Page:Europa's Fairy Book.djvu/277

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I have followed Bolte's formula s. v. Hansel and Gretel, 15, i., 115, though with some misgivings. Very few of his variants have his section F, which he divides into three variants: F 1. Ducks or angels carry the children over the stream. F 2. Or they throw out obstacles to pursuit. F 3. Or the witch drinks up the stream and bursts. F 2 is obviously "contaminated" by the similar incident in the Master Maid, and the existence of such alternatives indicates, to my mind, an absence of a consistent tradition as to the ending of the story, which obviously ended with the baking of the witch in the oven. I have combined, in my ending F 1 and F 2, the former from the Grimms' "Hansel and Gretel"; I have also adapted their title, with a reminiscence of Sir James Barrie.

The predicament of the farmer must have often really occurred in the Middle Ages when famine was the rule rather than the exception; and the decision to "expose" the children recalls the general practice in ancient Greece and Rome and in Arabia. A touch of comedy, however, is given to this grim beginning of our tale by the house made of cookies and sweetmeats, probably derived from the myth of a Schlarafenland of the Germans and similar imaginations of the Celts (see More Celtic Fairy Tales).

The beginning of the tale occurs early in Basile, v., 8, "Nennillo and Nennila," in which the three kings' children find their way home twice by similar devices, but at the third time scatter peas, which the birds eat up. Perrault has the same beginning in his "Petit Poucet," which has been Englished as "Hop o' my Thumb," who shares some of the adventures of Tom Thumb, as well as of the valiant Tailor. Lang has an interesting but, as usual, inconclusive discussion of the incidents of our tale in his Perrault civ.-cxi., and finds many of the incidents among the Kaffirs,