Ancient Mysteries Mythology Science of Fairy Tales, The

Science of Fairy Tales, The

Science of Fairy Tales, The
Catalog # SKU1726
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Edwin Sidney Hartland


The Science
of Fairy Tales

An Inquiry Into
Fairy Mythology

Edwin Sidney Hartland

Fairy Tales, fall under two heads. Under the first we may place all those stories which relate to definite supernatural beings, or definite orders of supernatural beings, held really to exist, and the scenes of which are usually laid in some specified locality. Stories belonging to this class do not necessarily, however, deal with the supernatural. Often they are told of historical heroes, or persons believed to have once lived.

For instance, the legends of Lady Godiva and Whittington and his Cat, which, however improbable, contain nothing of the supernatural, must be reckoned under this head equally with the story of the Luck of Edenhall, or the Maori tale of the Rending asunder of Heaven and Earth. In other words, this class is by no means confined to Fairy Tales, but includes all stories which are, or at all events have been up to recent years, and in the form in which they come to us, looked upon as narratives of actual occurrences. They are called Sagas.


The art of story-telling has been cultivated in all ages and among all nations of which we have any record; it is the outcome of an instinct implanted universally in the human mind. By means of a story the savage philosopher accounts for his own existence and that of all the phenomena which surround him.

With a story the mothers of the wildest tribes awe their little ones into silence, or rouse them into delight. And the weary hunters beguile the long silence of a desert night with the mirth and wonders of a tale. The imagination is not less fruitful in the higher races; and, passing through forms sometimes more, sometimes less, serious, the art of story-telling unites with the kindred arts of dance and song to form the epic or the drama, or develops under the complex influences of modern life into the prose romance and the novel.

These in their various ways are its ultimate expression; and the loftiest genius has found no fitter vehicle to convey its lessons of truth and beauty.


In previous chapters we have seen that human beings are sometimes taken by fairies into Fairyland, and that they are there kept for a longer or shorter period, or, it may be, are never permitted to return to earth at all. We have noted cases in which they are led down for temporary purposes and, if they are prudent, are enabled to return when those purposes are accomplished.

We have noted other cases in which babes or grown women have been stolen and retained until their kindred have compelled restoration. The story cited in the last chapter from Giraldus describes a seduction of a different kind. There the visit to Fairyland was of a more voluntary character, and the hero was able to go to and fro as he pleased. We have also met with tales in which the temptation of food, or more usually of drink, has been held out to the wayfarer; and we have learned that the result of yielding would be to give himself wholly into the fairies' hands.

I propose now to examine instances in which temptation of one kind or other has been successful, or in which a spell has been cast over man or woman, not merely preventing the bewitched person from regaining his home and human society, but also rendering him, while under the spell, impervious to the attacks of time and unconscious of its flight.

These stories are of many types. The first type comes, so far as I know, only from Celtic sources. It is very widely known in Wales, and we may call it, from its best-known example, the "Rhys and Llewelyn type." A story obtained between sixty and seventy years ago in the Vale of Neath relates that Rhys and Llewelyn were fellow-servants to a farmer; and they had been engaged one day in carrying lime for their master. As they were going home, driving their mountain ponies before them in the twilight, Rhys suddenly called to his companion to stop and listen to the music. It was a tune, he said, to which he had danced a hundred times, and he must go and have a dance now.

So he told his companion to go on with the horses and he would soon overtake him. Llewelyn could hear nothing, and began to remonstrate; but away sprang Rhys, and he called after him in vain. Accordingly he went home, put up the ponies, ate his supper and went to bed, thinking that Rhys had only made a pretext for going to the alehouse. But when morning came, and still no sign of Rhys, he told his master what had occurred. Search proving fruitless, suspicion fell on Llewelyn of having murdered his fellow-servant; and he was accordingly imprisoned.

A farmer in the neighbourhood, skilled in fairy matters, guessing how things might have been, proposed that himself and some others, including the narrator of the story, should accompany Llewelyn to the place where he parted with Rhys. On coming to it, "Hush!" cried Llewelyn, "I hear music, I hear sweet harps." All listened, but could hear nothing.


Chapter I. The Art Of Story-Telling.
Chapter II. Savage Ideas.
Chapter III. Fairy Births and Human Midwives.
Chapter IV. Fairy Births and Human Midwives
Chapter V. Changelings.
Chapter VI. Robberies From Fairyland.
Chapter VII. The Supernatural Lapse of Time In Fairyland.
Chapter VIII. The Supernatural Lapse of Time In Fairyland
Chapter IX. The Supernatural Lapse of Time In Fairyland
Chapter X. Swan-Maidens.
Chapter XI. Swan-Maidens
Chapter XII. Conclusion.
Appendix. Bibliographical List of some of the Works

Softcover, 6¾" x 8¾", 405+ pages