National Dreams: The Remaking of Fairy Tales in Nineteenth-Century England

By Jennifer Schacker | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Everything Is in the Telling:
T. Crofton Croker’s Fairy Legends and
Traditions of the South of Ireland

I make no pretensions to originality, and avow at once, that there is no
story in my book that has not been told by half the old women of the dis-
trict in which the scene is laid. I give them as I found them—as indications
of a particular superstition in the minds of a part—and an important part
of my countrymen—the peasantry
.1

T. Crofton Croker, 1826

[I]t is exceedingly pleasant to meet with something which we can believe to
be Irish. We believe it to be so, as we often feel assured that a portrait is a
likeness, although we are unacquainted with the person whom it was de-
signed to represent. Such, in both cases, is the effect of individuality and
consistence of features
.2

Anonymous reviewer for the Quarterly Review, 1825

In German Popular Stories, Edgar Taylor and George Cruikshank discovered that field-based folklore research, pioneered by the brothers Grimm, had inherent imaginative appeal. Oral narratives “collected” and transformed into reading material were engaging and artistically inspiring, and the figure of the storyteller—imagined as an elderly peasant woman— provided the basis for a new fantasy of cross-cultural encounter. Within two years of the initial appearance of German Popular Stories, a new field-based tale collection was published in London: Thomas Crofton Croker’s Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1825).

The text Croker produced bears a formal resemblance to German Popular Stories. Like its successful predecessor, it was initially published in a small, relatively inexpensive, fancifully illustrated, anonymously authored form.

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