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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/280

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Cinderella in Britain.

When, however, we come to the question who originated and who borrowed, we come to the problem of problems and the further research to which Miss Cox's labours lead us: hic labor, hoc opus. It would require more time than I could devote to the subject at present, more ingenuity than I could bring to bear on it at any time, to arrive at even an approximate solution of this intricate question. It is, in fact, a case for a European Concert, as indeed Miss Cox's book shows. The folk-lorists of each country might be called upon to determine from their local knowledge and further collections what was the original form in the particular country, and then our problem would be reduced to its simplest elements. We should perhaps be able to determine which was the original form of the tale, and where it exists at the present day in a form closest to the original. Whether this locality could then be fixed upon as the original home of the story would then have to be determined by various criteria. All this, however, is in the future, though, thanks to Miss Cox, it may be no distant future; for the present we may content ourselves with the first reduction of the problem so far as it relates to the British Isles. In other words, what was the original form in which the three types of story dealt with in Miss Cox's book—Cinderella, Catskin, Cap o' Rushes—appeared in these islands?

Before doing so, however, I would venture to point out one aspect of our subject which lends it considerable importance. We have to deal here with various versions of a series of incidents preserved by tradition and reduced to writing after many days. Now this, to compare great things with small, is exactly the problem of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not by any means improbable that folk-tale research, by arriving at the laws governing the transmission of narratives by tradition, may ultimately come to the aid of theological science in determining the relative age of the gospels and settling the amount and character of the alterations undergone by the narratives during the process