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«Andrew Lang PREFACE The Editor thinks that children will readily forgive him for publishing another Fairy Book. We have had the Blue, the Red, the ...»

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The Yellow Fairy Book


Andrew Lang


The Editor thinks that children will readily forgive him for

publishing another Fairy Book. We have had the Blue, the Red,

the Green, and here is the Yellow. If children are pleased, and

they are so kind as to say that they are pleased, the Editor does

not care very much for what other people may say. Now, there

is one gentleman who seems to think that it is not quite right to

print so many fairy tales, with pictures, and to publish them in red and blue covers. He is named Mr. G. Laurence Gomme, and he is president of a learned body called the Folk Lore Society. Once a year he makes his address to his subjects, of whom the Editor is one, and Mr. Joseph Jacobs (who has published many delightful fairy tales with pretty pictures)1 is another. Fancy, then, the dismay of Mr. Jacobs, and of the Editor, when they heard their president say that he did not think it very nice in them to publish fairy books, above all, red, green, and blue fairy books! They said that they did not see any harm in it, and they were ready to ‘put themselves on their country,’ and be tried by a jury of children. And, indeed, they still see no harm in what they have done; nay, like Father William in the poem, they are ready ‘to do it again and again.’ You may buy them from Mr. Nutt, in the Strand.

Where is the harm? The truth is that the Folk Lore Society—made up of the most clever, learned, and beautiful men and women of the country—is fond of studying the history and geography of Fairy Land. This is contained in very

old tales, such as country people tell, and savages:

‘Little Sioux and little Crow, Little frosty Eskimo.’ These people are thought to know most about fairyland and its inhabitants. But, in the Yellow Fairy Book, and the rest, are many tales by persons who are neither savages nor rustics, such as Madame D’Aulnoy and Herr Hans Christian Andersen.

The Folk Lore Society, or its president, say that THEIR tales are not so true as the rest, and should not be published with the rest. But WE say that all the stories which are pleasant to read are quite true enough for us; so here they are, with pictures by Mr. Ford, and we do not think that either the pictures or the stories are likely to mislead children.

As to whether there are really any fairies or not, that is a difficult question. Professor Huxley thinks there are none. The Editor never saw any himself, but he knows several people who have seen them—in the Highlands—and heard their music. If ever you are in Nether Lochaber, go to the Fairy Hill, and you may hearthe music yourself, as grown-up people have done, but you must goon a fine day. Again, if there are really no fairies, why dopeople believe in them, all over the world?

The ancient Greeks believed, so did the old Egyptians, and the Hindoos, and the Red Indians, and is it likely, if there are no fairies, that so many different peoples would have seen and heard them? The Rev. Mr. Baring-Gould saw several fairies when he was a boy, and was travelling in the land of the Troubadours. For these reasons, the Editor thinks that there are certainly fairies, but they never do anyone any harm; and, in England, they have been frightened away by smoke and schoolmasters. As to Giants, they have died out, but real Dwarfs are common in the forests of Africa. Probably a good many stories not perfectly true have been told about fairies, but such stories have also been told about Napoleon, Claverhouse, Julius Caesar, and Joan of Arc, all of whom certainly existed.

A wise child will, therefore, remember that, if he grows up and becomes a member of the Folk Lore Society, ALL the tales in this book were not offered to him as absolutely truthful, but were printed merely for his entertainment. The exact facts he can learn later, or he can leave them alone.

There are Russian, German, French, Icelandic, Red Indian, and other stories here. They were translated by Miss Cheape, Miss Alma, and Miss Thyra Alleyne, Miss Sellar, Mr. Craigie (he did the Icelandic tales), Miss Blackley, Mrs. Dent, and Mrs.

Lang, but the Red Indian stories are copied from English versions published by the Smithsonian Bureau of Ethnology, in America. Mr. Ford did the pictures, and it is hoped that children will find the book not less pleasing than those which have already been submitted to their consideration. The Editor cannot say ‘good-bye’ without advising them, as they pursue their studies, to read The Rose and the Ring, by the late Mr.

Thackeray, with pictures by the author. This book he thinks quite indispensable in every child’s library, and parents should be urged to purchase it at the first opportunity, as without it no education is complete.



A cat had made acquaintance with a mouse, and had spoken so much of the great love and friendship she felt for her, that at last the Mouse consented to live in the same house with her, and to go shares in the housekeeping. ‘But we must provide for the winter or else we shall suffer hunger,’ said the Cat. ‘You, little Mouse, cannot venture everywhere in case you run at last into a trap.’ This good counsel was followed, and a little pot of fat was bought. But they did not know where to put it. At length, after long consultation, the Cat said, ‘I know of no place where it could be better put than in the church. No one will trouble to take it away from there. We will hide it in a corner, and we won’t touch it till we are in want.’ So the little pot was placed in safety; but it was not long before the Cat had a great longing for it, and said to the Mouse, ‘I wanted to tell you, little Mouse, that my cousin has a little son, white with brown spots, and she wants me to be godmother to it. Let me go out to-day, and do you take care of the house alone.’ ‘Yes, go certainly,’ replied the Mouse, ‘and when you eat anything good, think of me; I should very much like a drop of the red christening wine.’ But it was all untrue. The Cat had no cousin, and had not been asked to be godmother. She went straight to the church, slunk to the little pot of fat, began to lick it, and licked the top off.

Then she took a walk on the roofs of the town, looked at the view, stretched herself out in the sun, and licked her lips whenever she thought of the little pot of fat. As soon as it was evening she went home again.

‘Ah, here you are again!’ said the Mouse; ‘you must certainly have had an enjoyable day.’ ‘It went off very well,’ answered the Cat.

‘What was the child’s name?’ asked the Mouse.

‘Top Off,’ said the Cat drily.

‘Topoff!’ echoed the Mouse, ‘it is indeed a wonderful and curious name. Is it in your family?’ ‘What is there odd about it?’ said the Cat. ‘It is not worse than Breadthief, as your godchild is called.’ Not long after this another great longing came over the Cat.

She said to the Mouse, ‘You must again be kind enough to look after the house alone, for I have been asked a second time to stand godmother, and as this child has a white ring round its neck, I cannot refuse.’ The kind Mouse agreed, but the Cat slunk under the town wall to the church, and ate up half of the pot of fat. ‘Nothing tastes better,’ said she, ‘than what one eats by oneself,’ and she was very much pleased with her day’s work. When she came home the Mouse asked, ‘What was this child called?’ ‘Half Gone,’ answered the Cat.

‘Halfgone! what a name! I have never heard it in my life. I don’t believe it is in the calendar.’ Soon the Cat’s mouth began to water once more after her licking business. ‘All good things in threes,’ she said to the Mouse; ‘I have again to stand godmother. The child is quite black, and has very white paws, but not a single white hair on its body. This only happens once in two years, so you will let me go out?’ ‘Topoff! Halfgone!’ repeated the Mouse, ‘they are such curious names; they make me very thoughtful.’ ‘Oh, you sit at home in your dark grey coat and your long tail,’ said the Cat, ‘and you get fanciful. That comes of not going out in the day.’ The Mouse had a good cleaning out while the Cat was gone, and made the house tidy; but the greedy Cat ate the fat every bit up.

‘When it is all gone one can be at rest,’ she said to herself, and at night she came home sleek and satisfied. The Mouse asked at once after the third child’s name.

‘It won’t please you any better,’ said the Cat, ‘he was called Clean Gone.’ ‘Cleangone!’ repeated the Mouse. ‘I do not believe that name has been printed any more than the others. Cleangone! What can it mean?’ She shook her head, curled herself up, and went to sleep.

From this time on no one asked the Cat to stand godmother;

but when the winter came and there was nothing to be got outside, the Mouse remembered their provision and said, ‘Come, Cat, we will go to our pot of fat which we have stored away; it will taste very good.’ ‘Yes, indeed,’ answered the Cat; ‘ it will taste as good to you as if you stretched your thin tongue out of the window.’ They started off, and when they reached it they found the pot in its place, but quite empty!

‘Ah,’ said the Mouse,’ ‘now I know what has happened! It has all come out! You are a true friend to me! You have eaten it all when you stood godmother; first the top off, then half of it gone, then——’ ‘Will you be quiet!’ screamed the Cat. ‘Another word and I will eat you up.’ ‘Cleangone’ was already on the poor Mouse’s tongue, and scarcely was it out than the Cat made a spring at her, seized and swallowed her.

You see that is the way of the world.

–  –  –

A king was once hunting in a great wood, and he hunted the game so eagerly that none of his courtiers could follow him.

When evening came on he stood still and looked round him, and he saw that he had quite lost himself. He sought a way out, but could find none. Then he saw an old woman with a shaking head coming towards him; but she was a witch.

‘Good woman,’ he said to her, ‘can you not show me the way out of the wood?’ ‘Oh, certainly, Sir King,’ she replied, ‘I can quite well do that, but on one condition, which if you do not fulfil you will never get out of the wood, and will die of hunger.’ ‘What is the condition?’ asked the King.

‘I have a daughter,’ said the old woman, ‘who is so beautiful that she has not her equal in the world, and is well fitted to be your wife; if you will make her lady-queen I will show you the way out of the wood.’ The King in his anguish of mind consented, and the old woman led him to her little house where her daughter was sitting by the fire. She received the King as if she were expecting him, and he saw that she was certainly very beautiful;

but she did not please him, and he could not look at her without a secret feeling of horror. As soon as he had lifted the maiden on to his horse the old woman showed him the way, and the King reached his palace, where the wedding was celebrated.

The King had already been married once, and had by his first wife seven children, six boys and one girl, whom he loved more than anything in the world. And now, because he was afraid that their stepmother might not treat them well and might do them harm, he put them in a lonely castle that stood in the middle of a wood. It lay so hidden, and the way to it was so hard to find, that he himself could not have found it out had not a wise-woman given him a reel of thread which possessed a marvellous property: when he threw it before him it unwound itself and showed him the way. But the King went so often to his dear children that the Queen was offended at his absence. She grew curious, and wanted to know what he had to do quite alone in the wood. She gave his servants a great deal of money, and they betrayed the secret to her, and also told her of the reel which alone could point out the way. She had no rest now till she had found out where the King guarded the reel, and then she made some little white shirts, and, as she had learnt from her witch-mother, sewed an enchantment in each of them.

And when the King had ridden off she took the little shirts and went into the wood, and the reel showed her the way. The children, who saw someone coming in the distance, thought it was their dear father coming to them, and sprang to meet him very joyfully. Then she threw over each one a little shirt, which when it had touched their bodies changed them into swans, and they flew away over the forest. The Queen went home quite satisfied, and thought she had got rid of her step-children; but the girl had not run to meet her with her brothers, and she knew nothing of her.

The next day the King came to visit his children, but he found no one but the girl.

‘Where are your brothers?’ asked the King.

‘Alas! dear father,’ she answered, ‘they have gone away and left me all alone.’ And she told him that looking out of her little window she had seen her brothers flying over the wood in the shape of swans, and she showed him the feathers which they had let fall in the yard, and which she had collected. The King mourned, but he did not think that the Queen had done the wicked deed, and as he was afraid the maiden would also be taken from him, he wanted to take her with him. But she was afraid of the stepmother, and begged the King to let her stay just one night more in the castle in the wood. The poor maiden thought, ‘My home is no longer here; I will go and seek my brothers.’ And when night came she fled away into the forest. She ran all through the night and the next day, till she could go no farther for weariness. Then she saw a little hut, went in, and found a room with six little beds. She was afraid to lie down on one, so she crept under one of them, lay on the hard floor, and was going to spend the night there. But when the sun had set she heard a noise, and saw six swans flying in at the window. They stood on the floor and blew at one another, and blew all their feathers off, and their swan-skin came off like a shirt. Then the maiden recognised her brothers, and overjoyed she crept out from under the bed. Her brothers were not less delighted than she to see their little sister again, but their joy did not last long.

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