The Junior Classics.
by Willam Patten.
Fairy and Wonder Tales
The purpose of The Junior Classics is to provide, in ten volumes containing about five thousand pages, a classified collection of tales, stories, and poems, both ancient and modern, suitable for boys and girls of from six to sixteen years of age. Thoughtful parents and teachers, who realize the evils of indiscriminate reading on the part of children, will appreciate the educational value of such a collection. A child's taste in reading is formed, as a rule, in the first ten or twelve years of its life, and experience has shown that the childish mind will prefer good literature to any other, if access to it is made easy, and will develop far better on literature of proved merit than on trivial or transitory material.
The boy or girl who becomes familiar with the charming tales and poems in this collection will have gained a knowledge of literature and history that will be of high value in other school and home work. Here are the real elements of imaginative narration, poetry, and ethics, which should enter into the education of every English-speaking child.
This collection, carefully used by parents and teachers with due reference to individual tastes and needs, will make many children enjoy good literature. It will inspire them with a love of good reading, which is the best possible result of any elementary education. The child himself should be encouraged to make his own selections from this large and varied collection, the child's enjoyment being the object in view. A real and lasting interest in literature or in scholarship is only to be developed through the individual's enjoyment of his mental occupations.
The most important change which has been made in American schools and colleges within my memory is the substitution of leading for driving, of inspiration for drill, of personal interest and love of work for compulsion and fear. The schools are learning to use methods and materials which interest and attract the children themselves. The Junior Classics will put into the home the means of using this happy method.
Committing to memory beautiful pieces of literature, either prose or poetry, for recitation before a friendly audience, acting charades or plays, and reading aloud with vivacity and sympathetic emotion, are good means of instruction at home or at school This collection contains numerous admirable pieces of literature for such use. In teaching English and English literature we should place more reliance upon processes and acts which awaken emotion, stimulate interest, prove to be enjoyable for the actors, and result in giving children the power of entertaining people, of blessing others with noble pleasures which the children create and share.
>From the home training during childhood there should result in the child a taste for interesting and improving reading which will direct and inspire its subsequent intellectual life. The training which results in this taste for good reading, however unsystematic or eccentric it may have been, has achieved one principal aim of education; and any school or home training which does not result in implanting this permanent taste has failed in a very important respect.
Guided and animated by this impulse to acquire knowledge and exercise the imagination through good reading, the adult will continue to educate him all through life.
The story of the human race through all its slow development should be gradually conveyed to the child's mind from the time he begins to read, or to listen to his mother reading; and with description of facts and actual events should be mingled charming and uplifting products of the imagination. To try to feed the minds of children upon facts alone is undesirable and unwise. The immense product of the imagination in art and literature is a concrete fact with which every educated human being should be made somewhat familiar, that product being a very real part of every individual's actual environment.
The right selection of reading matter for children is obviously of high importance. Some of the mythologies, Old Testament stories, fairy tales, and historical romances, on which earlier generations were accustomed to feed the childish mind, contain a great deal that is barbarous, perverse, or cruel; and to this infiltration into children's minds, generation after generation, of immoral, cruel, or foolish ideas is probably to be attributed in part the slow ethical progress of the race. The commonest justification of this thoughtless practice is that children do not apprehend the evil in the bad mental pictures with which we foolishly supply them; but what should we think of a mother who gave her children dirty milk or porridge, on the theory that the children would not assimilate the dirt? Should we be less careful about mental and moral food materials? The Junior Classics have been selected with this principle in mind, without losing sight of the fact that every developing human being needs to have a vision of the rough and thorny road over which the human race has been slowly advancing during thousands of years.
Whoever has committed to memory in childhood such Bible extracts as Genesis i, the Ten Commandments, Psalm xxiii, Matthew v, 8-12, The Lord's Prayer, and I Corinthians xiii, such English prose as Lincoln's Gettysburg speech, Bacon's "Essay on Truth," and such poems as Bryant's "Waterfowl," Addison's "Divine Ode," Milton's Sonnet on his Blindness, Wotton's "How happy is he born or taught," Emerson's "Rhodora,"
Holmes's "Chambered Nautilus," and Gray's Elegy, and has stamped them on his brain by frequent repetition, will have set up in his mind high standards of noble thought and feeling, true patriotism, and pure religion. He will also have laid in an invaluable store of good English.
While the majority of the tales and poems are intended for children who have begun to do their own reading, there will be found in every volume selections fit for reading aloud to younger children. Throughout the collection the authors tell the stories in their own words; so that the salt which gave them savor is preserved. There are some condensations however, such as any good teller of borrowed stories would make; but as a rule condensation has been applied only in the case of long works which otherwise could not have been included. The notes which precede the condensations supply explanations, and answer questions which experience has shown boys and girls are apt to ask about the works condensed or their authors.
The Junior Classics constitute a set of books whose contents will delight children and at the same time satisfy the legitimate ethical requirements of those who have the children's best interests at heart.
Charles W. Eliot
THERE are some things in this world we can get along without, but, the experience of many thousand years has shown us that the fairy tale is not one of them. There must have been fairy tales (or fables, or folk tales, or myths, or whatever name we choose to give them) ever since the world began. They are not exclusively French, German, Greek, Russian, Indian or Chinese, but are the common property of the whole human family and are as universal as human speech.
All the world over, fairy tales are found to be pretty much the same.
The story of Cinderella is found in all countries. Japan has a Rip Van Winkle, China has a Beauty and the Beast, Egypt has a Puss in Boots, and Persia has a Jack and the Beanstalk.
Those wise people who have made a careful study of literature, and especially of what we call folk tales or fairy tales or fables or myths, tell us that they all typify in some way the constant struggle that is going on in every department of life. It may be the struggle of Summer against Winter, the bright Day against dark Night, Innocence against Cruelty, of Knowledge against Ignorance. We are not obliged to think of these delightful stories as each having a meaning. Our enjoyment of them will not be less if we overlook that side, but it may help us to understand and appreciate good books if we remember that the literature of the world is the story of man's struggle against nature; that the beginnings of literature came out of the mouths of story- tellers, and that the stories they told were fairy tales-imaginative stories based on truth.
There is one important fact to remember in connection with the old fairy tales, and that is that they were repeated aloud from memory, not read from a book or manuscript.
The printing of books from type may be said to date from the year 1470, when Caxton introduced printing into England. It is said that the first book printed in English which had the pages numbered was a book of tales, "Aesop's Fables."
As late as 1600 printed books were still so rare that only rich men could own them. There was one other way of printing a story-on sheepskin (split and made into parchment) with a pen-but that was a long and laborious art that could only be practiced by educated men who had been taught to write. The monks were about the only men who had the necessary education and time, and they cared more for making copies of the Bible and Lives of the Saints than they did of fairy tales. The common people, and even kings and queens, were therefore obliged to depend upon the professional story-teller.
Fairy tales were very popular in the Middle Ages. In the long winter months fields could not be cultivated, traveling had to be abandoned, and all were kept within doors by the cold and snow. We know what the knight's house looked like in those days. The large beamed hail or living room was the principal room. At one end of it, on a low platform, was a table for the knight, his family, and any visiting knights and ladies. At the other tables on the main floor were the armed men, like squires and retainers, who helped defend the castle from attack, and the maids of the household.
The story-teller, who was sometimes called a bard or skald or minstrel, had his place of honor in the center of the room, and when the meal was over he was called upon for a story. These story-tellers became very expert in the practice of their art, and some of them could arouse their audiences to a great pitch of excitement. In the note that precedes the story "The Treason of Ganelon," in the volume "Heroes and Heroines of Chivalry," you can see how one of these story-tellers, or minstrels, sang aloud a story to the soldiers of William the Conqueror to encourage them as he led them into battle.
The fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm were first published in 1812. They spent thirteen years collecting them, writing them down as they were told by the peasants in Hesse, a mountainous province of Germany lying far removed from the great main roads.
Their friends helped them, but their best friend was the wife of a cowherd, a strong, intelligent woman of fifty, who had a perfect genius for storytelling. She knew she told the stories well, and that not many had her gift. The Grimms said that though she repeated a story for them three times, the variations were so slight as to be hardly apparent.
The American Indian stories of Manabozho the Mischief-Maker and his adventures with the Wolf and the Woodpeckers and the Ducks were collected in very much the same way by Henry R. Schoolcraft (1793- 1864), the explorer and traveler, who lived among the Indian tribes for thirty years.
Mrs. Steel has told us how she collected her Hindu stories, often listening over and over to poor story-tellers who would spoil a story in trying to tell it, until one day her patience would be rewarded by hearing it from the lips of the best storyteller in the village, who was generally a boy.
As all nations have their fairy tales, you will find in this collection examples of English, Irish, French, German, Scandinavian, Icelandic, Russian, Polish, Serbian, Spanish, Arabian, Hindu, Chinese, and Japanese fairy tales, as well as those recited around the lodge fires at night by American Indians for the entertainment of the red children of the West.
I hope the work may prove for many a boy and girl (of any age up to a hundred) the Golden Bridge over which they can plunge into that marvelous world of fairies, elves, goblins, kobolds, trolls, afreets, jinns, ogres, and giants that fascinates us all, lost to this world till some one wakes us up to say "Bedtime!"
Such excursions fill the mind with beautiful fancies and help to develop that most precious of our faculties, the imagination.
MANABOZHO, THE MISCHIEF-MAKER
Adapted from H. R. Schoolcraft
THERE was never in the whole world a more mischievous busybody than that notorious giant Manabozho. He was everywhere, in season and out of season, running about, and putting his hand in whatever was going forward.
To carry on his game he could take almost any shape he pleased. He could be very foolish or very wise, very weak or very strong, very rich or very poor-just as happened to suit his humor best. Whatever anyone else could do, he would attempt without a moment's reflection. He was a match for any man he met, and there were few manitoes* (*good spirits or evil spirits) that could get the better of him. By turns he would be very kind or very cruel, an animal or a bird, a man or a spirit, and yet, in spite of all these gifts, Manabozho was always getting himself involved in all sorts of troubles. More than once, in the course of his adventures, was this great maker of mischief driven to his wits' ends to come off with his life.
To begin at the beginning, Manabozho, while yet a youngster, was living with his grandmother near the edge of a great prairie. It was on this prairie that he first saw animals and birds of every kind; he also there made first acquaintance with thunder and lightning. He would sit by the hour watching the clouds as they rolled by, musing on the shades of light and darkness as the day rose and fell.
For a stripling, Manabozho was uncommonly wide-awake. Every sight he beheld in the heavens was a subject of remark, every new animal or bird an object of deep interest, and every sound was like a new lesson which he was expected to learn. He often trembled at what he heard and saw.
The first sound he heard was that of the owl, at which he was greatly terrified, and, quickly descending the tree he had climbed, he ran with alarm to the lodge. "Noko! noko! grandmother!" he cried. "I have heard a monedo."
She laughed at his fears, and asked him what kind of a noise it made.
He answered. "It makes a noise like this: ko-ko-ko-ho!"
His grandmother told him he was young and foolish; that what he heard was only a bird which derived its name from the peculiar noise it made.
He returned to the prairie and continued his watch. As he stood there looking at the clouds he thought to himself, "It is singular that I am so simple and my grandmother so wise; and that I have neither father nor mother. I have never heard a word about them. I must ask and find out."
He went home and sat down, silent and dejected. Finding that this did not attract the notice of his grandmother, he began a loud lamentation, which he kept increasing, louder and louder, till it shook the lodge and nearly deafened the old grandmother.
"Manabozho, what is the matter with you?" she said, "you are making a great deal of noise."
Manabozho started off again with his doleful hubbub, but succeeded in jerking out between his big sobs, "I haven't got any father nor mother, I haven't."