All our troubles come from doing that in which we have no interest.--EPICTETUS.
That is useful for every man which is conformable to his own constitution and nature.--MARCUS AURELIUS.
Genuine interest means that a person has identified himself with, or found himself in, a certain course of activity. It is obtained not by thinking about it and consciously aiming at it, but by considering and aiming at the conditions that lie back of it, and compel it.--JOHN DEWEY.
I. THE INTERESTS OF CHILDREN
Now that the value of fairy tales in education has been made clear, let us consider some of those principles of selection which should guide the teacher, the mother, the father, and the librarian, in choosing the tale for the little child.
Fairy tales must contain what interests children. It is a well-known principle that selective interest precedes voluntary attention; therefore interest is fundamental. All that is accomplished of permanent good is a by-product of the enjoyment of the tale. The tale will go home only as it brings joy, and it will bring joy when it secures the child's interest. Now interest is the condition which requires least mental effort. And fairy tales for little children must follow that great law of composition pointed out by Herbert Spencer, which makes all language consider the audience and the economy of the hearer's attention. The first step, then, is to study the interests of the child. We do not wish to give him just what he likes, but we want to give him a chance to choose from among those things which he ought to have and, as good and wise guardians, see that we offer what is in harmony with his interests. Any observation of the child's interest will show that he loves the things he finds in his fairy tales. He enjoys -
A sense of life. This is the biggest thing in the fairy tales, and the basis for their universal appeal. The little child who is just entering life can no more escape its attraction than can the aged veteran about to leave the pathway. The little pig, Whitie, who with his briskly curling tail goes eagerly down the road to secure, from the man who carried a load of straw, a bit with which to build his easily destructible house; Red Riding Hood taking a pot of jam to her sick grandmother; Henny Penny starting out on a walk, to meet with the surprise of a nut falling on her head--the biggest charm of all this is that it is life.
The familiar. The child, limited in experience, loves to come in touch with the things he knows about. It soothes his tenderness, allays his fears, makes him feel at home in the world,--and he hates to feel strange,--it calms his timidity, and satisfies his heart. The home and the people who live in it; the food, the clothing, and shelter of everyday life; the garden, the plant in it, or the live ant or toad; the friendly dog and cat, the road or street near by, the brook, the hill, the sky--these are a part of his world, and he feels them his own even in a story. The presents which the Rabbit went to town to buy for the little Rabbits, in How Brother Rabbit Frightens his Neighbors; the distinct names, Miss Janey and Billy Malone, given to the animals of In Some Lady's Garden, just as a child would name her dolls; and the new shoes of the Dog which the Rabbit managed to get in Why Mr. Dog Runs after Brother Rabbit--these all bring up in the child's experience delightful familiar associations. The tale which takes a familiar experience, gives it more meaning, and organizes it, such as The Little Red Hen, broadens, deepens, and enriches the child's present life.
The surprise. While he loves the familiar, nothing more quickly brings a smile than the surprise. Perhaps the most essential of the fairy traits is the combination of the familiar and the unfamiliar. The desire for the unknown, that curiosity which brings upon itself surprise, is the charm of childhood as well as the divine fire of the scientist. The naughty little Elephant who asked "a new, fine question he had never asked before," and who went to answer his own question of "what the crocodile has for dinner," met with many surprises which were spankings; and as a result, he returned home with a trunk and experience. He is a very good example of how delightful to the child this surprise can be. The essence of the fairy tale is natural life in a spiritual world, the usual child in the unusual environment, or the unusual child in the natural environment. This combination of the usual and unusual is the chief charm of Alice in Wonderland, where a natural child wanders through a changing environment that is unusual. For an idle moment enjoy the task of seeing how many ideas it contains which are the familiar ideas of children, and how they all have been "made different." All children love a tea-party, but what child would not be caught by having a tea-party with a Mad Hatter, a March Hare, and a sleepy Dormouse, with nothing to eat and no tea! Red Riding Hood was a dear little girl who set out to take a basket to her grandmother. But in the wood, after she had been gathering a nosegay and chasing butterflies, "just as I might do," any child might say, she met a wolf! And what child's ears would not rise with curiosity? "Now something's going to happen!" The Three Bears kept house. That was usual enough; but everything was different, and the charm is in giving the child a real surprise at every step. The house was not like an ordinary house; it was in the wood, and more like a play-house than a real one. There was a room, but not much in it; a table, but there was not on it what is on your table only three bowls. What they contained was usual, but unusually one bowl of porridge was big and hot, one was less big and cold, and one was little and just right. There were usual chairs, unusual in size and very unusual when Goldilocks sat in them. Upstairs the bedroom was usual, but the beds were unusual when Goldilocks lay upon them. The Bears themselves were usual, but their talk and action was a delightful mixture of the surprising and the comical. Perhaps this love of surprise accounts for the perfect leap of interest with which a child will follow the Cock in The Bremen Town Musicians, as he saw from the top of the tree on which he perched, a light, afar off through the wood. Certainly the theme of a light in the distance has a charm for children as it must have had for man long ago.
Sense impression. Good things to eat, beautiful flowers, jewels, the beauties of sight, color, and sound, of odor and of taste, all gratify a child's craving for sense impression. This, in its height, is the charm of the Arabian Nights. But in a lesser degree it appears in all fairy tales. Cinderella's beautiful gowns at the ball and the fine supper stimulate the sense of color, beauty, and taste. The sugar-panes and gingerbread roof of the Witch's House, in Hansel and Grethel, stir the child's kindred taste for sweets and cookies. The Gingerbread Boy, with his chocolate jacket, his cinnamon buttons, currant eyes, rose-sugar mouth, orange-candy cap, and gingerbread shoes, makes the same strong sense appeal. There is a natural attraction for the child in the beautiful interior of Sleeping Beauty's Castle, in the lovely perfume of roses in the Beast's Rose-Garden, in the dance and song of the Elves, and in the dance of the Goat and her seven Kids about the well.
The beautiful. Closely related to this love of the material is the sense of the beautiful. "Beauty is pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing," says Santayana. Pleasures of the eye and ear, of the imagination and memory, are those most easily objectified, and form the groundwork on which all higher beauty rests. The green of the spring, the odor of Red Riding Hood's flowers, the splendor of the Prince's ball in Cinderella--these when perceived distinctly are intelligible, and when perceived delightfully are beautiful. Language is a kind of music, too; the mode of speaking, the sound of letters, the inflection of the voice--all are elements of beauty. But this material beauty is tied up in close association with things "eye hath not seen nor ear heard," the moral beauty of the good and the message of the true. The industry of the little Elves reflects the worth of honest effort of the two aged peasants, and the dance of the Goat and seven Kids reflects the triumph of mother wit and the sharpness of love. The good, the true, and the beautiful are inseparably linked in the tale, just as they forever grow together in the life of the child. The tales differ largely in the element of beauty they present. Among those conspicuous for beauty may be mentioned Andersen's Thumbelina; the Indian How the Sun, the Moon, and West Wind Went Out to Dinner; the Japanese Mezumi, the Beautiful; and the English Robin's Christmas Song. Little Two-Eyes stands out as one containing a large element of beauty, and Oeyvind and Marit represents in an ideal way the possible union or the good, the true, and the beautiful. This union of the good, the true, and the beautiful has been expressed by an old Persian legend: "In the midst of the light is the beautiful, in the midst of the beautiful is the good, in the midst of the good is God, the Eternal One."
Wonder, mystery, magic. The spirit of wonder, like a will-o'-the-wisp, leads on through a fairy tale, enticing the child who follows, knowing that something will happen, and wondering what. When magic comes in he is gratified because some one becomes master of the universe--Cinderella, when she plants the hazel bough, and later goes to the wishing-tree; the fairy godmother, when with her wand she transforms a pumpkin to a gilded coach and six mice to beautiful gray horses; Little Two-Eyes, when she says, -
Little kid, bleat,
I wish to eat!
and immediately her little table set with food so marvelously appears; or Hop-o'-my-Thumb when he steps into his Seven-League Boots and goes like the wind.
Adventure. This is a form of curiosity. In the old tale, as the wood was the place outside the usual habitation, naturally it was the place where things happened. Often there was a house in the wood, like the one "amidst the forest darkly green," where Snow White lived with the Dwarfs. This adventure the little child loves for its own sake. Later, when he is about eleven or twelve, he loves it for its motive. This love of adventure is part of the charm of Red Riding Hood, of the Three Bears, of the Three Pigs, or of any good tale you might mention.
Success. The child likes the fairy tale to tell him of some one who succeeds. He admires the little pig Speckle who outwitted the Wolf in getting to the field of turnips first, or in going to the apple tree at Merry-Garden, or to the fair at Shanklin; who built his house of brick which would defy assault; and whose cleverness ended the Wolf's life. This observation of success teaches the child to admire masterliness, to get the motto, Age quod agis, stamped into his child life from the beginning. It influences character to follow such conduct as that of the Little Red Hen, who took a grain of wheat,--her little mite,--who planted it, reaped it, made it into bread, and then ate it; who, in spite of the Goose and the Duck, secured to herself the reward of her labors.
Action. Akin to his love of running, skipping, and jumping, to his enjoyment in making things go and in seeing others make things go, is the child's desire for action in his fairy tales; and this is just another way of saying he wants his fairy tales to parallel life. Action is the special charm of the Gingerbread Boy, who opened the oven door and so marvelously ran along, outrunning an old Man, an old Woman, a little Boy, two Well-Diggers, two Ditch-Diggers, a Bear, and a Wolf, until he met the Fox waiting by the corner of the fence. Dame Wiggins of Lee and Her Seven Wonderful Cats--a humorous tale written by Mrs. Sharp, a lady of ninety, edited by John Ruskin, who added the third, fourth, eighth, and ninth stanzas, and illustrated by Kate Greenaway--has this pleasing trait of action to a unique degree. So also has The Cock, the Mouse, and the Little Red Men, a modern tale by Felicite Lefevre. This very popular tale among children is a retelling of two old tales combined, The Little Red Hen and the Irish Little Rid Hin.
Humor. The child loves a joke, and the tale that is humorous is his special delight. Humor is the source of pleasure in Billy Bobtail, where the number of animals and the noises they make fill the tale with hilarious fun. There is most pleasing humor in Lambikin. Here the reckless hero frolicked about on his little tottery legs. On his way to Granny's house, as he met the Jackal, the Vulture, the Tiger, and the Wolf, giving a little frisk, he said, -
To Granny's house I go,
Where I shall fatter grow.
Then you can eat me so!
Later, on returning, when the animals asked, "Have you seen Lambikin?" cozily settled within his Drumikin, laughing and singing to himself, he called out slyly -
Lost in the forest, and so are you.
On, little Drumikin! Tum-pa, tum-too!
Humor is the charm, too, of Andersen's Snow Man. Here the child can identify himself with the Dog and thereby join in the sport which the Dog makes at the Snow Man's expense, just as if he himself were enlightening the Snow Man about the Sun, the Moon, and the Stove. There is most delightful humor in The Cat and the Mouse in Partnership, where the Cat has the face to play upon the credulity of the poor housekeeper Mouse, who always "stayed at home and did not go out into the daytime." Returning home from his ventures abroad he named the first kitten Top-Off, the second one Half-Out, and the third one All-Out; while instead of having attended the christening of each, as he pretended, he secretly had been visiting the jar of fat he had placed for safe-keeping in the church.
Poetic justice. Emotional satisfaction and moral satisfaction based on emotional instinct appeal to the child. He pities the plight of the animals in the Bremen Town Musicians, and he wants them to find a refuge, a safe home. He is glad that the robbers are chased out, his sense of right and wrong is satisfied. Poetic justice suits him. This is one reason why fairy tales make a more definite impression often than life--because in the tale the retribution follows the act so swiftly that the child may see it, while in life "the mills of the gods grind slowly," and even the adult who looks cannot see them grind. The child wants Cinderella to gain the reward for her goodness; and he wishes the worthy Shoemaker and his Wife, in the Elves and the Shoemaker, to get the riches their industry deserves,
The imaginative. Fairy tales satisfy the activity of the child's imagination and stimulate his fancy. Some beautiful spring day, perhaps, after he has enjoyed an excursion to a field or meadow or wood, he will want to follow Andersen's Thumbelina in her travels. He will follow her as she floats on a lily pad, escapes a frog of a husband, rides on a butterfly, lives in the house of a field-mouse, escapes a mole of a husband, and then rides on the back of a friendly swallow to reach the south land and to become queen of the flowers. Here there is much play of fancy. But even when the episodes are homely and the situations familiar, as in Little Red Hen, the act of seeing them as distinct images and of following them with interest feeds the imagination. For while the elements are familiar, the combination is unusual; and this nourishes the child's ability to remove from the usual situation, which is the essential element in all originality. By entering into the life of the characters and identifying himself with them, he develops a large sympathy and a sense of power, he gains insight into life, and a care for the interests of the world. Thus imagination grows "in flexibility, in scope, and in sympathy, till the life which the individual lives is informed with the life of nature and of society," and acquires what Professor John Dewey calls Culture.
Animals. Very few of the child's fairy tales contain no animals. Southey said of a home: "A house is never perfectly furnished for enjoyment unless there is in it a child rising three years old and a kitten rising six weeks; kitten is in the animal world what a rosebud is in a garden." In the same way it might be said of fairy tales: No tale is quite suited to the little child unless in it there is at least one animal. Such animal tales are The Bremen Town Musicians, Henny Penny, Ludwig and Marleen and The Elephant's Child. The episode of the hero or heroine and the friendly animal, as we find it retained in Two-Eyes and her little Goat, was probably a folk-lore convention--since dropped--common to the beginning of many of the old tales. It indicates how largely the friendly animal entered into the old stories.
A portrayal of human relations, especially with children. In Cinderella the child is held by the unkind treatment inflicted upon Cinderella by her Stepmother and the two haughty Sisters. He notes the solicitude of the Mother of the Seven Kids in guarding them from the Wolf. In the Three Bears he observes a picture of family life. A little child, on listening to The Three Pigs for the first time, was overwhelmed by one thought and cried out, "And didn't the Mother come home any more?" Naturally the child would be interested especially in children, for he is like the older boy, who, when looking at a picture-book, gleefully exclaimed, "That's me!". He likes to put himself in the place of others. He can do it most readily if the character is a small individual like Red Riding Hood who should obey her mother; or like Goldilocks who must not wander in the wood; or like Henny Penny who went to take a walk and was accosted by, "Where are you going?" In Brother Rabbit and the Little Girl the Little Girl takes the keenest enjoyment in putting herself in the customary grown-up's place of granting permission, while the Rabbit takes the usual child's place of mentioning a request with much persuasion. The child is interested, too, in the strange people he meets in the fairy tales: the clever little elves who lived in the groves and danced on the grass; the dwarfs who inhabited the earth-rocks and the hills; the trolls who dwelt in the wild pine forest or the rocky spurs, who ate men or porridge, and who fled at the noise of bells; the fairies who pleased with their red caps, green jackets, and sprightly ways; the beautiful fairy godmother who waved her wonderful wand; or those lovely fairy spirits who appeared at the moment when most needed--just as all best friends do--and who could grant, in a twinkling, the wish that was most desired.
The diminutive. This pleasure in the diminutive is found in the interest in the fairy characters, Baby Bear, Little Billy-Goat, Little Pig, the Little Elves, Teeny Tiny, Thumbelina, and Tom Thumb, as well as in tiny objects. In the Tale of Tom Thumb the child is captivated by the miniature chariot drawn by six small mice, the tiny butterfly-wing shirt and chicken-skin boots worn by Tom, and the small speech produced by him at court, when asked his name: -
My name is Tom Thumb,
From the Fairies I come;
When King Arthur shone,
This court was my home.
In me he delighted,
By him I was knighted.
Did you never hear of
Sir Thomas Thumb?
Doll i' the Grass contains a tiny chariot made from a silver spoon and drawn by two white mice, and Little Two-Eyes gives a magic table. The child takes keen delight in the fairy ship which could be folded up and put into a pocket, and in the wonderful nut-shell that could bring forth beautiful silver and gold dresses. The little wagon of Chanticleer and Partlet that took them a trip up to the hill, and the tiny mugs and beds, table and plates, of Snow White's cottage in the wood--such as these all meet the approval of child-nature.
Rhythm and repetition. The child at first loves sound; later he loves sound and sense, or meaning. Repetition pleases him because he has limited experience and is glad to come upon something he has known before. He observes and he wants to compare,, but it is a job. Repetition saves him a task and boldly proclaims, "We are the same." Such is the effect of the repetitive expressions which we find in Teeny Tiny: as, "Now when the teeny-tiny woman got home to her teeny-tiny house, she was a teeny-tiny bit tired"; or, in Little Jack Rollaround, who cried out with such vigorous persistence, "Roll me around!" and called to the moon, "I want the people to see me!" In The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings, one of the pleasantest tales for little children, the White Rabbit said to his Mammy, "Oh, Mammy, I wish I had a long gray tail like Bushy Tail's; I wish I had a back full of bristles like Mr. Porcupine's; I wish I had a pair of red rubbers like Miss Puddleduck's." At last, when he beheld the tiny red-bird at the Wishing-Pond, he said, "Oh, I wish I had a pair of little red wings!" Then, after getting his wings, when he came home at night and his Mammy no longer knew him, he repeated to Mr. Bushy Tail, Miss Puddleduck, and old Mr. Ground Hog, the same petition to sleep all night, "Please, kind Mr. Bushy Tail, may I sleep in your house all night?" etc. Repetition here aids the child in following the characters, the story, and its meaning. It is a distinct help to unity and to clearness.
The Elephant's Child is an example of how the literary artist has used this element of repetition, and used it so wonderfully that the form is the matter and the tale cannot be told without the artist's words. " 'Satiable curtiosity," "the banks of the great, grey-green, greasy, Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees," and " 'Scuse me," are but a few of those expressions for which the child will watch as eagerly as one does for a signal light known to be due. The repetition of the one word, "curtiosity," throughout the tale, simply makes the point of the whole story and makes that point delightfully impressive.
Rhythm and repetition also make a bodily appeal, they appeal to the child's motor sense and instinctively get into his muscles. This is very evident in Brother Rabbit's Riddle:--
De big bird bob en little bird sing;
De big bee zoon en little bee sting,
De little man lead en big hoss foller-
Kin you tell wat's good fer a head in a holler?
The song in Brother Rabbit and the Little Girl appeals also to the child's sense of sound:--
De jay-bird hunt de sparrer-nes;
De bee-martin sail all 'roun';
De squer'l, he holler from de top er de tree,
Mr. Mole, he stay in de ground;
He hide en he stay twel de dark drap down-
Mr. Mole, he hide in de groun'.
The simple and the sincere. The child's taste for the simple and the sincere is one reason for the appeal which Andersen's tales make. In using his stories it is to be remembered that, although Andersen lacked manliness in being sentimental, he preserved the child's point of view and gave his thought in the true nursery story's mode of expression. Since real sentiment places the emphasis on the object which arouses feeling and the sentimental places the emphasis on the feeling, sincerity demands that in using Andersen's tales, one lessen the sentimental when it occurs by omitting to give prominence to the feeling. Andersen's tales reflect what is elementary in human nature, childlike fancy, and emotion. His speech is characterized by the simplest words and conceptions, an avoidance of the abstract, the use of direct language, and a naive poetic expression adapted to general comprehension. He is not to be equaled in child conversations. The world of the fairy tale must be simple like the world Andersen has given us. It must be a world of genuine people and honest occupations in order to form a suitable background for the supernatural. Only fairy tales possessing simplicity are suited to the oldest kindergarten child of five or six years. To the degree that the child is younger than five years, he should be given fewer and fewer fairy tales. Those given should be largely realistic stories of extreme simplicity.
Unity of effect. The little child likes the short tale, for it is a unity he can grasp. If you have ever listened to a child of five spontaneously attempting to tell you a long tale he has not grasped, and have observed how the units of the tale have become confused in the mind that has not held the central theme, you then realize how harmful it is to give a child too long a story. Unity demands that there be no heaping up of sensations, but neat, orderly, essential incidents, held together by one central idea. The tale must go to the climax directly. It must close according to Uncle Remus's idea when he says, "De tale ain't persoon atter em no furder don de place whar dey [the characters] make der disappear'nce." It will say what it has to say and lose no time in saying it; and often it will attempt to say only one thing. It will be remarkable as well for what it omits as for what it tells. The Norse Doll i' the Grass well illustrates this unity. Boots set out to find a wife and found a charming little lassie who could spin and weave a shirt in one day, though of course the shirt was tiny. He took her home and then celebrated his wedding with the pleasure of the king. This unity, which is violated in Grimm's complicated Golden Bird, appears pleasantly in The Little Pine Tree that Wished for New Leaves. Here one feeling dominates the tale, the Pine Tree was no longer contented. So she wished, first for gold leaves, next for glass leaves, and then for leaves like those of the oaks and maples. But the robber who stole her gold leaves, the storm that shattered her glass leaves, and the goat that ate her broad green leaves, changed her feeling of discontent, until she wished at last to have back her slender needles, green and fair, and awoke next morning, happy and contented.
Fairy tales for little children must avoid certain elements opposed to the interests of the very young child. Temperaments vary and one must be guided by the characteristics of the individual child. But while the little girl with unusual power of visualization, who weeps on hearing of Thumbling's travels down the cow's mouth in company with the hay, may be the exception, she proves the rule: the little child generally should not have the tale that creates an emotion of horror or deep feeling of pain. This standard would determine what tales should not be given to the child of kindergarten age:--
The tale of the witch. The witch is too strange and too fearful for the child who has not learned to distinguish the true from the imaginative. This would move Hansel and Grethel into the second-grade work and Sleeping Beauty preferably into the work of the first grade. The child soon gains sufficient experience so that later the story impresses, not the strangeness.
The tale of the dragon. This would eliminate Siegfried and the Dragon. A dragon is too fearful a beast and produces terror in the heart of the child. Tales of heroic adventure with the sword are not suited to his strength. He has not yet entered the realm of bold adventure where Perseus and Theseus and Hercules display their powers. The fact that hero-tales abound in delightful literature is not adequate reason for crowding the Rhinegold Legends, Wagner Stories, and Tales of King Arthur, into the kindergarten. Their beauty and charm do not make it less criminal to present to little children such a variety of images as knighthood carries with it. These tales are not sufficiently simple for the little child, and must produce a mental confusion and the crudest of returns.
Giant tales. This would omit Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant-Killer, and Tom Hickathrift, moving them up into the primary field. A little girl, when eating tongue, confidingly asked, "Whose tongue?" and when told, "A cow's," immediately questioned with tenderness, "Don't he feel it?" Thereafter she insisted that she didnt like tongue. To a child of such sensibilities the cutting off of heads is savage and gruesome and should not be given a chance to impress so prominently. Life cannot be without its strife and struggle, but the little child need not meet everything in life at once. This does not mean that absolutely no giant tale would be used at this time. The tale of Mr. Miacca, in which "little Tommy couldn't always be good and one day went round the corner," is a giant tale which could be used with young children because it is full of delightful humor. Because of the simplicity of Tommy's language and his sweet childishness it appeals to the child's desire to identify himself with the character. Tommy is so clever and inventive and his lively surprises so brimful of fun that the final effect is entirely pleasing.
Some tales of transformation. The little child is not pleased but shocked by the transformation of men into animals. A little girl, on looking at an illustration of Little Brother and Sister, remarked, "If my Sister would turn into a fawn I would cry." When the animals are terrifying, the transformation contains horror for the child. This, together with the length and complexity of the story, would move Beauty and the Beast up into the second grade where the same transformation becomes an element of pleasure. A simple tale of transformation, such as The Little Lamb and the Little Fish, in which Gretchen becomes a lamb and Peterkin a little fish, is interesting but not horrible, and could be used. So also could a tale such as Grimin's Fundevogel, in which the brother and sister escape the pursuit of the witch by becoming, one a rosebush and the other a rose; later, one a church and the other a steeple; and a third time, one a pond and the other a duck. In both these tales we have the witch and transformation, but the effect contains no horror.
The tale of strange animal relations and strange creatures. Tom Tit Tot, which Jacobs considers the most delightful of all fairy tales, is brimful of humor for the older child, but here the tailed man is not suited to the faith and understanding of six years. Rumpelstiltskin, its parallel, must also be excluded. The House in the Wood, and its Norse parallel, The Two Step-Sisters, are both very beautiful, but are more suited to the second grade. In the kindergarten it is much better to present the tale which emphasizes goodness, rather than the two just mentioned, which present the good and the bad and show what happens to both. Besides there is a certain elation resulting from the superior reward won by the good child which crowds out any pity for the erring child. Such elation is a form of selfishness and ought not to be emphasized. Snow White and Rose Red contains the strange dwarf, but it is a tale so full of love and goodness and home life that in spite of its length it could be used in the first grade.
Unhappy tales. The very little child pities, and its tender heart must be protected from depressing sadness as unrelieved as we find it in The Little Match Girl. The image of suffering impressed on a child, who cannot forget the sight of a cripple for days, is too intense to be healthful. The sorrow of the poor is one of the elements of life that even the very little child meets, and it is legitimate that his literature should include tales that call for compassion. But in a year or two, when he develops less impressionability and more poise, he is better prepared to meet such situations, as he must meet them in life.
The tale of capture. This would eliminate Proserpine. No more beautiful myth exists than this one of the springtime, but its beauty and its symbolism do not make it suitable for the kindergarten. It is more suited to the elementary child of the fourth grade. In fact, very few myths of any sort find a legitimate place in the kindergarten, perhaps only a few of the simpler pourquois tales. The Legend of the Pied Piper Of Hamelin, which is very beautiful, and appeals to little children because of the piping and of the children following after, should be omitted from the kindergarten because the capture at the close--the disappearance of the children in the hill--is tragic in pathos. It is better to leave the literature as it is and offer it later when the child reaches the second grade. The effect of this tragic end has been realized by Josephine Scribner Gates, who (St. Nicholas, November, 1914) has given to the children, "And Piped Those Children Back Again." This is a modern completion of The Pied Piper. It most happily makes the little lame boy who was left in Hamelin when the Piper closed the door of the mountain, the means of the restoration of the other children to their parents.
The very long tale. This would omit The Ugly Duckling. The Ugly Duckling is a most artistic tale and one that is very true to life. Its characters are the animals of the barn-yard, the hens and ducks familiar to the little child's experience. But the theme and emotional interest working out at length through varied scenes, make it much better adapted to the capacities of a third-grade child. The White Cat, a feminine counterpart of Puss-in-Boots--which gives a most charming picture of how a White Cat, a transformed princess, helped a youth, and re-transformed became his bride--because of its length, is better used in the first grade at the same time with Puss-in-Boots. The same holds true of Peter, Paul, and Espen, or its parallel, Laboulaye's Poucinet. This is a fine tale telling how the youngest of three sons succeeded in winning the king's favor and finally the princess and half the kingdom. First, Espen had to cut down the giant oak that shadowed the palace and dig a well in the courtyard of the castle deep enough to furnish water the entire year. But after winning in these tests, he is required to conquer a great Ogre who dwells in the forest, and later to prove himself cleverer in intellect than the princess by telling the greater falsehood. It is evident that not only the subject-matter but the working out of the long plot are much beyond kindergarten children.
The complicated or the insincere tale. This would eliminate a tale of complicated structure, such as Grimm's Golden Bird; and many of the modern fairy tales, which will be dealt with later on.
The fairy tales mentioned above are all important tales which the child should receive at a later time when he is ready for them. They are mentioned because they all have been suggested for kindergarten use. The whole field of children's literature is largely unclassified and ungraded as yet, and such arrangements as we possess show slight respect for standards. There is abundant material for the youngest, and much will be gained by omitting to give the very young what they will enjoy a little later, much better and with freshness. It is true that a few classics are well-suited to the child at any age, such as Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Books, and Uncle Remus Tales. In regard to this grading of the classics, Lamb in Mockery End, speaking of his sister's education, said, "She was tumbled early, by accident or design, into a spacious closet of good old English reading, without much selection or prohibition, and browsed at will upon that fair and wholesome pasturage. Had I twenty girls they should be brought up exactly in this fashion." Lamb would have argued: Set the child free in the library and let him choose for himself, and feed on great literature, those stories which give general types of situation and character, which give the simplest pictures of a people at different epochs. But with all due respect to Lamb it must be said that Lamb is not living in this scientific day of discovery of the child's personality and of accurate attention to the child's needs. Because the Odyssey is a great book and will give much to any child does not prove at all that the same child would not be better off by reading it when his interests reach its life. This outlook on the problem would eliminate the necessity of having the classics rewritten from a new moral viewpoint, which is becoming a custom now-a-days, and which is to be frowned upon, for it deprives the literature of much of its vigor and force.
II. THE FAIRY TALE AS LITERATURE
From the point of view of the child, we have seen that in a subjective sense, fairy tales must contain the interests of children. In an objective sense, rather from the point of view of literature, let us now consider what fairy tales must contain, what are the main standards which determine the value of fairy tales as literature, and as such, subject-matter of real worth to the child.
The old tale will not always be perfect literature; often it will be imperfect, especially in form. Yet the tale should be selected with the standards of literature guiding in the estimate of its worth and in the emphasis to be placed upon its content. Such relating of the tale to literary standards would make it quite impossible later in the primary grades when teaching the reading of Three Pigs, to put the main stress on a mere external like the expression of the voice. A study of the story as literature would have centered the attention on the situation, the characters, and the plot. If the voice is receiving training in music and in the phonics of spelling, then when the reading of the tale is undertaken it will be a willing servant to the mind which is concentrating on the reality, and will express what the thought compels.
The fairy tale first must be a classic in reality even if it lacks the crowning touch of perfect form given through the re-treatment of a literary artist. In Reynard the Fox we have an exact example of the folktale that has been elevated into literature. But this was possible only because the tales originally possessed the qualities of a true classic. "A true classic," Sainte-Beuve has said, "is one which enriches the human mind, has increased its treasure and caused it to advance a step, which has discovered some moral and unequivocal truth or revealed some eternal passion in that heart where all seemed known and discovered; which is an expression of thought, observation, or invention, in no matter what form, only provided it be broad and great, refined and sensible, sane and beautiful in itself; which speaks in its own peculiar style which is found to be also that of the whole world, a style new and old, easily contemporary with all time." Immediately some of the great fairy tales stand out as answering to this test -Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Jack the Giant-Killer,--which has been said to be the epitome of the whole life of man--Beauty and the Beast, and a crowd of others. Any fairy tale which answers to the test of a real classic must, like these, show itself to contain for the child a permanent enrichment of the mind.
Fairy tales must have certain qualities which belong to all literature as a fine art, whether it is the literature of knowledge or the literature of power. Literature is not the book nor is it life; but literature is the sense of life, whose artist is the author, and the medium he uses is words, language. It is good art when his sense of life is Truth, and fine art when there is beauty in that truth. The one essential beauty of literature is in its essence and does not depend upon any decoration. As words are the medium, literature will distinguish carefully among them and use them as the painter, for particular lights and shades. According to Pater literature must have two qualities, mind and soul. Literiture will have mind when it has that architectural sense of structure which foresees the end in the beginning and keeps all the parts related in a harmonious unity. It will have soul when it has that "vagrant sympathy" which makes it come home to us and which makes it suggest what it does not say. Test the Tale of Cinderella by this standard. As to mind, it makes one think of a bridge in which the very keystone of the structure is the condition that Cinderella return from the ball by the stroke of twelve. And its "vagrant sympathy" is quite definite enough to reach a maid of five, who remarked: "If I'd have been Cinderella, I wouldn't have helped those ugly sisters, would you?"
If the fairy tale stands the test of literature it must have proved itself, not only a genuine classic according to Sainte-Beuve's standard, and a tale possessing qualities of mind and soul according to Pater's Style, but it must have shown itself also a work owning certain features distinguishing it as literature. These particular literary marks which differentiate the literary tale from the ordinary prose tale have been pointed out by Professor Winchester in his Principles of Literary Criticism. They apply to the old tale of primitive peoples just as well as to the modern tale of to-day. As literature the tale must have: (1) a power to appeal to the emotions; (2) a power to appeal to the imagination; (3) a basis of truth; and (4) a form more or less perfect.
(1) A power to appeal to the emotions. This appeal to the emotions is its unique distinguishing literary trait. Literature appeals, not to the personal emotions but to the universal ones. For this reason, through literature the child may come in time to develop a power of universal sympathy, which is not the least value literature has to bestow upon him, for this sympathy will become a benediction to all those with whom he may have to deal. In order that emotion in the tales may be literary--make a permanent appeal--according to Professor Winchester's standards, it must have justness given by a deep and worthy cause; vividness so that it may enlarge and thrill; a certain steadiness produced by everything in the tale contributing to the main emotion; a variety resulting from contrasts of character; and a high quality obtained through its sympathy with life and its relation to the conduct of life, so that the feeling for the material beauty of mere sights and sounds is closely related to the deepest suggestions of moral beauty. The best literary tales will possess emotion having all five characteristics. Many tales will exhibit one or more of these traits conspicuously. No tale that is literature will be found which does not lay claim to some one of these qualities which appeal to the broadly human emotions.
Applying the test of emotion to fairy tales, Cinderella possesses a just emotion, Cinderella's cause is the cause of goodness and kindness and love, and deserves a just reward. The Town Musicians of Bremen exhibits vivid emotion, for all four characters are in the same desperate danger of losing life, all four unite to save it, and to find a home. Andersen's Steadfast Tin Soldier is a good example of steadiness of emotion, as it maintains throughout its message of courage. The Tin Soldier remained steadfast, whether on the table just escaped from the toy-box, or in the street after a frightful fall from the window, or spinning in a paper boat that bobbed, or sailing under the crossing, or lying at full length within the fish that swallowed him, or at last melting in the full glare of the hearth fire. It is a very good example, too, of vividness of emotion. The Little Elves illustrates steadiness of emotion, it is pervaded by the one feeling, that industry deserves reward. The French tale, Drakesbill, is especially delightful and humorous because "Bill Drake" perseveres in his happy, fresh vivacity, at the end of every rebuff of fortune, and triumphantly continues his one cry of, "Quack, quack, quack! When shall I get my money back?" Lambikin leaves the one distinct impression of light gaiety and happy-heartedness; and The Foolish, Timid Rabbit preserves steadily the one effect of the credulity of the animals, made all the more prominent by contrast to the wisdom of the Lion. Variety of emotion appears in tales such as Cinderella, Little Two-Eyes, Sleeping Beauty, and Three Pigs, where the various characters are drawn distinctly and their contrasting traits produce varied emotional effects. All the great fairy tales appeal to emotion of a high moral quality and it is this which is the source of their universal appeal. It is this high moral quality of the spiritual truth, which is the center of the tale's unity, holding together all the parts under one emotional theme. This is the source of the perennial freshness of the old tale; for while the immortal truth it presents is old, the personality of the child that meets it is new. For the child, the tale is new because he discovers in it a bit of himself he had not known before, and it retains for him a lasting charm so that he longs to hear it again and again. The beauty of truth, the reward of goodness, and the duty of fairness, give a high emotional quality to Little Two-Eyes; and Sleeping Beauty illustrates the blighting power of hatred to impose a curse and the saving power of love to overcome the works of hatred.
Considering folk-tales from the standpoint of emotion, if asked to suggest what author's work would rank in the same class, one is rather surprised to find, that for high moral quality, variety, and worthy cause, the author who comes to mind is none other than Shakespeare. Perhaps, with all due respect to literature's idol, one might even venture to question which receives honor by the comparison, Shakespeare or the folk-tales? It might be rather a pleasant task to discover who is the Cordelia, the Othello, the Rosalind, and the Portia of the folk-tales; or who the Beauty, the Bluebeard, the Cinderella, the Puss-in-Boots, and the Hop-o'-my-Thumb, of Shakespeare.
The little child is open to emotional appeal, his heart is tender and he is impressionble. If he feels with the characters in his tales he develops a power of emotion. In Andersen's Snow Man it is hard to say which seems more human to him or which makes more of an emotional appeal, the Snow Man or the Dog. He is sorry for the poor Shoemaker in The Little Elves, glad when he grows rich, delighted for the Elves when they receive their presents, and satisfied at the happy end. Since literature depicts life and character in order to awaken noble emotions, it follows that one must omit to present what awakens repulsive or degrading emotions. And it is for this reason, as has been mentioned under the heading "Elements to be avoided," that the tales of the witch and the dragon must be excluded, not for all time, but for the earliest years, when they awaken horror.
Through fairy tales we have seen that the emotional power of the child is strengthened. This has been effected because, in the tale just as truly as in life, action is presented in real situations; and back of every action is the motive force of emotion. This cumulative power of emotion, secured by the child through the handling of tales, will serve daily a present need. It will be the dynamic force which he will require for anything he wishes to accomplish in life. It will give the child the ability to use it in any situation similar to that in which it was acquired. It will make a difference in his speech; he will not have to say so much, for what he does say will produce results. This growing power of emotion will carry over into feelings of relation and thus lead to judgment of values. This evaluation is the basis of reasoning and answers to the child's daily call to think from causes to consequences. This increasing power of emotion develops into the aesthetic sensibilities and so results in a cultivation of taste and an understanding of life. Emotion therefore leads to appreciation, which, when logically developed, becomes expression. Fairy tales, thus, in conducting emotional capacity through this varied growth and toward this high development, hold an educational value of no mean order.
(2) The power to appeal to the imagination. Emotion can be aroused by showing the objects which excite emotion. Imagination is this power to see and show things in the concrete. Curry says, "Whenever the soul comes vividly in contact with any fact, truth, etc., whenever it takes them home to itself with more than common intensity, out of that meeting of the soul and its object there arises a thrill of joy, a glow of feeling. It is the faculty that can create ideal presence." When through imagination we select spontaneously from the elements of experience and combine into new wholes, we call it creative imagination.--The creative imagination will be viewed here as it appears in action in the creative return given by the child to his fairy tales.--When we emphasize a similarity seen in mere external or accidental relations or follow suggestions not of an essential nature in the object, we call it fancy. Ruskin, in his Modern Painters, vol. I, part iii, Of the Imaginative Faculty, would distinguish three classes of the imagination:--
(a) The associative imagination. This is the power of imagination by which we call into association other images that tend to produce the same or allied emotion. When this association has no common ground of emotion it is fancy. The test for the associative imagination, which has the power to combine ideas to form a conception, is that if one part is taken away the rest of the combination goes to pieces. It requires intense simplicity, harmony, and absolute truth. Andersen's Fairy Tales are a perfect drill for the associative imagination. Literature parallels life and what is presented calls up individual experience. Any child will feel a thrill of kinship with the experiences given in The Tin Soldier--a little boy's birthday, the opening of the box, the counting of the soldiers, and the setting of them upon the table. And because here Andersen has transformed this usual experience with a vivacity and charm, the tale ranks high as a tale of imagination. Little Ida's Flowers and Thumbelina are tales of pure fancy. Grimm's The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean and The Spindle, the Shuttle, and the Needle rank in the same class, as also do the Norse The Doll i' the Grass and the English Tom Thumb.
(b) The penetrative imagination. This power of imagination shows the real character of a thing and describes it by its spiritual effects. It sees the heart and inner nature of things. Through fancy the child cannot reach this central viewpoint since fancy deals only with externals. Through the exercise of this power the child develops insight, intuition, and a perception of spiritual values, and gains a love of the ideal truth and a perpetual thirst for it. He develops genuineness, one of the chief virtues of originality. He will tend not to have respect for sayings or opinions but will seek the truth, be governed by its laws, and hold a passion for perfection. This power of imagination makes of him a continual seeker, "a pilgrim upon earth." Through the penetrative imagination the child forgets himself and enters into the things about him, into the doings of Three Pigs or the adventures of Henny Penny.
(c) The contemplative imagination. This is that special phase of the imagination that gives to abstract being consistency and reality. Through the contemplative imagination the child gains the significance of meaning and discerns the true message of the tale. When merely external resemblance is caught, when the likeness is forced, and the image created believed in, we have fancy. The contemplative imagination interprets the past in the tale and relates it to the future. It shows what is felt by indicating some aspect of what is seen. Through the exercise of this power the child develops the capacity to see. This capacity has received a high estimate from Ruskin, who said, "Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, thousands can think for one who can see." For language-training the capacity to see gives that ability to image words which results in mental growth.
The labor of the spirit seeking the full message of the fairy tale, often is rewarded with bits of philosophy which are the essence of its personal wisdom. Even the Woman Suffragists of our day might be amused to find, in The Cat and Mouse in Partnership, this side-light on one of their claims. The Mouse said she did not know what to think of the curious names, Top-Off, Half-Out, and All-Out, which the Cat had chosen. To which the Cat replied, "That is because you always stay at home. You sit here in your soft gray coat and long tail, and these foolish whims get into your head. It is always the way when one does not go out in the daytime." Sometimes the philosopby of the tale is expressed not at all directly. This is the case in Andersen's The Emperor's New Suit, a gem in story-telling art--more suited to the second grade--where the purpose of the story is veiled, and the satire or humor is conveyed through a very telling word or two.--"'I will send my old, honest minister to the weavers,' thought the Emperor. And the old, honest minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat working at empty looms. 'Heaven preserve me!' thought the old minister, opening his eyes wide. 'Why, I cannot see anything!' But he did not say so." The entire tale is a concrete representation of one point; and the concreteness is so explicit that at the close of the story its philosophy easily forms itself into the implied message of worldly wisdom: People are afraid to speak truth concerning much through cowardice or through fear of acting otherwise than all the world. The philosophy underlying The Steadfast Tin Soldier is even finer as a bit of truth than the perfect art of the literary story: That what happens in life does not matter so much as the way you take it. The Tin Soldier always remained steadfast, no matter what happened. Kipling's Elephant's Child is more charming than ever when looked at from the standpoint of its philosophy. It might be interpreted as an allegory answering the question,"How should one get experience?" a theme which cannot be said to lack in universal appeal. The Ugly Duckling is full of sayings of philosophy that contribute to its complete message. The Cat and the Hen to whom the Duckling crept for refuge said, "We and the world," and could not bear a difference of opinion. "You may believe me," said the Hen, "because I tell you the truth. That is the way to tell your friends." Their treatment of the Duckling expressed the philosophy: "If you can't do what I can you're no good." The Hen said to him, "You have nothing to do, that's why you have such strange ideas." The Duckling expressed his philosophy by saying quietly, "You don't understand me."
These bits of philosophy often become compressed into expressions which to-day we recognize as proverbs. The words of the Mother Duck, "Into the water he goes if I have to kick him in," became a Scandinavian proverb. "A little bird told it," a common saying of to-day, appears in Andersen's Nightingale and in Thumbelina. But this saying is traceable at least to the third story of the fourth night in Straparola, translated by Keightley, The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Beautiful Green Bird, in which the bird tells the King that his three guests are his own children. "Even a cat may look at a king," is probably traceable to some fairy tale if not to Puss-in-Boots. The philosophy in the fairy tales and the proverbs that have arisen in them, are subjects which offer to the adult much pleasure and fruitfulness.
But one must ask, "Does this philosophy appeal to the child? Is it not adult wisdom foreign to his immaturity?" The old folk-tales are the products of adult minds; but the adults were grown-ups that looked upon the world with the eyes of children, and their philosophy often was the philosophy of childhood. For childhood has its philosophy; but because it meets with repression on so many sides it usually keeps it to itself. When given freedom and self-activ,ity and self-expression, the child's philosophy appears also. And it is the inner truth of the tale rather than the outer forms of sense and shapes of beauty which, when suited to the little child, appeals to this child-philosophy and makes the deepest impression upon him.
In the literary fairy tale there often appears a philosophy which is didactic and above and beyond the child's knowledge of the world. It remains a question how much this adult philosophy appeals to him. Although his tales were written for his grandchildren, so finished a telling of the tale as we find in Laboulaye, with its delightful hits of satire, appeals more to the grown-up versed in the ways of the world. But the sage remarks of worldly wisdom of Uncle Remus could not fail to impress a little boy: "Go where you will and when you may, and stay long ez you choosen ter stay, en right dar en den you'll sholy fin' dat folks what git full er consate en proudness is gwine ter git it tuck out 'm um."--Uncle Remus treated the little boy as if he was "pestered with sense, like grown-ups," and surely the little boy gained much amusement from sayings such as these: "If you know the man that would refuse to take care of himself, I'd like mighty well if you'd point him out."--"Well, well," said Uncle Remus soothingly, "in deze low groun's er sorrer, you des got to lean back en make allowances fer all sorts er folks. You got ter low fer dem dat knows too much same ez dem what knows too little. A heap er sayin's en a heap er doin's in dis roun' worl' got ter be tuck on trus'. "--The child does not get the full force of the philosophy but he gets what he can and that much sinks in.
It is through the contemplative imagination that the child realizes the meaning of particular tales. He learns: that Cinderella means that goodness brings its own reward; that Three Pigs means that the wise build with care and caution, with foresight; that Star Dollars means compassion for others and kindness to them; and that Red Riding Hood means obedience.
The power of the contemplative imagination is based on the indistinctness of the image. It suggests, too, the relation between cause and effect, which reason afterwards proves; and therefore it is a direct aid to science. In the tales there are expressed facts of truth symbolically clothed which since then has discovered. And now that folk-lore is being studied seriously to unfold all it gives of an earlier life, perhaps this new study may reveal some new truths of science hidden in its depths. The marvels of modern shoe manufacture were prophesied in The Little Elves, and the power of electricity to hold fast was foretold in Dummling and his Golden Goose. The wonders of modern machinery appeared in the magic axe of Espen that hit at every stroke; and the miracle of modern canals sees a counterpart in the spring which Espen brought to the giant's boiling-pot in the wood. The magic sleep from which there was an awakening, even after a hundred years, may have typified hypnotism and its strange power upon man. These are realizations of some of the wonders of fairyland. But there may be found lurking in its depths many truths as yet undiscovered by science. Perhaps the dreams of primitive man may suggest to the present-day scientist new possibilities.--What primitive man has done in fancy present-day man can do in reality.
(3) A basis of truth. All fine emotional effects arise from truth. The tale must hold the mirror and show an image of life. It must select and combine facts which will suggest emotion but the facts must be a true expression of human nature. The tale, whether it is realistic in emphasizing the familiar, the commonplace, and the present, or romantic in emphasizing the strange, the heroic, and the remote, must be idealistic to interpret truly the facts of life by high ideals. If the tale has this basis of truth the child will gain, through his handling of it, a body of facts. This increases his knowledge and strengthens his intellect. And it is to be remembered that, for the child's all-round development, the appeal of literature to the intellect is a value to be emphasized equally with the appeal to the emotions and to the imagination. Speaking of the nature of the intellect in his essay on Intellect, Emerson has said: "We do not determine what we will think. We only open our senses, clear away as we can all obstruction from the fact, and suffer the intellect to see." Attention to the intellectual element in literature gives a power of thought. The consideration of the truth of the fairy tale aids the child to clear, definite thinking because the experience of the tale is ordered from a beginning, through a development, to a climax, and to a conclusion. It assists him to form conclusions because it presents results of circumstances and consequences of conduct. Continued attention to the facts, knowledge, and truth presented in the tales, helps the child to grow a sincerity of spirit. This leads to that love of actual truth, which is one of the armors of middle life, against which false opinion falls harmless.
(4) A form, more or less perfect. Form is the union of all the means which the writer employs to convey his thought and emotion to the reader. Flaubert has said, "Among all the expressions of the world there is but one, one form, one mode, to express what I want to say."--"Say what you have to say, what you have a will to say, in the simplest, the most direct and exact manner possible, with no surplusage," Walter Pater has spoken. Then the form and the matter will fit each other so perfectly there will be no unnecessary adornment.
In regard to form it is to be remembered that feeling is best awakened incidentally by suggestion. Words are the instruments, the medium of the writer. Words have two powers: the power to name what they mean, or denotation; and the power to suggest what they imply, or connotation. Words have the power of connotation in two ways: They may mean more than they say or they may produce emotional effect not only from meaning but also from sound. To make these two suggestive powers of words work together is the perfect art of Milton. Pope describes for us the relation of sound to sense in a few lines which themselves illustrate the point:--
Soft is the strain when zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows.
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse, rough verse, should like the torrent roar.
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
The line too labors, and the words move slow:
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Flies o'er the unbending corn and skims along the main.
When a kindergarten child, the most timid one of a group, on listening to the telling of the Bremen Town Musicians, at the description of the Donkey and the Dog coming to the Cat, sitting in the road with a face "dismal as three rainy Sundays," chuckled with humor at the word "dismal," it was not because she knew the meaning of the word or the significance of "three rainy Sundays, but because the sounds of the words and the facial expression of the story-teller conveyed the emotional effect, which she sensed.
The connection between sound and action appears in Little Spider's First Web: The Fly said, "Then I will buzz"; the Bee said, "Then I will hum"; the Cricket said, "Then I will chirp"; the Ant said, "Then I will run to and fro"; the Butterfly said, "Then I will fly"; and the Bird said, "Then I will sing." The effect is produced here because the words selected are concrete ones which visualize. Repetitive passages in the tales often contribute this effect of sound upon meaning, as we find in The Three Billy-Goats Gruff: "Trip, trap; trip, trap! went the bridge as the youngest Billy-Goat Gruff came to cross the bridge." The sound of the words in this entire tale contributes largely to the meaning. The Troll roared and said, "Now I'm coming to gobble you up!" Usually the bits of rhyme interspersed throughout the tales, illustrate this contribution of sound to meaning; as in the Three Pigs:--
Then I'll huff,
And I'll puff,
And I'll blow your house in!
Especially is this the case in tales dignified by the cante-fable form; such as Grimm's Cinderella:--
Rustle and shake yourself, dear tree,
And silver and gold throw down to me!
Or in Little Two-Eyes:--
Little kid, bleat,
I wish to eat!
Or in The Little Lamb and the Little Fish:--
Ah, my brother, in the wood
A lamb, now I must search for food!
The suggestive power of words to convey more than they mean, is produced, not only by the sounds contained in the words themselves, but also largely by the arrangement of the words and by the speech-tunes of the voice in speaking them. Kipling's Elephants Child is a living example of the suggestive power of words. The "new, fine question" suggests that the Elephant's Child had a habit of asking questions which had not been received as if they were fine. "Wait-a-bit thorn-bush," suggests the Kolokolo Bird sitting alone on the bush in placid quiet. "And still I want to know what the crocodile has for dinner" implies that there had been enough spankings to have killed the curiosity, but contrary to what one would expect, it was living and active. When Kolokolo Bird said with a mournful cry, "Go to the banks of the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo River," etc., the implication of mournful is, that there the Elephant's Child would have a sorry time of it. The expression, "dear families," which occurs so often, is full of deliglitful irony and suggests the vigorous treatment, anything but dear, which had come to the Elephant's Child from them.
Perfect form consists in the "ability to convey thought and emotion with perfect fidelity." The general qualities characteristic of perfect form, which have been outlined by Professor Winchester, in his Principles of Literary Criticism, are: (1) precision or clearness; (2) energy or force; (3) delicacy or emotional harmony; and (4) personality. Precision or clearness demands the precise value and meaning of words. It requires that words have the power of denotation. It appeals to the intellect of the reader or listener and demands that language be neither vague nor ambiguous nor obscure. Energy or force demands that perfect form have the quality of emotion. It requires that words have especially the power of connotation. It appeals to the emotions of the reader or listener and has the power to hold the attention. It demands of language that sympathy which will imply what it would suggest. Delicacy or emotional harmony demands that perfect form please the taste. It requires that an emotional harmony be secured by a selection and arrangement of the melody of words and of the emotional associations which, together with the meanings, are tied up in words. It demands that words have the power of perfect adaptation to the thought and feeling they express, that words have both the power of denotation and of connotation. It appeals to the aesthetic sense of the reader or listener, it gives to form beauty and charm. Personality is the influence of the author, the charm of individuality, and suggests the character of the writer.
At the same time that perfect form is characterized by the general qualities of precision, energy, delicacy, and personality, as composition consisting of words, sentences, paragraphs, or large wholes, its elements must be controlled by certain main principles, which have been presented by Professor Barrett Wendell in English Composition. Perfect form cannot possess the four general qualities above mentioned unless its elements are controlled by these main principles. These are: (1) the principle of sincerity; (2) the principle of unity; (3) the principle of mass; and (4) the principle of coherence. Sincerity demands of perfect form that it be a just expression. Unity demands that every composition should group itself about a central idea. There must be one story, all incidents subordinated, one main course of action, one main group of characters, and one tone of feeling to produce an emotional effect. Variety of action must lead to one definite result and variety of feeling to one total impression. Unity demands that the tale must have a plan that is complete, with no irrelevant material, and that there must be a logical order and a climax. Mass demands that the chief parts of every composition should readily catch the eye. It maintains a harmonious proportion of all the parts. Coherence demands of any composition that the relation of each part to its neighbors should be unmistakable, and that the order, forms, and connections of the parts preserve this relation.
When form secures a perfect adaptation of the language to the thought and feeling expressed, it may be said to possess style, in a broad sense of the word. In a more detailed sense, when form is characterized by precision, energy, delicacy, and personality, and at the same time has the elements of its composition controlled by the principles of sincerity, unity, mass, and coherence, it is said to possess style. The fairy tale which is a classic characterized by that perfect form called style, will possess the general qualities of precision, energy, delicacy, and personality; and the elements of its structure, its words, its sentences, its paragraphs, will display a control of the principles of sincerity, unity, mass, and coherence.
A tale which well illustrates the literary form possible to the child's tale, which may be said to possess that perfection of form we call style, and which may be used with the distinct aim to improve the child's English and perfect his language expression, is the modern realistic fairy tale, Oeyvind and Marit.
Oeyvind and Marit is so entirely realistic as to be excluded here, but the talking rhymes which the Mother sings to Oeyvind bring in the fairy element of the talking animals. In the form of this tale, the perfect fidelity with which the words fit the meaning is apparent--nothing seems superfluous. When Oeyvind asked Marit who she was, she replied:--
"I am Marit, mother's little one, father's fiddle, the elf in the house, granddaughter of Ole Nordistuen of the Heidi farms, four years old in the autumn, two days after the frost nights, I!"
And Oeyvind replied:--
"Are you really?"--and drew a long breath which he had not dared to do so long as she was speaking.
The story is full of instances illustrating precision, energy, and delicacy. In fact, almost any passage exemplifies the general qualities of form and the qualities of composition. The personality of the writer has given to the tale a poetic and dramatic charm of simplicity. Note the precision and delicacy displayed in the opening paragraph:--
Oeyvind was his name. A low barren cliff overhung the house in which he was born; fir and birch looked down on the roof, and wild cherry strewed flowers over it. Upon this roof there walked about a little goat, which belonged to Oeyvind. He was kept there that he might not go astray; and Oeyvind carried leaves and grass up to him. One fine day the goat leaped down, and away to the cliff; he went straight up and came where he never had been before.
Energy is apparent in the following passage:--
"Is it yours, this goat?" asked the girl again.
"Yes," he said, and looked up.
"I have taken such a fancy to the goat. You will not give it to me?"
"No, that I won't."
She lay kicking her legs and looking down at him, and then she said, "But if I give you a butter-cake for the goat, can I have him then?"
The justness of expression, the sincerity, is especially impressive when Oeyvind's Mother came out and sat down by his side when the goat no longer satisfied him and he wanted to hear stories of what was far away. There is emotional harmony too, because the words suggest the free freshness of the mountain air and the landscape which rose round about the Boy and his Mother.
So she told him how once everything could talk: "The mountain talked to the stream, and the stream to the river, the river to the sea, and the sea to the sky."--But then he asked if the sky did not talk to any one: "And the sky talked to the clouds, the clouds to the trees, the trees to the grass, the grass to the flies, the flies to the animals, the animals to the children, the children to the grownup people. . . ." Oeyvind looked at the mountain, the trees, and the sky and had never seen them before.
There is delicacy or emotional harmony also in the Mother's song. When Oeyvind asked, "What does the Cat say?" his Mother sang:--
At evening softly shines the sun,
The cat lies lazy on the stone.
Two small mice,
Cream, thick and nice,
Four bits of fish,
I stole behind a dish,
And am so lazy and tired,
Because so well I have fared.
The unity is maintained through the central interest of the two Children and the goat.
The tale is characterized by fairly good mass. As the story aims to portray a natural picture of child life, obviously it could not maintain a style of too great solidity and force, but rather would seek one of ease and naturalness. Mass, as shown in Oeyvind and Marit, appears in the following description of Oeyvind's play with the goat, after he first realized its return:--
He jumped up, took it by the two fore-legs, and danced with it as if it were a brother; he pulled its beard, and he was just going in to his mother with it, when he heard someone behind him; and looking, saw the girl sitting on the greensward by his side. Now he understood it all, and let go the goat.
The story of child-friendship is told in distinct little episodes which naturally connect. That unmistakable relation of the parts which is essential to coherence, appears in the following outline of the story:--
1. A new acquaintance: Oeyvind and Marit meet.
The exchange of a goat for a cake.
The departure of the goat. Marit sings to the goat.
The return of the goat. Marit accompanies the goat.
2. New interests.
The stories of what the animals say, told to Oeyvind by his
The first day of school.
3. An old acquaintance renewed: Oeyvind again meets Marit at
The Children's love of the goat, the comradeship of Oeyvind and Marit, of Oeyvind and his Mother, and of Marit and her Grandfather, are elements which assist in producing coherence. The songs of Marit, and the songs and stories of Oeyvind's Mother, especially preserve the relation of parts. In the following paragraphs, which give distinct pictures, note the coherence secured internally largely by the succession of verbs denoting action and also by the denotation of the words.
When he came in, there sat as many children round a table as he had ever seen at church; others were sitting on their luncheon-boxes, which were ranged round the walls; some stood in small groups round a large printed card; the school-master, an old gray-haired man, was sitting on a stool by the chimney-corner, filling his pipe. They all looked up as Oeyvind and his mother entered, and the mill-hum ceased as if the water had suddenly been turned off....
As he was going to find his seat, they all wanted to make room for him. He looked round a long time,, while they whispered and pointed; he turned round on all sides, with his cap in his hand and his book under his arm....
Just as the boy is going to turn round to the school-master, he sees close beside him, sitting down by the hearthstone on a little red painted tub, Marit, of the many names; she had covered her face with both hands, and sat peeping at him through her fingers.
The imagination is appealed to continually through the simple concrete expressions which present an image; as, "He grew hot all over, looked around about, and called, 'Killy-killy-killy-goat!'"
The emotional element is distinct, and pleasing and contributes to the total impression of admiration for the characters. We admire Oeyvind for his fondness for the goat and for his pain at losing it; for his dissatisfaction in keeping it after Marit returned it, though she wanted it; for his delight in his Mother's stories; and for his pleasure in Marit's friendship at school. We admire Marit for her appreciation of the beautiful goat; for her obedience to her Grandfather; for her sorrow at giving up the goat, for her generosity in giving the neck-chain with it; and for the childish comradeship she gave to Oeyvind. We admire the goat for his loyalty to his little master. We trust the Grandfather who trained Marit to be fair and courteous; who guarded her from the cliff; and who bought for her another goat. We have faith in the Mother who had feeling for the little goat her son bartered for a cake; and who had the wisdom to sing for her little boy and tell him stories when he was sorrowful and needed new interests.
Undoubtedly Oeyvind and Marit is a tale which conveys its thought clearly and makes you feel its feeling, and therefore may be said to possess style in a broad sense. In a particular sense, because its form is marked by the four general qualities: precision, energy, delicacy, and personality; and its elements are controlled by the principles of composition: sincerity, unity, mass, and coherence, it therefore may be said to possess style.
An old tale which has a literary form unusual in its approach to the perfect literary form, is the Norse, The Three Billy-Goats Gruff, told by Dasent in Tales from the Norse. Indeed after looking carefully at this tale one is tempted to say that, for perfection of style, some of the old folk-tales are not to be equaled. Note the simple precision shown in the very first paragraph:--
Once on a time there were three Billy-Goats, who were to go up to the hill-side to make themselves fat, and the name of all three was "Gruff."
Energy or force appeals to the emotions in the words of the tiny Billy-Goat Gruff to the Troll:--
"Oh, no! pray don't take me. I'm too little, that I am," said the Billy-Goat; "wait a bit till the second Billy-Goat Gruff comes. he's much bigger."
There is emotional harmony displayed in the second paragraph; the words used fit the ideas:--
On the way up was a bridge over a burn they had to cross; and under the bridge lived a great ugly Troll, with eyes as big as saucers, and a nose as long as a poker.
The quality of personality is best described, perhaps, by saying that the tale seems to have impersonality. Any charm of the story-tellers of the ages has entered into the body of the tale, which has become an objective presentment of a reality that concentrates on itself and keeps personality out of sight. The character of the tellers is shown however in the qualities of the tale. The charm of the primitive story-tellers has given the tale inimitable morning-dew freshness. This seems to result from a fine simplicity, a sprightly visualization, a quaint picturesqueness, a pleasing terseness, and all Anglo-Saxon vigor.
Sincerity is displayed in the words of the Troll and of the three Billy-Goats. Note the sincerity of little Billy-Goat Gruff:--
"Oh! it is only I, the tiniest Billy-Goat Gruff; and I'm going up to the hillside to make myself fat," said the Billy-Goat, with such a small voice.
The unity in this tale is unusually good. The central idea which groups all the happenings in the tale is: Three Billy-Goats are crossing a bridge to go up to the hillside to make themselves fat. There are four characters, three Goats and the Troll. All that happens in the tale contributes to the one effect of a bridge going trip, trap! as a Goat crossed it on his way up the hillside; of a Troll roaring: "Who's that tripping over my bridge?" of the explanation of the Billy-Goat; of the answer of the Troll, "Now I'm coming to gobble you up"; and of the Billy-Goat's final petition. Unity is emphasized by the repetition in the tale, as the three Billy-Goats successively cross the bridge and reply to the Troll. The climax is the big Billy-Goat Gruff's tramp across the bridge.
This tale is characterized by perfect mass, the paragraphs always end with words that deserve distinction, and the sentences have their strongest words at the points where the eye would most readily see them; as, "But just then up came the big Billy-Goat Gruff." The coherence is fine, and is secured largely by the cumulative plan in a threefold sense. The relation of the parts is unmistakable. The similarity and contrast evident in the episodes of the three Billy-Goats makes this relation very clearly defined. To make doubly sure the end has been reached the tale concludes:--
Snip, snap, snout,
This tale's told out.
Let us examine the folk-tale generally as to its literary form. The folk-tale originally did not come from the people in literary form. The tale was first told by some nameless primitive man, who, returning from some adventure of everyday life, would narrate it to a group of his comrades. First told to astonish and interest, or to give a warning of the penalty of breaking Nature's laws, or to teach a moral lesson, or to raise a laugh, later it became worked up into the fabulous stories of gods and heroes. These fabulous stories developed into myth-systems, and these again into household tales. By constant repetition from one generation to another, incidents likely to happen in everyday life, which represented universal experiences and satisfied common needs of childhood, were selected and combined. These gradually assumed a form of simplicity and literary charm, partly because, just as a child insists on accuracy, savage people adhered strictly to form in repeating the tale, and because it is a law of permanence that what meets the universal need will survive. The great old folk-tales have acquired in their form a clearness and precision; for in the process of telling and re-telling through the ages all the episodes became clearly defined. And as irrelevant details dropped out, there developed that unity produced by one dominant theme and one dominant mood. The great old folktales, then, naturally acquired a good classic literary form through social selection and survival. But many of the tales as we know them have suffered either through translation or through careless modern retelling. Many of the folk-tales take on real literary form only through the re-treatment of a literary artist. Mrs. Steel, who has collected the Tales of the Punjab, tells how the little boys of India who seek to hold their listening groups will vary the incidents in a tale in different tellings, proving that the complete tale was not the original unit, but that single incidents are much more apt to retain their stock forms than plots. The combination we now have in a given tale was probably a good form once hit upon and thereafter transmitted.
Jacob (1785-1863) and William (1786-1859) Grimm, both fine scholars, incapable of any but good work, did not undertake to put the tale into literary form suited to children. They were interested in preserving folk-lore records for scientific purposes. And we must distinguish between the tale as a means of reflecting the ideals of social and religious life, of displaying all the genius of primitive man for science to interpret, and the tale as a means of pleasing and educating the child. The Grimms obtained most of their tales from the lips of people in Hesse and Hanau, Germany. They were very fortunate in securing many of the tales they were thirteen years in collecting, from an old nurse, Frau Viehmannin, the wife of a cowherd, who lived at Niederzwehrn, near Cassel, who told her story with exactness and never changed anything in repeating. Grimm himself said, "Our first care was faithfulness to the truth. We strove to penetrate into the wild forests of our ancestors, listening to their noble language, watching their pure customs, recognizing their ancient freedom and hearty faith." The Grimms sought the purity of a straightforward narration. They were against reconstruction to beautify and poetize the legends. They were not opposed to a free appropriation for modern and individual purposes. They kept close to the original, adding nothing of circumstance or trait, but rendering the stories in a style and language and development of detail which was their own literary German.
Perrault (1628-1703) had taken the old tales as his son, Charles, a lad of ten or twelve, told them. The father had told them to the son as he had gathered them up, intending to put them into verse after the manner of La Fontaine. The lad loved the stories and re-wrote them from memory for his father with such charming naivete that the father chose the son's version in preference to his own, and published it. But the tales of Perrault, nevertheless, show the embellishment of the mature master-Academician's touch in subduing the too marvelous tone, or adding a bit of court manners, or a satirical hit at the vanity and failings of man.
Dasent (1820-96) has translated the Norse tales from the original collection of Asbjornsen and Moe. Comrades from boyhood to manhood, scholar and naturalist, these two together had taken long walks into the secluded peasant districts and had secured the tales from the people of the dales and fells, careful to retain the folk-expressions. Dasent, with the instinct, taste, and skill of a true scholar, has preserved these tales of an honest manly race, a race of simple men and women, free and unsubdued. He has preserved them in their folk-language and in their true Norse setting. Harris (1848-1908) has given his tales in the dialect of Uncle Remus. Jacobs (1854-) has aimed to give the folk-tales in the language of the folk, retaining nurses' expressions, giving a colloquial and romantic tone which often contains what is archaic and crude. He has displayed freedom with the text, invented whole incidents, or completed incidents, or changed them. His object has been to fill children's imaginations with bright images. Andrew Lang (1844-1912) has given the tale mainly to entertain children. He has accepted translations from many sources and has given a straightforward narration. He has collected fairy tales indefatigably in his rainbow Fairy Books, but they are not always to be recommended for children.
Andersen (1805-75), like Perrault, made his tale for the child as an audience, and he too has put the tale into literary form. Andersen's tale is not the old tale, but an original creation, a number of which are based on old folk-material. Preserving the child's point of view, Andersen has enriched his language with a mastery of perfection and literary style. And the "mantle of Andersen" has, so far, fallen on no one.
To-day it is to be questioned if the child should be given the tale in nurses' talk. To-day children are best cared for by mothers who feel ignorant if they cannot tell their children stories, and who, having an appreciation of their mother English, want their children to hear stories, not only told by themselves rather than by their servants, but also told in the best literary form possible. They recognize that these earliest years, when the child is first learning his language, are the years for a perfection of form to become indelibly impressed. The fairy tale, like every piece of literature, is an organism and "should be put before the youngest child with its head on, and standing on both feet." The wholesale re-telling of every tale is to be deplored. And stories which have proved themselves genuine classics, which have a right to live, which have been handed down by tradition, which have been preserved by folk-lore records, and which have been rescued from oblivion,--in this age of books should have a literary form, which is part of their message, settled upon them. The Grimm tales await their literary master.
III. THE FAIRY TALE AS A SHORT-STORY
The fairy tale, then, which in an objective sense, from the standpoint of literature, has proved itself subject-matter of real worth, must be a classic, must have the qualities of mind and soul, must possess the power to appeal to the emotions, a power to appeal to the imagination, and it must have a basis of truth and a perfection of form. Put in addition to possessing these characteristics, because the fairy tale is a special literary form,--the short-story,--as literature it must stand the test of the short-story.
The three main characteristics of the short-story, as given by Professor Brander Matthews in his Philosophy of the Short-Story, are originality of theme, ingenuity of invention, and brevity, or compression. A single effect must be conceived, and no more written than contributes to that effect. The story depends for its power and charm on (1) characters; (2) plot; and (3) setting. In The Life and Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, by Graham Balfour, Stevenson has said, concerning the short-story:--
"There are, so far as I know, three ways, and three ways only, of writing a story. You may take a plot and fit characters to it, or you may take a character and choose incidents and situations to develop it, or lastly--you must bear with me while I try to make this clear.... You may take a certain atmosphere and get action persons to express and realize it. I'll give you an example--The Merry Men. There I began with the feeling of one of those islands on the west coast of Scotland, and I gradually developed the story to express the sentiment with which the coast affected me."
According to the method by which the story was made, the emphasis will be on character, plot, or setting. Sometimes you may have a perfect blending of all three.
(1) Characters. The characters must be unique and original, so that they catch the eye at once. They dare not be colorless, they must have striking experiences. The Elephant's Child, Henny Penny, Medio Pollito, Jack of the Beanstalk, the Three Pigs, the Three Bears, and Drakesbill--the characters of the fairy tales have no equal in literature for freshness and vivacity. The very mention of the thought brings a smile of recognition; and it is for this reason, no doubt, that leading men in large universities turn aside from their high scholarly labors, to work or play with fairy tales. Besides the interesting chief characters, moreover, there are many more subordinate characters that are especially unique: the fairies, the fairy godmothers and wise women, the elves of the trees, the dwarfs of the ground, the trolls of the rocks and hills, and the giants and witches. Then that great company of toilers in every occupation of life bring the child in touch with many novel phases of life. At best we are all limited by circumstances to a somewhat narrow sphere and like to enter into all that we are not. The child, meeting in his tale the shoemaker, the woodcutter, the soldier, the fisherman, the hunter, the poor traveler, the carpenter, the prince, the princess, and a host of others, gets a view of the industrial and social conditions that man in simple life had to face. This could not fail to interest; and it not only broadens his experience and deepens his sympathy, but is the best means for acquiring a foundation upon which to build his own vocational training. This acquisition is one contribution of literature to industrial work. Those characters will appeal to the child which present what the child has noticed or can notice. They should appear as they do in life, by what they say and by what they do. This, in harmony with the needs of the young child, makes the tales which answer to the test of suitability, largely dramatic.
(2) Plot. The characters of the tales can be observed only in action. Plot is the synthesis of the actions, all the incidents which happen to the characters. The plot gives the picture of experience and allows us to see others through the events which come to them. According to Professor Bliss Perry, the plot should be entertaining, comical, novel, or thrilling. It should present images that are clear-cut and not of too great variety. It should easily separate itself into large, leading episodes that stand out distinctly. The sequence of events should be orderly and proceed without interruption. The general structure should easily be discerned into the beginning, the middle, and the end. Various writers of tales have their particular ways of beginning. Andersen loses no time in getting started, while Kipling begins by stating his theme. The old tales frequently began with the words, "Once upon a time," which Kipling modified to " In the High and Far-Off times, O Best Beloved," etc. Hawthorne begins variously with "Once upon a time", or, "Long, long ago"; or, "Did you ever hear of the golden apples?" etc.--Hawthorne has been omitted in this book because, so far as I can discover, he furnishes no tale for the kindergarten or first grade. His simplest tale, Midas and the Golden Touch, properly belongs in the second grade when told; when read, in the fourth grade.--The introduction, in whatever form, should be simple and to the point. It should give the time and place and present the characters; and if good art it will be impatient of much preliminary delay. The great stories all show a rise of interest culminating in one central climax; and after that, sometimes following on its very heels, the conclusion where poetic justice is meted out. This climax is a very important feature in the tale, so important that it has been said, "The climax is the tale." It is the point where interest focuses. It makes the story because it is where the point of the story is made. In a good story this point always is made impressive and often is made so by means of surprise. The conclusion must show that the tale has arrived at a stopping place and in a moral tale it must leave one satisfied, at rest.
If the folk-tale is good narration, in answer to the question, "What?" it will tell what happened; in answer to the question, "Who?" it will tell to whom it happened; in answer to the question, "Where?" it will tell the place where, and the time when, it happened; and in answer to the question, "Why?" it will give the reason for telling the story, it will give the message, and the truth embodied in its form. As narration the tale must have truth, interest, and consistency. Its typical mood must be action and its language the language of suggestion. This language of suggestion appears when it shows an object by indicating how it is like something else; by telling what we feel when we see the object; and by telling what actions of the person or object make it hateful or charming. We learn to know Andersen's Snow Man through what the Dog says of him.
Description, in the sense of a static, detailed delineation of various qualities of objects, has no place in the child's story, for it bores the child, who is very persistent in wanting the main theme uninterrupted. But description that has touches of movement and action or that lays emphasis on a single effect and has point, distinctly aids visualization, and produces a pleasing result, as we have seen in Kipling's Elephant's Child. The young child of to-day, trained in nature study to look upon bird, tree, and flower with vital interest, to observe the color and the form of these, gains a love of the beautiful that makes him exclaim over the plumage of a bird or tint of it flower. To him beauty in the tale must make a direct appeal which the child unfamiliar with these things might not feel. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils makes an appeal to the modern child which could not possibly have been felt by the child living before 1850. The modern child brought up on phonics is sensitive to sound also, and open to an appreciation of the beauty of the individual word used in description. This description, when it occurs, should be characterized mainly by aptness and concreteness.
Having observed the general characteristics of the narrative contained in the plot, let us examine the structure of a few tales to see: What is the main theme of the plot and how it works itself out; what are the large, leading episodes, and how they culminate in the climax; and what is the conclusion, and how closely it follows the climax.
The Story of Three Pigs
I. Introduction. Time. Place. Characters: Mother and Three Pigs. Mother gone.
1. First Pig's venture with a man with a load of straw.
Builds a straw house. (Wolf enters.)
Wolf comes and destroys him.
2. Second Pig's venture with a man with a load of furze.
Builds a furze house.
Wolf comes and destroys him.
3. Third Pig's venture with a man with a load of bricks.
Builds a brick house.
Wolf comes. (Climax.)
III. Conclugion. Third Pig outwits the Wolf.
At the turnip-field in Mr. Smith's home-field.
At the apple tree in Merry-Garden.
At the fair at Shanklin.
At his own brick house.
Evidently the climax here is when the Wolf comes to the third Pig's brick house. After that things take a turn; and the final test of strength and cleverness comes at the very end of the tale, at Little Pig's brick house.
Grimm's Briar Rose is a model of structure and easily separates itself into ten large episodes.
1. The Introduction.
2. The Christening Feast.
(a) The Fairies and their gifts.
(b) The wicked Fairy and her curse.
3. The King's decree.
4. Princess Rose's birthday.
(a) Princess Rose's visit to the old tower.
(b) Princess Rose and the wicked Fairy spinning.
(c) The magic sleep.
5. The hedge of briars.
6. The Prince and the old Man.
7. The Prince and the opening hedge.
8. The Prince in the castle. (Climax.)
9. The awakening.
10. The wedding. (Conclusion.)
The climax here is the Prince's awakening kiss. The blossoming of the hedge into roses prepares for the climax; and the conclusion--the awakening of all the life of the castle and the wedding--follow immediately after.
(3) Setting. The third element of the short-story that is essential to its power and charm is setting. The setting is the circumstances or events which surround the characters and action. The setting occupies a much more important place in the tale than we realize, for it is the source of a variety of sensations and feelings which it may arouse. It gives the poetic or artistic touch to a tale. In the old tale the setting is given often in a word or two which act like magic, to open to our eyes a whole vision of associations. The road in the Three Pigs, the wood in Red Riding Hood, the castle in the Sleeping Beauty--these add charm. Often the transformation in setting aids greatly in producing effect. In Cinderella the scene shifts from the hearth to the palace ballroom; in the Princess and the Pea, from the comfortable castle of the Queen to the raging storm, and then back again to the castle, to the breakfast-room on the following morning. In Snow White and Rose Red the scene changes from the cheery, beautiful interior of the cottage, to the snowstorm from which the Bear emerged. In accumulative tales, such as The Old Woman and her Pig, Medio Pollito, and The Robin's Christmas Song, the sequence of the story itself is preserved mainly by the change of setting. This appears in the following outline of The Robin's Christmas Song, an English tale which is the same as the Scotch Robin's Yule-Song, which has been attributed to Robert Burns. This tale illustrates one main line of sequence:--
The Robin's Christmas Song
1. Introduction. A sunny morning. Waterside. A Gray Pussy. A Robin came along.
Pussy said "See my white fur."
Robin replied "You ate the wee mousie."
Change in setting. Stone wall on border of the wood. A greedy Hawk, sitting.
Hawk said, "See the speckled feather in my wing."
Robin replied "You pecked the sparrow," etc.
Change in setting. Great rock. A sly Fox.
Fox said "See the spot on my tail."
Robin replied "You bit the wee lambie."
Change in setting. Banks of a rivulet. A small Boy.
Boy said "See the crumbs in my pocket."
Robin replied "You caught the gold finch."
Change in setting. King's palace. The window sill.
The King at the window.
Robin sang "A song for the King."
King replied "What shall we give Robin?"
No change in setting. King's palace. The window sill.
The King at the window.
King Filled a plate and set it on the window sill.
Robin Ate, sang a song again, and flew away.
Here, not only the sequence of the tale is held largely by the change in setting, but also the pleasure in the tale is due largely to the setting, the pictures of landscape beauty it presents, and the feelings arising from these images.
A Japanese tale, in which the setting is a large part of the tale, and a large element of beauty, is Mezumi, the Beautiful, or The Rat Princess.
A Grimm tale in which the setting is a very large element of pleasure and in which it preserves the sequence of the tale, is The Spider and the Flea, a lively accumulative tale that deserves attention for several reasons.--A Spider and a Flea dwelt together. One day a number of unusual occurrences happened, so that finally a little Girl with a water-pitcher broke it, and then the Streamlet from which she drew the water asked, "Why do you break your pitcher, little Girl?"
And she replied:
The little Spider's burned herself,
And the flea weeps;
The little Door creaks with the pain,
And the Broom sweeps;
The little Cart runs on so fast,
And the Ashes burn;
The little Tree shakes down its leaves,
Now it is my turn!
And then the Streamlet said, "Now I must flow."
And it flowed on and on, getting bigger and bigger, until it swallowed up the little Girl, the little Tree, the Ashes, the Cart, the Broom, the Door, the Flea, and at last, the Spider--all together.
Here we have a tale, which, in its language, well illustrates Stevenson's "pattern of style," especially as regards the harmony produced by the arrangement of letters. From the standpoint of style, this tale might be named, The Adventure of the Letter E; it illustrates the part the phonics of the tale may contribute to the effect of the setting. Follow the letter e in the opening of the tale, both as to the eye and the ear:--
A Spider and a Flea dwelt together in one house and brewed their beer in an egg-shell. One day when the Spider was stirring it up she fell in and burned herself. Thereupon the Flea began to scream. And then the Door asked, "Why are you screaming, little Flea?"
If we follow the e sound through the tale, we find it in Flea, beer, scream, creak, weeps, sweep, reason, heap, Tree, leaves, and Streamlet. This repetition of the one sound puts music into the tale and creates a center of the harmony of sound. But if we examine the next part of the tale we find a variety of sounds of o in thereupon, Door, Broom, stood, and corner. Later, in connection with Cart, we have began, fast, past, and Ashes. Other phonic effects are crowded into the tale; such as the sound of l in violently, till, all, leaves, and fell; the sound of i in little and Girl; of p in pitcher and passing; of t in little and pitcher; and of ew in threw and drew. Altogether this very effective use of sound is a fine employment of concrete language, words which present images that are clear-cut as a cameo. It also gives to the tale a poetical touch.
Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse, an English tale, and a parallel of The Spider and the Flea, preserves the same beauty and sequence by means of its setting and illustrates the same very unusual contribution of the sounds of particular letters combined in the harmony of the whole. The Phonics of the Fairy Tales is a subject which yields much interest and, as yet, has been almost untouched.
In The Adventures of Chanticleer and Partlet, in part i, The Trip to the Nut-Hill, taken from Arthur Rackham's Grimm Tales, the setting contributes largely to the attractiveness of the tale, as is shown in Rackham's beautiful illustration. The setting is given throughout the tale often in a telling word or two. Chanticleer and Partlet went up the nut-hill to gather nuts before the squirrel carried them all away. The day was bright and they stayed till evening. The carriage of nut-shells; the Duck they met; the dirty road they traveled in the pitch dark; the Inn they arrived at; the night at the Inn; the early dawn; the hearth where they threw the egg-shells; the Landlord's chair whose cushion received the Needle; the towel which received the Pin; the heath over which they hurried away; the yard of the Inn where the Duck slept and the stream he escaped by; the Landlord's room where he gained experience with his towel; the kitchen where the egg-shells from the hearth flew into his face; and the arm-chair which received him with a Needle these are all elements of setting which contribute largely to the humor and the beauty of the tale.
A blending of the three elements, characters, plot, and setting, appears in the following outline of The Elves and the Shoemaker:--
The Elves and the Shoemaker
1. Introduction. A poor Shoemaker. A poor room containing a bed and a shoemaker's board. Leather for one pair of shoes.
First night Cut out shoes. Went to bed. Shoes ready next morning. Sold them. Bought leather for two pairs.
Second night Cut out shoes. Went to bed. Shoes ready next morning. Sold them. Bought leather for four pairs.
One night Conversation of Shoemaker and his wife: "I should like to sit up to-night to see who it is that makes the shoes." They sat up. Two Elves ran in, sewed, rapped, and tapped, and ran away when the shoes were made.
Day after Conversation. "These Elves made us rich. I should like to do something for them. You make each of them a little pair of shoes, and I will make them each a little shirt, a coat, a waistcoat, trousers, and a pair of stockings."
Christmas Eve. Finished shoes and clothes put on the table. Shoemaker and Wife hid in the corner of the room behind clothes, and watched. (Climax.)
Elves came in and put on clothes.
Happy end. Elves danced and sang,
"Smart and natty boys are we,
Cobblers we'll no longer be."
Shoemaker and Wife became happy and prosperous.
The characters of this tale are usual, a poor Shoemaker and his Wife; and unusual, the dainty Elves who made shoes in a twinkling. But the commonplace peasants become interesting through their generosity, kindness, and service to the Elves; and the Elves become human in their joy at receiving gifts. The structure of the tale is so distinct as to be seen a thing itself, apart from the story. The framework is built on what happens on two nights and following nights, the conversation of the next day, and what happens on Christmas Eve. The climax evidently is what the Shoemaker and his Wife hid in the corner to see--the entrance of the Elves on Christmas Eve--which episode has been interpreted charmingly by the English illustrator, Cruikshank. The joy of the Elves and of the two aged people, the gifts received by the one and the riches won by the other, form the conclusion, which follows very closely upon the climax. The commonplace setting, the poor room with its simple bed and table, becomes transformed by the unusual happenings in the place. If we should take away this setting, we see how much the tale would suffer. Also without the characters the tale would be empty. And without the interesting, human, humorous, and pleasing plot, characters and setting would be insufficient. Each element of the short-story contributes its fair share to the tale, and blends harmoniously in the whole.
Various standards for testing the folk-tale have been given by writers. One might refer to the standards given by Wilman in his Pedagogische Vortrage and those mentioned by William Rein in Das Erste Schuljahr. We have seen here that the fairy tale must contain the child's interests and it must be able to stand the test of a true classic. It must stand the test of literature in its appeal to emotion and to imagination, in its appeal to the intellect through its basis of truth, and to the language-sense through its perfection of form; it must stand the test of the short-story and of good narration and of description. Let us now examine a few of the old tales to see how they stand the complete test:--
How the Sun, Moon, and West Wind went out to Dinner
This story of How the Sun, Moon, and West Wind Went out to Dinner appeals to the children's interest in a family dinner--they went to dine with their Uncle and Aunt, Thunder and Lightning. The characters are interesting to the child, for they are the inhabitants of his sky that cause him much wonder: the star, the sun, the moon, the thunder, and the lightning. To the little child, who as she watched a grown-up drying her hands, remarked, "I wouldn't like to be a towel, would you?" the idea of the moon, sun, and wind possessing personality and going to a dinner-party will amuse and please. The theme of the story finds a place in the experience of children who go to a party; and secretly they will enjoy making comparisons. When they go to a party they too like to bring something home; but they wouldn't think of hiding goodies in their hands. They are fortunate enough to have their hostess give them a toy animal or a box of sweetmeats, a tiny dolly or a gay balloon, as a souvenir. The greediness and selfishness of the Sun and Wind impress little children, for these are perhaps the two sins possible to childhood; and all children will fully appreciate why the Sun and the Wind received so swiftly the punishment they deserved. The thoughtfulness of the loving gentle Moon to remember her Mother the Star, appeals to them. The rapid punishment, well-deserved, and the simplicity of the story with its one point, make it a very good tale for little children. The whole effect is pleasing. What children recall is the motherly Star; and the beautiful Moon, who was cool and calm and bright as a reward for being good.
The structure of the tale is neat and orderly, dominated by a single theme. The form of the tale, as given in Jacobs's Indian Tales, shows a good use of telling expressions; such as, "the Mother waited alone for her children's return," "Kept watch with her little bright eye," "the Moon, shaking her hands showered down such a choice dinner," etc. Here we have too, the use of concrete, visualized expressions and direct language. There is also a good use of repetition, which aids the child in following the plot and which clarifies the meaning. The Mother Star, when pronouncing a punishment upon Sun, repeated his own words as he had spoken when returning from the dinner: "I went out to enjoy myself with my friends." In her speech to Wind she included his own remark: "I merely went for my own pleasure."--The examination of this tale shows that it stands well the complete test applied here to the fairy tale.
The Straw Ox
The Straw Ox is an accumulative tale which has sufficient plot to illustrate the fine points of the old tale completely. A poor woman who could barely earn a living had an idea and carried it out successfully.--Her need immediately wins sympathy in her behalf.--She asked her husband to make her a straw ox and smear it with tar. Then placing it in the field where she spun, she called Out, "Graze away, little Ox, graze away, while I spin my flax!" First a Bear came out of the Wood and got caught by the tar so that the Straw Ox dragged him home. The old Man then put the Bear in the cellar. Then a Wolf, a Fox, and a Hare got caught in the same way and also were consigned to the cellar.--The plot has so far built itself up by an orderly succession of incidents.--But just when the Man is preparing to kill the animals, they save their lives by promising various offerings: The Bear promises honey; the Wolf a flock of sheep; the Fox a flock of geese; and the Hare kale and cauliflower.--Then the plot, having tied itself into a knot, unties itself as the animals return, each with the gift he promised.
The setting is the field where the old Woman placed the Ox and where she spun, the wood from which the animals came, and the peasant home. The characters are two poor people who need food and clothing and seek to secure both; and the animals of the forest. The peasants need the Bear for a coat, the Wolf for a fur cap, the Fox for a fur collar, and the Hare for mittens. This human need produces an emotional appeal so that we wish to see the animals caught. But when the plot unties itself, the plight of the animals appeals to us equally and we want just as much to see them win their freedom. Each animal works out his own salvation by offering the old people a worthy substitute. Each animal is true to his nature in the substitute he offers, he promises what is only natural for him to procure, and what he himself likes best. The conclusion is satisfying because in the end everybody is happy: the old people who have all they need; and the animals who have life and freedom. The distinct pictures offered to the imagination are the capture of the four animals and their return with their life-substitutes. The form of the tale is a good example of folk-story style, with its vivid words, direct language, and repetition. This is one of the tales which is finer than at first appears because it has a strong sense of life. It touches the present-day problem: "How can the inhuman slaughter of animals for man's use be avoided?" Its underlying message is: Self-help is a good way out of a difficulty.--The Straw Ox also answers the complete test of the tale with much satisfaction.