THE Brothers Grimm, in their universally popular collection of legends and tales drawn from all parts of Europe, appeared to doubt the existence of a national fairy literature in Spain. This the lady who wrote under the name of “Fernan Caballero” could not but deem a reproach upon her country, and to remove it, proceeded to collect and publish such legendary tales as were within her reach. The chief portion of her collection was gathered in Andalusia, where the greater part of her life was spent, and to some extent may, therefore, be regarded as provincial; in order, therefore, to give a greater variety to this collection, two of De Trueba’s “Popular Stories” have been added. But the two volumes of popular tales collected and edited by “Fernan Caballero,” although not unjustly designated “Spanish,” must not be all considered as indigenous to the Iberian peninsula; some, such as The Three Wishes, The Fairy Friar, etc., being common to many nations, whilst others, which the reader will recognise, are evidently transplanted from a foreign soil. Whatever their parentage, however, the tales which form the present collection have been so thoroughly naturalized that they may now be fairly deemed typical Spanish, and this fact has increased the difficulty of rendering them into English. In the first place, in Spain, as a French writer has already pointed out, Catholicism permeates everything, even the very flesh and blood of the people, and this all pervading spirit causes the folk to introduce into their common lore in a most familiar and, what to the people of this country would appear an irreverent manner, the most sacred names and subjects; another, and in some cases, insurmountable, difficulty the translator has had to contend with in fitting these tales for the perusal of young English readers, is the remarkable way in which equivocal themes are treated in the original, and that in stories avowedly “Infantile.” Again, in many instances, it has been found impossible to discover English equivalents to express the humour of provincial idioms or proverbs, or with which to reproduce with proper pungency that seasoning of sal Andaluz some of the pieces in Caballero’s collection possess; hence the loss of local colouring which no quantity of foot-notes would have supplied.
But after all, the class of readers to whom this volume is chiefly addressed may not detect the deficiencies these difficulties have caused; and if our young friends are satisfied with the work, our labour need not be considered lost nor misapplied.
J. H. I.