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Our modern idioms, with all their straining after the abstract, are but primitive man's mental tools adapted to the requirements of civilized life, and they often retain traces of the form and shape which the neolithic worker's chipping and polishing gave them.
TOWARDS the close of the seventies I began to collect Welsh folklore. I did so partly because others had set the example elsewhere, and partly in order to see whether Wales could boast of any story-tellers of the kind that delight the readers of Campbell's Popular Tales of the West Highlands. I soon found what
I I was not wholly unprepared for, that as a rule I could not get a single story of any length from the mouths of any of my fellow countrymen, but a considerable number of bits of stories. In some instances these were so scrappy that it took me years to discover how to fit them into their proper context; but, speaking generally, I may say, that, as the materials, such as they were, accumulated, my initial difficulties disappeared. I was, however, always a little afraid of refreshing my memory with the legends of other lands lest I should read into those of my own, ideas possibly foreign to them. While one is busy collecting, it is safest probably not to be too much engaged in comparison : when the work of collecting is done that of comparing may begin. But after all I have not attempted to proceed very far in that direction, only just far enough to find elucidation here and there for the meaning of items of folklore brought under my notice. To have gone further would have involved me in excursions hopelessly beyond the limits of my undertaking, for comparative folklore has lately assumed such dimensions, that it seems best to leave it to those who make it their special study.
It is a cause of genuine regret to me that I did not commence my inquiries earlier, when I had more opportunities of pursuing them, especially when I was a village schoolmaster in Anglesey and could have done the folklore of that island thoroughly; but my education, such as it was, had been of a nature to discourage all interest in anything that savoured of heathen lore and superstition. Nor is that all, for the schoolmasters of my early days took very little trouble to teach their pupils to keep their eyes open or take notice of what they heard around them; so I grew up without having acquired the habit of observing anything, except the Sabbath. It is to be hoped that the younger generation of schoolmasters trained under more auspicious circumstances, when the baleful influence of Robert Lowe has given way to a more enlightened system of public instruction, will do better, and succeed in fostering in their pupils habits of observation. At all events there is plenty of work still left to be done by careful observers and skilful inquirers, as will be seen from the geographical list showing approximately the provenance of the more important contributions to the Kymric folklore in this collection: the counties will be found to figure very unequally. Thus the anglicizing districts have helped me very little, while the more Welsh county of Carnarvon easily takes the lead; but I am inclined to regard the anomalous features of that list as in a great measure due to accident. In other words, some neighbourhoods have been luckier than others in having produced or attracted men who paid attention to local folklore; and if other counties were to be worked equally with Carnarvonshire, some of them would probably be found not much less rich in their yield. The anglicizing counties in particular are apt to be disregarded both from the Welsh and the English points of view, in folklore just as in some other things, and in this connexion I cannot help mentioning the premature death of the Rev. Elias Owen as a loss which Welsh folklorists will not soon cease to regret.
My information has been obtained partly viva voce, partly by letter. In the case of the stories written down for me in Welsh, I may mention that in some instances the language is far from good; but it has not been thought expedient to alter it in any way, beyond introducing some consistency into the spelling. In the case of the longest specimen of the written stories, Mr. J. C. Hughes' Curse of Pantannas, it is worthy of notice in passing, that the rendering of it into English was followed by a version in blank verse by Sir Lewis Morris, who published it in his Songs of Britain. With regard to the work generally, my original intention was to publish the materials, obtained in the way described, with such stories already in print as might be deemed necessary by way of setting for them; and to let any theories or deductions in which I might be disposed to indulge follow later. In this way the first six chapters and portions of some of the others appeared from time to time in the publications of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion and in those of the Folk-Lore Society. This would have allowed me to divide the present work into the two well marked sections of materials and deductions. But, when the earlier part' came to be edited, I found that I had a good deal of fresh material at my disposal, so that the chapters in question had in some instances to be considerably lengthened and in some others modified in other ways. Then as to the deductive half of the work, it may be mentioned that certain portions of the folklore, though ever apt to repeat themselves, were found when closely scrutinized to show serious lacunæ, which had to be filled in the course of the reasoning suggested by the materials in hand. Thus the idea of the whole consisting of two distinctly defined sections had to be given up or else allowed to wait till I should find time to recast it. But I could no more look forward to any such time than to the eventual possibility of escaping minor inconsistencies by quietly stepping through the looking-glass and beginning my work with the index instead of resting content to make it in the old-fashioned way at the end. There was, however, a third course, which is only mentioned to be rejected, and that was to abstain from all further publication; but what reader of books has ever known any of his authors to adopt that!
To crown these indiscretions I have to confess that even when most of what I may call the raw material had been brought together, I had no clear idea what I was going to do with it; but I had a hazy notion, that, as in the case of an inveterate talker whose stream of words is only made the more boisterous by obstruction, once I sat down to write I should find reasons and arguments flowing in. It may seem as though I had been secretly conjuring with Vergil's words viresque adquirit eundo. Nothing so deliberate: the world in which I live swarms with busybodies dying to organize everybody and everything, and my instinctive opposition to all that order of tyranny makes me inclined to cherish a somewhat wild sort of free will. Still the cursory reader would be wrong to take for granted that there is no method in my madness: should he take the trouble to look for it, he would find that it has a certain unity of purpose, which has been worked out in the later chapters; but to spare him that trouble