Page:Celtic Fairy Tales.djvu/273

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Notes and References


It may be as well to give the reader some account of the enormous extent of the Celtic folk-tales in existence. I reckon these to extend to 2000, though only about 250 are in print. The former number exceeds that known in France, Italy, Germany, and Russia, where collection has been most active, and is only exceeded by the MS. collection of Finnish folk-tales at Helsingfors, said to exceed 12,000. As will be seen, this superiority of the Celts is due to the phenomenal and patriotic activity of one man, the late J. F. Campbell, of Islay, whose Popular Tales and MS. collections (partly described by Mr. Alfred Nutt in Folk-Lore, i. 369–83) contain references to no less than 1281 tales (many of them, of course, variants and scraps). Celtic folk-tales, while more numerous, are also the oldest of the tales of modern European races; some of them—e.g., "Connla." in the present selection, occurring in the oldest Irish vellums. They include (1) fairy tales properly so-called—i.e., tales or anecdotes about fairies, hobgoblins, &c., told as natural occurrences; (2) hero-tales, stories of adventure told of national or mythical heroes; (3) folk-tales proper, describing marvellous adventures of otherwise unknown heroes, in which there is a defined plot and supernatural characters (speaking animals, giants, dwarfs, &c.); and finally (4) drolls, comic anecdotes of feats of stupidity or cunning.

The collection of Celtic folk-tales began in Ireland as early as 1825, with T. Crofton Croker's Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland. This contained some 38 anecdotes of the first class mentioned above, anecdotes showing the belief of the Irish peasantry in the existence of fairies, gnomes, goblins, and the like. The Grimms did Croker the honour of translating part of his book