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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/148

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Cinderella and Britain.

I do not attempt to decide whether this is a mark of age, or the reverse.

But, it may be said, to establish the fact that the unnatural marriage-opening was a commonplace of storytelling in the British Isles is but a slight contribution to the solution of the Cinderella problem. Granted; yet the fact is interesting in itself, especially when taken in conjunction with the wide and long-standing spread of the Catskin-Cinderella form in this country. If, now, we turn to the first of Miss Cox's group-types, to Cinderella proper, we cannot, it is true, trace such early connection of any essential element with these islands, as we have done in the case of the Catskin and Cap-o'-Rushes types.[1] But we can show that of all existing versions of the true Cinderella tale it is one collected in these islands which presents obviously archaic features (which have well-nigh disappeared from the literary versions) in their most crude and striking form. I allude to the remarkable Gaelic tale, "The Sheep's

  1. If we could, we might safely regard the Cinderella problem as solved. What the terms of that problem are must be steadily borne in mind by all investigators. The earliest recorded true Cinderella story appears in Italy, in the first half of the seventeenth century (Basile's La Gatta Cenerentola); before that date we only find recorded two Catskin stories, both of the first half of the sixteenth century, one (which is without the unnatural marriage opening) French (Bonaventure des Periers), one Italian (Straparola). There is, so far as we at present know, neither in Classic, Oriental, Teutonic, or Celtic myth or saga, nor in mediaeval romance or legend, any definite sequence of incidents which we could claim as being the ultimate origin of the Cinderella group, or from the existence of which we could argue the existence of that group at a date prior to that of the sixteenth-seventeenth century examples. There is, I believe, no other folk-tale of the same character and of equal importance with Cinderella of which this can be said. The Sleeping Beauty, The Calumniated Wife, The Supplanted Bride, The Exposed Child, all the familiar dramatis personæ of the märchen, are also familiar figures of pre-mediæval and mediæval myth, saga, and romance. Not so Cinderella. At the same time it is impossible (or, rather, it is absurd, for all things are possible to the paradox-mongerer) to maintain that the sixteenth-seventeenth century versions have originated the mass of Cinderella variants noted subsequently;