From Agepedia

Jump to: navigation , search

TALES. This term, though used somewhat indefinitely, may, perhaps, be correctly defined as signifying those simple fictitious narratives, in prose or in verse, which hardly extend beyond a single adventure, or group of incidents, without the variety of plot and character which characterizes the novel and the romance. Thus it answers to the French conte, the German marchen, and the Italian novelle. (See Novel, and Romance.) "A work of great interest," says sir W. Scott (preface to Lady of the Lake), "might be compiled upon the origin of popular fiction, and the transmission of similar tales from age to age, and from country to country. The mythology of one period would then appear to pass into the romance of the next century, and that into the nursery tale of the subsequent ages. Such an investigation, while it went greatly to diminish our ideas of the richness of human invention, would also show, that these fictions, however wild and childish, possess such charms for the populace as enable them to penetrate into countries unconnected by manners and language, and having no apparent intercourse to afford the means of transmission." While, in some countries, the people have found amusement in fictions founded on their remote history, or in listening to mythological narratives, the natives of the East have long been celebrated for their tales or stories, founded on familiar incidents and comic scenes, or on wild legends of good and bad spir< its. The Hitopadessa (see Pilpay) of India, and the Thousand and one Days, Thousand and one Nights, the Tooiinameh, or Tales of a Parrot, &c.j of Arabia and Persia, are specimens of the wealth of the Eastern storytellers in these narratives. (See Arabian Nights.) From their Eastern neighbors, the Asiatic Greeks borrowed something of their love for this amusement, as appears from what we know respecting the Milesian Tales, which, however, have all perished. The Gesta Romanorwra,composed towards the close of the thirteenth century, and consisting of classical stories, Arabian apologues, and monkish legends, was the great source from which the Italian novelle, the French conies and fabliaux, and the English tales, were derived. The earliest collection of Italian novelle was the Cento JS/bvelle Jhitiche, made not long after the date of the Gesta Romanorum, and composed of anecdotes and stories from the romances of chivalry, the fabliaux of the French trouveurs, and chronicles, together with incidents and jests, gathered from tradition, or of contemporaneous origin. Then came Boccaccio (q. v.), who gave a more dramatic form, and more grace of style to his Decameron. He was followed by Sacchetti, Ser Giovanni, Bandello, Massuccio, &c. They were imitated in France in the Cent nouvelles Nouvelles, tales full of imagination and gayety, supposed to be related at the Burgundian court. The Cent JYbuvelles of Margaret of Valois (q. v.) were of a similar character. The tales of the trouveurs (q. v.), which were recited at festal meetings among the Northern French, are of still earlier oiigin than the Italian novelle. Le Grand has published a collection of them under the title of Fabliaux ou Contes du XII et XIII SVecle (Paris, 1779, 5 vols.), from which a selection has been translated into English by Way (Tales of the XII and XIII Centuries, second edition, with notes, by Ellis). A more recent collection of these fabliaux was published at Paris, in 1823, in 2 vols. (Nouveau Recueil de Fabliaux et Contes, du XIII et XIV Siecle, by Meon). In England, the first important. work which marks the complete transition from AngloNorman to English literature, is that of Chaucer (q. v.), whose Canterbury Tales were borrowed from the same sources as the naiTatives of the Italian novellists and the French fahliers,or immediately from these latter productions themselves. (On the sources of Chaucer, seeRitson's edition of Warton's History of English Poetry.)Of a different character from the foregoing, are the fairy tales and popular stories of the nursery. Of the former, we have given an account in the article Fairies. Our common nursery tales are found to exist in the popular traditions of all the Teutonic nations, and seem to be of much higher antiquity than romances and poems of much greater pretensions. "Jack the GiantKiller and Tom Thumb," observes an English writer, "landed in England with Hengist and Horsa;" and the brothers Grimm (q.v.), who have recently thrown much light on nursery literature in then* Kinderund HausMarchen (second edition, 3 vols., 1820), do not hesitate to refer the origin of these stories to the Scandinavian sagas. See, on this subject, the article Antiquities of Nursery Literature, in the Quarterly Review, volume twentyfirst.