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Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, [1899], at

Indian Parallels.

I raise these objections myself, knowing that, if I did not, someone else would certainly do so, with the gleeful remark, 'Down goes the silly theory of the dispersion of folk-tales by Gypsies.' By no means, necessarily. The theory

p. lxix

may be inapplicable in these and in other cases; but what will the folklorists make of another Polish-Gypsy story, the 'Tale of a Foolish Brother and of a Wonderful Bush' (No. 45)? Of it we find a variant in the Welsh-Gypsy story of 'The Dragon' (No. 61), and a most unmistakable version in the Indian fairy-tale of 'The Monkey Prince' (Maive Stokes, No. 10, p. 41). The connection, indeed, between the Gypsy and the Indian folk-tale seems scarcely less obvious than that between páni, water, in Rómani, and páni, water, in Hindustani. This, I think, must be granted; but what, then, of the non-Gypsy versions, cited on p. 161, from Russia, Norway, and Sicily? Or take the Turkish-Gypsy story of 'Baldpate' (No. 2). It is identical, on the one hand, with Grimm's 'Faithful John' (No. 6) and many more European versions, and, on the other hand, with the latter half of 'Phakir Chand' (Lal Behari Day's Folk-tales of Bengal, pp. 39-52). Is it not possibly the link between them? And may not similar links be discernible in these eight parallels, where the notes on the Gypsy tales will supply the exact references:--







1. The Son of Seven Mothers, etc.


The Bad Mother (No. 8), etc.


The Blue Belt (Norse), etc.

2. The Boy with the Moon on his Forehead, etc.


It all comes to Light (No. 17), etc.


Grimm's Three Little Birds, etc.

3. Prince Lionheart, etc.


Mare's Son (No. 20), etc.


Grimm's Strong Hans, etc.

4. Valiant Vicky, the Brave Weaver, etc.


The Deluded Dragon (No 21), etc.


Grimm's Valiant Little Tailor, etc.

5. The Two Brothers, etc.


The Hen that laid Diamonds (No. 25).


Grimm's Two Brothers, etc.

6. The Weaver as Vishnu (Sansk.).


The Winged Hero (No. 26).


Andersen's Flying Trunk, etc.

7. The Two Bhûts, etc.


The Rich and the Poor Brother (No. 30), etc.


Grimm's Two Travellers, etc.

8. Story cited by Ralston.


The Witch (No. 50),


Cosquin's Chatte etc. Blanche, etc.


There is also a frequent identity of incident in Gypsy and Indian folk-tales. Thus, in the Hungarian-Gypsy version of 'The Vampire' (No. 5), the king sends his coachman to pluck the flower that has grown from the maiden's grave; the coachman cannot, but the king himself can, and takes the flower home. Just so the Bel-Princess, thrown into a well, turns into a lotus-flower, which recedes from the villager who tries to pluck it, but floats into the prince's hand

p. lxx

[paragraph continues] (Maive Stokes's Indian Fairy Tales, p. 145; also p. 10). Fruits causing pregnancy are common in Gypsy as in Indian folk-tales (cf. Notes to No. 16); and God sends St. Peter with them in the former just as Mahádeo does an old fakír in the latter. The sleeping beauty in 'The Winged Hero' (No. 26) lies lifeless on the bed, and is awakened only by the removal of the candle from her head; in 'The Boy with the Moon on his Forehead' (Lal Behari Day's Folk-tales of Bengal, p. 251) it is two little sticks of gold and silver that revive the suspended animation of the young lady sleeping on the golden bedstead. The rescue of the eaglets from the dragon in 'Mare's Son' (No. 20) exactly matches the rescue of the two birds from the huge serpent in the Bengal 'Story of Prince Sobur' (p. 134); and the princess in the tree in that same Bengal story (p. 126) comes very near the wife in the oak in the Polish-Gypsy 'Tale of a Girl who was sold to the Devil' (No. 46). The robbers in a Moravian-Gypsy story (No. 43) break through the wall of a castle like the robbers of Scripture and of Indian folk-tales; and one very curious feature, which we can trace across two continents, is the feather, hair, or wing of a bird, beast, or insect, the burning of which, or sometimes the mere thinking on which, summons its former possessor to the hero's aid. It occurs in this passage from an unpublished Turkish-Gypsy story (Paspati, p. 523):--'He gave the old man a feather, and he said to the old man, "Take it and carry it to your daughter, and if she puts it in the fire I will come."' It occurs, too, in the Roumanian-Gypsy story of The Three Princesses and the Unclean Spirit' (No. 10), in the Bukowina-Gypsy story of 'The Enchanted City' (No. 32), and in the Polish-Gypsy 'Tale of a Girl who was sold to the Devil' (No. 46). It is by no means a common feature in Western folk-lore, but it occurs in Basile's Pentamerone, iv. 3, and in the Irish story of 'The Weaver's Son and the Giant of the White Hill' (Curtin, pp. 64-77) the hero gets a bit of wool from the ram, a bit of fin from the salmon, and a feather from the eagle, with injunctions to take them out when in any difficulty, and so summon all the rams, salmon, or eagles of the world to his assistance. As I show in the notes to No. 46, the idea is of frequent occurrence in the folk-tales of the Levant 1 and of India. In Mrs. Steel's Wide-awake Stories, p. 32, the demon says to the Faithful Prince, 'Take this hair with you, and, when you need help, burn it,

p. lxxi

then I will come immediately to your assistance.' And in the Arabian Nights ('Conclusion of the Story of the Ladies of Baghdad') the Jinneeyeh gives the first lady a lock of her hair, and says, When thou desirest my presence, burn a few of these hairs, and I will be with thee quickly, though I should be beyond Mount Kaf.'

The list, I expect, of identical plots and incidents could be largely extended even from my collection by M. Cosquin or any one else well versed in Indian folklore. Yet, as it stands, that list goes some way to corroborate my theory. One obvious objection may be anticipated. A folk-tale, as told to-day in India, need not be more primitive, more faithful to the original, than the same folk-tale as told to-day in Greece or Germany. The same wear and tear may have affected the story that stayed at home as has affected the story that wandered westward a thousand or two thousand years ago; it may have affected it in a very much greater degree. That is just what we find in language; the Rómani vast, hand, comes much nearer the Sanskrit hasta than does the Hindustani hāth. Another point may also be illustrated from language. The same word, or two kindred words, may have reached the same destination by different routes and at widely different periods. The Gypsies brought with them páni, water, to England, whither centuries after came the 'brandy-pawnee' of Anglo-Indians; páni is a far-away cousin of ae, aqueous, aquarium, etc. Brother and fraternal1 foot and pedestrian, are two out of hundreds of similar instances. In much the same way, it need not be any positive objection to the late transmission of a folk-tale to Norway or England, that an earlier form of that folk-tale already existed there. Because in the Nibelungenlied one finds a striking parallel to an episode in the Bukowina-Gypsy story of The Prince, his Comrade, and Nastasa the Fair' (No. 24), it does not follow that that story is necessarily derived from the Nibelungenlied. Still, the difficulty of discriminating between the earlier and the more recent forms of a folk-tale must be enormous--it may be, insuperable.


lxx:1 Some one will be sure to point out, if I do not, that most or all of these incidents occur also in non-Gypsy European folk-tales, and that therefore they are not peculiar to the Gypsies. Precisely: that is a possible confirmation of my theory.

lxxi:1 To which add the slang pal, a comrade, from the Rómani, pral, brother.

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