Some three-fourths of the distance between America and Europe there is a group of nine beautiful islands called the Azores which belong to Portugal. Their names are Flores, Corvo, Fayal, Pico, S. Jorge, Graciosa, Terceira, S. Miguel, and Santa Maria. Many people think them to be the mountain peaks of the submerged continent, Atlantis, which long ago was covered by the ocean.
There are ancient records which tell of Arabian caravels driven back by dangerous seas surrounding islands full of volcanoes. There are old pictures which portray seas of spouting geysers and flaming volcanic isles. In these regions islands had a habit of suddenly lifting themselves out of the ocean and then disappearing again from view. When the largest of the islands, S. Miguel or St. Michael as it is called in English, was mapped, two mountain peaks were marked where later only one could be discovered. Thus it was that the Azores gained their reputation. Islands full of volcanoes amid seas of spouting geysers could be nothing else but enchanted. And islands and mountain peaks which suddenly vanished away from one's sight! Surely the Azores must be the true land of magic.
"The day of folktales is departing from the Azores," said the wise woman. "Public schools came with the republic, and where books of printed stories enter folktales become confused and soon are lost."
"There is no originality among our islanders," complained the wise man of the islands. "They have told over and over again the stories of our mother country, Portugal, and they have made few variations."
However, when I spent December 1920 and January 1921 in the Azores in connection with research work for the Hispanic Society, I found that there were not only pleasant folktales there but even real fairies. They inhabit the wooded slopes of Monte Brasil on the island of Terceira. The fisher folk who visit the barren Ilheos de Cabras on the Bay of Angra know that there are fairies living in those rocky isles even yet when the boys and girls of the Azores are sailing away from them to seek their fortunes in America. Have they not often seen the fairy garments spread out upon the rocks in the bright sunshine?
"You are like the Holy Virgin herself," said the little maid of St. Michael.
"Did you ever see the Virgin?" asked my friend.
"Once the white clouds parted for a moment and I caught a glimpse of her beautiful blue mantle," replied the child reverently.
Yes, there are still fairies and simple faith and magic in the islands. One who visits the boiling springs at Furnas does not doubt for a moment that he is upon enchanted ground.
Folk tales are composite. No one person or group of persons can claim credit for them. They are our inheritance from many storytellers. To all these storytellers both of yesterday and of to-day I offer my grateful appreciation and hearty thanks.
I have endeavored to tell the stories in a way which will be pleasing to American children. To do this I have taken the liberty of making occasional elaborations or omissions which I believe add to the value of the story. Everywhere first of all I have tried to keep the spirit of the Azores.
Thanks are due the publishers of the "Delineator" and the "Outlook" for permission to reprint stories which have appeared in these magazines.
E. S. E.
Notes: The book contains 34 folktales from the Azores (Portugal).
Author: Elsie Spicer Eells
Publisher: Hardcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., New York