Collectors in the nineteenth and early twentieth century’s unearthed a wealth of stories from around the world and published them in English translations for the delight of general readers, young and old. Most of these anthologies have been long out of print.
The ABC-CLIO Classic Folk and Fairy Tales series brings back to life these key anthologies of traditional tales from the golden age of folklore discovery. Each volume provides a freshly typeset but otherwise virtually unaltered edition of a classic work and each is enhanced by an authoritative introduction by a top scholar. These insightful essays discuss the significance of the collection and its original collector; the original collector's methodology and translation practices; and the original period context according to region or genre.
Certain to be of interest to folklorists, these classic collections are also meant to serve as sources for storytellers and for sheer reading pleasure, reviving as they do hundreds of folk stories, both reassuringly familiar and excitingly strange.
Kirin Narayan is Professor of Anthropology and Languages and Cultures of Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of Storytellers, Saints and Scoundrels: Folk Narrative as Hindu Religious Teaching (1989) and Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon: Himalayan Foothill Folktales (1997)
"ALL THOSE WHO LOVE really good tales . . . had better buy this book," exhorted a review in March 1868, when Old Deccan Days was first published. The review went on to recommend that readers "secure it as a possession for which their children and their children again, will be thankful."'
For anyone who delights in the imaginative spaces opened up by fairy tales, this reviewer's comments hold true into the twenty-first century. Several generations have passed since the first edition of Old Deccan Days appeared in bookstores: a handsome maroon-bound volume with the Hindu God Ganesh emblazoned in gold on the cover, and a gold cobra rearing its hood along the spine. By now every library with a substantial South Asian or folktale collection has a copy of Old Deccan Days, whether in one of the British, American, or Indian editions, or in assorted translations-European languages including Hungarian, German, and Danish, and Indian languages including Tamil, Gujarati, and Marathi.2 Among scholars, the book continues to be cited as the first Indian folk-tale collection in English, launching a host of other nineteenth-century folktale collections in India. Given the enduring charm of the stories and the book's scholarly importance, it is high time that Old Deccan Days is accessible again for readers "to secure as a possession" for themselves, children, or grandchildren.
Old Deccan Days is the outcome of a remarkable collaboration between Anna Liberata de Souza, a gifted South Indian storyteller who worked as an ayah or nursemaid in British colonial households, and Mary Eliza Isabella Frere, a sensitive young British woman, whose father, Sir Bartle Frere, was the governor of Bombay. Anna Liberata de Souza had a Portuguese name because her grandparents were Christian converts. In the 1860s, when she worked in the Frere household, she was about fifty years old.' Her association with Mary Frere must have begun in 1863 when Mary, at eighteen, arrived from England to join her father.
In the winter of 1865, Anna Liberata de Souza accompanied Mary iFrere on the governor's official tour of the southern regions of Bombay Presidency. In those days, "Bombay" meant not just the rapidly developing port city, but an enormous administrative swath comprised of areas now folded into the modern Indian states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala. Much of this area fell in a plateau region known as the Deccan, inspiring what would later be a part of Mary Frere's title for her book. The governor of Bombay's caravan consisted of six hundred people, as well as elephants, horses, camels, mules, and bullocks. Mary Frere was the only white woman in this party, and Anna Liberata de Souza attended to her needs.
On this tour, Mary usually immersed herself in reading, writing, or sketching, but her eyes grew sore and inflamed. She turned to Anna, whose ancestors were originally from the countryside they were traveling through. Could Anna tell her a story? Anna demurred, but Mary pressed. "You have children and grandchildren, surely you tell them stories to amuse them sometimes?"'
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, "often with an entranced, far-away look on her face, as if she were actually seeing, at that moment, all that she was describing,' Anna began to recollect stories she had heard from her own grandmother. At some point in the course of hearing the first or second story, Mary must have decided that these tales were worth sending to her younger sister, Lily. Mary took notes, and then reconstructed the tales in a careful English longhand on lightweight paper that could easily be sent across the seas to England. "An Indian Story for Lily" is the heading she used for the first two stories; later, her handwriting grew rushed and messier, and the title "An Indian Story" gave way to more particular names.
Anna had surely told these stories before, most likely to her son and daughter, or her daughter's children. This time, though, her audience was a different kind of child: a young British woman whose own mother was far away in England, and who could only understand the stories when these were told in Anna's broken English, mixed with Hindustani. Responding to Mary's request, Anna started with a story of seven princesses and a wicked stepmother, recounting how the smart youngest princess was turned into a black dog and kidnapped by a wicked magician, but how her brave son overcame the magician. At the end of Anna's story, all the characters displaced within the narrative "went to their own country, and lived very happily ever afterwards. And as to the rest of the world, everyone went to his own house."
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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