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(Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries)
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The Fairy Mythology
ORIGIN OF THE BELIEF IN FAIRIES.
ORIGIN OF THE WORD FAIRY.
SPENSER'S FAERIE QUEENE.
EDDAS AND SAGAS.
Loki and the Dwarf.
Thorston and the Dwarf.
The Dwarf-Sword Tirfing.
Sir Olof in the Elve-Dance.
The Elf-woman and Sir Olof.
The Young Swain and the Elves.
Svend Faelling and the Elle-Maid.
The Elle-Maid near Ebeltoft.
DWARFS OR TROLLS
The Troll Wife.
The Altar-Cup in Aagerup.
Origin of Tiis Lake.
A Farmer tricks a Troll.
Skotte in the Fire.
The Legend of Bodedys.
The Hill-Man invited to the Christening.
The Troll turned Cat.
The Girl at the Troll-Dance.
The Tile-Stove jumping over the Brook.
Departure of the Trolls from Vendsyssel.
The Dwarfs' Banquet.
The Nis Removing.
The Penitent Nis.
The Nis and the Boy.
The Nis Stealing Corn.
The Nis and the Mare.
The Nis Riding.
The Nisses in Vosborg.
NECKS, MERMEN, AND MERMAIDS.
The Power of the Harp.
Duke Magnus and the Mermaid.
The Mermaid Wife.
ISLE OF RÜGEN.
Adventures of John Dietrich.
The Little Glass Shoe.
The Wonderful Plough.
The Lost Bell
The Black Dwarfs of Granitz.
The Hill-Man at the Dance.
The Dwarf's Feast.
The Friendly Dwarfs.
Wedding Feast of the Little People.
Dwarfs Stealing Corn.
Journey of the Dwarfs over the Mountain.
The Dwarfs' Borrowing Bread.
The Dwarf Husband.
Inge of Rantum.
The Oldenburg Horn.
The Peasant and the Waterman.
The Working Waterman.
Gertrude and Rosy.
The Dwarfs on the Tree.
The Rejected Gift.
The Wonderful Little Pouch.
Aid and Punishment.
The Dwarf in Search of Lodging.
The Green Children.
The Fairy Banquet.
The Fairy Horn.
The Luck of Eden Hall.
The Fairies' Caldron.
The Cauld Lad of Hilton.
Addlers and Menters.
The Fary Nurseling.
The Fary Labour.
The Fairies' Nurse.
The Fairy Rade.
Departure of the Fairies.
CELTS AND CYMRY.
Clever Tom and the Leprechaun.
The Leprechaun in the Garden.
The Three Leprechauns.
The Little Shoe.
The Fairy's Inquiry.
The Young Man in the Shian.
The Two Fiddlers.
The Fairy borrowing Oatmeal.
The Stolen Ox.
The Stolen Lady.
The Wounded Seal.
ISLE OF MAN.
The Fairies' Christening.
The Fiddler and the Fairy.
Tale of Elidurus.
The Tylwyth Teg.
The Spirit of the Van.
Rhys at the Fairy-Dance.
The Fairies Banished.
Lord Nann and the Korrigan.
The Dance and Song of the Korred.
The Daughter of Peter De Cabinam.
Origin of the House of Haro.
Pepito el Corcovado.
Legend of Melusina.
Deer and Vila.
AFRICANS, JEWS, Etc.
The Broken Oaths.
The Harvest Dinner.
The Young Piper.
The Soul Cages.
Barry of Cairn Thierna.
Aileen a Roon,
Alexander Selkirk's Dream.
A Moonlight Scene,
Lines Written in a Lady's Album.
Father Cuddy's Song.
The Praises of Mazenderân.
THE FAIRY MYTHOLOGY,
ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE
Romance and Superstition of Various Countries;
Author of the Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy; Histories of Greece, Rome, England, and India, The Crusaders, &c., &c.
Another sort there be, that willBe talking of the Fairies still;Nor never can they have their fill,
A preface is to a book what a prologue is to a play—a usual, often agreeable, but by no means necessary precursor. It may therefore be altered or omitted at pleasure. I have at times exercised this right, and this is the third I have written for the present work.
In the first, after briefly stating what had given occasion to it, I gave the germs of the theory which I afterwards developed in the Tales and Popular Fictions. The second contained the following paragraph:—
"I never heard of any one who read it that was not pleased with it. It was translated into German as soon as it appeared, and was very favourably received. Goethe thought well of it. Dr. Jacob Grimm—perhaps the first authority on these matters in Europe—wrote me a letter commending it, and assuring me that even to him it offered something new; and I was one Christmas most agreeably surprised by the receipt of a letter from Vienna, from the celebrated orientalist, Jos Von Hammer, informing me that it had been the companion of a journey he had lately made to his native province of Styria, and had afforded much pleasure and information to himself and to some ladies of high rank and cultivated minds in that country. The initials at the end of the preface, he said, led him to suppose it was a work of mine. So far for the Continent. In this country, when I mention the name of Robert Southey as that of one who has more than once expressed his decided approbation of this performance, I am sure I shall have said quite enough to satisfy any one that the work is not devoid of merit."
I could now add many names of distinguished persons who have been pleased with this work and its pendent, the Tales and Popular Fictions. I shall only mention that of the late Mr. Douce, who, very shortly before his death, on the occasion of the publication of this last work, called on me to assure me that "it was many, many years indeed, since he had read a book which had yielded him so much delight."
The contents of the work which gave such pleasure to this learned antiquary are as follows:—
I. Introduction—Similarity of Arts and Customs—Similarity of Names—Origin of the Work—Imitation—Casual Coincidence—Milton—Dante.
II. The Thousand and One Nights—Bedoween Audience around a Story-teller—Cleomades and Claremond—Enchanted Horses—Peter of Provence and the fair Maguelone.
III. The Pleasant Nights—The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Beautiful Green Bird—The Three Little Birds—Lactantius—Ulysses and Sindbad.
IV. The Shâh-Nâmeh—Roostem and Soohrâb—Conloch and Cuchullin—Macpherson's Ossian—Irish Antiquities.
V. The Pentamerone—Tale of the Serpent—Hindoo Legend.
VI. Jack the Giant-killer—The Brave Tailoring—Thor's Journey to Utgard—Ameen of Isfahan and the Ghool—The Lion and the Goat—The Lion and the Ass.
VII. Whittington and his Cat—Danish Legends—Italian Stories—Persian Legend.
VIII. The Edda—Sigurd and Brynhilda—Völund—Helgi—Holger Danske—Ogier le Danois—Toko—William Tell.
IX. Peruonto—Peter the Fool—Emelyan the Fool—Conclusion. Appendix.
Never, I am convinced, did any one enter on a literary career with more reluctance than I did when I found it to be my only resource—fortune being gone, ill health and delicacy of constitution excluding me from the learned professions, want of interest from every thing else. As I journeyed to the metropolis, I might have sung with the page whom Don Quixote met going a-soldiering:
A la guerra me lleva—mi necesidad,Si tuviera dineros—no fuera en verdad
for of all arts and professions in this country, that of literature is the least respected and the worst remunerated. There is something actually degrading in the expression "an author by trade," which I have seen used even of Southey, and that by one who did not mean to disparage him in the slightest degree. My advice to those who may read these pages is to shun literature, if not already blest with competence.
One of my earliest literary friends in London was T. Crofton Croker, who was then engaged in collecting materials for the Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland. He of course applied to his friends for aid and information; and I, having most leisure, and, I may add, most knowledge, was able to give him the greatest amount of assistance. My inquiries on the subject led to the writing of the present work, which was succeeded by the Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy, and the Tales and Popular Fictions; so that, in effect, if Mr. Croker had not planned the Fairy Legends, these works, be their value what it may, would in all probability never have been written.
Writing and reading about Fairies some may deem to be the mark of a trifling turn of mind. On this subject I have given my ideas in the Conclusion; here I will only remind such critics, that as soon as this work was completed, I commenced, and wrote in the space of a few weeks, my Outlines of History; and whatever the faults of that work may be, no one has ever reckoned among them want of vigour in either thought or expression. It was also necessary, in order to write this work and its pendent, to be able to read, perhaps, as many as eighteen or twenty different languages, dialects, and modes of orthography, and to employ different styles both in prose and verse. At all events, even if it were trifling, dulce est desipere in loco; and I shall never forget the happy hours it caused me, especially those spent over the black-letter pages of the French romances of chivalry, in the old reading-room of the British Museum.
Many years have elapsed since this work was first published. In that period much new matter has appeared in various works, especially in the valuable Deutsche Mythologie of Dr. Grimm. Hence it will be found to be greatly enlarged, particularly in the sections of England and France. I have also inserted much which want of space obliged me to omit in the former edition. In its present form, I am presumptuous enough to expect that it may live for many years, and be an authority on the subject of popular lore. The active industry of the Grimms, of Thiele, and others, had collected the popular traditions of various countries. I came then and gathered in the harvest, leaving little, I apprehend, but gleanings for future writers on this subject. The legends will probably fade fast away from the popular memory; it is not likely that any one will relate those which I have given over again; and it therefore seems more probable that this volume may in future be reprinted, with notes and additions. For human nature will ever remain unchanged; the love of gain and of material enjoyments, omnipotent as it appears to be at present, will never totally extinguish the higher and purer aspirations of mind; and there will always be those, however limited in number, who will desire to know how the former dwellers of earth thought, felt, and acted. For these mythology, as connected with religion and history, will always have attractions.
Whatever errors have been discovered are corrected in this impression.
January, 1870. T. K.
In oldè dayès of the King Artoúr,Of which that Bretons spoken gret honoúr,All was this lond fulfilled of faërie;The elf-qrene with hir jolie companieDanced full oft in many a grenè mede.Chaucer.
According to a well-known law of our nature, effects suggest causes; and another law, perhaps equally general, impels us to ascribe to the actual and efficient cause the attribute of intelligence. The mind of the deepest philosopher is thus acted upon equally with that of the peasant or the savage; the only difference lies in the nature of the intelligent cause at which they respectively stop. The one pursues the chain of cause and effect, and traces out its various links till he arrives at the great intelligent cause of all, however he may designate him; the other, when unusual phenomena excite his attention, ascribes their production to the immediate agency of some of the inferior beings recognised by his legendary creed.
The action of this latter principle must forcibly strike the minds of those who disdain not to bestow a portion of their attention on the popular legends and traditions of different countries. Every extraordinary appearance is found to have its extraordinary cause assigned; a cause always connected with the history or religion, ancient or modern, of the country, and not unfrequently varying with a change of faith.
The noises and eruptions of Ætna and Stromboli were, in ancient times, ascribed to Typhon or Vulcan, and at this day the popular belief connects them with the infernal regions. The sounds resembling the clanking of chains, hammering of iron, and blowing of bellows, once to be heard in the island of Barrie, were made by the fiends whom Merlin had set to work to frame the wall of brass to surround Caermarthen. The marks which natural causes have impressed on the solid and unyielding granite rock were produced, according to the popular creed, by the contact of the hero, the saint, or the god: masses of stone, resembling domestic implements in form, were the toys, or the corresponding implements of the heroes and giants of old. Grecian imagination ascribed to the galaxy or milky way an origin in the teeming breast of the queen of heaven: marks appeared in the petals of flowers on the occasion of a youth's or a hero's untimely death: the rose derived its present hue from the blood of Venus, as she hurried barefoot through the woods and lawns; while the professors of Islâm, less fancifully, refer the origin of this flower to the moisture that exuded from the sacred person of their prophet. Under a purer form of religion, the cruciform stripes which mark the back and shoulders of the patient ass first appeared, according to the popular tradition, when the Son of God condescended to enter the Holy City, mounted on that animal; and a fish only to be found in the sea stills bears the impress of the finger and thumb of the apostle, who drew him out of the waters of Lake Tiberias to take the tribute-money that lay in his mouth. The repetition of the voice among the hills is, in Norway and Sweden, ascribed to the Dwarfs mocking the human speaker, while the more elegant fancy of Greece gave birth to Echo, a nymph who pined for love, and who still fondly repeats the accents that she hears. The magic scenery occasionally presented on the waters of the Straits of Messina is produced by the power of the Fata Morgana; the gossamers that float through the haze of an autumnal morning, are woven by the ingenious dwarfs; the verdant circlets in the mead are traced beneath the light steps of the dancing elves; and St. Cuthbert forges and fashions the beads that bear his name, and lie scattered along the shore of Lindisfarne.
In accordance with these laws, we find in most countries a popular belief in different classes of beings distinct from men, and from the higher orders of divinities. These beings are usually believed to inhabit, in the caverns of earth, or the depths of the waters, a region of their own. They generally excel mankind in power and in knowledge, and like them are subject to the inevitable laws of death, though after a more prolonged period of existence.
How these classes were first called into existence it is not easy to say; but if, as some assert, all the ancient systems of heathen religion were devised by philosophers for the instruction of rude tribes by appeals to their senses, we might suppose that the minds which peopled the skies with their thousands and tens of thousands of divinities gave birth also to the inhabitants of the field and flood, and that the numerous tales of their exploits and adventures are the production of poetic fiction or rude invention. It may further be observed, that not unfrequently a change of religious faith has invested with dark and malignant attributes beings once the objects of love, confidence, and veneration.
It is not our intention in the following pages to treat of the awful or lovely deities of Olympus, Valhalla, or Merû. Our subject is less aspiring; and we confine ourselves to those beings who are our fellow-inhabitants of earth, whose manners we aim to describe, and whose deeds we propose to record. We write of Fairies, Fays, Elves, aut alio quo nomine gaudent.
Like every other word in extensive use, whose derivation is not historically certain, the word Fairy has obtained various and opposite etymons. Meyric Casaubon, and those who like him deduce everything from a classic source, however unlikely, derive Fairy from Φηρ, a Homeric name of the Centaurs; or think that fée, whence Fairy, is the last syllable of nympha. Sir W. Ouseley derives it from the Hebrew פאר (peër), to adorn; Skinner, from the Anglo-Saxon aan, to fare, to go; others from Feres, companions, or think that Fairy-folk is quasi Fair-folk. Finally, it has been queried if it be not Celtic.
But no theory is so plausible, or is supported by such names, as that which deduces the English Fairy from the Persian Peri. It is said that the Paynim foe, whom the warriors of the Cross encountered in Palestine, spoke only Arabic; the alphabet of which language, it is well known, possesses no p, and therefore organically substitutes an f in such foreign words as contain the former letter; consequently Peri became, in the mouth of an Arab, Feri, whence the crusaders and pilgrims, who carried back to Europe the marvellous tales of Asia, introduced into the West the Arabo-Persian word Fairy. It is further added, that the Morgain or Morgana, so celebrated in old romance, is Merjan Peri, equally celebrated all over the East.
All that is wanting to this so very plausible theory is something like proof, and some slight agreement with the ordinary rules of etymology. Had Feërie, or Fairy, originally signified the individual in the French and English, the only languages in which the word occurs, we might feel disposed to acquiesce in it. But they do not: and even if they did, how should we deduce from them the Italian Fata, and the Spanish Fada or Hada, (words which unquestionably stand for the same imaginary being,) unless on the principle by which Menage must have deduced Lutin from Lemur—the first letter being the same in both? As to the fair Merjan Peri (D'Herbelot calls her Merjan Banou), we fancy a little too much importance has been attached to her. Her name, as far as we can learn, only occurs in the Cahermân Nâmeh, a Turkish romance, though perhaps translated from the Persian.
The foregoing etymologies, it is to be observed, are all the conjectures of English scholars; for the English is the only language in which the name of the individual, Fairy, has the canine letter to afford any foundation for them.
Leaving, then, these sports of fancy, we will discuss the true origin of the words used in the Romanic languages to express the being which we name Fairy of Romance. These are Faée, Fée, French; Fada, Provençal (whence Hada, Spanish); and Fata, Italian.
The root is evidently, we think, the Latin fatum. In the fourth century of our æra we find this word made plural, and even feminine, and used as the equivalent of Parcæ. On the reverse of a gold medal of the Emperor Diocletian are three female figures, with the legend Fatis victricibus; a cippus, found at Valencia in Spain, has on one of its sides Fatis Q. Fabius ex voto, and on the other, three female figures, with the attributes of the Mœræ or Parcæ. In this last place the gender is uncertain, but the figures would lead us to suppose it feminine. On the other hand, Ausonius has tres Charites, tria Fata; and Procopius names a building at the Roman Forum τα τρια φατα, adding ουτω γαρ ῥωμαιοι τας μοιρας νενομικασι καλειν. The Fatæ or Fata, then, being persons, and their name coinciding so exactly with the modern terms, and it being observed that the Mœræ were, at the birth of Meleager, just as the Fées were at that of Ogier le Danois, and other heroes of romance and tale, their identity has been at once asserted, and this is now, we believe, the most prevalent theory. To this it may be added, that in Gervase of Tilbury, and other writers of the thirteenth century, the Fada or Fée seems to be regarded as a being different from human kind.
On the other hand, in a passage presently to be quoted from a celebrated old romance, we shall meet a definition of the word Fée, which expressly asserts that such a being was nothing more than a woman skilled in magic; and such, on examination, we shall find to have been all the Fées of the romances of chivalry and of the popular tales; in effect, that fée is a participle, and the words dame or femme is to be understood.
In the middle ages there was in use a Latin verb, fatare, derived from fatum or fata, and signifying to enchant. This verb was adopted by the Italian, Provençal and Spanish languages; in French it became, according to the analogy of that tongue, faer, féer. Of this verb the past participle faé, fé; hence in the romances we continually meet with les chevaliers faés, les dames faées, Oberon la faé, le cheval étoit faé, la clef était fée, and such like. We have further, we think, demonstrated that it was the practice of the Latin language to elide accented syllables, especially in the past participle of verbs of the first conjugation, and that this practice had been transmitted to the Italian, whence fatato-a would form fato-a, and una donna fatata might thus become una fata. Whether the same was the case in the Provençal we cannot affirm, as our knowledge of that dialect is very slight; but, judging from analogy, we would say it was, for in Spanish Hadada and Hada are synonymous. In the Neapolitan Pentamerone Fata and Maga are the same, and a Fata sends the heroine of it to a sister of hers, pure fatata.
Ariosto says of Medea—
E perchè per virtù d' erbe e d'incantiDelle Fate una ed immortal fatta era.I Cinque Canti, ii. 106.
The same poet, however, elsewhere says—
Queste che or Fate e dagli antichi foroGià dette Ninfe e Dee con più bel nome.—Ibid. i. 9.
Nascemmo ad un punto che d'ogni altro maleSiamo capaci fuorchè della morte.—Orl. Fur. xliii. 48.
which last, however, is not decisive. Bojardo also calls the water-nymphs Fate; and our old translators of the Classics named them fairies. From all this can only, we apprehend, be collected, that the ideas of the Italian poets, and others, were somewhat vague on the subject.
From the verb faer, féer, to enchant, illude, the French made a substantive faerie, féerie, illusion, enchantment, the meaning of which was afterwards extended, particularly after it had been adopted into the English language.
We find the word Faerie, in fact, to be employed in four different senses, which we will now arrange and exemplify.
1. Illusion, enchantment.
Plusieurs parlent de Guenart,Du Loup, de l'Asne, de Renart,De faeries et de songes,De phantosmes et de mensonges.Gul. Giar. ap. Ducange.
Where we must observe, as Sir Walter Scott seems not to have been aware of it, that the four last substantives bear the same relation to each other as those in the two first verses do.
Me bifel a ferlyOf faërie, me thought.Vision of Piers Plowman, v. 11.
Maius that sit with so benigne a chere,Hire to behold it seemed faërie.Chaucer, Marchante's Tale.
It (the horse of brass) was of faërie, as the peple semed,Diversè folk diversëly han demed.—Squier's Tale.
The Emperor said on high,Certes it is a faërie,Or elles a vanité.—Emare.
With phantasme and faërie,Thus she bleredè his eye.—Libeaus Disconus.
The God of her has made an end,And fro this worldès faërieHath taken her into companie.—Gower, Constance.
Mr. Ritson professes not to understand the meaning of faerie in this last passage. Mr. Ritson should, as Sir Hugh Evans says, have 'prayed his pible petter;' where, among other things that might have been of service to him, he would have learned that 'man walketh in a vain shew,' that 'all is vanity,' and that 'the fashion of this world passeth away;' and then he would have found no difficulty in comprehending the pious language of 'moral Gower,' in his allusion to the transitory and deceptive vanities of the world.
2. From the sense of illusion simply, the transition was easy to that of the land of illusions, the abode of the Faés, who produced them; and Faerie next came to signify the country of the Fays. Analogy also was here aiding; for as a Nonnerie was a place inhabited by Nonnes, a Jewerie a place inhabited by Jews, so a Faerie was naturally a place inhabited by Fays. Its termination, too, corresponded with a usual one in the names of countries: Tartarie, for instance, and 'the regne of Feminie.'
Here beside an elfish knightHath taken my lord in fight,And hath him led with him awayInto the Faërie, sir, parmafay.—Sir Guy.
La puissance qu'il avoit sur toutes faeries du monde.Huon de Bordeaux.
En effect, s'il me falloit retourner en faerie, je ne sçauroye ou prendre mon chemin.—Ogier le Dannoys.
That Gawain with his oldè curtesie,Though he were come agen out of faërie.Squier's Tale.
He (Arthur) is a king y-crowned in Faërie,With sceptre and pall, and with his regaltyShallè resort, as lord and sovereigne,Out of Faerie, and reignè in Bretaine,And repair again the ouldè Roundè Table.Lydgate, Fall of Princes, bk. viii. c. 24.
3. From the country the appellation passed to the inhabitants in their collective capacity, and the Faerie now signified the people of Fairy-land.
Of the fourth kind of Spritis called the Phairie.K. James, Demonologie, 1. 3.
Full often time he, Pluto, and his queneProserpina, and alle hir faërie,Disporten hem, and maken melodieAbout that well.—Marchante's Tale.
The feasts that underground the Faërie did him make,And there how he enjoyed the Lady of the Lake.Drayton, Poly-Olb., Song IV.
4. Lastly, the word came to signify the individual denizen of Fairy-land, and was equally applied to the full-sized fairy knights and ladies of romance, and to the pygmy elves that haunt the woods and dells. At what precise period it got this its last, and subsequently most usual sense, we are unable to say positively; but it was probably posterior to Chaucer, in whom it never occurs, and certainly anterior to Spenser, to whom, however, it seems chiefly indebted for its future general currency. It was employed during the sixteenth century for the Fays of romance, and also, especially by translators, for the Elves, as corresponding to the Latin Nympha.
They believed that king Arthur was not dead, but carried awaie by the Fairies into some pleasant place, where he should remaine for a time, and then returne again and reign in as great authority as ever.
Hollingshed, bk. v. c. 14. Printed 1577.
Semicaper PanNunc tenet, at quodam tenuerunt tempore nymphæ.Ovid, Met. xiv. 520.
The halfe-goate Pan that howrePossessed it, but heretofore it was the Faries' bower. Golding, 1567.
Hæc nemora indigenæ fauni nymphæque tenebant,Gensque virum truncis et duro robore nata.Virgil, Æneis, viii. 314.
With nymphis and faunis apoun every side,Qwhilk Farefolkis or than Elfis clepen we.Gawin Dowglas.
The woods (quoth he) sometime both fauns and nymphs, and gods of ground,And Fairy-queens did keep, and under them a nation rough.Phaer, 1562.
Inter Hamadryadas celeberrima NonacrinasNaïas una fuit.—Ovid, Met. l. i. 690.
Of all the nymphes of Nonacris and Fairie ferre and neere,In beautie and in personage this ladie had no peere.Golding.
Pan ibi dum teneris jactat sua carmina nymphis.Ov. Ib. xi. 153.
There Pan among the Fairie-elves, that daunced round togither.Golding.
Solaque Naïadum celeri non nota Dianæ.—Ov. Ib. iv. 304.
Of all the water-fayries, she alonely was unknowneTo swift Diana.—Golding.
Nymphis latura coronas.—Ov. Ib. ix. 337.
Was to the fairies of the lake fresh garlands for to bear.Golding.
Thus we have endeavoured to trace out the origin, and mark the progress of the word Fairy, through its varying significations, and trust that the subject will now appear placed in a clear and intelligible light.
After the appearance of the Faerie Queene, all distinctions were confounded, the name and attributes of the real Fays or Fairies of romance were completely transferred to the little beings who, according to the popular belief, made 'the green sour ringlets whereof the ewe not bites.' The change thus operated by the poets established itself firmly among the people; a strong proof, if this idea be correct, of the power of the poetry of a nation in altering the phraseology of even the lowest classes of its society.
Shakspeare must be regarded as a principal agent in this revolution; yet even he uses Fairy once in the proper sense of Fay; a sense it seems to have nearly lost, till it was again brought into use by the translators of the French Contes des Fées in the last century.
To this great Fairy I'll commend thy acts.Antony and Cleopatra, act iv. sc. 8.
And Milton speaks
Of Faery damsels met in forests wideBy knights of Logres or of Lyones,Lancelot, or Pelleas, or Pellinore.
Yet he elsewhere mentions the
Faery elves,Whose midnight revels by a forest sideOr fountain some belated peasant sees.
Finally, Randolph, in his Amyntas, employs it, for perhaps the last time, in its second sense, Fairy-land:
I do thinkThere will be of Jocastus' brood in Fairy.Act i. sc. 3.
We must not here omit to mention that the Germans, along with the French romances, early adopted the name of the Fées. They called them Feen and Feinen. In the Tristram of Gottfried von Strazburg we are told that Duke Gylan had a syren-like little dog,
Dez wart dem Herzoge gesandt
'Twas sent unto the duke, pardé,
Uz Avalun, der Feinen land,
From Avalun, the Fays' countrie,
Von einer Gottinne.—V. 1673.
By a gentle goddess.
In the old German romance of Isotte and Blanscheflur, the hunter who sees Isotte asleep says, I doubt
Dez sie menschlich sei,
If she human be,
Sie ist schöner denn eine Feine,
She is fairer than a Fay.
Von Fleische noch von Beine
Of flesh or bone, I say,
Kunte nit gewerden
Never could have birth
So schönes auf der erden.
A thing so fair on earth.
Our subject naturally divides itself into two principal branches, corresponding to the different classes of beings to which the name Fairy has been applied. The first, beings of the human race, but endowed with powers beyond those usually allotted to men, whom we shall term Fays, or Fairies of romance. The second, those little beings of the popular creeds, whose descent we propose to trace from the cunning and ingenious Duergar or dwarfs of northern mythology, and whom we shall denominate Elves or popular Fairies.
It cannot be expected that our classifications should vie in accuracy and determinateness with those of natural science. The human imagination, of which these beings are the offspring, works not, at least that we can discover, like nature, by fixed and invariable laws; and it would be hard indeed to exact from the Fairy historian the rigid distinction of classes and orders which we expect from the botanist or chemist. The various species so run into and are confounded with one another; the actions and attributes of one kind are so frequently ascribed to another, that scarcely have we begun to erect our system, when we find the foundation crumbling under our feet. Indeed it could not well be otherwise, when we recollect that all these beings once formed parts of ancient and exploded systems of religion, and that it is chiefly in the traditions of the peasantry that their memorial has been preserved.
We will now proceed to consider the Fairies of romance; and as they are indebted, though not for their name, yet perhaps for some of their attributes, to the Peries of Persia, we will commence with that country. We will thence pursue our course through Arabia, till we arrive at the middle-age romance of Europe, and the gorgeous realms of Fairy-land; and thence, casting a glance at the Faerie Queene, advance to the mountains and forests of the North, there to trace the origin of the light-hearted, night-tripping elves.
All human beings must in beauty yield
To you; a Peri I have ne'er beheld.
The pure and simple religion of ancient Persia, originating, it is said, with a pastoral and hunting race among the lofty hills of Aderbijân, or, as others think, in the elevated plains of Bactria, in a region where light appears in all its splendour, took as its fundamental principle the opposition between light and darkness, and viewed that opposition as a conflict. Light was happiness; and the people of Irân, the land of light, were the favourites of Heaven; while those of Turân, the gloomy region beyond the mountains to the north, were its enemies. In the realms of supernal light sits enthroned Ormuzd, the first-born of beings; around him are the six Amshaspands, the twenty-eight Izeds, and the countless myriads of Ferohers. In the opposite kingdom of darkness Aherman is supreme, and his throne is encompassed by the six Arch-Deevs, and the numerous hosts of inferior Deevs. Between these rival powers ceaseless warfare prevails; but at the end the prince of darkness will be subdued, and peace and happiness prevail beneath the righteous sway of Ormuzd.
From this sublime system of religion probably arose the Peri- or Fairy-system of modern Persia; and thus what was once taught by sages, and believed by monarchs, has shared the fate of everything human, and has sunk from its pristine rank to become the material and the machinery of poets and romancers. The wars waged by the fanatical successors of the Prophet, in which literature was confounded with idolatry, have deprived us of the means of judging of this system in its perfect form; and in what has been written respecting the Peries and their country since Persia has received the law of Mohammed, the admixture of the tenets and ideas of Islam is evidently perceptible. If, however, Orientalists be right in their interpretation of the name of Artaxerxes' queen, Parisatis, as Pari-zadeh (Peri-born), the Peri must be coeval with the religion of Zoroaster.
The Peries and Deevs of the modern Persians answer to the good and evil Jinn of the Arabs, of whose origin and nature we shall presently give an account. The same Suleymans ruled over them as over the Jinn, and both alike were punished for disobedience. It is difficult to say which is the original; but when we recollect in how much higher a state of culture the Persians were than the Arabs, and how well this view accords with their ancient system of religion, we shall feel inclined to believe that the Arabs were the borrowers, and that by mingling with the Persian system ideas derived from the Jews, that one was formed by them which is now the common property of all Moslems.
In like manner we regard the mountains of Kâf, the abode alike of Jinn and of Peries and Deevs, as having belonged originally to Persian geography. The fullest account of it appears in the Persian romance of Hatim Taï, the hero of which often visited its regions. From this it would seem that this mountain-range was regarded as, like that of the ancient Greek cosmology, surrounding the flat circular earth like a ring, or rather like the bulwarks of a ship, outside of which flowed the ocean; while some Arab authorities make it to lie beyond, and to enclose the ocean as well as the earth. It is said to be composed of green chrysolite, the reflection of which gives its greenish tint to the sky. According to some, its height is two thousand English miles.
Jinnestân is the common appellation of the whole of this ideal region. Its respective empires were divided into many kingdoms, containing numerous provinces and cities. Thus in the Peri-realms we meet with the luxuriant province of Shad-u-kâm (Pleasure and Delight), with its magnificent capital Juherabâd (Jewel-city), whose two kings solicited the aid of Cahermân against the Deevs, and also the stately Amberabâd (Amber-city), and others equally splendid. The metropolis of the Deev-empire is named Ahermanabâd (Aherman's city); and imagination has lavished its stores in the description of the enchanted castle, palace, and gallery of the Deev monarch, Arzshenk.
The Deevs and Peries wage incessant war with each other. Like mankind, they are subject to death, but after a much longer period of existence; and, though far superior to man in power, they partake of his sentiments and passions.
We are told that when the Deevs in their wars make prisoners of the Peries, they shut them up in iron cages, and hang them from the tops of the highest trees, exposed to every gaze and to every chilling blast. Here their companions visit them, and bring them the choicest odours to feed on; for the ethereal Peri lives on perfume, which has moreover the property of repelling the cruel Deevs, whose malignant nature is impatient of fragrance.
When the Peries are unable to withstand their foes, they solicit the aid of some mortal hero. Enchanted arms and talismans enable him to cope with the gigantic Deevs, and he is conveyed to Jinnestân on the back of some strange and wonderful animal. His adventures in that country usually furnish a wide field for poetry and romance to expatiate in.
The most celebrated adventurer in Jinnestân was Tahmuras, surnamed Deev-bend (Deev-binder), one of the ancient kings of Persia. The Peries sent him a splendid embassy, and the Deevs, who dreaded him, despatched another. Tahmuras, in doubt how to act, consults the wonderful bird Seemurgh, who speaks all languages, and whose knowledge embraces futurity. She advises him to aid the Peries, warns him of the dangers he has to encounter, and discloses his proper line of action. She further offers to convey him to Jinnestân, and plucks some feathers from her breast, with which the Persian monarch adorns his helmet.
Mounted on the Seemurgh, and bracing on his arm the potent buckler of Jân-ibn-Jân, Tahmuras crosses the abyss impassable to unaided mortality. The vizier Imlân, who had headed the Deev embassy, deserting his original friends, had gone over to Tahmuras, and through the magic arts of the Deev, and his own daring valour, the Persian hero defeats the Deev-king Arzshenk. He next vanquishes a Deev still more fierce, named Demrush, who dwelt in a gloomy cavern, surrounded by piles of wealth plundered from the neighbouring realms of Persia and India. Here Tahmuras finds a fair captive, the Peri Merjân, whom Demrush had carried off, and whom her brothers, Dâl Peri and Milân Shâh Peri, had long sought in vain. He chains the Deev in the centre of the mountain, and at the suit of Merjân hastens to attack another powerful Deev named Houndkonz; but here, alas! fortune deserts him, and, maugre his talismans and enchanted arms, the gallant Tahmuras falls beneath his foe.
The great Deev-bend, or conqueror of Deevs, of the Shâh-Nâmeh is the illustrious Roostem. In the third of his Seven Tables or adventures, on his way to relieve the Shâh Ky-Caoos, whom the artifice of a Deev had led to Mazenderân, where he was in danger of perishing, he encounters in the dark of the night a Deev named Asdeev, who stole on him in a dragon's form as he slept. Twice the hero's steed, Reksh, awoke him, but each time the Deev vanished, and Roostem was near slaying his good steed for giving him a false alarm. The third time he saw the Deev and slew him after a fearful combat. He then pursued his way to the cleft in the mountain in which abode the great Deev Sefeed, or White Deev. The seventh Table brought him to where lay an army of the Deev Sefeed's Deevs, commanded by Arzshenk, whose head he struck off, and put his troops to flight. At length he reached the gloomy cavern of the Deev Sefeed himself, whom he found asleep, and scorning the advantage he awoke him, and after a terrific combat deprived him also of life.
Many years after, when Ky-Khosroo sat on the throne, a wild ass of huge size, his skin like the sun, and a black stripe along his back, appeared among the royal herds and destroyed the horses. It was supposed to be the Deev Akvân, who was known to haunt an adjacent spring. Roostem went in quest of him; on the fourth day he found him and cast his noose at him, but the Deev vanished. He re-appeared; the hero shot at him, but he became again invisible. Roostem then let Reksh graze, and laid him to sleep by the fount. As he slept, Akvân came and flew up into the air with him; and when he awoke, he gave him his choice of being let fall on the mountains or the sea. Roostem secretly chose the latter, and to obtain it he pretended to have heard that he who was drowned never entered paradise. Akvân thereupon let him fall into the sea, from which he escaped, and returning to the fount, he there met and slew the Deev. Roostem's last encounter with Deevs was with Akvân's son, Berkhyas, and his army, when he went to deliver Peshen from the dry well in which he was confined by Afrasiâb. He slew him and two-thirds of his troops. Berkhyas is described as being a mountain in size, his face black, his body covered with hair, his neck like that of a dragon, two boar's tusks from his mouth, his eyes wells of blood, his hair bristling like needles, his height 140 ells, his breadth 17, pigeons nestling in his snaky locks. Akvân had had a head like an elephant.
In the Hindoo-Persian Bahar Danush (Garden of Knowledge) of Ynâyet-ûllah, written in India a.d. 1650, we find the following tale of the Peries, which has a surprising resemblance to European legends hereafter to be noticed.
The son of a merchant in a city of Hindostan, having been driven from his father's house on account of his undutiful conduct, assumed the garb of a Kalenderee or wandering Derweesh, and left his native town. On the first day of his travels, being overcome with fatigue before he reached any place of rest, he went off the high road and sat down at the foot of a tree by a piece of water: while he sat there, he saw at sunset four doves alight from a tree on the edge of the pond, and resuming their natural form (for they were Peries) take off their clothes and amuse themselves by bathing in the water. He immediately advanced softly, took up their garments, without being seen, and concealed them in the hollow of a tree, behind which he placed himself. The Peries when they came out of the water and missed their clothes were distressed beyond measure. They ran about on all sides looking for them, but in vain. At length, finding the young man and judging that he had possessed himself of them, they implored him to restore them. He would only consent on one condition, which was that one of them should become his wife. The Peries asserted that such a union was impossible between them whose bodies were formed of fire and a mortal who was composed of clay and water; but he persisted, and selected the one which was the youngest and handsomest. They were at last obliged to consent, and having endeavoured to console their sister, who shed copious floods of tears at the idea of parting with them and spending her days with one of the sons of Adam; and having received their garments, they took leave of her and flew away.
The young merchant then led home his fair bride and clad her magnificently; but he took care to bury her Peri-raiment in a secret place, that she might not be able to leave him. He made every effort to gain her affections, and at length succeeded in his object "she placed her foot in the path of regard, and her head on the carpet of affection." She bore him children, and gradually began to take pleasure in the society of his female relatives and neighbours. All doubts of her affection now vanished from his mind, and he became assured of her love and attachment.
At the end of ten years the merchant became embarrassed in his circumstances, and he found it necessary to undertake a long voyage. He committed the Peri to the care of an aged matron in whom he had the greatest confidence, and to whom he revealed the secret of her real nature, and showed the spot where he had concealed her raiment. He then "placed the foot of departure in the stirrup of travel," and set out on his journey. The Peri was now overwhelmed with sorrow for his absence, or for some more secret cause, and continually uttered expressions of regret. The old woman sought to console her, assuring her that "the dark night of absence would soon come to an end, and the bright dawn of interview gleam from the horizon of divine bounty." One day when the Peri had bathed, and was drying her amber-scented tresses with a corner of her veil, the old woman burst out into expressions of admiration at her dazzling beauty. "Ah, nurse," replied she, "though you think my present charms great, yet had you seen me in my native raiment, you would have witnessed what beauty and grace the Divine Creator has bestowed upon Peries; for know that we are among the most finished portraits on the tablets of existence. If then thou desirest to behold the skill of the divine artist, and admire the wonders of creation, bring the robes which my husband has kept concealed, that I may wear them for an instant, and show thee my native beauty, the like of which no human eye, but my lord's, hath gazed upon."
The simple woman assented, and fetched the robes and presented them to the Peri. She put them on, and then, like a bird escaped from the cage, spread her wings, and, crying Farewell, soared to the sky and was seen no more. When the merchant returned from his voyage "and found no signs of the rose of enjoyment on the tree of hope, but the lamp of bliss extinguished in the chamber of felicity, he became as one Peri-stricken, a recluse in the cell of madness. Banished from the path of understanding, he remained lost to all the bounties of fortune and the useful purposes of life."
The Peri has been styled "the fairest creation of poetical imagination." No description can equal the beauty of the female Peri, and the highest compliment a Persian poet can pay a lady is to liken her to one of these lovely aerial beings. Thus Sâdee, in the lines prefixed to this section, declares that only the beauty of a Peri can be compared with that of the fair one he addresses; and more lately, Aboo Taleeb Khân says to Lady Elgin, as he is translated by M. von Hammer,
The sun, the moon, the Peries, and mankind,Compared with you, do far remain behind;For sun and moon have never form so mild,The Peries have, but roam in deserts wild.
Sir W. Ouseley is at a loss what to compare them to. They do not, he thinks, resemble the Angels, the Cherubim and Seraphim of the Hebrews, the Dæmons of the Platonists, or the Genii of the Romans; neither do they accord with the Houri of the Arabs. Still less do they agree with the Fairies of Shakspeare; for though fond of fragrance, and living on that sweet essential food, we never find them employed in
Killing cankers in the musk-rose buds,
To serve the fairy queenTo dew her orbs upon the green.
Neither is their stature ever represented so diminutive as to make key-holes pervious to their flight, or the bells of flowers their habitations. But Milton's sublime idea of a 'faery vision,' he thinks, corresponds more nearly with what the Persian poets have conceived of the Peries.
Their port was more than human, as they stood;I took it for a faery visionOf some gay creatures of the elementThat in the colours of the rainbow liveAnd play i' the plighted clouds. I was awestruck,And as I pass'd I worshipp'd.—Comus.
"I can venture to affirm," concludes Sir William gallantly, "that he will entertain a pretty just idea of a Persian Peri, who shall fix his eyes on the charms of a beloved and beautiful mistress."
If poetic imagination exhausted itself in portraying the beauty of the Peries, it was no less strenuous in heaping attributes of deformity on the Deevs. They may well vie in ugliness with the devils of our forefathers. "At Lahore, in the Mogul's palace," says William Finch, "are pictures of Dews, or Dives, intermixed in most ugly shapes, with long horns, staring eyes, shaggy hair, great fangs, ugly paws, long tails, with such horrible difformity and deformity, that I wonder the poor women are not frightened therewith."
Such then is the Peri-system of the Mohammedan Persians, in which the influence of Islâm is clearly perceptible, the very names of their fabled country and its kings being Arabic. Had we it as it was before the Arabs forced their law on Persia, we should doubtless find it more consistent in all its parts, more light, fanciful, and etherial.
The Prophet is the centre round which every thing connected with Arabia revolves. The period preceding his birth is regarded and designated as the times of ignorance, and our knowledge of the ancient Arabian mythology comprises little more than he has been pleased to transmit to us. The Arabs, however, appear at no period of their history to have been a people addicted to fanciful invention. Their minds are acute and logical, and their poetry is that of the heart rather than of the fancy. They dwell with fondness on the joys and pains of love, and with enthusiasm describe the courage and daring deeds of warriors, or in moving strains pour forth the plaintive elegy; but for the description of gorgeous palaces and fragrant gardens, or for the wonders of magic, they are indebted chiefly to their Persian neighbours.
What classes of beings the popular creed may have recognised before the establishment of Islâm we have no means of ascertaining. The Suspended Poems, and Antar, give us little or no information; we only know that the tales of Persia were current among them, and were listened to with such avidity as to rouse the indignation of the Prophet. We must, therefore, quit the tents of the Bedoween, and the valleys of 'Araby the Blest,' and accompany the khaleefehs to their magnificent capital on the Tigris, whence emanated all that has thrown such a halo of splendour around the genius and language of Arabia. It is in this seat of empire that we must look to meet with the origin of the marvels of Arabian literature.
Transplanted to a rich and fertile soil, the sons of the desert speedily abandoned their former simple mode of life; and the court of Bagdad equalled or surpassed in magnificence any thing that the East has ever witnessed. Genius, whatever its direction, was encouraged and rewarded, and the musician and the story-teller shared with the astronomer and historian the favour of the munificent khaleefehs. The tales which had amused the leisure of the Shahpoors and Yezdejirds were not disdained by the Haroons and Almansoors. The expert narrators altered them so as to accord with the new faith. And it was thus, probably, that the delightful Thousand and One Nights were gradually produced and modified.
As the Genii or Jinn are prominent actors in these tales, where they take the place of the Persian Peries and Deevs, we will here give some account of them.
According to Arabian writers, there is a species of beings named Jinn or Jân (Jinnee m., Jinniyeh f. sing.), which were created and occupied the earth several thousand years before Adam. A tradition from the Prophet says that they were formed of "smokeless fire," i.e. the fire of the wind Simoom. They were governed by a succession of forty, or, as others say, seventy-two monarchs, named Suleyman, the last of whom, called Jân-ibn-Jân, built the Pyramids of Egypt. Prophets were sent from time to time to instruct and admonish them; but on their continued disobedience, an army of angels appeared, who drove them from the earth to the regions of the islands, making many prisoners, and slaughtering many more. Among the prisoners, was a young Jinnee, named 'Azâzeel, or El-Hârith (afterwards called Iblees, from his despair), who grew up among the angels, and became at last their chief. When Adam was created, God commanded the angels to worship him; and they all obeyed except Iblees, who, for his disobedience, was turned into a Sheytân or Devil, and he became the father of the Sheytâns.
The Jinn are not immortal; they are to survive mankind, but to die before the general resurrection. Even at present many of them are slain by other Jinn, or by men; but chiefly by shooting-stars hurled at them from Heaven. The fire of which they were created, circulates in their veins instead of blood, and when they receive a mortal wound, it bursts forth and consumes them to ashes. They eat and drink, and propagate their species. Sometimes they unite with human beings, and the offspring partakes of the nature of both parents. Some of the Jinn are obedient to the will of God, and believers in the Prophet, answering to the Peries of the Persians; others are like the Deevs, disobedient and malignant. Both kinds are divided into communities, and ruled over by princes. They have the power to make themselves visible and invisible at pleasure. They can assume the form of various animals, especially those of serpents, cats, and dogs. When they appear in the human form, that of the good Jinnee is usually of great beauty; that of the evil one, of hideous deformity, and sometimes of gigantic size.
When the Zôba'ah, a whirlwind that raises the sand in the form of a pillar of tremendous height, is seen sweeping over the desert, the Arabs, who believe it to be caused by the flight of an evil Jinnee, cry, Iron! Iron! (Hadeed! Hadeed!) or Iron! thou unlucky one! (Hadeed! yâ meshoom!) of which metal the Jinn are believed to have a great dread. Or else they cry, God is most great! (Allâhu akbar!) They do the same when they see a water-spout at sea; for they assign the same cause to its origin.
The chief abode of the Jinn of both kinds is the Mountains of Kâf, already described. But they also are dispersed through the earth, and they occasionally take up their residence in baths, wells, latrinæ, ovens, and ruined houses. They also frequent the sea and rivers, cross-roads, and market-places. They ascend at times to the confines of the lowest heaven, and by listening there to the conversation of the angels, they obtain some knowledge of futurity, which they impart to those men who, by means of talismans or magic arts, have been able to reduce them to obedience.
The following are anecdotes of the Jinn, given by historians of eminence.
It is related, says El-Kasweenee, by a certain narrator of traditions, that he descended into a valley with his sheep, and a wolf carried off a ewe from among them; and he arose and raised his voice, and cried, "O inhabitant of the valley!" whereupon he heard a voice saying, "O wolf, restore him his sheep!" and the wolf came with the ewe and left her, and departed.
Ben Shohnah relates, that in the year 456 of the Hejra, in the reign of Kaiem, the twenty-sixth khaleefeh of the house of Abbas, a report was raised in Bagdad, which immediately spread throughout the whole province of Irak, that some Turks being out hunting saw in the desert a black tent, beneath which there was a number of people of both sexes, who were beating their cheeks, and uttering loud cries, as is the custom in the East when any one is dead. Amidst their cries they heard these words—The great king of the Jinn is dead, woe to this country! and then there came out a great troop of women, followed by a number of other rabble, who proceeded to a neighbouring cemetery, still beating themselves in token of grief and mourning.