Sacred Texts  Legends/Sagas  Roma  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, [1899], at

Theory as to Gypsy Folk-tales.

So there the folklorists have all that is essential--or rather all that I can give of the essential--for the right understanding of the following seventy-six folk-tales. And there I should have been quite content to leave them, did I not wish to disavow the theory imputed to me mistakenly by my friend, Mr. Joseph Jacobs. In his More English Fairy Tales (1894), p. 232, he speaks of 'Mr. Hindes Groome's contention (in Transactions Folk-Lore Congress) for the diffusion of all folk-tales by means of Gypsies as colporteurs.' The paper I read before the Folklore Congress of 1891 was not on folk-tales at all, but on English popular superstitions; I certainly never contended that their diffusion was solely due to the Gypsies. Whilst as to Gypsy folk-tales, the first thing I ever wrote about them was forty-three lines in the Encyclopædia Britannica (vol. x. 1879, p. 615), which, with but forty stories to go by, concluded: 'At present our information is far too scanty to warrant any definite conclusion; but, could it once he shown that the Asiatic possess the same stories as the European Gypsies, it might be necessary to admit that Europe owes a portion of its folklore to the Gypsies.' And the last thing I wrote on the subject was twenty-seven lines in Chambers's Encyclopædia (vol. v. 1892, p. 489), and they wound up:--'According to Benfey, Reinhold Köhler, Ralston, Cosquin, Clouston, and other folklorists, most of the popular stories of Europe are traceable to Indian sources. But how? by what channels? One channel, perhaps, was the Gypsies.'

That seven years ago was my theory, if it may be dignified with so high-sounding a title; and that is my theory still. And it seems to me even now, that, though now we possess 160 Gypsy folk-tales,

p. lxiv

our store is still far too scanty to warrant any definite conclusion. We want the unpublished materials of Paspati and Kopernicki; we want Dr. von Sowa and Mr. Sampson to complete their collections; and we want, too, the Gypsy folk-tales, if such there be, of Spain, Portugal, Brazil, the Basque Country, Italy, Alsace, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia, and Greece--above all, of Africa and Asia. 1 If a word like páni, water, is found in every Gypsy dialect from Persia to South America, from Finland to Egypt, one reasonably regards it as a true Rómani word, as one that the Gypsies have brought from their eastern home. Similarly, if a folk-tale could be shown to have an equally wide distribution among the Gypsies, we might reasonably believe that the Gypsies had brought it with them. But at present we know of no such wide distribution.


lxiv:1 Kounavine apart, we have but one hint of story-telling by Gypsies in Asia. In Blackwood's for March 1891, pp. 388-9, the late Mr. Theodore Bent had an article on an archæological tour in 'Cilicia Aspera,' a district lying on the southern slopes of the Taurus Mountains, in which was this passage: 'Periodically a travelling tinker comes among them [the mountain tribes], the great newsmonger of the mountain. He chooses a central spot to pitch his tent, and the most wonderful collection of decrepit copper utensils is soon brought from the neighbouring tents and piled around. He usually brings with him a young assistant to look after the mule and blow the bellows; and with nitre heated at his fire he mends the damaged articles, gossiping the while, and filling the minds of the simple Yourouks who stand around with wonderful tales, not always within the bounds of veracity. When his work is done, he removes to another central point, and after he has amassed as many fees as his mule can carry, for they usually pay in cheese and butter, he returns to his town, and realises a handsome profit.' I have not seen a small work on the Yourouks by M. Tsakyroglou (Athens, 1891), giving their popular songs, etc.

Next: Gypsy variants