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The Laughing Prince

In calling this A Book of Jugoslav Fairy Tales and Folk Tales I have used the word Jugoslav in its literal sense of Southern Slav. The Bulgars are just as truly Southern Slavs as the Serbs or Croats or any other of the Slav peoples now included within the state of Jugoslavia. Moreover in this case it would be particularly difficult to make the literary boundaries conform strictly to the political boundaries since much the same stories and folk tales are current among all these Slav peoples of the Balkan Peninsula. The special student taking the variants of the same story might discover special differences that would mark each variant as the product of some one locality. The work of such a student would have philological and ethnological value but not a very strong appeal to the general reader. My appeal is first of all to the general reader—to the child who loves fairy tales and to the adult who loves them. I hope they will both find these stories entertaining and amusing quite aside from any interest in their source.

Yet these tales as presented do give the reader a true idea of the amazing vigor and the artistic inventiveness of the Jugoslav imagination, and also of the various influences, Oriental and Northern as well as Slavic, which have made that imagination what it is to-day. Here are gay picaresque tales of adventure—how they go on and on and on!—charming little stories of sentiment, a few folk tales of stark simplicity and grim humor, one story showing a superficial Turkish influence, and one spiritual allegory as deep and moving as anything in the Russian.

The renderings in every case are my own and are not in any sense translations. I have taken the old stories and retold them in a new language. To do them justice in this new language I have found it necessary to present them with a new selection of detail and with an occasional shifting of emphasis. I do not mean by this that I have invented detail in any unwarranted fashion. I haven't had to for any folk tale, however bald, contains all sorts of things by implication. The true story teller, it seems to me, is he who is able to grasp these implications and turn them to his own use.

I must confess that the setting in which I have placed the famous old Serbian nonsense story, In my young days when I was an old, old man, is my own invention. The nonsense story needs a setting and as it chanced I had one ready as I have long wanted to tell the world what was back of the determination of that princess who refused to eat until some one had made her laugh.

So far as I know most of these stories are not familiar to English readers—certainly not in this form. Madame Mijatovich uses one of them in her Serbian Fairy Tales, but I make no apology for offering a sprightlier version. Nor do I apologize for presenting any stories that may have been included somewhere among the indifferent translations to which Andrew Lang lent his name.

I am of course deeply indebted to the various people who told me these stories in the first place and to many scholarly folklorists, Jugoslav, Czechoslovak, Bulgarian, German, and English whose books and reports I have studied.

Decoration Day, 1921. P. F.

The Laughing Prince Jugoslav Folk and Fairy Tales

Jugoslav folk and fairy tales

Notes: Contains 14 folktales of the Slavic people. As the author of this book states in the preface, these folk and fairy tales do not relate only to the people inhabiting the lands of ex-Yugoslavia, but rather to all Slavic people (Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Ukraine).

Author: Parker Fillmore
Published: 1921
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace And Company, USA

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