Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, , at sacred-texts.com
Alexander G. Paspati, M.D., who died at Athens in the Christmas week of 1891, practised long as a doctor at Constantinople, and was an eminent Byzantine antiquary. His Études sur les Tchinghianés ou Bohémiens de l’Empire Ottoman (Cont. 1870, 652 pp.), is one of the very best works that we have on the Rómani language. It is largely based on Turkish-Gypsy folk-tales, of which Dr. Paspati seems to have made a huge collection, but six only of which are published by him as an appendix (pp. 594-629), in the original Rómani with a French translation. Two of these six stories--'Baldpate,' No. 2, and The Riddle,' No. 3--he got from a sedentary Gypsy, 'Léon Zafíri, middle-aged, by profession mower, musician, and story-teller. Gifted with a prodigious memory, this man has repeated to me a great number of folk-tales (contes fabuleux), portions of which I have inserted in the text of my vocabulary. To test his memory I have made him repeat some of these stories, and he has retold them word for word, making only very slight changes. During the long nights of winter his brother Gypsies invite him to tell his tales, which he also translates into Turkish with extreme facility. I have one whose recital would occupy two hours. These stories are very old. He has heard them from various members of his race, and has been able to retain them in his marvellous memory. I have written these stories at his dictation. I have several volumes of them among my papers. Several were told by his grandfather, long since dead, who was also a story-teller. In these stories, with their mixture of truth and fable, I have not hitherto met any token either of their Indian origin or of an ancient faith. I say that these stories are old, for one finds in them words such as manghín, shéhi, etc., which to-day are quite forgotten by the Tchinghianés. This illiterate man is not only familiar with the dialect of the Sedentary Gypsies, but he knows also that of the Nomads, in whose midst he sings his songs and tells his stories. One is sorry to see a man of such intelligence, so superior to the mass of his race, dragging out a pitiful existence and clad in rags' (pp. 34-35).
Paspati was, obviously, no folklorist; the folk-tales to him were valuable solely as so much linguistic material. But every word almost of the above deserves the closest consideration. I have tried, but in vain hitherto, to recover some trace of those 'several volumes'; their destruction would be a grievous loss to the science of folklore. 1
[paragraph continues] Still, from passages cited in the vocabulary, one can guess at in some cases, and in others actually identify, a portion of their contents. Thus, when one finds, 'The Sun said to her, "Thou art pretty, and thou art good; thou art not as pretty as Maklítcha"' (p. 580), one may feel sure that the Tchinghianés must possess some such version of Grimm's 'Little Snow-white' (No. 53) as 'Marietta et la Sorcière, sa Marâtre,' in Carnoy and Nicolaides' Traditions Populaires de l’Asie Mineure (p. 91), where the stepmother asks, not a mirror, but the Sun, 'Hast thou seen any woman fairer than I?' and the Sun answers, 'I am fair, thou art fair, but not so fair as Marietta.' Three passages point as clearly to Bernhard Schmidt's 'Die Schönste' (Griechische Märchen, p. 88), or some other version of 'Beauty and the Beast':--'In those days there was a man with three daughters. He said, "I am going to the city, I ask you what your souls desire me to bring you"' (p. 394); 'The eldest daughter said, "O father, bring me a thousand pieces of linen, to make dresses of"' (p. 410); and 'The middle daughter came, and she said, "Bring me, O father, the heaven with the stars, the sea with the fishes, the forest with the flowers"' (p. 535). 'My daughter, if your husband goes home, and one of his people kisses him, he will forget you, and you will remain in the forest' (p. 555) must be an excerpt from a 'Forsaken Bride' tale; and in 'He became a church, and the girl turned into a priest' (p. 580) one recognises a widespread episode, which recurs in our No. 34, 'Made over to the Devil,' and No. 50, 'The Witch.' Similarly, our , 'The Deluded Dragon,' a Bukowina-Gypsy version of 'The Valiant Little Tailor,' is foreshadowed by--'I am looking for the biggest mountain, to seize you, and fling you there, that not a bone of you may remain whole,' on which Paspati observes that 'this story relates the combat of a young man with a dragon, and the speaker here is the young man' (p. 576). 'She stuck a pin in her head; as soon as she had done so, the young girl turned into a pretty and beautiful bird' (p. 514), may be matched from India (infra, p. 271); and 'He gave the old man a feather, and said to the old man, "Take it and carry it to the maiden. I will come when she burns it,"' is discussed on our p. 167. The 'Beauty of the World' (pp. 347, 511, 569) is familiar through Hahn; and with Hahn i. p. 90, compare 'The mare was pregnant, and his wife, the queen, also was pregnant' (p. 195). 'The king said, "Come, my brother, and restore her to human shape" (a story of a woman punished by being turned into an ass),' on p. 351, must belong to a variant of our No. 25, 'The Hen that laid Diamonds'; and our No. 7, 'The Snake who became the King's Son-in-law,' is suggested by two passages on pp. 262, 266:
[paragraph continues] 'He said to his mother, "I want the king's daughter to wife "' and '"How am I to plant trees, and make them grow up, and gather their fruits?" (from a story in which, as the price of his daughter's hand, the father requires the suitor to plant trees in the morning and gather their fruits in the evening).' One can almost reconstruct a story out of 'We are forty cats; three are black, one is white' (p. 411), . . . "'Very early we go to the bath, and we strip ourselves naked, we take off our skins, and we become human beings" (a story of forty pretty women turned into cats),' (p. 367), and '"When we are in the bath take the skins and fling them in the fire"' (p. 368; cf. also p. 537). That story should belong to the husk-myth or swan-maiden type, as should also perhaps this passage on p. 381 "Why did you go off?" "There was a man." "There was no man: a stick fell from the tree" (a story in which a man surprises three maidens at the bath. Two go off, but the third, whom the man is in love with, remains behind, and she holds this discourse with her sisters as they go home).' Cats are pretty often referred to--e.g. 'The cat found a shop where they sold honey. She dipped her tail in it, and then rolled it in the ashes' (p. 344); 'The cat sat down near them; she sees they are flinging away the precious stone with the guts of the fish that had swallowed it' (p. 189); 'The queen said to the lame cat' (p. 195); and 'The lame cat said to the lad, "I'll give you a bit of advice"' (p. 245). To the same story--perhaps a version of the well-known 'Silly Women'--certainly belong 'His wife said, "Wait a bit till they put him in the coffin"' (p. 295) and 'They put him in the coffin; he rose up in the coffin; and his wife said, "Hold! my husband who was in the coffin, is alive"' (p. 227); and to the same story (? 'Ali Baba') doubtfully, these two passages: 'He packed the riches on his horses, and brought them at midnight to his house, and he became a rich man' (p. 349) and 'He sat down and sewed up the belly of his brother, whom the robbers had killed' (p. 422). Finally, some passages picked almost at random, to illustrate the wealth of Paspati's collections, are, on p. 472, 'He is the son of the King of the Serpents'; on p. 582, 'I pray you earnestly, O my wise king, have all the doors shut, and let no man come in, and none go out' (? 'Master Thief'); on p. 195, 'The King of India said, "I have no son"'; on p. 564, 'She went into the forest, she found a shepherd, and she changed clothes with the shepherd, and took the road: she went walking on a whole month'; on p. 505, 'One taper burnt at her head, the other at her feet' (? a 'Sleeping Beauty' story); on p. 170, 'I heard him, and I became a devil'; on p. 302, 'She took a sword and an arrow, and set off. She did
not wish any one, even her sisters, to know of her departure'; on p. 250, 'The girl dressed herself, mounted her horse, and took her sword'; on p. 251, 'I become a bird for thee, O apple of my eyes'; on p. 291, 'I shall become a swallow, I shall sit on thy neck, to kiss the freckle upon thy cheek'; on p. 259, 'Said the lad, "Who has taken my black bird?"'; on p. 356, 'They lay down: the lad placed the sword between himself and the maiden' (cf. Grimm's No. 60, i. 262); on p. 421, 'The old man said, "I give you forty days to find me"'; on p. 310, 'The ass said, "All these years we have been with you, and to me you give bones to eat, and the dog has had to eat straw"' 1; and on p. 362, ' The dead man goes last, the khodja goes in front.'
They are not very lively reading, these little scraps; still, they considerably extend our knowledge of Tchinghiané folk-tales. Of the six stories given in full by Paspati I have had to omit two. One of these, told by Christian nomads in the mixed style, is mixed indeed, more incoherent than the tale of the Great Panjandrum, as witness this sample:--'The godfather sees her with flowers on her head. Song, "The wolf will eat the lamb; The wolf will eat the turkey; The cat hit the bear; A stranger was alarmed."' The other story, told by one of the wild Zapáris, opens with a boon granted by an old man to the youngest of a king's five sons, to possess all the holes in the country. 'He went; in the forest he went; he found a hole. He stooped down over the hole. "Come out of the hole, whoever is inside." A woman came out; he asked her, "What are you doing down there?" "There are two wolves; I feed them." "Feed them well; God be with you." "And with you also." Again he went and went; he found a hole, and stooped down over that hole. "Come out of the hole." Out came a blackamoor,' etc. It is not a bad opening, but the story wanders off into drivel and obscenity. Even of the four tales I do give, one, the 'Story of the Bridge,' is valuable solely for its theme, of the master-builder Manóli and his wife; if it is as old as it is corrupt, it should be of hoary antiquity. But the three others are really good folk-tales, versions of 'The Grateful Dead,' 'Faithful John,' and Campbell of Islay's 'Knight of Riddles.' As always wherever possible, my translations are made direct from the original Rómani.
xlix:1 Since writing this, I have learned, through the kindness of Mr. Rufus B. Richardson of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, that 'nothing remains of Paspati's collections except a few notes, which will be brought out in a new edition of his works.'