Page:Grimm's Household Tales, vol.1.djvu/8

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iv
PREFACE.

This is how the Brothers Grimm did write them; much that she said was taken down by them word by word and its fidelity is unmistakable. They bear emphatic witness to her ardent desire for accuracy. "Any one who holds that tradition is so easily falsified and carelessly preserved, that it is impossible for it to last for any length of time, ought to have heard how close she always kept to the story, and how zealous she was for its accuracy. When repeating it she never altered any part, and if she made a mistake always corrected it herself immediately."

A large proportion of the stories in these volumes comes from Hesse, which, as we are told, being a mountainous country lying far away from the great main roads, and with a population closely occupied in husbandry, is, of all German nations, that which amid all Time's changes has kept most fixedly to characteristic habits and customs.

The principle on which the Brothers Grimm worked shall be given in their own words: "Our first aim in collecting these stories has been exactness and truth. We have added nothing of our own, have embellished no incident or feature of the story, but have given its substance just as we ourselves received it. It will, of course, be understood that the mode of telling and carrying out of particular details is principally due to us, but we have striven to retain everything that we knew to be characteristic, that in this respect also we might leave the collection the many-sidedness of nature. For the rest, every one engaged on a work of this kind will know that this cannot be looked on as a careless or indifferent method of collection, but that, on the contrary, a care and skill which can only be gained by time are required to distinguish the version of the story which is simpler, purer and yet more complete in itself, from the falsified one. Whenever we found that varying stories completed each other, and that no contradictory parts had to be cut out before they could be joined together, we have given them as one, but when they differed, we have given the preference to that which was the better, and have kept the other for the notes.' The authors express great regret that in so many cases they have been obliged to give the stories in High-German, which, though it has gained in clearness, has "lost in