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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/448

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Some Recent Utterances of

Basile is a "somewhat insufficent basis for such a conclusion". For a moment he hesitates, but only for a moment. "It remains to be proved", says he, "that the introductory part of the story with the helpful animal was necessarily part of the original." Heretical doctrine this from an adherent of the principle that a tale is a definite combination of incidents; but let that pass. He then goes on: "The possibility of the introduction of an archaic formula which had become a convention of folk-telling cannot be left out of account."

It is amazing that a scholar of Mr. Jacobs' acuteness should not see that this argument from convention not only gives away his own case but practically establishes that of his opponents. What is a convention? A form of incident or wording accepted as appropriate in a given situation owing to long use in similar situations. It must be accepted as appropriate by both reciter and hearers, and acceptance is mainly determined by familiarity due to long use. The rapidity with which a new convention establishes itself depends chiefly upon the degree of advance and variation in a society. In a backward, conservative society such as that of the peasantry in many parts of modern Europe, conventions live long and die hard; as a matter of fact, the Gaelic story-teller of to-day, both in Ireland and Scotland, habitually uses conventions which we know to have been in force for over a thousand years. If, therefore, the archaic traits in Cinderella are really due to conventional analogy, the existence of a folk-literature of immemorial antiquity is thereby amply and irrefragably proved. You cannot have conventions without literature, whether written and conscious, or oral and unconscious. The theory to which Mr. Newell and Mr. Jacobs have, with varying degrees of confidence, pinned their faith may be stated as follows: Fairy tales are not really old, but are stuffed full of imitations of old fairy tales which have disappeared. One is reminded of the famous theory that Shakspeare's plays