tales, now translated into English and here published, is an
additional contribution to our knowledge of such literature - the most
venerable secular literature, it may be, which has come down to our

[1] Charles Lamb, in a letter to Coleridge, October, 1802.

At the wish of the lady who has selected and translated these tales, I
have undertaken to edit them. In doing so I have, however, preserved,
as far as possible, the literality of her version, and have limited
myself to the addition of a few notes to the text. The tales included
in this volume have been selected from two collections of Serbian
folk-lore; the greater part from the well-known 'Srpske narodne
pripovijetke,' of Vuk Stefanovich Karadjich, published at Vienna, in
1853, and others from the 'Bosniacke narodne pripovijetke,' collected
by the 'Society of Young Bosnia,' the first part of which collection
was printed at Sissek, in Croatia, in 1870. The collection of Vuk
Stefanovich Karadjich was translated into German by his daughter
Wilhelmina, and printed at Berlin, in 1854.[2] To this volume, which
is dedicated to the Princess Julia, widow of the late Prince Michael
Obrenovich III., Jacob Grimm, who suggested to Karadjich the utility
of making the original collection, has contributed a short but
interesting preface.

[2] 'Volksmärchen der Serben, gesammelt und herausgegeben von
Vuk Stephanowitsch Karadschitsch.' Berlin, 1854.

The collection of Vuk Karadjich was gathered by him from the lips of
professional story-tellers, and of old peasant women in Serbia and
the Herzégovina. One of these stories, translated in the present
volume, and here called 'The Wonderful Kiosk,' or 'The Kiosk in the
Sky,' was however written out and contributed to this collection by
Prince Michael, the late and lamented ruler of Serbia, who had heard
it, in childhood, from the lips of his nurse. The Bosniac collection
was made by young theological students from that country - members of
the college at Dyakovo, in Croatia.

The taste for this species of literature has, during the last few
years, led to the publication of various collections of traditional
folk-tales, legends, and sagas, from all countries including and lying
between Iceland and the southern extremity of Africa and of Polynesia,
until a very ample body of such stories have been made accessible even
to the mere English reader. Whilst Mr. Thorpe[3] and Mr. Dasent[4]
have directed their attention to Iceland and the Scandinavian
kingdoms, Mr. Campbell has rendered important service by his large
collection of West Highland stories.[5] Indian legends, and folk-lore
in general, has been illustrated by the volumes of Mr. W. H. Wilson,
Dr. Muir[6], Colonel Jacob, Mr. Kelly[7], and Miss Frere[8]; and the
Cingalese traditions by the writings of Mr. Turnour, and especially
by the volumes of Mr. Spence Hardy.[9] Russian and North Slavonic
folk-lore has been made accessible and arranged in the valuable
volumes of Mr. Ralston, on 'The Songs of the Russian People,' and on
'Russian Folk-Lore.' Dr. Bleek has collected some of the myths and
popular tales of the tribes in the neighbourhood of the Cape of Good
Hope[10]; and Sir George Grey has done the same good service in
preserving specimens of the folk-tales of the people of New
Zealand.[11] Whilst foreign countries have given up their stores of
popular literature to these investigations, similar industry has been
shown in collecting the traditions and folk-lore of our own country.
The songs collected in Sir Walter Scott's 'Border Minstrelsy,'
illustrated as they are by the notes which he added, are a store-house
alike for the northern counties of England and the southern counties
of Scotland. Mr. Wright and Mr. Cockayne, in their volumes, that on
the 'Literature of the Middle Ages,' by the former gentleman, and that
of the 'Leechdoms of Early England,' by the latter, have brought
together the folk-lore of our forefathers; and in the pages of
Baker[12], Chambers[13], Hone[14], Henderson[15], Hunt[16], and
others, are stored up much of the local folk-lore and tales which
still exist amongst us, and which we have inherited from our Aryan
ancestors, - echoes of stories first heard by them in their home in
Central Asia.

[3] 'Northern Mythology,' 3 vols.

[4] 'Popular Tales from the Norse.'

[5] 'Popular Tales of the West Highlands,' 4 vols. Edinb.

[6] 'Original Sanskrit Texts on the Origin and History of the
People of India, &c.'

[7] 'Indo-European Traditions.'

[8] 'Old Deccan Days.'

[9] 'Manual of Buddhism' and 'Legends and Theories of the
Buddhists.' London. 1866.

[10] 'Reynard, the Fox, in South Africa.'

[11] 'Polynesian Mythology and Traditions of New Zealand.'

[12] 'Folk-Lore of Northamptonshire.'

[13] 'The Book of Days.'

[14] 'Table Book' and 'Year Book.'

[15] 'Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of
England and the Borders.'

[16] 'Drolls of Old Cornwall.' 2 vols.

By means of these and similar collections, we are enabled to trace and
compare the folk-tale in the various stages of its growth, and note
its modifications, according to the religion of the people who have
received it, and the climate of the countries in which it has been
naturalised. In the pages of Professor Max Müller, of Mr. Baring
Gould, and of Mr. Cox, we have attempts, more or less successful, to
treat these stories scientifically, and to trace and explain the
origin and motive of the various popular tales and legends which are
comprehended under the name of folk-lore.

An examination of these collections leads to the conclusion
that - apart at least from the legends of history - the number of
strictly original folk-tales is but small; and that people, settled
for ages in countries separated geographically, have yet possessed
from remote antiquity a popular literature, which must have been the
common property of the race before it branched into nations; but that
the natural accretions, the growth of time, together with local
colouring, fragments of historical facts, the influence of popular
religious belief, and, above all, the exigencies and ingenuity of
professional story-tellers, have so modified these primitive tales and
legends, that an appearance of originality has been imparted to
current popular tales, which, however, a larger acquaintance with
folk-lore, and a more extended investigation, are now gradually
dispelling. It is at length evident that various primitive legendary
and traditionary elements have been combined in most of these tales;
and that the only originality consists in such combination. They
resemble a piece of tesselated work made up of cubes of coloured
stone, the tints of which are really few in number, though they admit
of being arranged into a variety of figures after the fancy of the

In the appendix to Mr. Henderson's 'Notes on the Folk-Lore of the
Northern Counties of England,' under the appropriate name of
'Story-radicals,' the reader will find a useful and suggestive
classification of the elements which enter into the composition of
various popular tales borrowed from Von Hahn's introduction to his
collection of Greek and Albanian folk-tales; and although this
classification is rendered imperfect by the recent large increase of
such stories, yet it suffices to explain the manner in which fragments
selected from other popular fictions have been built up and
agglutinated together. Philological research is day by day
illustrating more clearly the original oneness of the language of
mankind; and collections of household stories and popular legends are
showing that much of the really popular literature, especially such as
lingers in lands uninvaded by modern civilisation, and in sequestered
spots in the midst of such civilisation, was possessed in common,
before mankind was parted off into races, and subdivided into tribes
and nations; so that they also furnish another proof of the unity of
the human race. We are still able, at least to some extent, to trace
the genealogy of many popular stories, and to ascend to their
fountain-head, or at least to such a distance as to indicate the time
when they originated, and the land where they were first told. Thus we
may feel sure that had some of the tales in this volume been the
original fancies of Slavonic minstrels and story-tellers they would
not have been garnished with crocodiles, alligators, elephants, and
the fauna and flora of Hindoostan, and that the germ of such stories
must therefore have existed before the Slav made his home in Europe.
Such accessories are sufficient proof that the tales themselves could
not have been indigenous to the banks of the Danube, but must have
been brought thither by a race which had migrated from a more southern
and eastern home.

Whilst the original home of these stories may thus be satisfactorily
proved to have been in other lands than that in which they are now
found, the growth of the tale, story, legend, or droll may be traced
by an examination of the stories themselves. They are, in most
instances, composite - an agglutination of fragments such as is seen in
the breccias and similar stones of igneous origin. The desire of being
credited with originality - a common weakness of humanity - the
necessity of lengthening out a tale so as to fill up a definite amount
of time in its recitation, and the wish to amuse by novel
combinations - all tended to the structural growth of these tales. This
was effected in part by the unexpected arrangements of old and
well-known incidents, in part by the easier and coarser expedient of
mere repetition. Thus, a common trick of the story-teller was to
repeat all the details of the events which happened to one of the
personages in his story, and to attribute them to each of the three,
or even the seven heroes who had started in search of adventures, and
whom he makes meet with precisely similar fortunes. These repetitions
sometimes appear and are sometimes dispensed with, according to the
exigencies of time, or the skill of the narrator. The other expedient
of adding to the original tale incidents taken from other stories,
admits of the exercise of much ingenuity on the part of the
story-teller, and entitled him, in some degree, to the credit of
originality. The fact remains, however, that the materials out of
which such stories are constructed are less numerous than the stories
themselves; which have for thousands of years delighted and amused,
and sometimes instructed, both old and young alike, the peasant and
the prince, the rude Hottentot of Southern Africa, the stolid boor of
Russia, and the quick-witted and intelligent Greek.

It is comparatively an easy task to trace the popular stories which
are familiar to us, to the countries where they were originally told;
or, at least, to decide approximately as to the land of their birth.
Still more easy to decompose them, and separate the original germ from
the accretions which have gathered around it in its course. It is not
so easy, however, to determine the motive of the original story.
According to one school of writers, these popular folk-tales embody
profound mythological dogmas, and were even purposely constructed to
convey, by means of symbolical or histrionic teaching, the maxims of
ancient religions and philosophies. To some extent this is possibly
true; apart, however, from the fact, and the speculations which the
facts may give rise to, the truth or falsity of this is of but little
practical value. No skill which we possess can decide with any
certainty as to the mythological or non-mythological origin of a
folk-tale, or families of such tales, and the attempts which have been
made to interpret such tales in accordance with mythology, have ended
in absurd failures.

Much confusion of thought, as it appears to me, exists as to the
mythological motive which is claimed for many of these folk-tales; and
men have confounded the mythological explanation of a tale with its
mythological origin and motive. We shall, however, have done but
little in the way of clearing up this question when we have adjusted
the various incidents of a folk-tale to the teaching of ancient
mythology. The attempt to do so resembles the labours of the
neo-Platonic expounders of declining Paganism, in their endeavours to
make it appear more reasonable by giving to the gross and material
incidents of ancient polytheism a subtle and recondite spiritual
interpretation. The question - too frequently lost sight of - being not
whether the incidents of Pagan mythology might by any such process be
reconciled with the intellect of a philosopher, but whether the
incidents themselves originated in the intent to present spiritual
truth to the mind, and were bodied forth in order to convey such
spiritual lessons to the apprehension of the worshipper. There is a
similar order to be observed in the examination and interpretation of
these tales; and the most ingenious interpretation of a folk-tale, and
its adjustment to the incidents of mythology, do not advance us one
step towards determining its motive, and clearing up the obscurities
which surround its origin. Again, the presence of mythological
incidents in a tale in no degree accounts for its origin; nor does it
assist us in proving these tales to possess a mythological character.
In popular literature - especially in such a literature as that of
which I am speaking - the tone of the popular mind must needs be
reflected; and if mythology had, at the date of the creation of the
tale, or during its growth, any considerable hold over the popular
mind, this fact would be indicated by the characters introduced, as
well as by the general colouring given to the tale itself; just as a
profoundly religious mind tinges the creations of the imagination or
the productions of the intellect with the religious convictions which
possess it. But tales and scientific treatises may be profoundly
Christian in their _ethos_, without it being necessary for us to
attribute to their authors the intention of presenting, by this means,
an esoteric explanation of the articles of the Creed.

Now it is to be borne in mind, that at the time when most of the
primary materials, out of which these folk-tales are constructed,
originated, polytheism had peopled the groves and streams, the
mountains and the valleys, the hills and plains, the sky above and the
deep sea below, and even the centre of the earth, with supernatural
beings. Every day and every fraction of life had its tutelary; every
family its special _lar_; and every individual its _genius_, or
guardian spirit. Omnipresence was subdivided into atoms, and an atom
was everywhere present. Under such circumstances it would hardly have
been possible to construct a tale or to rearrange the fragments of
older tales without introducing these elements of the popular belief.
Without doing so, indeed, a tale would not - could not have become a
folk-tale. This, however, in no way makes probable the mythological
signification and origin of such tales, any more than the introduction
of guns and pistols, of gas or the telegraph, into a modern tale,
would prove it to have a military or a scientific motive.

A specimen of the way in which folk-tales are interpreted
mythologically will, I think, show at once the ingenuity of the
interpreter and the baselessness of the interpretation. The tale which
I cite as a specimen of this kind of treatment is one which, like
folk-tales in general, occurs in several forms in England, in Southern
Italy, in Germany, in the Tyrol, in Hungary, in Iceland, Swabia,
Wallachia, and Greece, and probably in other countries. I give it in
the form in which it appears in the 'Modern Greek Household Tales,'
edited by Von Hahn, because the Greek version of this tale has the
merit of being 'shorter than most of its variants.' The ingenious
though fanciful explanation will be found in the appendix to Mr.
Henderson's 'Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of
England': -

'A man and a woman had no children; the woman prayed that she might be
granted one, even though it were a serpent; and in due course of time
she brought forth a serpent, which left the house and took up its
abode in a hole.

'The woman is a terrible shrew, and a bad woman to boot; she brings
the house to poverty, and then goes to the serpent to ask for relief.
The serpent gives his mother a gold-dropping ass, warning her never to
let it touch water. The couple live on the gold for some while, but at
last the woman leads the ass to the water, and it runs away and is
lost. She goes once more to her child, who gives her a pitcher, which
does all she wants; she sells this to the king, and is reduced to
poverty. The old man now goes to the serpent's lair and obtains a
stick, to which he says, "Up stick, and do your duty!" whereupon it
knocks the woman on the head and kills her; so the man lives in
happiness ever after.'

On this, the writer who undertakes to interpret this tale observes -

'That these stories rest upon a common mythological foundation, there
is strong evidence to prove. The gold-dropping animal, the magic table
or napkin, the self-acting cudgel, appear in some of the tales of
ancient India, and their original signification is made apparent.

'The master, who gives the three precious gifts, is the All
Father - the Supreme Spirit. The gold and jewel dropping ass is the
spring cloud hanging in the sky, and shedding the bright productive
Vernal showers. The table which covers itself is the earth becoming
covered with flowers and fruit at the bidding of the New Year. But
there is a check; rain is withheld, the process of vegetation is
stayed, by some evil influence. Then comes the Thunder cloud, out of
which leaps the bolt and rains pour down, the earth receives them, and
is covered with abundance - all that was lost is restored.'

The incident of the dropping of jewels only appears in the Neapolitan
version, given in the 'Pentamerone' of Giambattista Basile,[17] and is
apparently an addition made by him to the original story. The
explanation of the meaning of the tale, it appears to me, might as
fittingly have been taken from the region of science, or of history,
and might have been as easily interpreted in a thousand and one other
ways as in this. So that if, originally, the folk-tale embodied a
mythological truth, which, however, may be affirmed or denied with
equal right, the fact is of no value in aiding us to determine what
the intentions of the inventor of the tale must have been.

[17] Naples, 1837.

Mythological symbolism, like very much of what passes current as
ecclesiastical symbolism, is a testimony to the ingenuity of the
interpreter; it has, oftentimes, no existence in the object
interpreted. We may, to our own satisfaction, perhaps, resolve the
sternest facts into impalpable fancies; the fact remains, and will
remain when the fancy has faded into its original nothingness or
lingers only as a beautiful freak of fancy. The twelve Cæsars were
living and historical personages, though an ingenious apologist has
reduced them into mythological non-existences, and has traced in them
a likeness to the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Mythological and
legendary incidents, it is true, have a tendency to fasten themselves
upon real men and women until, like parasitical plants round the trunk
of a tree, they conceal the true character of those who are thus
clothed. Sir Richard Whittington, however, was Lord Mayor of London,
though the sounds heard from the brow of Highgate Hill -

'When he, a friendless and a drooping boy,
Sat on a stone, and heard the bells speak out -
Articulate music' - [18]

had no more real existence than his famous cat, and though we are
indebted for the means by which his great wealth was acquired only to
the pleasant invention of the popular-romance writer.

[18] Wordsworth, 'The Prelude.'

Probably many of these stories possess an historical origin, and could
we recover their original form, they might be found to record real
incidents in the life of an historical personage or of a nation. The
original form, however, can now hardly be even guessed at. Successive
generations of story-tellers have added to the original tale, and have
changed archaic incidents for those better understood by the audience,
and therefore appealing the readier to their sympathies. When
transplanted from its home to a distant land the local colouring has
been changed, unintelligible customs have been made to give place to
vernacular ones, until so little remains of the old tale that even
with the help of comparative analysis it is now impossible to recover
the form in which it was given out at the first. Even with a written
literature and with diffused information, Shakespeare found it
necessary to the stories which he dramatized to interweave appliances

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