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Spanish Legendary Tales

This volume was published in 1885 and contains thirty tales.Short summary from the Preface:In speaking of myself on the title-page as the "author" of"Round a Posada Fire", I wish to explain that I use the word"author" simply in default of a better one. In that book, asin this, the stories told are popular in their character, andare the creation of no nameable individual. All given in thepresent vo...

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Publication Date: March 31, 2010
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ume I gathered in the course of a residence ofseveral years in the Pyrenees, and of one or two visits inthe north of Spain. Those from whom I heard them (andmany more of the same kind), and whom I questioned asto their origina, could assign no other source to them thanoral tradition. My own share in bringing them before thepublic consists in having heard them, remembered them,and put them into English in as nearly as poosible thewords in which they were told to me. Though I have fromtime to time been obliged to insert connecting or introduct-ory passages, yet the words, as well as the substance of'the tales, are mainly those of the original stories.I need not remind anyone at all familiar with the popularlife of Spain, that the prose legend, as well as the ballad,has in the course of time acquired there a fixed and definiteshape; and passes from mouth to mouth, and is handeddown from one generation to another, with but few verbalchanges.The reason for this is not far to seek; the greater part ofthe Spanish people have hitherto found their chief mentalrecreation in folk-lore. Popular legends, whether in proseor verse, have been accordingly developed in Spain to anextent no easy to be matched elsewhere. Intelligent andimaginative, and at the same time untaught and superstitious,the Spanish peasant finds in these tales one of his chiefpleasures.The mere fact that they exist in vast numbers, and that manyof them bear upon the same subject, renders it necessarythat, if they are to be remembered at all, they must beremembered with verbal accuracy; otherwise they wouldin a short time become hopelessly confused one with another.One of the most popular subjects of Spanish folk-lore is the"Christ of the Vega". I have myself heard at least a dozenlegends turning on this theme; and many more versions mustcertainly exist. It would be impossible to keep these variousstories apart in the popular memory, unless they had become,so to speak, stereotyped. And this is the case with the major-ity of Spanish prose legends. They have assumed, in thecourse of time, a fixed and traditional shape, in their wordsno less than in their subjects.It is a truism that the memory of those who cannot read orwrite is, on the average, stronger than that of those whohave had a literary education. When once education isdiffused among the masses of the Spanish people, thoselegends which have not been committed to writing will begradually lost. The new interests which education bringswith it will also weaken among the people those tastes towhich tales of the marvellous appea. But this time seemsstill to be distant in Spain.I have only a word to add in conclusion. Friends have remarkedto me on the weird and tragic air of many of these tales. Theanswer is simply that such, as a fact, is the general characterof the Spanish legend. Others have said that the style ofthem seemed to be of a diffeent character from that whichmight be expected of peasants and muleteers. To this thereply is that the Spanish, like the Italian peasant, must notbe judged by the same standard as the English. Illiterateas the southern peasant may be, he is not wholly destituteof what may be fairly called culture.This volume attempts to give a faithful reflection of the popularimagination of Spain, when it turns from, poetry to prose asits means of expression.Maria Trinidad Howard MiddlemoreChelsea, May, 1885