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Household Stories

IN this class is properly comprised those fictions which, with some variations, are told at the domestic gatherings of Celts, Teutons, and Slavonians, and are more distinguished by a succession of wild and wonderful adventures than a carefully-constructed framework. A dramatic piece exhibiting reflection, and judgment, and keen perception of character, but few incidents or surprises, may interest an individual who peruses it by his fireside, or as he saunters along a sunny river bank; but let him be one of an audience witnessing its performance, and he becomes sensible of an' uncomfortable change. Presence in a crowd produces an uneasy state of expectation, which requires something startling or sensational to satisfy it. Thus it was with the hearth-audiences. It needed but few experiments to put the first story-tellers on the most effective way of amusing and interesting the groups gathered round the blaze, who for the moment felt their mission to consist in being agreeably excited, not in applying canons of criticism.

The preservation of these tales by unlettered people from a period anterior to the going forth of Celt or Teuton or Slave from the neighbourhood of the Caspian Sea is hard to be accounted for. The number of good Scealuidhes dispersed through the country parts is but small compared to the mass of the people, and hundreds may be found who recollect the succession of events and the personages of a tale while utterly incapable of relating it.

In remote neighbourhoods, where the people have scarcely any communication with towns or cities, or access to books, stories will be heard identical with those told in the Brothers Grimm's German collection, or among the Norse tales gathered by MM. Asbjornsen and Moë. We cannot for a moment imagine an Irishman of former days speaking English or his native tongue communicating these household stories to Swede or German who could not understand him, or suppose the old dweller in Deutschland doing the good office for the Irishman. The ancestors both of Celt and Teuton brought the simple and wonderful narratives from the parent ancestral household in Central Asia, In consideration of the preference generally given by young students to stirring action rather than dry disquisition, we omit much we had to say on the earliest forms of fiction, and introduce a story known in substance to every Gothic and Celtic people in Europe. It is given in the jaunty style in which we first heard it from Garrett (Gerald) Forrestal of Bantry, in Wexford.

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