Many folk-lorists declare that this was not the parent story of " Cinderella," but only a civilised branch of an ancient Nature myth in which Cinderella is the dawn, chased by the king - the sun, and the ugly stepsisters are the jealous clouds that try to mar her beauty. However that may be, Zulu, South American, Finnish, and many other mothers tell their babies this story; and Geoffrey of Monmouth, who was as fond of fairy stories as most early chroniclers, tells the story of "Cap o' Rushes," another variation.
"Catskin" is a branch story of Cinderella; the Germans call it "Allerlei Rauch" (All Kinds of Smoke) and the French "Le Peau d'ane." The ancient Neapolitan collection of fairy stories, the "Pentamerone," contains it under the name "Cenerentola," and Germans give "Cinderella" the pretty name of "Aschenputtel." French people declare that the shoe was of fur, not glass, for M. Perrault in his collection of tales speaks of "le pantoufle en vair," not "en verre."
Tales of dwarfs probably originated in the northern countries of the world, for dwarfs were once quite common. Nearly all the Courts of the early kings of Europe contained a number of dwarfs used as playthings in the way, later, the Court jester was employed. " Tom Thumb ". was a dwarf brought from the North to King Arthur's Court. We can be sure he was very much larger than a thumb, but with constant repetitions through the years his smallness has become considerably exaggerated.
Animals have always held a place of honour in fairy stories; with the exception of the wolf in " Red Riding-hood," every animal is a power for good, not evil. M. Perrault has given us the intrepid " Puss in Boots" and ' Little Red Riding-hood," two of our most loved stories. The gruesome story of " Blue Beard " is another he rescued from possible oblivion.
Stories of sacrifice, where parents mercilessly slaughter their offspring, date from the time when the gods could only be appeased by the murder of the most cherished members of a family or nation. The tragic story of the "Rose Tree," in which the bird sings to his little human sister :
My mother killed me, My father picked my bones, My little sister buried me Under the marble stones is one of this kind. Among its many variations are "The Singing Bone," well known in Germany - and in England through Grimm - and "Binnorie," a household tale in some parts of Scotland.
One of the few stories to which an author can be assigned is the sweet tale of the kindly ' Three Bears." This was written by Robert Southey, the Poet Laureate [who lives now by his great prose work," The Life of Nelson,"] for one of the little children he loved so fondly.
One of the most curious stories which seems to have a probable date is "Childe Rowland." As the Brothers Grimm do not tell it, it is not so well known as many others. Shakespeare makes Edgar say in " King Lear " :
Childe Rowland to the dark tower came, His word was still - Fie, foh, fum, I smell the blood of a British man, so we may believe it was a popular story at that period. In this story the hero sets out to seek his sister and is given directions to travel " till you come to a round green hill surrounded with terraced rings from bottom to top." He is to climb the mound and then go down a long, " dark tower that has no doors or windows," and presently he will find himself in an open hall. This description exactly agrees with some dwellings of prehistoric man which still remain in a good state of preservation in Peebleshire and the Orkneys.
In Peebleshire cave homes have been found dug out in terraces on the side of green hills, and in the Orkneys there are underground dwellings which suit the description of the " dark tower."
The story, for some reason, became popular, and was handed on in its original form through people who gradually became more and more civilised. Additions can be plainly seen - the " good brand that never struck in vain " must have been of metal, and we can believe this was the contribution of some romantic person of a later period in the Iron Age; the word "Childe" in feudal times signified the heir of some noble house, so this period must also have contributed to the original primitive story.
Cumulative stories, where trouble is added to trouble, like "The Old Woman and Her Pig," are probably English in origin, for they are found with many variations in almost every county - the historic story of Scotland is " The Wife and Her Bush of Berries."
Our Northmen ancestors must have brought with them some of their household stories, and it is believed that the much beloved one of Jack the Giant-killer has this origin. Sir Walter Scott, who took a keen interest in these household stories, says: Jack, commonly called the Giant Killer, and Tom Thumb landed in England from the very same keels and warships which conveyed Hengist and Horsa and Ebba the Saxon, 112." The oldest version of "Jack" begins: "In the days of King Arthur, who ruled in Cornwall," but as King Arthur was probably a mythical person, or many mythical persons, this gives no historical date. The beautiful story of the " Sleeping Beauty " appears to be derived from a Norwegian saga. "The Golden Bird," "The Three Heads in the Well," " The Frog Prince," and " The Goose Girl " are all very old stories, which modern writers have embellished and put into many attractive forms.
It is very good to know that the production of fairy stories still goes on. Lewis Carroll's " Alice in Wonderland " and " Alice through the Looking-glass" have been added to the masterpieces of English fairy literature, and Rudyard Kipling in his "Just So Stories" has given the world many delightful fantasies, of which " The Cat that Walked by Himself " is a brilliant illustration.