IT IS only within the last few years that the importance of folk-lore, the popular legends, tales, drolls, and extravagances which have been handed down from generation to generation among the labourers, peasants and youth of a nation, has been frankly recognised. It is now, however, generally acknowledged that this kind of literature, which more than all other deserves the name of popular, possesses a value beyond any momentary amusement which the tales themselves may afford, and it has assumed an honourable post side by side with other and graver materials, and has obtained a recognised use in deciding the conclusions of the historian and ethnologist. It is fortunate that the utility of these 'tales and old wives' fables' should have been thus recognised, otherwise the dull utilitarianism of modern educators would soon have trampled out these fragments of the 'elder time,' and have left to our children no alternative than that of 'being crammed with geography and natural history.'  The collection of Serbian popular tales, now translated into English and here published, is an additional contribution to our knowledge of such literature--the most venerable secular literature, it may be, which has come down to our times.
At the wish of the lady who has selected and translated these tales, I have undertaken to edit them. In doing so I have, however, preserved, as far as possible, the literality of her version, and have limited myself to the addition of a few notes to the text. The tales included in this volume have been selected from two collections of Serbian folk-lore; the greater part from the well-known 'Srpske narodne pripovijetke,' of Vuk Stefanovich Karadjich, published at Vienna, in 1853, and others from the 'Bosniacke narodne pripovijetke,' collected by the 'Society of Young Bosnia,' the first part of which collection was printed at Sissek, in Croatia, in 1870. The collection of Vuk Stefanovich Karadjich was translated into German by his daughter Wilhelmina, and printed at Berlin, in 1854.  To this volume, which is dedicated to the Princess Julia, widow of the late Prince Michael Obrenovich III., Jacob Grimm, who suggested to Karadjich the utility of making the original collection, has contributed a short but interesting preface.
The collection of Vuk Karadjich was gathered by him from the lips of professional story-tellers, and of old peasant women in Serbia and the Herzégovina. One of these stories, translated in the present volume, and here called 'The Wonderful Kiosk,' or 'The Kiosk in the Sky,' was however written out and contributed to this collection by Prince Michael, the late and lamented ruler of Serbia, who had heard it, in childhood, from the lips of his nurse. The Bosniac collection was made by young theological students from that country--members of the college at Dyakovo, in Croatia.
The taste for this species of literature has, during the last few years, led to the publication of various collections of traditional folk-tales, legends, and sagas, from all countries including and lying between Iceland and the southern extremity of Africa and of Polynesia, until a very ample body of such stories have been made accessible even to the mere English reader. Whilst Mr. Thorpe  and Mr. Dasent  have directed their attention to Iceland and the Scandinavian kingdoms, Mr. Campbell has rendered important service by his large collection of West Highland stories.  Indian legends, and folk-lore in general, has been illustrated by the volumes of Mr. W. H. Wilson, Dr. Muir , Colonel Jacob, Mr. Kelly , and Miss Frere ; and the Cingalese traditions by the writings of Mr. Turnour, and especially by the volumes of Mr. Spence Hardy.  Russian and North Slavonic folk-lore has been made accessible and arranged in the valuable volumes of Mr. Ralston, on 'The Songs of the Russian People,' and on 'Russian Folk-Lore.' Dr. Bleek has collected some of the myths and popular tales of the tribes in the neighbourhood of the Cape of Good Hope ; and Sir George Grey has done the same good service in preserving specimens of the folk-tales of the people of New Zealand.  Whilst foreign countries have given up their stores of popular literature to these investigations, similar industry has been shown in collecting the traditions and folk-lore of our own country. The songs collected in Sir Walter Scott's 'Border Minstrelsy,' illustrated as they are by the notes which he added, are a store-house alike for the northern counties of England and the southern counties of Scotland. Mr. Wright and Mr. Cockayne, in their volumes, that on the 'Literature of the Middle Ages,' by the former gentleman, and that of the 'Leechdoms of Early England,' by the latter, have brought together the folk-lore of our forefathers; and in the pages of Baker , Chambers , Hone , Henderson , Hunt , and others, are stored up much of the local folk-lore and tales which still exist amongst us, and which we have inherited from our Aryan ancestors,--echoes of stories first heard by them in their home in Central Asia.
By means of these and similar collections, we are enabled to trace and compare the folk-tale in the various stages of its growth, and note its modifications, according to the religion of the people who have received it, and the climate of the countries in which it has been naturalised. In the pages of Professor Max Müller, of Mr. Baring Gould, and of Mr. Cox, we have attempts, more or less successful, to treat these stories scientifically, and to trace and explain the origin and motive of the various popular tales and legends which are comprehended under the name of folk-lore.
An examination of these collections leads to the conclusion that--apart at least from the legends of history--the number of strictly original folk-tales is but small; and that people, settled for ages in countries separated geographically, have yet possessed from remote antiquity a popular literature, which must have been the common property of the race before it branched into nations; but that the natural accretions, the growth of time, together with local colouring, fragments of historical facts, the influence of popular religious belief, and, above all, the exigencies and ingenuity of professional story-tellers, have so modified these primitive tales and legends, that an appearance of originality has been imparted to current popular tales, which, however, a larger acquaintance with folk-lore, and a more extended investigation, are now gradually dispelling. It is at length evident that various primitive legendary and traditionary elements have been combined in most of these tales; and that the only originality consists in such combination. They resemble a piece of tesselated work made up of cubes of coloured stone, the tints of which are really few in number, though they admit of being arranged into a variety of figures after the fancy of the artist.
In the appendix to Mr. Henderson's 'Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of England,' under the appropriate name of 'Story-radicals,' the reader will find a useful and suggestive classification of the elements which enter into the composition of various popular tales borrowed from Von Hahn's introduction to his collection of Greek and Albanian folk-tales; and although this classification is rendered imperfect by the recent large increase of such stories, yet it suffices to explain the manner in which fragments selected from other popular fictions have been built up and agglutinated together. Philological research is day by day illustrating more clearly the original oneness of the language of mankind; and collections of household stories and popular legends are showing that much of the really popular literature, especially such as lingers in lands uninvaded by modern civilisation, and in sequestered spots in the midst of such civilisation, was possessed in common, before mankind was parted off into races, and subdivided into tribes and nations; so that they also furnish another proof of the unity of the human race. We are still able, at least to some extent, to trace the genealogy of many popular stories, and to ascend to their fountain-head, or at least to such a distance as to indicate the time when they originated, and the land where they were first told. Thus we may feel sure that had some of the tales in this volume been the original fancies of Slavonic minstrels and story-tellers they would not have been garnished with crocodiles, alligators, elephants, and the fauna and flora of Hindoostan, and that the germ of such stories must therefore have existed before the Slav made his home in Europe. Such accessories are sufficient proof that the tales themselves could not have been indigenous to the banks of the Danube, but must have been brought thither by a race which had migrated from a more southern and eastern home.
Whilst the original home of these stories may thus be satisfactorily proved to have been in other lands than that in which they are now found, the growth of the tale, story, legend, or droll may be traced by an examination of the stories themselves. They are, in most instances, composite--an agglutination of fragments such as is seen in the breccias and similar stones of igneous origin. The desire of being credited with originality--a common weakness of humanity--the necessity of lengthening out a tale so as to fill up a definite amount of time in its recitation, and the wish to amuse by novel combinations--all tended to the structural growth of these tales. This was effected in part by the unexpected arrangements of old and well-known incidents, in part by the easier and coarser expedient of mere repetition. Thus, a common trick of the story-teller was to repeat all the details of the events which happened to one of the personages in his story, and to attribute them to each of the three, or even the seven heroes who had started in search of adventures, and whom he makes meet with precisely similar fortunes. These repetitions sometimes appear and are sometimes dispensed with, according to the exigencies of time, or the skill of the narrator. The other expedient of adding to the original tale incidents taken from other stories, admits of the exercise of much ingenuity on the part of the story-teller, and entitled him, in some degree, to the credit of originality. The fact remains, however, that the materials out of which such stories are constructed are less numerous than the stories themselves; which have for thousands of years delighted and amused, and sometimes instructed, both old and young alike, the peasant and the prince, the rude Hottentot of Southern Africa, the stolid boor of Russia, and the quick-witted and intelligent Greek.
It is comparatively an easy task to trace the popular stories which are familiar to us, to the countries where they were originally told; or, at least, to decide approximately as to the land of their birth. Still more easy to decompose them, and separate the original germ from the accretions which have gathered around it in its course. It is not so easy, however, to determine the motive of the original story. According to one school of writers, these popular folk-tales embody profound mythological dogmas, and were even purposely constructed to convey, by means of symbolical or histrionic teaching, the maxims of ancient religions and philosophies. To some extent this is possibly true; apart, however, from the fact, and the speculations which the facts may give rise to, the truth or falsity of this is of but little practical value. No skill which we possess can decide with any certainty as to the mythological or non-mythological origin of a folk-tale, or families of such tales, and the attempts which have been made to interpret such tales in accordance with mythology, have ended in absurd failures.
Much confusion of thought, as it appears to me, exists as to the mythological motive which is claimed for many of these folk-tales; and men have confounded the mythological explanation of a tale with its mythological origin and motive. We shall, however, have done but little in the way of clearing up this question when we have adjusted the various incidents of a folk-tale to the teaching of ancient mythology. The attempt to do so resembles the labours of the neo-Platonic expounders of declining Paganism, in their endeavours to make it appear more reasonable by giving to the gross and material incidents of ancient polytheism a subtle and recondite spiritual interpretation. The question--too frequently lost sight of--being not whether the incidents of Pagan mythology might by any such process be reconciled with the intellect of a philosopher, but whether the incidents themselves originated in the intent to present spiritual truth to the mind, and were bodied forth in order to convey such spiritual lessons to the apprehension of the worshipper. There is a similar order to be observed in the examination and interpretation of these tales; and the most ingenious interpretation of a folk-tale, and its adjustment to the incidents of mythology, do not advance us one step towards determining its motive, and clearing up the obscurities which surround its origin. Again, the presence of mythological incidents in a tale in no degree accounts for its origin; nor does it assist us in proving these tales to possess a mythological character. In popular literature--especially in such a literature as that of which I am speaking--the tone of the popular mind must needs be reflected; and if mythology had, at the date of the creation of the tale, or during its growth, any considerable hold over the popular mind, this fact would be indicated by the characters introduced, as well as by the general colouring given to the tale itself; just as a profoundly religious mind tinges the creations of the imagination or the productions of the intellect with the religious convictions which possess it. But tales and scientific treatises may be profoundly Christian in their ethos, without it being necessary for us to attribute to their authors the intention of presenting, by this means, an esoteric explanation of the articles of the Creed.
Now it is to be borne in mind, that at the time when most of the primary materials, out of which these folk-tales are constructed, originated, polytheism had peopled the groves and streams, the mountains and the valleys, the hills and plains, the sky above and the deep sea below, and even the centre of the earth, with supernatural beings. Every day and every fraction of life had its tutelary; every family its special lar; and every individual its genius, or guardian spirit. Omnipresence was subdivided into atoms, and an atom was everywhere present. Under such circumstances it would hardly have been possible to construct a tale or to rearrange the fragments of older tales without introducing these elements of the popular belief. Without doing so, indeed, a tale would not--could not have become a folk-tale. This, however, in no way makes probable the mythological signification and origin of such tales, any more than the introduction of guns and pistols, of gas or the telegraph, into a modern tale, would prove it to have a military or a scientific motive.
A specimen of the way in which folk-tales are interpreted mythologically will, I think, show at once the ingenuity of the interpreter and the baselessness of the interpretation. The tale which I cite as a specimen of this kind of treatment is one which, like folk-tales in general, occurs in several forms in England, in Southern Italy, in Germany, in the Tyrol, in Hungary, in Iceland, Swabia, Wallachia, and Greece, and probably in other countries. I give it in the form in which it appears in the 'Modern Greek Household Tales,' edited by Von Hahn, because the Greek version of this tale has the merit of being 'shorter than most of its variants.' The ingenious though fanciful explanation will be found in the appendix to Mr. Henderson's 'Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of England':--
'A man and a woman had no children; the woman prayed that she might be granted one, even though it were a serpent; and in due course of time she brought forth a serpent, which left the house and took up its abode in a hole.
'The woman is a terrible shrew, and a bad woman to boot; she brings the house to poverty, and then goes to the serpent to ask for relief. The serpent gives his mother a gold-dropping ass, warning her never to let it touch water. The couple live on the gold for some while, but at last the woman leads the ass to the water, and it runs away and is lost. She goes once more to her child, who gives her a pitcher, which does all she wants; she sells this to the king, and is reduced to poverty. The old man now goes to the serpent's lair and obtains a stick, to which he says, "Up stick, and do your duty!" whereupon it knocks the woman on the head and kills her; so the man lives in happiness ever after.'
On this, the writer who undertakes to interpret this tale observes--
'That these stories rest upon a common mythological foundation, there is strong evidence to prove. The gold-dropping animal, the magic table or napkin, the self-acting cudgel, appear in some of the tales of ancient India, and their original signification is made apparent.
'The master, who gives the three precious gifts, is the All Father--the Supreme Spirit. The gold and jewel dropping ass is the spring cloud hanging in the sky, and shedding the bright productive Vernal showers. The table which covers itself is the earth becoming covered with flowers and fruit at the bidding of the New Year. But there is a check; rain is withheld, the process of vegetation is stayed, by some evil influence. Then comes the Thunder cloud, out of which leaps the bolt and rains pour down, the earth receives them, and is covered with abundance--all that was lost is restored.'
The incident of the dropping of jewels only appears in the Neapolitan version, given in the 'Pentamerone' of Giambattista Basile,  and is apparently an addition made by him to the original story. The explanation of the meaning of the tale, it appears to me, might as fittingly have been taken from the region of science, or of history, and might have been as easily interpreted in a thousand and one other ways as in this. So that if, originally, the folk-tale embodied a mythological truth, which, however, may be affirmed or denied with equal right, the fact is of no value in aiding us to determine what the intentions of the inventor of the tale must have been.
Mythological symbolism, like very much of what passes current as ecclesiastical symbolism, is a testimony to the ingenuity of the interpreter; it has, oftentimes, no existence in the object interpreted. We may, to our own satisfaction, perhaps, resolve the sternest facts into impalpable fancies; the fact remains, and will remain when the fancy has faded into its original nothingness or lingers only as a beautiful freak of fancy. The twelve Cæsars were living and historical personages, though an ingenious apologist has reduced them into mythological non-existences, and has traced in them a likeness to the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Mythological and legendary incidents, it is true, have a tendency to fasten themselves upon real men and women until, like parasitical plants round the trunk of a tree, they conceal the true character of those who are thus clothed. Sir Richard Whittington, however, was Lord Mayor of London, though the sounds heard from the brow of Highgate Hill--
'When he, a friendless and a drooping boy, Sat on a stone, and heard the bells speak out-- Articulate music'-- 
had no more real existence than his famous cat, and though we are indebted for the means by which his great wealth was acquired only to the pleasant invention of the popular-romance writer.
Probably many of these stories possess an historical origin, and could we recover their original form, they might be found to record real incidents in the life of an historical personage or of a nation. The original form, however, can now hardly be even guessed at. Successive generations of story-tellers have added to the original tale, and have changed archaic incidents for those better understood by the audience, and therefore appealing the readier to their sympathies. When transplanted from its home to a distant land the local colouring has been changed, unintelligible customs have been made to give place to vernacular ones, until so little remains of the old tale that even with the help of comparative analysis it is now impossible to recover the form in which it was given out at the first. Even with a written literature and with diffused information, Shakespeare found it necessary to the stories which he dramatized to interweave appliances made known by modern discoveries, and, accordingly, anachronisms abound in his plays. If this has been the case even where the national literature was a written one, we might be confident beforehand that we should find the story-teller of the Southern Slavs lengthening out and giving variety to his tale, not from the stores of archæology, but from such common, every-day customs as would appeal forcibly to his simple audience.
The reader who is familiar with the stories accumulated by recent collectors, will trace, without difficulty, in the present volume, those fragments of the primary tales out of which story-tellers in all parts of the world have for many generations constructed or expanded their own tales. It is, therefore, unnecessary for me to do this. I add, however, a few notices of some of the tales included in this volume, merely as illustrations of the way in which they have been built up out of older materials: like the palaces of the modern Roman nobility, out of the marbles which were originally intended to perpetuate the memory of the victories of the Republic and the magnificence of the ministers of the Empire.
In the tale which is entitled 'Justice or Injustice,'  the manner in which the king's daughter is enticed on ship-board, and carried off with her attendant maidens, will at once recall the incident related in the opening paragraph of the history of Herodotus. The resemblance between the narrative of the abduction of the daughter of Inachus by the Phoenician merchants, and that in the tale, is so close that it can hardly be accidental. Some will think that this lends some support to the notion that the account in Herodotus is mythological; others that the Serb tale is probably based on an historical fact. That the tale in this volume is not of Serbian origin, is evident from the introduction of the elephants, and the description of their capture after being intoxicated. The restoration of the hero by means of 'the water of life,' is an incident common to very many of these folk-tales, and may fairly be regarded as a 'story-radical.' In the tale of 'Bash-Chalek,' this water of life is changed and christianized into 'the water of Jordan,' whereas in its North Slavonic variant it is still the 'water of life' which is retained as the means by which the hero is recalled from death. In most particulars the Serbian tale closely follows the Russian type, and may be compared with the tale which Mr. Ralston has translated under the title of 'Marya Morevna.'  The 'True Steel' of the Serbian tale is the Koshchei the Deathless of the Russian story; and the younger brother of the North Slavonic story is evidently the Prince Ivan of the South Slavonic tale. Again, two of the wooers are the same in both stories, the chief variation being that in the Serbian folk-tale the raven is introduced instead of the dragon of the Russian story.
The Bosniac story of 'The Three Brothers' is a good example of the way in which the expansion of these stories is effected. We have here three separate stories thrown into one; the various incidents of which are to be sought for in a variety of tales and in different countries. In part the tale seems to be an echo of the Egyptian story, which, written on papyrus and believed to be of the date of the Exodus of the Israelites, is preserved in the Bibliothèque Impériale. Of this story, Mr. Goodwin has given an abstract in the Cambridge Essays of 1858. The astonishing leap made by the horse of the younger brother is but an exaggeration of the sufficiently exaggerated exploit of Buddha's horse, Kantako, which was thirty-six feet long, was able to go three hundred miles in one night, and, when impeded by the Déwas, overcame the obstacles interposed in the way of its progress by leaping across the river Anoma, a distance of two hundred and ten feet.  In part, however, the details of this part of the story accords with the account of the leap made by the horse Rama Rajah which took three successive leaps, not only over a wide river, but also over four thick and tall groves of copal, soparee, guava, and cocoa-nut trees, as told in the story of 'Rama and Luxman.'  Again, the iron teeth of the sister in the Bosniac story make part of the marvels in the Russian story of 'The Witch,'  and has its counterpart in the incident of the Syriote story of 'The Striga.'  The way in which the old woman destroys her victims by throwing around them a hair of her head is also common to these folk-tales, and to several which may be found in the collections of similar tales told in widely separated countries.
The incident of the tree growing out of the grave in the Serb story of 'The Golden-haired Twins,' makes also part of the story of 'Punchkin' in the collection of stories from the Deccan, where a pomelo tree which springs from the grave of a murdered person leads to the knowledge of the murder.  The same incident again occurs in 'Truth's Triumph' in the same collection,  where the hundred and one children of the king and Guzra Bai, after having been destroyed by the ranee, their stepmother, and buried by her orders, have their grave marked by a tree springing spontaneously from it; and when the mango tree has been cut down by the orders of the ranee and directed to be burnt, a sudden rising of the water prevents the order from being carried out, and the trunk is floated down to a place of security, stranded on a bank, and again changed into children.
Another of what I have ventured to call 'primitive fragments,' because commonly made use of in the construction of the folk-tales of various races, makes its appearance in the story of 'The Biter Bit.' In that story the giant demands as his reward that he should receive what the old man had 'forgotten at home;' and obtains one of his sons, who had been left behind when his numerous brothers had set out on their bride-seeking expedition. This reappears in the Russian tale of 'The Water King and Vasilissa the Wise,'  and also in the story of 'The Youth' from the same lands.  The latter part of the story resembles the incidents in the Indian tale of 'Sringabhuja.' In 'Peppercorn' the episode of the maces which the hero requires, and with which he is unsatisfied until the third has been made to stand the test of being thrown into the air and descending on the forehead of 'Peppercorn' without breaking the mace, but merely bruising the forehead of the hero, occurs not only in the Serbian tale of 'The Bear's Son,' but also the Russian story of 'Ivan Popyalof,' of which Mr. Ralston has given us a translation; whilst the fraud practised on 'Peppercorn' by his two companions who leave him in the deep hole down which he has descended, and his subsequent adventures both below and on the earth, are almost identical with incidents in another Russian folk-tale, 'The Norka.' 
I have noted these various resemblances and borrowings, or rather variations from one and the same original, because they illustrate the way in which the tales found in all parts of the world have been built up of fragments which are the common property of mankind. I have not thought it necessary to trace out all the resemblances to other tales--all the borrowings from the common stock. Most of my readers will be able to do that for themselves. I have but adduced them by way of example of story-building. They, however, show us that the stock of original materials out of which these folk-tales have been constructed is, comparatively speaking, of but limited extent, and also that the large number of tales which compose the popular literature of the world are but evidences of the skill with which these scanty materials have been combined by the folk-teachers. The literature of a nation is after all but the result of the combination of some five-and-twenty sounds and letters.
In Serbia there is a curious distinction in the use of prose and rhythm in these folk-stories. Prose is the vehicle for tales related by women; rhythm the prerogative of men. Prose stories are usually told in the domestic circle, and in gatherings of women at Selo or Prelo. During the summer evenings when field labour and household occupations have come to a close, it was, and indeed still is, customary in Serbian villages for young girls, accompanied by some older female friends, to gather in groups under the branches of some wide-spreading tree, and then, whilst the younger people occupy themselves in spinning, some of the older women interest the rest of the company by relating these traditionary stories. Men are excluded from these gatherings, and the story-telling which fills up the chief part of these evenings is looked on as exclusively a feminine occupation. These stories are always in prose.
There are, indeed, men story-tellers. Their tales or stories, however, invariably assume the character of poems, and they are generally--indeed almost always--accompanied by the monotonous sounds of the "gusle." Generally speaking, these poems relate to historical or mythical incidents in the life of the nation; though sometimes they are of the same kind as the folk-tales which are given in this volume, and which are related in the feminine circle. When this is the case the distinction already noted is, however, strictly observed. The folk-tale related by a woman is in prose; the same tale told by a man is cast into the form of a poem. Even the purely Christian legends, of which the reader is presented in this volume with a specimen popular in Bosnia and the Herzégovina, 'The Legend of St. George,' is related with the aid of rhythm. Legends of the latter kind may have been, as some suppose, originally related by priests in their churches, and possibly in prose. Now, however, that they have passed into the possession of the professional story-tellers they have put on the masculine garb of verse. This Homeric feature of Serb customs is indeed now dying out with other national peculiarities. It is, however, far from being dead, nor are such verses employed only in celebrating the glories of the reign of Stephen Dushan, the heroism of George Brankovich, or the mournful defeat of Kossovo. Long tedious debates in the National Parliament, or Skoupshtina, of 1870, on the liberty of opening and keeping shops in villages as distinguished from towns, were summed up and reported throughout the country in a way which would astonish the readers of the debates in our English Parliament. The whole discussion, with the arguments of the various speakers, took the form of a long song or poem, which was recited in the open air before the villagers assembled to hear the course and result of the debate. Perhaps in a similar manner the military and naval incidents, the contentions of mighty chiefs, the debates before the tent of Agamemnon, or in the council-house of Troy, were thrown into verse by the Father of poetry, the Prince of story-tellers, or, if the reader holds to the Wolfian theory, by the professional rhapsodists, and thus made known throughout Greece in the form of the Iliad. At any rate we have, in the practice still living in Serbia, an instance of the way in which a Serbian Homer would naturally have communicated to his countrymen all the details of meetings at the council-board and skirmishes in the plain which diversified the history of a siege, in the varying fortunes of which their interest was enlisted.