The Violet Fairy Book
The Editor takes this opportunity to repeat what he has often said before, that he is not the
author of the stories in the Fairy Books; that he did not invent them 'out of his own head.'
He is accustomed to being asked, by ladies, 'Have you written anything else except the
Fairy Books?' He is then obliged to explain that he has NOT written the Fairy Books, but,
save these, has written almost everything else, except hymns, sermons, and dramatic
The stories in this Violet Fairy Book, as in all the others of the series, have been
translated out of the popular traditional tales in a number of different languages. These
stories are as old as anything that men have invented. They are narrated by naked savage
women to naked savage children. They have been inherited by our earliest civilised
ancestors, who really believed that beasts and trees and stones can talk if they choose,
and behave kindly or unkindly. The stories are full of the oldest ideas of ages when
science did not exist, and magic took the place of science. Anybody who has the curiosity
to read the 'Legendary Australian Tales,' which Mrs. Langloh Parker has collected from
the lips of the Australian savages, will find that these tales are closely akin to our own.
Who were the first authors of them nobody knows--probably the first men and women.
Eve may have told these tales to amuse Cain and Abel. As people grew more civilised
and had kings and queens, princes and princesses, these exalted persons generally were
chosen as heroes and heroines. But originally the characters were just 'a man,' and 'a
woman,' and 'a boy,' and 'a girl,' with crowds of beasts, birds, and fishes, all behaving like
human beings. When the nobles and other people became rich and educated, they forgot
the old stories, but the country people did not, and handed them down, with changes at
pleasure, from generation to generation. Then learned men collected and printed the
country people's stories, and these we have translated, to amuse children. Their tastes
remain like the tastes of their naked ancestors, thousands of years ago, and they seem to
like fairy tales better than history, poetry, geography, or arithmetic, just as grown-up
people like novels better than anything else.
This is the whole truth of the matter. I have said so before, and I say so again. But
nothing will prevent children from thinking that I invented the stories, or some ladies
from being of the same opinion. But who really invented the stories nobody knows; it is
all so long ago, long before reading and writing were invented. The first of the stories
actually written down, were written in Egyptian hieroglyphs, or on Babylonian cakes of
clay, three or four thousand years before our time.
Of the stories in this book, Miss Blackley translated 'Dwarf Long Nose,' 'The Wonderful
Beggars,' 'The Lute Player,' 'Two in a Sack,' and 'The Fish that swam in the Air.' Mr. W.
A. Craigie translated from the Scandinavian, 'Jasper who herded the Hares.' Mrs. Lang
did the rest.
Some of the most interesting are from the Roumanion, and three were previously
published in the late Dr. Steere's 'Swahili Tales.' By the permission of his representatives
these three African stories have here been abridged and simplified for children.