Book: Tom Tit Tot, An Essay on Savage Philosophy in Folk-Tale
Author: Edward Clodd





Tom Tit Tot, An Essay on Savage Philosophy in Folk-Tale By Edward Clodd

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 118
Publication Date: 1898

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Summary:

From the Preface: 'THE sentence from Montaigne, which faces the title-page of this little book, indicates its scope and purpose. It is based upon studies in the philosophy of folk-tales, in the course of which a large number of examples of curious beliefs and customs bearing on the main incident in certain groups have been collected. Some of these are now 'shuffled up together' round an old Suffolk tale, whose vivacity and humour secure it the first place among the 'Rumpelstiltskin' variants with which it is classed.'



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Excerpt:

THERE would be only profitless monotony in printing the full texts, or even in giving abstracts, of the numerous variants of this story which have been collected. A list of these, with such comment as may perchance be useful to a special class of readers, is supplied in the Appendix. Here it suffices to remark that in all of them the plot centres round the discovery of the name of the maleficent actor in the little drama, and to give a summary of a few of the most widely spread stories in which, as might be expected, a certain variety of incident occurs. These are chosen from Scotland, Tyrol, the Basque provinces, and the Far East, the variants from this last containing the fundamental idea in an entirely different plot. To these follow a Welsh variant in which our joy at the defeat of the demon or witch in most of the stories is changed into sorrow for the fairy.

The Scotch 'Whuppity Stoorie' tells of a man who 'gaed to a fair ae day,' and was never more heard of. His widow was left with a 'sookin' lad bairn,' and a sow that 'was soon to farra.' Going to the sty one day, she saw, to her distress, the sow ready 'to gi'e up the ghost,' and as she sat down with her bairn and 'grat sairer than ever she did for the loss o' her am goodman,' there came an old woman dressed in green, who asked what she would give her for curing the sow. Then they 'watted thooms' on the bargain, by which the woman promised to give the green fairy anything she liked, and the sow was thereupon made well. To the mother's dismay the fairy then said that she would have the bairn. 'But, said she, 'this I'll let ye to wut, I canna by the law we leeve on take your bairn till the third day after this day; and no' then, if ye can tell me my right name.' For two days the poor woman wandered, 'cuddlin' her bairn,' when, as she came near an old quarry-hole, she heard the 'burring of a lint-wheel, and a voice lilting a song,' and then saw the green fairy at her wheel, 'singing like ony precentor '--

'Little kens our guid dame at hame

That Whuppity Stoorie is my name.'

Speeding home glad-hearted, she awaited the fairy's coming; and, being a 'jokus woman,' pulled a long face, begging that the bairn might be spared and the sow taken, and when this was spurned, offering herself. 'The deil 's in the daft jad,' quo' the fairy, 'wha in a' the earthly wand wad ever meddle wi' the likes o' thee?' Then the woman threw off her mask of grief, and, making 'a curchie down to the ground,' quo' she, 'I might hae had the wit to ken that the likes o' me is na fit to tie the warst shoe-strings o' the heich and mighty princess, Whuppity Stoorie.' 'Gin a fluff o' gunpouder had come out o' the grund, it couldna hae gart the fairy loup heicher nor she did; syne doun she came again, dump on her shoe-heels, and, whurlin' round, she ran down the brae, scraichin' for rage, like a houlet chased wi' the witches.'

In the Tyrolese story, a count, while hunting in a forest, is suddenly confronted by a dwarf with fiery red eyes and a beard down to his knees, who rolls his eyes in fury, and tells the count that he must pay for trespassing on the mannikin's territory either with his life or the surrender of his wife. The count pleads for pardon, and the dwarf so far modifies his terms as to agree that if within a month the countess cannot find out his name, she is to be his. Then, escorting the count to the forest bounds where stood an ancient fir-tree, it is bargained that the dwarf will there await the countess, who shall have three guesses three times, nine in all. The month expires, and she then repairs to the rendezvous to make her first round of guesses, giving the names, 'Janne,' 'Fichte,' and 'Fohre.' The dwarf shrieks with merriment over her failure, and when she returns to the castle she enters the chapel and offers earnest prayers for help in guessing the right name. But the next day, when she gives the names 'Hafer,' 'Pleuten,' and 'Turken,' repeats the failure, and calls forth the dwarf's unholy glee. When she comes to the tree on the third day, he is not there. So she wandered from the spot till she reached a lovely valley, and, seeing a tiny house, went on tiptoe, and peeping in at the window heard the dwarf singing his name in a verse as he hopped gaily on the hearth. The countess hurries back to the tree in high spirits, and when the dwarf appears she artfully withholds the secret she has learned till the last chance is hers. 'Pur,' she guesses, and the dwarf chortles; 'Ziege,'t then he bounds in the air; 'Purzinigele,' she shouts derisively, and then the dwarf rolling his red eyes in rage, doubles his fist, and disappears for ever in the darkness.

In Basque folk-tale, a mother is beating her lazy girl, when the lord of a castle hard by, who is passing at the time, asks what all the pother is about, and is told that the girl's beauty makes her saucy and indolent. Then follow the usual incidents, with the exception that a witch, instead of a demon, comes to aid the girl, to whom the lord then offers marriage if she can get a certain amount of work done within a given time, the witch's bargain being that the girl must remember her name, Marie Kirikitoun, a year and a day hence. The wedding takes place, and as the year end draws near, sadness falls on the bride, despite the holding of grand festivals to gladden her spirits. For she had forgotten the witch's name. At one of the feastings an old woman knocks at the door, and when a servant tells her that all the high jinks are kept up to make her mistress cheerful, the beldame says that if the lady had seen what she had seen, her laughter would run free enough. So the servant bids her come in, and then she tells how she had seen an old witch leaping and bounding from one ditch to another, and singing all the time, 'Houpa, houpa, Marie Kirikitoun, nobody will remember my name.' Whereupon the bride became merry-hearted, rewarded the old woman, and told the enraged witch her name when she came for fulfilment of the bargain.