THERE lies before me, as I write, a quaint old book;
from this little book—torn and soiled, its edges all gone—nearly
all the stories in this volume are drawn.
In their earliest childhood Hungarian children hear the story of
"Forget-me-Not" (Nfelejts), the history of the
"Twin Hunchbacks" (A Rét Törpe),
and the doings of the wicked Sultana in the "Magic Cat"
(A Büvos Macska.)
In my little book is the shell of these stories told simply
and in few words. Who was the originator of them? I do
not think any one knows, for I have found in many instances
the same incidents occurring in the fairy tales of most nations.
A modified form of the vain fairy Narcissa is revived in
"Little Snow White," and "Riquet with the Tuft" has,
if I mistake not, an incident similar to that in
"The Twin Hunchbacks." But then again, who has ever
traced the origin of all the proverbs and jokes that exist,
and have existed for generations, in two score or more Eastern
and Western, Latin, Teutonic, or Slavonic languages?
Old Hungarian legends, just like old Hungarian music,
have to the national mind no palpable origin, though
Jókay or Gaal have rewritten the former and Liszt
or Brahms have familiarized the world with the latter.
The following little collection has helped me in my childhood
to pass many pleasant hours, so I now give them to
my little English readers—embellished by many
drawings—in the hope that they may derive as much
pleasure from this little volume of magic and adventure as
I did from my old torn copy of "Népmesék."