A Study of Fairy Tales
by Laura F. Kready
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It is through the contemplative imagination that the child realizes the meaning of particular tales. He learns: that Cinderella means that goodness brings its own reward; that Three Pigs means that the wise build with care and caution, with foresight; that Star Dollars means compassion for others and kindness to them; and that Red Riding Hood means obedience.

The power of the contemplative imagination is based on the indistinctness of the image. It suggests, too, the relation between cause and effect, which reason afterwards proves; and therefore it is a direct aid to science. In the tales there are expressed facts of truth symbolically clothed which science since then has discovered. And now that folk-lore is being studied seriously to unfold all it gives of an earlier life, perhaps this new study may reveal some new truths of science hidden in its depths. The marvels of modern shoe manufacture were prophesied in The Little Elves, and the power of electricity to hold fast was foretold in Dummling and his Golden Goose. The wonders of modern machinery appeared in the magic axe of Espen that hit at every stroke; and the miracle of modern canals sees a counterpart in the spring which Espen brought to the giant's boiling-pot in the wood. The magic sleep from which there was an awakening, even after a hundred years, may have typified hypnotism and its strange power upon man. These are realizations of some of the wonders of fairyland. But there may be found lurking in its depths many truths as yet undiscovered by science. Perhaps the dreams of primitive man may suggest to the present-day scientist new possibilities.—What primitive man has done in fancy present-day man can do in reality.

(3) A basis of truth. All fine emotional effects arise from truth. The tale must hold the mirror and show an image of life. It must select and combine facts which will suggest emotion but the facts must be a true expression of human nature. The tale, whether it is realistic in emphasizing the familiar, the commonplace, and the present, or romantic in emphasizing the strange, the heroic, and the remote, must be idealistic to interpret truly the facts of life by high ideals. If the tale has this basis of truth the child will gain, through his handling of it, a body of facts. This increases his knowledge and strengthens his intellect. And it is to be remembered that, for the child's all-round development, the appeal of literature to the intellect is a value to be emphasized equally with the appeal to the emotions and to the imagination. Speaking of the nature of the intellect in his essay on Intellect, Emerson has said: "We do not determine what we will think. We only open our senses, clear away as we can all obstruction from the fact, and suffer the intellect to see." Attention to the intellectual element in literature gives a power of thought. The consideration of the truth of the fairy tale aids the child to clear, definite thinking because the experience of the tale is ordered from a beginning, through a development, to a climax, and to a conclusion. It assists him to form conclusions because it presents results of circumstances and consequences of conduct. Continued attention to the facts, knowledge, and truth presented in the tales, helps the child to grow a sincerity of spirit. This leads to that love of actual truth, which is one of the armors of middle life, against which false opinion falls harmless.

(4) A form, more or less perfect. Form is the union of all the means which the writer employs to convey his thought and emotion to the reader. Flaubert has said, "Among all the expressions of the world there is but one, one form, one mode, to express what I want to say."—"Say what you have to say, what you have a will to say, in the simplest, the most direct and exact manner possible, with no surplusage," Walter Pater has spoken. Then the form and the matter will fit each other so perfectly there will be no unnecessary adornment.

In regard to form it is to be remembered that feeling is best awakened incidentally by suggestion. Words are the instruments, the medium of the writer. Words have two powers: the power to name what they mean, or denotation; and the power to suggest what they imply, or connotation. Words have the power of connotation in two ways: They may mean more than they say or they may produce emotional effect not only from meaning but also from sound. To make these two suggestive powers of words work together is the perfect art of Milton. Pope describes for us the relation of sound to sense in a few lines which themselves illustrate the point:—

Soft is the strain when zephyr gently blows, And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows. But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, The hoarse, rough verse, should like the torrent roar. When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw. The line too labors, and the words move slow: Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain, Flies o'er the unbending corn and skims along the main.

When a kindergarten child, the most timid one of a group, on listening to the telling of The Bremen Town Musicians, at the description of the Donkey and the Dog coming to the Cat, sitting in the road with a face "dismal as three rainy Sundays," chuckled with humor at the word "dismal," it was not because she knew the meaning of the word or the significance of "three rainy Sundays," but because the sounds of the words and the facial expression of the story-teller conveyed the emotional effect, which she sensed.

The connection between sound and action appears in Little Spider's First Web: The Fly said, "Then I will buzz"; the Bee said, "Then I will hum"; the Cricket said, "Then I will chirp"; the Ant said, "Then I will run to and fro"; the Butterfly said, "Then I will fly"; and the Bird said, "Then I will sing." The effect is produced here because the words selected are concrete ones which visualize. Repetitive passages in the tales often contribute this effect of sound upon meaning, as we find in The Three Billy-Goats Gruff: "Trip, trap; trip, trap! went the bridge as the youngest Billy-Goat Gruff came to cross the bridge." The sound of the words in this entire tale contributes largely to the meaning. The Troll roared and said, "Now I'm coming to gobble you up!" Usually the bits of rhyme interspersed throughout the tales, illustrate this contribution of sound to meaning; as in the Three Pigs:—

Then I'll huff, And I'll puff, And I'll blow your house in!

Especially is this the case in tales dignified by the cante-fable form; such as Grimm's Cinderella:—

Rustle and shake yourself, dear tree, And silver and gold throw down to me!

Or in Little Two-Eyes:—

Little kid, bleat, I wish to eat!

Or in The Little Lamb and the Little Fish:—

Ah, my brother, in the wood A Iamb, now I must search for food!

The suggestive power of words to convey more than they mean, is produced, not only by the sounds contained in the words themselves, but also largely by the arrangement of the words and by the speech-tunes of the voice in speaking them. Kipling's Elephant's Child is a living example of the suggestive power of words. The "new, fine question" suggests that the Elephant's Child had a habit of asking questions which had not been received as if they were fine. "Wait-a-bit thorn-bush," suggests the Kolokolo Bird sitting alone on the bush in placid quiet. "And still I want to know what the crocodile has for dinner" implies that there had been enough spankings to have killed the curiosity, but contrary to what one would expect, it was living and active. When Kolokolo Bird said with a mournful cry, "Go to the banks of the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo River," etc., the implication of mournful is, that there the Elephant's Child would have a sorry time of it. The expression, "dear families," which occurs so often, is full of delightful irony and suggests the vigorous treatment, anything but dear, which had come to the Elephant's Child from them.

Perfect form consists in the "ability to convey thought and emotion with perfect fidelity." The general qualities characteristic of perfect form, which have been outlined by Professor Winchester, in his Principles of Literary Criticism, are: (1) precision or clearness; (2) energy or force; (3) delicacy or emotional harmony; and (4) personality. Precision or clearness demands the precise value and meaning of words. It requires that words have the power of denotation. It appeals to the intellect of the reader or listener and demands that language be neither vague nor ambiguous nor obscure. Energy or force demands that perfect form have the quality of emotion. It requires that words have especially the power of connotation. It appeals to the emotions of the reader or listener and has the power to hold the attention. It demands of language that sympathy which will imply what it would suggest. Delicacy or emotional harmony demands that perfect form please the taste. It requires that an emotional harmony be secured by a selection and arrangement of the melody of words and of the emotional associations which, together with the meanings, are tied up in words. It demands that words have the power of perfect adaptation to the thought and feeling they express, that words have both the power of denotation and of connotation. It appeals to the aesthetic sense of the reader or listener, it gives to form beauty and charm. Personality is the influence of the author, the charm of individuality, and suggests the character of the writer.

At the same time that perfect form is characterized by the general qualities of precision, energy, delicacy, and personality, as composition consisting of words, sentences, paragraphs, or large wholes, its elements must be controlled by certain main principles, which have been presented by Professor Barrett Wendell in English Composition. Perfect form cannot possess the four general qualities above mentioned unless its elements are controlled by these main principles. These are: (1) the principle of sincerity; (2) the principle of unity; (3) the principle of mass; and (4) the principle of coherence. Sincerity demands of perfect form that it be a just expression. Unity demands that every composition should group itself about a central idea. There must be one story, all incidents subordinated, one main course of action, one main group of characters, and one tone of feeling to produce an emotional effect. Variety of action must lead to one definite result and variety of feeling to one total impression. Unity demands that the tale must have a plan that is complete, with no irrelevant material, and that there must be a logical order and a climax. Mass demands that the chief parts of every composition should readily catch the eye. It maintains a harmonious proportion of all the parts. Coherence demands of any composition that the relation of each part to its neighbors should be unmistakable, and that the order, forms, and connections of the parts preserve this relation.

When form secures a perfect adaptation of the language to the thought and feeling expressed, it may be said to possess style, in a broad sense of the word. In a more detailed sense, when form is characterized by precision, energy, delicacy, and personality, and at the same time has the elements of its composition controlled by the principles of sincerity, unity, mass, and coherence, it is said to possess style. The fairy tale which is a classic characterized by that perfect form called style, will possess the general qualities of precision, energy, delicacy, and personality; and the elements of its structure, its words, its sentences, its paragraphs, will display a control of the principles of sincerity, unity, mass, and coherence.

A tale which well illustrates the literary form possible to the child's tale, which may be said to possess that perfection of form we call style, and which may be used with the distinct aim to improve the child's English and perfect his language expression, is the modern realistic fairy tale, Oeyvind and Marit.

Oeyvind and Marit is so entirely realistic as to be excluded here, but the talking rhymes which the Mother sings to Oeyvind bring in the fairy element of the talking animals. In the form of this tale, the perfect fidelity with which the words fit the meaning is apparent—nothing seems superfluous. When Oeyvind asked Marit who she was, she replied:—

"I am Marit, mother's little one, father's fiddle, the elf in the house, granddaughter of Ole Nordistuen of the Heidi farms, four years old in the autumn, two days after the frost nights, I!"

And Oeyvind replied:—

"Are you really?"—and drew a long breath which he had not dared to do so long as she was speaking.

The story is full of instances illustrating precision, energy, and delicacy. In fact, almost any passage exemplifies the general qualities of form and the qualities of composition. The personality of the writer has given to the tale a poetic and dramatic charm of simplicity. Note the precision and delicacy displayed in the opening paragraph:—

Oeyvind was his name. A low barren cliff overhung the house in which he was born; fir and birch looked down on the roof, and wild cherry strewed flowers over it. Upon this roof there walked about a little goat, which belonged to Oeyvind. He was kept there that he might not go astray; and Oeyvind carried leaves and grass up to him. One fine day the goat leaped down, and away to the cliff; he went straight up and came where he never had been before.

Energy is apparent in the following passage:—

"Is it yours, this goat?" asked the girl again.

"Yes," he said, and looked up.

"I have taken such a fancy to the goat. You will not give it to me?"

"No, that I won't."

She lay kicking her legs and looking down at him, and then she said, "But if I give you a butter-cake for the goat, can I have him then?"

The justness of expression, the sincerity, is especially impressive when Oeyvind's Mother came out and sat down by his side when the goat no longer satisfied him and he wanted to hear stories of what was far away. There is emotional harmony too, because the words suggest the free freshness of the mountain air and the landscape which rose round about the Boy and his Mother.

So she told him how once everything could talk: "The mountain talked to the stream, and the stream to the river, the river to the sea, and the sea to the sky."—But then he asked if the sky did not talk to any one: "And the sky talked to the clouds, the clouds to the trees, the trees to the grass, the grass to the flies, the flies to the animals, the animals to the children, the children to the grown-up people...." Oeyvind looked at the mountain, the trees, and the sky and had never seen them before.

There is delicacy or emotional harmony also in the Mother's song. When Oeyvind asked, "What does the Cat say?" his Mother sang:—

At evening softly shines the sun. The cat lies lazy on the stone. Two small mice, Cream, thick and nice, Four bits of fish, 1 stole behind a dish, And am so lazy and tired, Because so well I have fared.

The unity is maintained through the central interest of the two Children and the goat.

The tale is characterized by fairly good mass. As the story aims to portray a natural picture of child life, obviously it could not maintain a style of too great solidity and force, but rather would seek one of ease and naturalness. Mass, as shown in Oeyvind and Marit, appears in the following description of Oeyvind's play with the goat, after he first realized its return:—

He jumped up, took it by the two fore-legs, and danced with it as if it were a brother; he pulled its beard, and he was just going in to his mother with it, when he heard someone behind him; and looking, saw the girl sitting on the greensward by his side. Now he understood it all, and let go the goat.

The story of child-friendship is told in distinct little episodes which naturally connect. That unmistakable relation of the parts which is essential to coherence, appears in the following outline of the story:—

1. A new acquaintance; Oeyvind and Marit meet. The exchange of a goat for a cake. The departure of the goat. Marit sings to the goat. The return of the goat. Marit accompanies the goat.

2. New interests. The stories of what the animals say, told to Oeyvind by his Mother. The first day of school.

3. An old acquaintance renewed: Oeyvind again meets Marit at School.

The Children's love of the goat, the comradeship of Oeyvind and Marit, of Oeyvind and his Mother, and of Marit and her Grandfather, are elements which assist in producing coherence. The songs of Marit, and the songs and stories of Oeyvind's Mother, especially preserve the relation of parts. In the following paragraphs, which give distinct pictures, note the coherence secured internally largely by the succession of verbs denoting action and also by the denotation of the words.

When he came in, there sat as many children round a table as he had ever seen at church; others were sitting on their luncheon-boxes, which were ranged round the walls; some stood in small groups round a large printed card; the school-master, an old gray-haired man, was sitting on a stool by the chimney-corner, filling his pipe. They all looked up as Oeyvind and his mother entered, and the mill-hum ceased as if the water had suddenly been turned off....

As he was going to find his seat, they all wanted to make room for him. He looked round a long time, while they whispered and pointed; he turned round on all sides, with his cap in his hand and his book under his arm....

Just as the boy is going to turn round to the school-master, he sees close beside him, sitting down by the hearthstone on a little red painted tub, Marit, of the many names; she had covered her face with both hands, and sat peeping at him through her fingers.

The imagination is appealed to continually through the simple concrete expressions which present an image; as, "He grew hot all over, looked around about, and called, 'Killy-killy-killy-goat!'"

The emotional element is distinct and pleasing and contributes to the total impression of admiration for the characters. We admire Oeyvind for his fondness for the goat and for his pain at losing it; for his dissatisfaction in keeping it after Marit returned it, though she wanted it; for his delight in his Mother's stories; and for his pleasure in Marit's friendship at school. We admire Marit for her appreciation of the beautiful goat; for her obedience to her Grandfather; for her sorrow at giving up the goat; for her generosity in giving the neck-chain with it; and for the childish comradeship she gave to Oeyvind. We admire the goat for his loyalty to his little master. We trust the Grandfather who trained Marit to be fair and courteous; who guarded her from the cliff; and who bought for her another goat. We have faith in the Mother who had feeling for the little goat her son bartered for a cake; and who had the wisdom to sing for her little boy and tell him stories when he was sorrowful and needed new interests.

Undoubtedly Oeyvind and Marit is a tale which conveys its thought clearly and makes you feel its feeling, and therefore may be said to possess style in a broad sense. In a particular sense, because its form is marked by the four general qualities: precision, energy, delicacy, and personality; and its elements are controlled by the principles of composition: sincerity, unity, mass, and coherence, it therefore may be said to possess style.

An old tale which has a literary form unusual in its approach to the perfect literary form, is the Norse, The Three Billy-Goats Gruff, told by Dasent in Tales from the Norse. Indeed after looking carefully at this tale one is tempted to say that, for perfection of style, some of the old folk-tales are not to be equaled. Note the simple precision shown in the very first paragraph:—

Once on a time there were three Billy-Goats, who were to go up to the hill-side to make themselves fat, and the name of all three was "Gruff."

Energy or force appeals to the emotions in the words of the tiny Billy-Goat Gruff to the Troll:—

"Oh, no! pray don't take me. I'm too little, that I am," said the Billy-Goat; "wait a bit till the second Billy-Goat Gruff comes, he's much bigger."

There is emotional harmony displayed in the second paragraph; the words used fit the ideas:—

On the way up was a bridge over a burn they had to cross; and under the bridge lived a great ugly Troll, with eyes as big as saucers, and a nose as long as a poker.

The quality of personality is best described, perhaps, by saying that the tale seems to have impersonality. Any charm of the story-tellers of the ages has entered into the body of the tale, which has become an objective presentment of a reality that concentrates on itself and keeps personality out of sight. The character of the tellers is shown however in the qualities of the tale. The charm of the primitive story-tellers has given the tale inimitable morning-dew freshness. This seems to result from a fine simplicity, a sprightly visualization, a quaint picturesqueness, a pleasing terseness, and an Anglo-Saxon vigor.

Sincerity is displayed in the words of the Troll and of the three Billy-Goats. Note the sincerity of little Billy-Goat Gruff:—

"Oh! it is only I, the tiniest Billy-Goat Gruff; and I'm going up to the hillside to make myself fat," said the Billy-Goat, with such a small voice.

The unity in this tale is unusually good. The central idea which groups all the happenings in the tale is: Three Billy-Goats are crossing a bridge to go up to the hillside to make themselves fat. There are four characters, three Goats and the Troll. All that happens in the tale contributes to the one effect of a bridge going trip, trap! as a Goat crossed it on his way up the hillside; of a Troll roaring: "Who's that tripping over my bridge?" of the explanation of the Billy-Goat; of the answer of the Troll, "Now I'm coming to gobble you up"; and of the Billy-Goat's final petition. Unity is emphasized by the repetition in the tale, as the three Billy-Goats successively cross the bridge and reply to the Troll. The climax is the big Billy-Goat Gruff's tramp across the bridge.

This tale is characterized by perfect mass, the paragraphs always end with words that deserve distinction, and the sentences have their strongest words at the points where the eye would most readily see them; as, "But just then up came the big Billy-Goat Gruff." The coherence is fine, and is secured largely by the cumulative plan in a threefold sense. The relation of the parts is unmistakable. The similarity and contrast evident in the episodes of the three Billy-Goats makes this relation very clearly defined. To make doubly sure the end has been reached the tale concludes:—

Snip, snap, snout, This tale's told out.

Let us examine the folk-tale generally as to its literary form. The folk-tale originally did not come from the people in literary form. The tale was first told by some nameless primitive man, who, returning from some adventure of everyday life, would narrate it to a group of his comrades. First told to astonish and interest, or to give a warning of the penalty of breaking Nature's laws, or to teach a moral lesson, or to raise a laugh, later it became worked up into the fabulous stories of gods and heroes. These fabulous stories developed into myth-systems, and these again into household tales. By constant repetition from one generation to another, incidents likely to happen in everyday life, which represented universal experiences and satisfied common needs of childhood, were selected and combined. These gradually assumed a form of simplicity and literary charm, partly because, just as a child insists on accuracy, savage people adhered strictly to form in repeating the tale, and because it is a law of permanence that what meets the universal need will survive. The great old folk-tales have acquired in their form a clearness and precision; for in the process of telling and re-telling through the ages all the episodes became clearly defined. And as irrelevant details dropped out, there developed that unity produced by one dominant theme and one dominant mood. The great old folk-tales, then, naturally acquired a good classic literary form through social selection and survival. But many of the tales as we know them have suffered either through translation or through careless modern retelling. Many of the folk-tales take on real literary form only through the re-treatment of a literary artist. Mrs. Steel, who has collected the Tales of the Punjab, tells how the little boys of India who seek to hold their listening groups will vary the incidents in a tale in different tellings, proving that the complete tale was not the original unit, but that single incidents are much more apt to retain their stock forms than plots. The combination we now have in a given tale was probably a good form once hit upon and thereafter transmitted.

Jacob (1785-1863) and William (1786-1859) Grimm, both fine scholars, incapable of any but good work, did not undertake to put the tale into literary form suited to children. They were interested in preserving folk-lore records for scientific purposes. And we must distinguish between the tale as a means of reflecting the ideals of social and religious life, of displaying all the genius of primitive man for science to interpret, and the tale as a means of pleasing and educating the child. The Grimms obtained most of their tales from the lips of people in Hesse and Hanau, Germany. They were very fortunate in securing many of the tales they were thirteen years in collecting, from an old nurse, Frau Vichmannin, the wife of a cowherd, who lived at Niederzwehrn, near Cassel, who told her story with exactness and never changed anything in repeating. Grimm himself said, "Our first care was faithfulness to the truth. We strove to penetrate into the wild forests of our ancestors, listening to their noble language, watching their pure customs, recognizing their ancient freedom and hearty faith." The Grimms sought the purity of a straightforward narration. They were against reconstruction to beautify and poetize the legends. They were not opposed to a free appropriation for modern and individual purposes. They kept close to the original, adding nothing of circumstance or trait, but rendering the stories in a style and language and development of detail which was their own literary German.

Perrault (1628-1703) had taken the old tales as his son, Charles, a lad of ten or twelve, told them. The father had told them to the son as he had gathered them up, intending to put them into verse after the manner of La Fontaine. The lad loved the stories and re-wrote them from memory for his father with such charming naivete that the father chose the son's version in preference to his own, and published it. But the tales of Perrault, nevertheless, show the embellishment of the mature master-Academician's touch in subduing the too marvelous tone, or adding a bit of court manners, or a satirical hit at the vanity and failings of man.

Dasent (1820-96) has translated the Norse tales from the original collection of Asbjoernsen and Moe. Comrades from boyhood to manhood, scholar and naturalist, these two together had taken long walks into the secluded peasant districts and had secured the tales from the people of the dales and fells, careful to retain the folk-expressions. Dasent, with the instinct, taste, and skill of a true scholar, has preserved these tales of an honest manly race, a race of simple men and women, free and unsubdued. He has preserved them in their folk-language and in their true Norse setting. Harris (1848-1908) has given his tales in the dialect of Uncle Remus. Jacobs (1854-) has aimed to give the folk-tales in the language of the folk, retaining nurses' expressions, giving a colloquial and romantic tone which often contains what is archaic and crude. He has displayed freedom with the text, invented whole incidents, or completed incidents, or changed them. His object has been to fill children's imaginations with bright images. Andrew Lang (1844-1912) has given the tale mainly to entertain children. He has accepted translations from many sources and has given a straightforward narration. He has collected fairy tales indefatigably in his rainbow Fairy Books, but they are not always to be recommended for children.

Andersen (1805-75), like Perrault, made his tale for the child as an audience, and he too has put the tale into literary form. Andersen's tale is not the old tale, but an original creation, a number of which are based on old folk-material. Preserving the child's point of view, Andersen has enriched his language with a mastery of perfection and literary style. And the "mantle of Andersen" has, so far, fallen on no one.

To-day it is to be questioned if the child should be given the tale in nurses' talk. To-day children are best cared for by mothers who feel ignorant if they cannot tell their children stories, and who, having an appreciation of their mother English, want their children to hear stories, not only told by themselves rather than by their servants, but also told in the best literary form possible. They recognize that these earliest years, when the child is first learning his language, are the years for a perfection of form to become indelibly impressed. The fairy tale, like every piece of literature, is an organism and "should be put before the youngest child with its head on, and standing on both feet." The wholesale re-telling of every tale is to be deplored. And stories which have proved themselves genuine classics, which have a right to live, which have been handed down by tradition, which have been preserved by folk-lore records, and which have been rescued from oblivion,—in this age of books should have a literary form, which is part of their message, settled upon them. The Grimm tales await their literary master.


The fairy tale, then, which in an objective sense, from the standpoint of literature, has proved itself subject-matter of real worth, must be a classic, must have the qualities of mind and soul, must possess the power to appeal to the emotions, a power to appeal to the imagination, and it must have a basis of truth and a perfection of form. But in addition to possessing these characteristics, because the fairy tale is a special literary form,—the short-story,—as literature it must stand the test of the short-story.

The three main characteristics of the short-story, as given by Professor Brander Matthews in his Philosophy of the Short-Story, are originality of theme, ingenuity of invention, and brevity, or compression. A single effect must be conceived, and no more written than contributes to that effect. The story depends for its power and charm on (1) characters; (2) plot; and (3) setting. In The Life and Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, by Graham Balfour, Stevenson has said, concerning the short-story:—

"There are, so far as I know, three ways, and three ways only, of writing a story. You may take a plot and fit characters to it, or you may take a character and choose incidents and situations to develop it, or lastly—you must bear with me while I try to make this clear.... You may take a certain atmosphere and get action and persons to express and realize it. I'll give you an example—The Merry Men. There I began with the feeling of one of those islands on the west coast of Scotland, and I gradually developed the story to express the sentiment with which the coast affected me."

According to the method by which the story was made, the emphasis will be on character, plot, or setting. Sometimes you may have a perfect blending of all three.

(1) Characters. The characters must be unique and original, so that they catch the eye at once. They dare not be colorless, they must have striking experiences. The Elephant's Child, Henny Penny, Medio Pollito, Jack of the Beanstalk, the Three Pigs, the Three Bears, and Drakesbill—the characters of the fairy tales have no equal in literature for freshness and vivacity. The very mention of the thought brings a smile of recognition; and it is for this reason, no doubt, that leading men in large universities turn aside from their high scholarly labors, to work or play with fairy tales. Besides the interesting chief characters, moreover, there are many more subordinate characters that are especially unique: the fairies, the fairy godmothers and wise women, the elves of the trees, the dwarfs of the ground, the trolls of the rocks and hills, and the giants and witches. Then that great company of toilers in every occupation of life bring the child in touch with many novel phases of life. At best we are all limited by circumstances to a somewhat narrow sphere and like to enter into all that we are not. The child, meeting in his tale the shoemaker, the woodcutter, the soldier, the fisherman, the hunter, the poor traveler, the carpenter, the prince, the princess, and a host of others, gets a view of the industrial and social conditions that man in simple life had to face. This could not fail to interest; and it not only broadens his experience and deepens his sympathy, but is the best means for acquiring a foundation upon which to build his own vocational training. This acquisition is one contribution of literature to industrial work. Those characters will appeal to the child which present what the child has noticed or can notice. They should appear as they do in life, by what they say and by what they do. This, in harmony with the needs of the young child, makes the tales which answer to the test of suitability, largely dramatic.

(2) Plot. The characters of the tales can be observed only in action. Plot is the synthesis of the actions, all the incidents which happen to the characters. The plot gives the picture of experience and allows us to see others through the events which come to them. According to Professor Bliss Perry, the plot should be entertaining, comical, novel, or thrilling. It should present images that are clear-cut and not of too great variety. It should easily separate itself into large, leading episodes that stand out distinctly. The sequence of events should be orderly and proceed without interruption. The general structure should easily be discerned into the beginning, the middle, and the end. Various writers of tales have their particular ways of beginning. Andersen loses no time in getting started, while Kipling begins by stating his theme. The old tales frequently began with the words, "Once upon a time," which Kipling modified to "In the High and Far-Off times, O Best Beloved," etc. Hawthorne begins variously with "Once upon a time", or, "Long, long ago"; or, "Did you ever hear of the golden apples?" etc.—Hawthorne has been omitted in this book because, so far as I can discover, he furnishes no tale for the kindergarten or first grade. His simplest tale, Midas and the Golden Touch, properly belongs in the second grade when told; when read, in the fourth grade.—The introduction, in whatever form, should be simple and to the point. It should give the time and place and present the characters; and if good art it will be impatient of much preliminary delay. The great stories all show a rise of interest culminating in one central climax; and after that, sometimes following on its very heels, the conclusion where poetic justice is meted out. This climax is a very important feature in the tale, so important that it has been said, "The climax is the tale." It is the point where interest focuses. It makes the story because it is where the point of the story is made. In a good story this point always is made impressive and often is made so by means of surprise. The conclusion must show that the tale has arrived at a stopping place and in a moral tale it must leave one satisfied, at rest.

If the folk-tale is good narration, in answer to the question, "What?" it will tell what happened; in answer to the question, "Who?" it will tell to whom it happened; in answer to the question, "Where?" it will tell the place where, and the time when, it happened; and in answer to the question, "Why?" it will give the reason for telling the story, it will give the message, and the truth embodied in its form. As narration the tale must have truth, interest, and consistency. Its typical mood must be action and its language the language of suggestion. This language of suggestion appears when it shows an object by indicating how it is like something else; by telling what we feel when we see the object; and by telling what actions of the person or object make it hateful or charming. We learn to know Andersen's Snow Man through what the Dog says of him.

Description, in the sense of a static, detailed delineation of various qualities of objects, has no place in the child's story, for it bores the child, who is very persistent in wanting the main theme uninterrupted. But description that has touches of movement and action or that lays emphasis on a single effect and has point, distinctly aids visualization, and produces a pleasing result, as we have seen in Kipling's Elephant's Child. The young child of to-day, trained in nature study to look upon bird, tree, and flower with vital interest, to observe the color and the form of these, gains a love of the beautiful that makes him exclaim over the plumage of a bird or tint of a flower. To him beauty in the tale must make a direct appeal which the child unfamiliar with these things might not feel. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils makes an appeal to the modern child which could not possibly have been felt by the child living before 1850. The modern child brought up on phonics is sensitive to sound also, and open to an appreciation of the beauty of the individual word used in description. This description, when it occurs, should be characterized mainly by aptness and concreteness.

Having observed the general characteristics of the narrative contained in the plot, let us examine the structure of a few tales to see: What is the main theme of the plot and how it works itself out; what are the large, leading episodes, and how they culminate in the climax; and what is the conclusion, and how closely it follows the climax.

The Story of Three Pigs

I. Introduction. Time. Place. Characters: Mother and Three Pigs. Mother gone.

II. Rise.

1. First Pig's venture with a man with a load of straw. Builds a straw house. (Wolf enters.) Wolf comes and destroys him.

2. Second Pig's venture with a man with a load of furze. Builds a furze house. Wolf comes and destroys him.

3. Third Pig's venture with a man with a load of bricks. Builds a brick house. Wolf comes. (Climax.)

III. Conclusion. Third Pig outwits the Wolf. At the turnip-field in Mr. Smith's home-field. At the apple tree in Merry-Garden. At the fair at Shanklin. At his own brick house.

Evidently the climax here is when the Wolf comes to the third Pig's brick house. After that things take a turn; and the final test of strength and cleverness comes at the very end of the tale, at Little Pig's brick house.

Grimm's Briar Rose is a model of structure and easily separates itself into ten large episodes.

Briar Rose

1. The Introduction.

2. The Christening Feast. (a) The Fairies and their gifts. (b) The wicked Fairy and her curse.

3. The King's decree.

4. Princess Rose's birthday. (a) Princess Rose's visit to the old tower. (b) Princess Rose and the wicked Fairy spinning. (c) The magic sleep.

5. The hedge of briars.

6. The Prince and the old Man.

7. The Prince and the opening hedge.

8. The Prince in the castle. (Climax.)

9. The awakening.

10. The wedding. (Conclusion.)

The climax here is the Prince's awakening kiss. The blossoming of the hedge into roses prepares for the climax; and the conclusion—the awakening of all the life of the castle and the wedding—follow immediately after.

(3) Setting. The third element of the short-story that is essential to its power and charm is setting. The setting is the circumstances or events which surround the characters and action. The setting occupies a much more important place in the tale than we realize, for it is the source of a variety of sensations and feelings which it may arouse. It gives the poetic or artistic touch to a tale. In the old tale the setting is given often in a word or two which act like magic, to open to our eyes a whole vision of associations. The road in the Three Pigs, the wood in Red Riding Hood, the castle in the Sleeping Beauty—these add charm. Often the transformation in setting aids greatly in producing effect. In Cinderella the scene shifts from the hearth to the palace ballroom; in the Princess and the Pea, from the comfortable castle of the Queen to the raging storm, and then back again to the castle, to the breakfast-room on the following morning. In Snow White and Rose Red the scene changes from the cheery, beautiful interior of the cottage, to the snowstorm from which the Bear emerged. In accumulative tales, such as The Old Woman and her Pig, Medio Pollito, and The Robin's Christmas Song, the sequence of the story itself is preserved mainly by the change of setting. This appears in the following outline of The Robin's Christmas Song, an English tale which is the same as the Scotch Robin's Yule-Song, which has been attributed to Robert Burns. This tale illustrates one main line of sequence:—

The Robin's Christmas Song

1. Introduction. A sunny morning. Waterside. A Gray Pussy. A Robin came along.

2. Rise.

Pussy said, ... "See my white fur."

Robin replied, ... "You ate the wee mousie."

Change in setting. Stone wall on border of the wood. A greedy Hawk, sitting.

Hawk said, ... "See the speckled feather in my wing."

Robin replied, ... "You pecked the sparrow," etc.

Change in setting. Great rock. A sly Fox.

Fox said, "See the spot on my tail."

Robin replied, "You bit the wee lambie."

Change in setting. Banks of a rivulet. A small Boy.

Boy said, "See the crumbs in my pocket."

Robin replied, "You caught the goldfinch."

Change in setting. King's palace. The window sill. The King at the window.

Robin sang, "A song for the King."

King replied, "What shall we give Robin?"

3. Conclusion.

No change in setting. King's palace. The window sill. The King at the window.

King Filled a plate and set it on the window sill.

Robin Ate, sang a song again, and flew away.

Here, not only the sequence of the tale is held largely by the change in setting, but also the pleasure in the tale is due largely to the setting, the pictures of landscape beauty it presents, and the feelings arising from these images.

A Japanese tale, in which the setting is a large part of the tale, and a large element of beauty, is Mezumi, the Beautiful, or The Rat Princess.

A Grimm tale in which the setting is a very large element of pleasure and in which it preserves the sequence of the tale, is The Spider and the Flea, a lively accumulative tale that deserves attention for several reasons.—A Spider and a Flea dwelt together. One day a number of unusual occurrences happened, so that finally a little Girl with a water-pitcher broke it, and then the Streamlet from which she drew the water asked, "Why do you break your pitcher, little Girl?" And she replied:—

The little Spider's burned herself. And the Flea weeps; The little Door creaks with the pain, And the Broom sweeps; The little Cart runs on so fast, And the Ashes burn; The little Tree shakes down its leaves. Now it is my turn!

And then the Streamlet said, "Now I must flow."

And it flowed on and on, getting bigger and bigger, until it swallowed up the little Girl, the little Tree, the Ashes, the Cart, the Broom, the Door, the Flea, and at last, the Spider—all together.

Here we have a tale, which, in its language, well illustrates Stevenson's "pattern of style," especially as regards the harmony produced by the arrangement of letters. From the standpoint of style, this tale might be named, The Adventure of the Letter E; it illustrates the part the phonics of the tale may contribute to the effect of the setting. Follow the letter e in the opening of the tale, both as to the eye and the ear:—

A Spider and a Flea dwelt together in one house and brewed their beer in an egg-shell. One day when the Spider was stirring it up she fell in and burned herself. Thereupon the Flea began to scream. And then the Door asked, "Why are you screaming, little Flea?"

If we follow the e sound through the tale, we find it in Flea, beer, scream, creak, weeps, sweep, reason, heap, Tree, leaves, and Streamlet. This repetition of the one sound puts music into the tale and creates a center of the harmony of sound. But if we examine the next part of the tale we find a variety of sounds of o in thereupon, Door, Broom, stood, and corner. Later, in connection with Cart, we have began, fast, past, and Ashes. Other phonic effects are crowded into the tale; such as the sound of l in violently, till, all, leaves, and fell; the sound of i in little and Girl; of p in pitcher and passing; of t in little and pitcher; and of ew in threw and drew. Altogether this very effective use of sound is a fine employment of concrete language, words which present images that are clear-cut as a cameo. It also gives to the tale a poetical touch.

Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse, an English tale, and a parallel of The Spider and the Flea, preserves the same beauty and sequence by means of its setting and illustrates the same very unusual contribution of the sounds of particular letters combined in the harmony of the whole. The Phonics of the Fairy Tales is a subject which yields much interest and, as yet, has been almost untouched.

In The Adventures of Chanticleer and Partlet, in part I, The Trip to the Nut-Hill, taken from Arthur Rackham's Grimm Tales, the setting contributes largely to the attractiveness of the tale, as is shown in Rackham's beautiful illustration. The setting is given throughout the tale often in a telling word or two. Chanticleer and Partlet went up the nut-hill to gather nuts before the squirrel carried them all away. The day was bright and they stayed till evening. The carriage of nut-shells; the Duck they met; the dirty road they traveled in the pitch dark; the Inn they arrived at; the night at the Inn; the early dawn; the hearth where they threw the egg-shells; the Landlord's chair whose cushion received the Needle; the towel which received the Pin; the heath over which they hurried away; the yard of the Inn where the Duck slept and the stream he escaped by; the Landlord's room where he gained experience with his towel; the kitchen where the egg-shells from the hearth flew into his face; and the arm-chair which received him with a Needle—these are all elements of setting which contribute largely to the humor and the beauty of the tale.

A blending of the three elements, characters, plot, and setting, appears in the following outline of The Elves and the Shoemaker:—

The Elves and the Shoemaker

1. Introduction. A poor Shoemaker. A poor room containing a bed and a shoemaker's board. Leather for one pair of shoes.

2. Development.

First night ... Cut out shoes. Went to bed. Shoes ready next morning. Sold them. Bought leather for two pairs.

Second night ... Cut out shoes. Went to bed. Shoes ready next morning. Sold them. Bought leather for four pairs.

One night ... Conversation of Shoemaker and his wife: "I should like to sit up to-night to see who it is that makes the shoes." They sat up. Two Elves ran in, sewed, rapped, and tapped, and ran away when the shoes were made.

Day after ... Conversation. "These Elves made us rich. I should like to do something for them. You make each of them a little pair of shoes, and I will make them each a little shirt, a coat, a waistcoat, trousers, and a pair of stockings."

Christmas Eve ... Finished shoes and clothes put on the table. Shoemaker and Wife hid in the corner of the room behind clothes, and watched. (Climax.)

Elves came in and put on clothes.

3. Conclusion.

Happy end. Elves danced and sang,—

"Smart and natty boys are we, Cobblers we'll no longer be."

Shoemaker and Wife became happy and prosperous.

The characters of this tale are usual, a poor Shoemaker and his Wife; and unusual, the dainty Elves who made shoes in a twinkling. But the commonplace peasants become interesting through their generosity, kindness, and service to the Elves; and the Elves become human in their joy at receiving gifts. The structure of the tale is so distinct as to be seen a thing itself, apart from the story. The framework is built on what happens on two nights and following nights, the conversation of the next day, and what happens on Christmas Eve. The climax evidently is what the Shoemaker and his Wife hid in the corner to see—the entrance of the Elves on Christmas Eve—which episode has been interpreted charmingly by the English illustrator, Cruikshank. The joy of the Elves and of the two aged people, the gifts received by the one and the riches won by the other, form the conclusion, which follows very closely upon the climax. The commonplace setting, the poor room with its simple bed and table, becomes transformed by the unusual happenings in the place. If we should take away this setting, we see how much the tale would suffer. Also without the characters the tale would be empty. And without the interesting, human, humorous, and pleasing plot, characters and setting would be insufficient. Each element of the short-story contributes its fair share to the tale, and blends harmoniously in the whole.

Various standards for testing the folk-tale have been given by writers. One might refer to the standards given by Wilman in his Pedagogische Vortraege and those mentioned by William Rein in Das Erste Schuljahr. We have seen here that the fairy tale must contain the child's interests and it must be able to stand the test of a true classic. It must stand the test of literature in its appeal to emotion and to imagination, in its appeal to the intellect through its basis of truth, and to the language-sense through its perfection of form; it must stand the test of the short-story and of good narration and of description. Let us now examine a few of the old tales to see how they stand the complete test:—

How the Sun, Moon, and West Wind went out to Dinner

This story of How the Sun, Moon, and West Wind Went out to Dinner appeals to the children's interest in a family dinner—they went to dine with their Uncle and Aunt, Thunder and Lightning. The characters are interesting to the child, for they are the inhabitants of his sky that cause him much wonder: the star, the sun, the moon, the thunder, and the lightning. To the little child, who as she watched a grown-up drying her hands, remarked, "I wouldn't like to be a towel, would you?" the idea of the moon, sun, and wind possessing personality and going to a dinner-party will amuse and please. The theme of the story finds a place in the experience of children who go to a party; and secretly they will enjoy making comparisons. When they go to a party they too like to bring something home; but they wouldn't think of hiding goodies in their hands. They are fortunate enough to have their hostess give them a toy animal or a box of sweetmeats, a tiny dolly or a gay balloon, as a souvenir. The greediness and selfishness of the Sun and Wind impress little children, for these are perhaps the two sins possible to childhood; and all children will fully appreciate why the Sun and the Wind received so swiftly the punishment they deserved. The thoughtfulness of the loving gentle Moon to remember her Mother the Star, appeals to them. The rapid punishment, well-deserved, and the simplicity of the story with its one point, make it a very good tale for little children. The whole effect is pleasing. What children recall is the motherly Star; and the beautiful Moon, who was cool and calm and bright as a reward for being good.

The structure of the tale is neat and orderly, dominated by a single theme. The form of the tale, as given in Jacobs's Indian Tales, shows a good use of telling expressions; such as, "the Mother waited alone for her children's return," "Kept watch with her little bright eye," "the Moon, shaking her hands showered down such a choice dinner," etc. Here we have too, the use of concrete, visualized expressions and direct language. There is also a good use of repetition, which aids the child in following the plot and which clarifies the meaning. The Mother Star, when pronouncing a punishment upon Sun, repeated his own words as he had spoken when returning from the dinner: "I went out to enjoy myself with my friends." In her speech to Wind she included his own remark: "I merely went for my own pleasure."—The examination of this tale shows that it stands well the complete test applied here to the fairy tale.

The Straw Ox

The Straw Ox is an accumulative tale which has sufficient plot to illustrate the fine points of the old tale completely. A poor woman who could barely earn a living had an idea and carried it out successfully.—Her need immediately wins sympathy in her behalf.—She asked her husband to make her a straw ox and smear it with tar. Then placing it in the field where she spun, she called out, "Graze away, little Ox, graze away, while I spin my flax!" First a Bear came out of the Wood and got caught by the tar so that the Straw Ox dragged him home. The old Man then put the Bear in the cellar. Then a Wolf, a Fox, and a Hare got caught in the same way and also were consigned to the cellar.—The plot has so far built itself up by an orderly succession of incidents.—But just when the Man is preparing to kill the animals, they save their lives by promising vicarious offerings: The Bear promises honey; the Wolf a flock of sheep; the Fox a flock of geese; and the Hare kale and cauliflower.—Then the plot, having tied itself into a knot, unties itself as the animals return, each with the gift he promised.

The setting is the field where the old Woman placed the Ox and where she spun, the wood from which the animals came, and the peasant home. The characters are two poor people who need food and clothing and seek to secure both; and the animals of the forest. The peasants need the Bear for a coat, the Wolf for a fur cap, the Fox for a fur collar, and the Hare for mittens. This human need produces an emotional appeal so that we wish to see the animals caught. But when the plot unties itself, the plight of the animals appeals to us equally and we want just as much to see them win their freedom. Each animal works out his own salvation by offering the old people a worthy substitute. Each animal is true to his nature in the substitute he offers, he promises what is only natural for him to procure, and what he himself likes best. The conclusion is satisfying because in the end everybody is happy: the old people who have all they need; and the animals who have life and freedom. The distinct pictures offered to the imagination are the capture of the four animals and their return with their life-substitutes. The form of the tale is a good example of folk-story style, with its vivid words, direct language, and repetition. This is one of the tales which is finer than at first appears because it has a strong sense of life. It touches the present-day problem: "How can the inhuman slaughter of animals for man's use be avoided?" Its underlying message is: Self-help is a good way out of a difficulty.—The Straw Ox also answers the complete test of the tale with much satisfaction.


The Child:

Barnes, Earl: Study of Children's Stories. ("Children's Interests.")

Dewey, John: Interest and Effort in Education. Houghton.

King, Irving: Psychology of Child Development. University of Chicago Press.

Lawrence, Isabel: "Children's Interests in Literature." N.E.A. Report, 1899, p. 1044.

McCracken, Elizabeth: "What Children Like to Read." Outlook, Dec, 1904, vol. 78.

Tyler, John M.: Growth in Education. Houghton.

Vostrovsky, Clara: "A Study of Children's Own Stories." Studies in Education, vol. i, pp. 15-17.


Baldwin, Charles S.: Specimens of Prose Description. Holt.

Brewster, William T.: English Composition and Style. Century.

Ibid.: Specimens of Prose Narration. Holt.

Gardiner, John H.: Forms of Prose Literature. Scribner.

Matthews, Brander: The Philosophy of the Short-Story. Longmans. Pater, Walter: Appreciations. (Essay on Style). Macmillan.

Perry, Bliss: A Study of Prose Fiction. ("The Short Story.") Houghton.

Sainte-Beuve, Charles A.: Essays. ("What is a Classic?") Dutton.

Santayana, George: The Sense of Beauty. Scribner.

Wendell, Barrett: English Composition. Scribner.

Winchester, Caleb T.: Principles of Literary Criticism. Macmillan.


Bain, Alexander: The Emotions and the Will. Appleton.

Darwin, Charles: Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Appleton.


Colvin, Stephen: The Learning Process. Macmillan.

Curry, S.S.: Imagination and the Dramatic Instinct. Expression Co.

Ruskin, John: Modern Painters, vol. r. ("Of the Imagination.")

Children's Literature:

Baker, Franklin T.: Bibliography of Children's Reading. (Introduction.) Teachers College, Columbia University.

Day, Mary B., and Wilson, Elisabeth: Suggestive Outlines on Children's Literature. S. Illinois Normal, Carbondale.

Dodd, C.F.: "Fairy Tales in the Schoolroom." Living Age, Nov. 8, 1902, vol. 235, pp. 369-75.

Fay, Lucy, and Eaton, Anne: Instruction in the Use of Books and Libraries. (Chap, xv, "Fairy Tales.") Boston Book Co.

Field, Mrs. E.M.: The Child and His Book. Wells Gardner, Darton & Co.

Field, Walter T.: Finger-Posts to Children's Reading. A.C. McClurg.

Harron, Julia; Bacon, Corinne; and Dana, J.C.: A Course of Study on Literature for Children. Newark Public Library.

Hosic, James F.: "The Conduct of a Course in Literature for Children." N.E.A. Report, 1913.

Ibid.: The Elementary Course in English. University of Chicago.

Hunt, Clara: What shall we Read to the Children? Houghton.

Kready, Laura F.: "Picture-Books for Little Children." Kindergarten Review, Sept., 1914.

Lowe, Orton: Literature for Children. Macmillan.

MacClintock, Porter L.: Literature in the Elementary School. University of Chicago.

Moore, Annie E.: "Principles in the Selection of Stories for the Kindergarten." I.K.U. Report, 1913. Moses, Montrose: Children's Books and Reading. M. Kennerley.

Olcott, Frances J.: The Children's Reading. Houghton.



The telling of stories refreshes the mind as a bath refreshes the body. It gives exercise to the intellect and its powers. It tests the judgments and feelings. The story-teller must wholly take into himself the life of which he speaks, must let it live and operate in himself freely. He must reproduce it whole and undiminished, yet stand superior to life as it actually is.—FROEBEL.

The purpose of the story.—To look out with new eyes upon the many-featured, habitable world; to be thrilled by the pity and the beauty of this life of ours, itself brief as a tale that is told; to learn to know men and women better, and to love them more.—BLISS PERRY.

Expertness in teaching consists in a scholarly command of subject-matter, in a better organization of character, in a larger and more versatile command of conscious modes of transmitting facts and ideals, and in a more potent and winsome, forceful and sympathetic manner of personal contact with other human beings.—HENRY SUZZALLO.

Story-telling as an art. No matter how perfectly the tale, in a subjective sense, may contain the interests of the child, or how carefully it may avoid what repels him; though in an objective sense it may stand the test of a true classic in offering a permanent enrichment of the mind and the test of literature in appealing to the emotions and the imagination, in giving a contribution of truth and an embodiment of good form; though it may stand the test of the short-story—furnishing interesting characters, definite plot, and effective setting; though its sequence be orderly and its climax pointed, its narration consistent and its description apt—the tale yet remains to be told. The telling of the tale is a distinct art governed by distinct principles because the life of the story must be transmitted and rendered into voice.

Story-telling is one of the most ancient and universal of arts. Concerning this art Thackeray has said:—

Stories exist everywhere: there is no calculating the distance through which stories have come to us, the number of languages through which they have been filtered, or the centuries during which they have been told. Many of them have been narrated almost in their present shape for thousands of years to the little copper-colored Sanskrit children, listening to their mothers under the palm-trees by the banks of the yellow Jumna—their Brahmin mother, who softly narrated them through the ring in her nose. The very same tale has been heard by the northern Vikings as they lay on their shields on deck; and the Arabs couched under the stars on the Syrian plains when their flocks were gathered in, and their mares were picketed by the tents.

In his Roundabout Papers, Thackeray gives a picture of a score of white-bearded, white-robed warriors or grave seniors of the city, seated at the gate of Jaffa or Beyrout, listening to the story-teller reciting his marvels out of Arabian Nights. "A Reading from Homer," by Alma Tadema, is a well-known picture which portrays the Greeks listening to the Tales of Homer. In the Lysistrata of Aristophanes, the chorus of old men begins with, "I will tell ye a story!" Plutarch, in his Theseus says, "All kinds of stories were told at the festival Oschophoria, as the mothers related such things to their children before their departure, to give them courage." In his Symposium he mentions a child's story containing the proverb, "No man can make a gown for the moon."—

The Moon begged her Mother to weave her a little frock which would fit her.

The Mother said, "How can I make it fit thee, when thou art sometimes a Full Moon, and then a Half Moon, and then a New Moon?"—

In the works of the German, Schuppius (1677), appeared this:—

Your old folks can remember how, in the olden times, it was customary at vespers on Easter day, to tell some Easter tidings from the pulpit. These were foolish fables and stories such as are told to children in the spinning-room. They were intended to make people merry.

In England, Chaucer's Tales reflect the common custom of the times for the pilgrim, the traveler, the lawyer, the doctor, the monk, and the nun, to relate a tale. The Wife of Bathes Tale is evidently a fairy tale. In Peele's Old Wives' Tale we learn how the smith's goodwife related some nursery tales of Old England to the two travelers her husband brought to the cottage for the night. In Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination we find:—

Hence, finally by night, The village matres, round the blazing hearth Suspend the infant audience with their tales, Breathing astonishment.

The custom of Florentine mothers has been described by the poet, Dante, when he says:—

Another, drawing tresses from her distaff. Told o'er among her family the tales Of Trojans, and of Fesole and Rome.

The French troubadours and the Italian counts of Boccaccio's time told tales. It is recorded of the French Galland, the first translator of The Arabian Nights, how the young men of his day would gather under his windows at night and shout for him until he showed himself and told them stories. The German Luther paid a high tribute to stories; and Goethe's mother, in giving her experience in telling stories to her children, has shown how the German mother valued the story in the home. To-day, savage children, when the day of toil is ended with the setting sun, gather in groups to listen to the never-dying charm of the tale; and the most learned of men, meeting in the great centers of civilization to work out weighty problems, find relief and pleasure when wit and culture tell the tale.

In the home the tale is the mother's power to build in her little children ideals of life which will tower as a fortress when there come critical moments of decision for which no amount of reasoning will be a sufficient guide, but for which true feeling, a kind of unconscious higher reasoning, will be the safest guide. In the library the story is the greatest social asset of the librarian, it is her best means of reaching the obscure child who seeks there some food for his spirit, it is her best opportunity to lead and direct his tastes. In the school it is the teacher's strongest personal ally. It is her wishing-ring, with which she may play fairy to herself in accomplishing a great variety of aims, and incidentally be a fairy godmother to the child.

Story-telling is an art handling an art and therefore must be pursued in accordance with certain principles. These principles govern: (1) the teacher's preparation; (2) the presentation of the tale; and (3) the return from the child.


1. The teacher's preparation must be concerned with a variety of subjects. The first rule to be observed is: Select the tale for some purpose, to meet a situation. This purpose may be any one of the elements of value which have been presented here under "The Worth of Fairy Tales." The teacher must consider, not only the possibilities of her subject-matter and what she wishes to accomplish through the telling of the tale, but also what the child's purpose will be in listening. She may select her tale specifically, not just because it contains certain interests, but because through those interests she can direct the child's activity toward higher interests. She must consider what problems the tale can suggest to the child. She may select her tale to develop habits in the child, to clarify his thinking, to give a habit of memory or to develop emotion or imagination. She may select her tale "just for fun," to give pure joy, or to teach a definite moral lesson, to make a selfish child see the beauty of unselfishness or to impress an idea. The Story of Lazy Jack, like the realistic Epaminondas, will impress more deeply than any word of exhortation, the necessity for a little child to use "the sense he was born with."

In the selection of the tale the teacher is up against the problem of whether she shall choose her tale psychologically or logically. As this is the day of the psychologic point of view in education, the teacher realizing this feels that she must select a tale for a particular purpose, according to the child's interests, his needs, and the possibilities it offers for his self-activity and self-expression. Looking freely over the field she may choose any tale which satisfies her purposes. This is psychologic. But in a year's work this choice of a tale for a particular purpose is followed by successive choices until she has selected a wide variety of tales giving exercise to many forms of activity, establishing various habits of growth. This method of choice is the psychologic built up until, in the hands of the teacher who knows the subject, it becomes somewhat logical. It is the method which uses the ability of the individual teacher, alone and unaided. There is another method. The teacher may be furnished with a course of tales arranged by expert study of the full subject outlined in large units of a year's work, offering the literary heritage possible to the child of a given age. This is logical. From this logical course of tales she may select one which answers to the momentary need, she may use it according to its nature, to develop habits, to give opportunity for self-activity and self-expression, and to enter into the child's daily life. This method of choice is the logical, which through use and adaptation has become psychologized. It uses the ability of the individual teacher in adaptation, not unaided and alone, but assisted by the concentrated knowledge and practice of the expert. Such a logical course, seeking uniformity only by what it requires at the close of a year's work, would give to the individual teacher a large freedom of choice and would bring into kindergarten and elementary literature a basis of content demanding as much respect as high school or college literature. It is in no way opposed to maintaining the child as the center of interest. The teacher's problem is to see that she uses the logical course psychologically.

2. Having selected the tale then, from a logical course, and psychologically for a present particular purpose, the next step is: Know the tale. Know the tale historically, if possible. Know it first as folk-lore and then as literature. Read several versions of the tale, the original if possible, selecting that version which seems most perfectly fitted to express what there is in the tale. As folk-lore, study its variants and note its individual motifs. Note what glimpses it gives of the social life and customs of a primitive people. The best way to dwell on the life of the story, to realize it, is to compare these motifs with similar motifs in other tales. It has been said that we do not see anything clearly until we compare it with another; and associating individual motifs of the tales makes the incidents stand out most clearly. Henny Penny's walk appears more distinctly in association with that of Medio Pollito or that of Drakesbill or of the Foolish Timid Rabbit; the fairy words in Sleeping Beauty and the good things they bestowed upon Briar Rose in association with the fairy wand in Cinderella and the good things it brought her; the visit of the Wolf in The Wolf and Seven Kids with the visit of the Wolf in Three Pigs and of the Fox in The Little Rid Hin. It is interesting to note that a clog motif, similar to the motif of shoes in The Elves and the Shoemaker, occurs in the Hindu Panch-Rhul Ranee, told in Old Deccan Days.

All the common motifs which occur in the fairy tales have been classified by Andrew Lang under these heads:—

(1) Bride or bridegroom who transgresses a mystic command.

(2) Penelope formula; one leaves the other and returns later.

(3) Attempt to avoid Fate.

(4) Slaughter of monster.

(5) Flight, by aid of animal.

(6) Flight from giant or wizard.

(7) Success of youngest.

(8) Marriage test, to perform tasks.

(9) Grateful beasts.

(10) Strong man and his comrades.

(11) Adventure with Ogre, and trick.

(12) Descent to Hades.

(13) False bride.

(14) Bride with animal children.

From a less scientific view some of the common motifs noticeable in the fairy tales, which however would generally fall under one of the heads given by Lang, might be listed:—

(1) Child wandering into a home; as in Three Bears and Snow White.

(2) Transformation; simple, as in Puss-in-Boots; by love, as in Beauty and the Beast, by sprinkling with water, as in Beauty and the Beast or by bathing, as in Catskin; by violence, as in Frog Prince and White Cat.

(3) Tasks as marriage tests; as in Cinderella.

(4) Riddle test; as in Peter, Paul, and Espen; questions asked, as in Red Riding Hood.

(5) Magic sleep; as in Sleeping Beauty.

(6) Magic touch; as in Golden Goose.

(7) Stupid person causing royalty to laugh; as in Lazy Jack.

(8) Exchange; as in Jack and the Beanstalk.

(9) Curiosity punished; as in Bluebeard and Three Bears.

(10) Kindness to persons rewarded; as in Cinderella, Little Two-Eyes, and The House in the Wood.

(11) Kindness to animals repaid; as in Thumbelina, Cinderella, and White Cat.

(12) Industry rewarded; as in Elves and the Shoemaker.

(13) Hospitality rewarded; as in Tom Thumb.

(14) Success of a venture; as in Dick Whittington.

After studying the tale as folk-lore, know it as literature. Master it as a classic, test it as literature, to see wherein lies its appeal to the emotions, its power of imagination, its basis of truth, and its quality of form; study it as a short-story and view it as a piece of narration. It is rather interesting to note that you can get all there is in a tale from any one point of view. If you follow the sequence as setting, through association you get the whole, as may be seen by referring to Chanticleer and Partlet under the heading, "Setting," in the chapter on the "Short-Story." Or, if you follow the successive doings of the characters you get the whole, as may be observed in the story of Medio Pollito, described later in the "Animal Tale" in the chapter, "Classes of Tales." Or if you follow the successive happenings to the characters, the plot, you get the whole, as may appear in the outline of Three Pigs given in the chapter which handles "Plot." Note the beauty of detail and the quality of atmosphere with which the setting surrounds the tale; note the individual traits of the characters and their contrasts; observe how what each one does causes what happens to him. Realize your story from the three points of view to enter into the author's fullness. Get a good general notion of the story first.

3. The next step is: Master the complete structure of the tale. This is the most important step in the particular study of the tale, for it is the unity about which any perfection in the art of telling must center. To discern that repose of centrality which the main theme of the tale gives, to follow it to its climax and to its conclusion, where poetic justice leaves the listener satisfied—this is the most fundamental work of the story-teller. The teacher must analyze the structure of her tale into its leading episodes, as has been illustrated in the handling of structure, under the subject, "Plot," in the chapter on the "Short-Story."

4. The next step is: Secure the message of the tale. The message is what we wish to transmit, it is the explicit reason for telling the tale. And one evidently must possess a message before one can give it. As the message is the chief worth of the tale, the message should dominate the telling and pervade its life. A complete realization of the message of the tale will affect the minutest details giving color and tone to the telling, and resulting so that what the child does with the story will deepen the impression of the message he receives.

5. The next step is: Master the tale as form. This means that if the tale is in classic form, not only the message and the structure must be transmitted, but the actual words. Words are the artist's medium, Stevenson includes them in his pattern of style, and how can we exclude them if we wish to express what they have expressed? A tale like Kipling's The Elephant's Child would be ruined without those clinging epithets, such as "the wait-a-bit thorn-bush," "mere-smear nose," "slushy squshy mud-cap," "Bi-Colored-Python-Rock-Snake," and "satiable curtiosity." No one could substitute other words in this tale; for contrasts of feeling and humor are so tied up with the words that other words would fail to tell the real story. If an interjection has seemed an insignificant part of speech, note the vision of tropical setting opened up by the exclamation, "O Bananas! Where did you learn that trick?" This is indeed a tale where the form is the matter, the form and the message are one complete whole that cannot be separated. But it is a proof that where any form is of sufficient perfection to be a classic form, you may give a modified tale by changing it, but you do not give the real complete tale. You cannot tell Andersen's Tin Soldier in your own words; for its sentences, its phrases, its sounds, its suggestive language, its humor, its imagination, its emotion, and its message, are so intricately woven together that you could not duplicate them.

When the fairy tale does not possess a settled classic form, select, as was mentioned, that version in which the language best conveys the life of the story, improving it yourself, if you can, in harmony with the standards of literature, until the day in the future when the tale may be fortunate enough to receive a settled form at the hands of a literary artist. Sometimes a slight change may improve greatly an old tale. In Grimm's Briar Rose[1] the episode of the Prince and the old Man contains irrelevant material. The two paragraphs following, "after the lapse of many years there came a king's son into the country," easily may be re-written to preserve the same unity and simplicity which mark the rest of the tale. This individual retelling of an old tale demands a careful distinction between what is essential and internal and what may have been added, what is accidental and external. The clock-case in The Wolf and Seven Kids evidently is not a part of the original story, which arose before clocks were in use, and is a feature added in some German telling of the tale. It may be retained but it is not essential to the tale that it should be. Exact conversations and bits of dialogue, repetitive phrases, rhymes, concrete words which visualize, brief expressions, and Anglo-Saxon words—these are all bits of detail which need to be mastered in a complete acquirement of the story's form, because these are characteristics of the form which time has settled upon the old tales. Any literary form bestowed upon the tales worthy of the name literature, will have to preserve these essentials.


In the oral presentation of the tale new elements of the teacher's preparation enter, for here the voice is the medium and the teacher must use the voice as the organist his keys. The aim of the oral presentation is to give the spiritual effect. This requires certain conditions of effectiveness—to speak with distinctness, to give the sense, and to cause to understand; and certain intellectual requirements—to articulate with perfection, to present successive thoughts in clear outline, and to preserve relative values of importance.

The production of the proper effect necessitates placing in the foreground, with full expression, what needs emphasis, and throwing back with monotony or acceleration parts that do not need emphasis. It requires slighting subordinate, unimportant parts, so that one point is made and one total impression given. This results in that flexibility and lightsomeness of the voice, which is one of the most important features in the telling of the tale. The study of technique, when controlled by these principles of vocal expression, is not opposed to the art of story-telling any more than the painter's knowledge of color is opposed to his art of painting. To obtain complete control of the voice as an instrument of the mind, there is necessary: (1) training of the voice; (2) exercises in breathing; (3) a knowledge of gesture; and (4) a power of personality.

(1) Training of the voice. This training aims to secure freedom of tone, purity of tone, fullness of tone, variety of volume, and tone-color. It will include a study of phonetics to give correct pronunciation of sounds and a knowledge of their formation; freeing exercises to produce a jaw which is not set, an open throat, a mobile lip, and nimble tongue; and exercises to get rid of nasality or throatiness. The art of articulation adds to the richness of meaning, it is the connection between sound and sense. Open sounds are in harmony with joy, and very distinct emotional effects are produced by arrangements of consonants. The effect created by the use of the vowels and consonants in The Spider and the Flea has already been referred to under "Setting." The open vowels of "On, little Drumikin! Tum-pae, tum-t[=oo]!" help to convey the impression of lightsome gaiety in Lambikin. The effect of power displayed by "Then I'll huff and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in," is made largely by the sound of the consonants ff and the n in the concluding in, the force of the rough u of huff and puff, and the prolonged o in blow. The effect of walking is produced by the p of "Trip, trap," and of varied walking by the change of vowel from [ui] to [ua]. The action of "I have come to gobble you up," is emphasized and made realistic by the bb of gobble and the p of up. Attention to the power of phonics to contribute to the emotional force and to the strength of meaning in the tale, will reveal to the story-teller many new beauties.

(2) Exercises in breathing. Training in breathing includes exercises to secure the regulation of proper breathing during speech and to point out the relation between breathing and voice expression. The correct use of the voice includes also ability to place tone.—Find out your natural tone and tell the story in that tone.—Many of the effects of the voice need to be dealt with from the inside, not externally. The use of the pause in story-telling is one of the subtlest and most important elements that contribute to the final effect. The proper placing of the pause will follow unconsciously as a consequence when the structure of the story is realized in distinct episodes and the proper emphasis given mentally to the most important details of action, while less emphasis in thought is given to subordinate parts. Therefore, the study of the pause must be made, not artificially and externally, but internally through the elements of the story which produce the pause. Tone-color, which is to ordinary speech what melody is to music—those varied effects of intonation, inflection, and modulation—is to be sought, not as a result from an isolated study of technique, but from attention to those elements in association with the complete realization of the life of the story. Genuine feeling is worth more than mere isolated exercises to secure modulation, and complete realization eliminates the necessity of "pretending to be." The study of the fairy tale as literature, as has been indicated in the chapter on "Principles of Selection," will therefore be fundamental to the presentation of the tale. Entering into the motives of the story gives action, entering into the thought gives form, and entering into the feeling gives tone-color to the voice. The sincere desire to share the thought will be the best aid to bring expression.

(3) A knowledge of gesture. The teacher must understand the laws of gesture. The body is one means of the mind's expression. There is the eloquence of gesture and of pose. The simplest laws of gesture may be stated:—

(a) All gesture precedes speech in proportion to the intense realization of emotion.

(b) All expression begins in the face and passes to some other agent of the body in proportion to the quality Of the emotion. The eye leads in pointing.

(c) Hands and arms remain close to the body in gesture when intensity of emotion is controlled.

In regard to gesture, a Children's Library pamphlet, dealing with the purpose of story-telling, has said, "The object of the story-teller is to present the story, not in the way advocated usually in the schools, but to present it with as little dramatic excitement and foreign gesture as possible, keeping one's personality in the background and giving all prominence to the story itself, relying for interest in the story alone." The schools have perhaps been misinterpreted. It is clear that only that personality is allowable which interprets truly the story's life. The listening child must be interested in the life of the story, not in the story-teller; and therefore gesture, tone, or sentiment that is individual variation and addition to the story itself, detracts from the story, is foreign to its thought, and occupies a wrong place of prominence. It is possible to tell a story, however, just as the author tells it, and yet give it naturally by realizing it imaginatively and by using the voice and the body artistically, as means of expression.

(4) A power of personality. What rules shall be given for the making of that personality which is to bring with it force in the telling of the tale and which must override phonetics, inflection, and gesture?

The very best help towards acquiring that personality which is the power of story-telling, is to have a power of life gained through the experience of having lived; to have a power of emotion acquired through the exercise of daily affairs; a power of imagination won from having dwelt upon the things of life with intentness, a power of sympathy obtained from seeing the things of others as you meet them day by day; and a first-hand knowledge of the sights and sounds and beauties of Nature, a knowledge of bird and flower, tree and rock, their names and some of their secrets—knowledge accumulated from actual contact with the real physical world. This power of life will enable the story-teller to enter, at the same time, into the life of the story she tells, and the life of those listening, to see the gift of the one and the need of the other.

The ideal position for the story-teller is to be seated opposite the center of the semicircle of listeners, facing them. The extreme nearness of the group, when the teller seeks the fingers of the listeners to add force to the telling, seems an infringement upon the child's personal rights. A strong personality will make the story go home without too great nearness and will want to give the children a little room so that their thoughts may meet hers out in the story.

Suggestions for telling. Now that the teacher is ready to speak, her first step in the art of story-telling, which is the first step in the art of any teaching, which lies at the very foundation of teaching, which is the most important step, and which is the step that often is neglected, is the establishing of the personal relation between herself and the listener. This is one of those subtleties which evades measuring, but its influence is most lasting. It is the setting to the whole story of teaching. It must play so important a part because, as teacher and listener are both human beings, there must be between them a common bond of humanity. How do you wish to appear to this group of listeners? As a friend to be trusted, a brother or sister to give help, or as a good comrade to be played with; as "master, expert, leader, or servant"? If you wish to be as real and forceful as the characters in your story, you must do something which will cause the personal relation you desire, to be established; and moreover, having established it, you must live up to it, and prove no friend without faith. You must do this before you presume to teach or to tell a story. You need not do it before each individual story you present to a group you meet often; you may do it so effectively, with a master-stroke, at the beginning when you first meet your class, that all you need do at successive meetings will be but to add point to your first establishment.

A student-teacher, in telling a story to a group of kindergarten children who were complete strangers, and telling it to them as they sat in a semicircle in front of her comrades, adult students, established this personal relation by beginning to tell the little children her experience with the first telling of Three Bears to a little girl of four:—Seated before a sand-box in the yard, after hearing the story of Three Bears, M—— had been asked, "Wouldn't this be a good time for you to tell me the story?" In reply, she paused, and while the story-teller was expecting her to begin, suddenly said, "Do you think M——'s big enough for all that?" and refused to tell a word. Then turning to the group before her, the student-teacher made the direct appeal. "But you are the biggest little people in the kindergarten, and you wouldn't treat a story like that, would you?" The children, through the personal picture of friendly story-telling with a little child, that paralleled their own situation somewhat, immediately felt at home with the teller; it was just as if they were the same intimate friends with her that the little girl portrayed to them was. The human bond of good comradeship and intimacy was established. In the direct appeal at the end, the children were held up to an ideal they dare not disappoint, they must live up to their size, be able to get the story, and be the biggest little people in the kindergarten by showing what they could do with it. Again there was an undefined problem thrown at them, as it were—an element of wonder. They did not know just what was coming and they were mentally alert, waiting, on the lookout. The way for the story was open.—This is what you want, for no matter how perfect a gem of folk-lore you tell, it will fall heedless if the children do not listen to it.

The second step in the art of story-telling is one which grows naturally out of this first step. This second step, to put the story in a concrete situation for the child, to make the connection between the child and the literature you present, is the one which displays your unique power as an artist. It is the step which often is omitted and is the one which exercises all your individual ability and cleverness. It is the step which should speak comfort to the eager teacher of to-day, who is compelled to stand by, Montessori fashion, while many changing conceptions say to her: "Hands off! It is not what you do that helps the child develop; it is what he himself does!" Here at least is one of the teacher's chances to act. This step is the opening of the gateway so that the story you are about to tell may enter into the thoughts of your listeners. It is your means to organize the tale in the child's life. If in the school program you permit nature study, representing the central interest, to occupy the place of main emphasis, and if the game, occupation, and song work is related to the child's life, this organization of the child's tale in his life will be accomplished naturally.

In the example cited above, both the establishment of the personal relation and the placing of the story in a concrete situation, were managed partly at the one stroke. Your best help to furnish a concrete situation will be to preserve at the one end a sympathy for the life of your story and at the other to perceive the experience of the children in the listening group. Seeing both at once will result in a knowledge of what the children need most to make the story go home. If your children are good enough, and you and they sufficiently good friends to bear the fun of pantomime and the gaiety of hilarity, asking several boys, as they walk across the room before the children, to imitate some animals they had seen at a circus, and getting the children to guess the animal represented until they hit upon the elephant, would put certain children in a spirit of fun that would be exactly the wide-awake brightness and good humor needed to receive the story of The Elephant's Child. You can get children best into the story-telling mood by calling up ideas in line with the story. In the case of the story cited above, under the establishment of the personal relation, the story, The Bremen Town Musicians, was related to the child's experience by a few questions concerning kinds of music he knew, and what musician and kind of music the kindergarten had. In telling Andersen's Tin Soldier you must call up experience concerning a soldier, not only because of the relation of the toy to the real soldier, but because the underlying meaning of the tale is courage, and the emotional theme is steadfastness. And to preserve the proper unity between the tale and the telling of it, the telling must center itself in harmony with the message of the tale, its one dominant impression and its one dominant mood.

Every story told results in some return from the child. The teacher, in her presentation, must conceive the child's aim in listening. This does not mean that she forces her aim upon him. But it does mean that she makes a mental list of the child's own possible problems that the tale is best suited to originate, one of which the child himself will suggest. For the return should originate, not in imitation of what the teller plans, but spontaneously, as the child's own plan, answering to some felt need of his. But that does not prevent the story-teller from using her own imagination, and through it, from realizing what opportunities for growth the story presents, and what possible activities ought to be stimulated. A good guide will keep ahead of the children, know the possibilities of the material, and by knowledge and suggestion lead them to realize and accomplish the plans they crudely conceive. A consideration of these plans will modify the telling of the tale, and should be definitely thought about before the telling of the tale. A story told definitely to stimulate in the children dramatization, will emphasize action and dialogue; while one told to stimulate the painting of a water-color sketch, will emphasize the setting of the tale.

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