The fifty-two short stories printed in this volume have been got together during the last six or seven years. A deluge of cheap literature has fallen upon us since the days when the brothers Grimm made their famous German collection, and the memory, assisted by books, is apt to forget the unwritten lore. But still the ancient stories, beautiful or highly humorous even in their decay, linger with us here and there in England, and, like rare plants, may be found by those who seek them. Though some of the stories here printed illustrate the poverty of present tradition, it is likely that others were never told at greater length, or in better form.
In every case I have either written the tales down from dictation, or a written copy has been given to me. I have added nothing except the occasional formula, "Once upon a time," or a title to a story which had no title. Nor have I taken anything away. As nearly as I could manage it, the tales are given in the very words of the narrators. I have hardly attempted to reproduce dialect, but obsolete words, when used by the narrator, have been retained. And when the narrator has used such a word as "mamma," I have not hesitated to write "mother." The tales have all been obtained from oral tradition, and not from printed sources.