Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, , at sacred-texts.com
I have told English Gypsies Grimm's tale of 'The Hare and the Hedgehog,' and they always pronounce that it must be a Rómani story ('Who else would have gone for to make up a tale about hedgehogs?') 1 But the question whether in many non-Gypsy collections there are not a number of folk-tales that present strong internal evidence of their Gypsy origin is a difficult question; it would take us too far afield, and could lead to no really definite results. Still, I must say a word or two. In Hahn's fine variant (ii. 267) of our 'Mare's Son' from the island of Syra a vizier travels from town to town, seeking a lad as handsome as the prince. At last he is passing through a Gypsy quarter, 2 when he hears a boy singing: 'his voice was beautiful as any nightingale's.' He looks through a door, and sees a boy, who is every whit as handsome as the prince, so he purchases this boy, and the boy plays a leading part in the story. The abject contempt in which Gypsies are held throughout the whole of south-eastern Europe renders it probable that none but a Gypsy would thus have described a member of the race. The story, too, from its opening clause, a greeting to the 'goodly company,' would seem to have, been told by
a professional story-teller--a kinsman, possibly, of Léon Zafiri. Krauss's Croatian story (No. 98) of 'The Gypsy and the Nine Franciscans' is just 'Les Trois Bossus' of the trouvère Durant (Liebrecht's Dunlop, p. 209); yet it has, to my thinking, a thoroughly Rómani ring. In Campbell's Gaelic story of 'The Young King of Easaidh Ruadh' (No. 1) the hero's young wife is carried off by a giant, and, following their track, he comes thrice on the site of a fire. If I were telling that story to Gypsies, I should say, not site of a fire, but fireplace: I fancy I can hear the Gypsies' exclamations--'Dere! my blessed! following de fireplaces. Course he'd know den which way de giant had gone.' I could cite a good score of similar instances; but I will content myself with this footnote from Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (ed. 1873, iv. 102):--'Besides the prophetic powers ascribed to the Gypsies in most European countries, the Scottish peasants believe them possessed of the power of throwing upon bystanders a spell, and causing them to see the thing that is not. . . . The receipt to prevent the operation of these deceptions was to use a sprig of four-leaved clover. I remember to have heard (certainly very long ago, for at that time I believed the legend), that a Gypsy exercised his glamour over a number of persons at Haddington, to whom he exhibited a common dunghill cock, trailing what appeared to the spectators a massy oaken trunk. An old man passed with a cart of clover; he stopped, and picked out a four-leaved blade; the eyes of the spectators were opened,--and the oaken trunk appeared to be a bulrush.' But that is just Grimm's No. 149, 'The Beam': what folklorist has ever associated 'The Beam' with the Gypsies?
lxxxi:1 For an excursus, of true German erudition, on Gypsies and hedgehogs, see R. Pischel's Beiträge zur Kenntniss der deutschen Zigeuner (Halle, 1894, pp. 26-30). He shows that hedgehogs are a Gypsy delicacy from Wales to Odessa, and that the Gypsies probably brought the taste from the foothills of the Himalayas, where hedgehogs are plentiful.
lxxxi:2 'Γυφτικά' says Hahn in a footnote. 'The sedentary Gypsies as a rule are smiths, therefore Gypsy and Locksmith are synonymous in the towns,'