Background: English Fairy Tales by Jacobs

Joseph Jacobs (1854-1916) was one of the great English folklorists of the nineteenth century; two of his specialties were Jewish folklore and Aesop's fables. You can read more about him at Wikipedia: Joseph Jacobs. He was born in Australia, moved to England to go to college in 1872, and then in 1900 he moved to New York where he became the editor of the Jewish Encyclopedia. I have relied on several of Jacobs's books for this class, including his collections of English fairy tales, Celtic fairy tales, and Indian fairy tales.

In his two volumes of English fairy tales, Jacobs set out to find folktales and fairy tales that could be considered native to England and the Lowlands of Scotland; in his research, he identified 140 stories that he would put in that category, and he published about 80 of those stories in these two volumes. He undertook the project in what he considered a patriotic spirit, hoping that English children would enjoy reading English fairy tales, in addition to familiar French fairy tales told by Perrault or the German stories of the Brothers Grimm. As Jacobs says in the Notes to the book: "Cinderella and Puss in Boots and their companions ousted Childe Rowland and Mr Fox and Catskin." That's probably still the case today: I would imagine that you have all heard of Cinderella and Puss in Boots, but you probably do not know the story of Mr. Fox . . . although after completing this unit, you will! (And you can learn about Catskin in the unit based on Jacobs's second volume of English fairy tales.)

Many of the stories Jacobs published in these two volumes had not previously been published in English before. Some of the stories he collected were told to him in local dialect, but he rewrote those stories in standard English, with just an occasional dialect word or phrase, as you will see. He hoped that readers would read the book aloud, as he explains in the Preface: "This book is meant to be read aloud, and not merely taken in by the eye." So, please, read the stories aloud or let the LibriVox narrator read the stories to you using the link provided with each story.

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