Native Fairy Tales of South Africa | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in August 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.


ONCE upon a time we all dwelt in Fairyland. But, in most cases, it was only "in our infancy" that "heaven lay about us." As we grew up we gradually became practical men and women, happily or unhappily devoid of illusions, with sufficient common sense to appreciate that alone which is popularly regarded as real and substantial and tangible: in a word, the things that pay.

                Yet, now and then, we cannot suppress the yearning within us that our flesh might become again as the flesh of a little child, and thus we might once more be enabled to dream dreams and to see visions of those ineffable things wherein is wholly the life of the spirit. And in confident anticipation of a self-transfigurement, toward which we "cast glad, afar-off eyes," we are invariably beguiled by some magician's wand to return for a while to the realm of romance, where we may play as the little boys and girls we used to be. There we shall gather the constantly renewed flowers of an old-world poesy, whose aroma will linger around us long afterward, tending to preserve us from "the contagion of the world's slow stain."

                During a period of strenuous endeavour, when great national and domestic anxieties possessed our minds, well-nigh to the suppression of other interests, the magnetic influence of Miss Ethel McPherson drew some of us more ancient folk away from our pre-occupations to lovely pleasaunces in which we once revelled, and where the siren-accents of the fairies may still be heard, even if only in echo. So enthralled were we that we persuaded her to allow others also, who are standing outside the gate, to enjoy the exhilarating atmosphere of her gathered lore. We have felt the impulsion to do so irresistibly because we are South Africans, and because we feel that others should be made acquainted with the unfamiliar bowers of our native folklore—something new, perhaps only in semblance, but as old as its illimitable veld, and no less closely allied to the universal human nature with which it claims kindred. Not least by we hope that the boys and the girls of less sunny climes may be brought to realize that in all parts of the Child-world without distinction there is eloquently evidenced the same natural intuition of kinship with a perennially fresh and fertile imagination fed by the Hand of an inexhaustible love and grace. And if, forsooth, some youthful wiseacres, imitating their seniors, should be inclined at times to insist that these stories cannot be true, I would remind them of a luminous incident. An English traveller in Japan once saw a charming girl caressing a doll as though it were a real child, when he exclaimed: "But can a doll live?" "If you love it enough," she answered, "it will live." As an Indian poet declares:

The leaf becomes flower when it loves:
The flower becomes fruit when it worships.

                May Miss McPherson inspire us all—children of a larger and of a smaller growth alike—to cherish the illusion that whatsoever we love enough will live in very deed, and may she thus help us to go softly all our years until the hour when we "have our child hearts back some day."

                A. P. BENDER.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Foreword
Tale Author/Editor: Bender, A. P.
Book Title: Native Fairy Tales of South Africa
Book Author/Editor: McPherson, Ethel L.
Publisher: Harrap
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1919
Country of Origin: South Africa
Classification: Introduction

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