Popular Tales from the Norse
POPULAR TALES FROM THE NORSE
With a Memoir by
NEW YORK: G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
EDINBURGH: DAVID DOUGLAS
All rights reserved
NOTICE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
THE first edition of these Tales being exhausted, and a demand having arisen for a second, the Translator has thought it right to add thirteen tales, which complete the translation of MM. Asbjörnsen and Moe's Collection, and to strengthen the Introduction by working in some new matter, and by working out some points which were only slightly sketched in the first edition.
The favour with which the book was welcomed makes it almost a duty to say a word here on the many kind and able notices which have been written upon it. Duties are not always pleasant, but the fulfilment of this at least gives no pain; because, without one exception, every criticism which the Translator has seen has shewn him that his prayer for "gentle" readers has been fully heard. It will be forgiven him, he hopes, when he says that he has not seen good ground to change or even to modify any of the opinions as to the origin and diffusion of popular tales put forth in the first edition. Much indeed has been said by others for those views; what has been urged against them, with all kindness and good humour, in one or two cases, has not availed at all to weigh down mature convictions deliberately expressed after the studies of years, backed as they are by the researches and support of those who have given their lives to this branch of knowledge.
And now, before the Translator takes leave of his readers for the second time, he will follow the lead of the good godmother in one of these Tales, and forbid all good children to read the two which stand last in the book. There is this difference between him and the godmother. She found her foster-daughter out as soon as she came back. He will never know it, if any bad child has broken his behest. Still he hopes that all good children who read this book will bear in mind that there is just as much sin in breaking a commandment even though it be not found out, and so he bids them good-bye, and feels sure that no good child will dare to look into those two rooms. If, after this warning, they peep in, they may perhaps see something which will shock them.
"Why then print them at all?" some grown reader asks. Because this volume is meant for you as well as for children, and if you have gone ever so little into the world with open eyes, you must have seen, yes, every day, things much more shocking. Because there is nothing immoral in their spirit. Because they are intrinsically valuable, as illustrating manners and traditions, and so could not well be left out. Because they complete the number of the Norse originals, and leave none untranslated. And last, though not least, because the Translator hates family versions of anything, "Family Bibles," "Family Shakespeares." Those who, with so large a choice of beauty before them, would pick out and gloat over this or that coarseness or freedom of expression, are like those who, in reading the Bible, should always turn to Leviticus, or those whose Shakespeare would open of itself at Pericles Prince of Tyre. Such readers the Translator does not wish to have.
March 12, 1859.
NOTICE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
THESE translations from the Norske Folkeeventyr, collected with such freshness and faithfulness by MM. Asbjörnsen and Moe, have been made at various times and at long intervals during the last fifteen years; a fact which is mentioned only to account for any variations in style or tone—of which, however, the Translator is unconscious—that a critical eye may detect in this volume. One of them, The Master Thief, has already appeared in Blackwood's Magazine for November 1851, from the columns of which periodical it is now reprinted, by the kind permission of the Proprietors.
The Translator is sorry that he has not been able to comply with the suggestion of some friends upon whose good-will he sets all store, who wished him to change and soften some features in these Tales, which they thought likely to shock English feeling. He has, however, felt it to be out of his power to meet their wishes, for the merit of an undertaking of this kind rests entirely on its faithfulness and truth; and the man who, in such a work, wilfully changes or softens, is as guilty as he "who puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter."
Of this guilt, at least, the Translator feels himself free; and, perhaps, if any, who may be inclined to be offended at first, will take the trouble to read the Introduction which precedes and explains the Tales, they may find, not only that the softening process would have spoilt these popular traditions for all except the most childish readers, but that the things which shocked them at the first blush are, after all, not so very shocking.
For the rest, it ill becomes him to speak of the way in which his work has been done: but if the reader will only bear in mind that this, too, is an enchanted garden, in which whoever dares to pluck a flower, does it at the peril of his head; and if he will then read the book in a merciful and tender spirit, he will prove himself what the Translator most longs to find, "a gentle reader," and both will part on the best terms.
Dec. 12, 1858.
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|Norse Popular Tales||cviii|
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