THE chief object of this volume is to exhibit, in a manner acceptable to readers who are not specialists, the application of the principles and methods which guide investigations into popular traditions to a few of the most remarkable stories embodying the Fairy superstitions of the Celtic and Teutonic peoples. Some of the subjects discussed have already been dealt with by more competent inquirers. But even in these cases I have sometimes been able to supply additional illustrations of the conclusions previously arrived at, and occasionally, I hope, to carry the argument a step or two further than had been done before. I have thus tried to rend the following pages not wholly valueless to students.
A portion of the book incorporates the substance of some articles which I contributed to "The Archaeological Review " and "Folk-Lore." But these have been to a considerable extent re-written; and it is hoped that in the process wider and more accurate generalizations have been attained.
My hearty thanks are due to the various friends whose generous assistance has been recorded in the footnotes, and especially to Professor Dr. George Stephens, the veteran antiquary of the North, and Mr. W. G. Fretton, who have not measured their pains on behalf of one whose only claim on them was a common desire to pry into the recesses of the past. I am under still deeper obligations to Mr. G. L. Gomme, F.S.A., who has so readily acceded to my request that he would read the proof-sheets, and whose suggestions have repeatedly been of the greatest value; and to Mr. Havelock Ellis for the counsel and suggestions which his experience has more than once enabled him to give as the book was passing through the press.
I have been anxious to enable the reader who cares to do so to verify every statement made; but some of them no doubt have escaped reference. Many books are cited again and again, and in similar cases the reader's time is frequently wasted in searching for the first mention of a book, so as to ascertain its title and other particulars. To avoid the trouble I have so many times experienced in this way, I have put together in an Appendix a list of the principal authorities made use of, indicating them by the short title by which they are cited in the footnotes, and giving sufficient bibliographical details to enable them to be identified. Classics and works which are in every one's hands I have not thought it necessary to include in the list.
BARNWOOD COURT, GLOUCESTER,
24th October, 1890.