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The Book of Noodles Stories of Simpletons; or, Fools and Their Follies   By: (1843-1896)

Book cover

First Page:

THE

BOOK OF NOODLES:

STORIES OF SIMPLETONS; OR, FOOLS AND THEIR FOLLIES .

BY W.A. CLOUSTON,

Author of "Popular Tales and Fictions; their Migrations and Transformations "

"Excellent! Why, this is the best fooling when all is done." Twelfth Night .

LONDON:

ELLIOT STOCK, 62, PATERNOSTER ROW.

1888.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 67 24351

TO MY DEAR FRIEND

DAVID ROSS, LL.D., M.A., B.Sc.,

PRINCIPAL OF THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND TRAINING COLLEGE, GLASGOW,

THIS COLLECTION OF FACETIÆ

IS DEDICATED.

PREFACE .

Like popular tales in general, the original sources of stories of simpletons are for the most part not traceable. The old Greek jests of this class had doubtless been floating about among different peoples long before they were reduced to writing. The only tales and apologues of noodles or stupid folk to which an approximate date can be assigned are those found in the early Buddhist books, especially in the "Játakas," or Birth stories, which are said to have been related to his disciples by Gautama, the illustrious founder of Buddhism, as incidents which occurred to himself and others in former births, and were afterwards put into a literary form by his followers. Many of the "Játakas" relate to silly men and women, and also to stupid animals, the latter being, of course, men re born as beasts, birds, or reptiles. But it is not to be supposed that all are of Buddhist invention; some had doubtless been current for ages among the Hindus before Gautama promulgated his mild doctrines. Scholars are, however, agreed that these fictions date at latest from a century prior to the Christian era.

Of European noodle stories, as of other folk tales, it may be said that, while they are numerous, yet the elements of which they are composed are comparatively very few. The versions domiciled in different countries exhibit little originality, farther than occasional modifications in accordance with local manners and customs. Thus for the stupid Brahman of Indian stories the blundering, silly son is often substituted in European variants; for the brose in Norse and Highland tales we find polenta or macaroni in Italian and Sicilian versions. The identity of incidents in the noodle stories of Europe with those in what are for us their oldest forms, the Buddhist and Indian books, is very remarkable, particularly so in the case of Norse popular fictions, which, there is every reason to believe, were largely introduced through the Mongolians; and the similarity of Italian and West Highland stories to those of Iceland and Norway would seem to indicate the influence of the Norsemen in the Western Islands of Scotland and in the south of Europe.

It were utterly futile to attempt to trace the literary history of most of the noodle stories which appear to have been current throughout European countries for many generations, since they have practically none. Soon after the invention of printing collections of facetiæ were rapidly multiplied, the compilers taking their material from oral as well as written sources, amongst others, from mediæval collections of "exempla" designed for the use of preachers and the writings of the classical authors of antiquity. With the exception of those in Buddhist works, it is more than probable that the noodle stories which are found among all peoples never had any other purpose than that of mere amusement. Who, indeed, could possibly convert the "witless devices" of the men of Gotham into vehicles of moral instruction? Only the monkish writers of the Middle Ages, who even "spiritualised" tales which, if reproduced in these days, must be "printed for private circulation"!

Yet may the typical noodle of popular tales "point a moral," after a fashion. Poor fellow! he follows his instructions only too literally, and with a firm conviction that he is thus doing a very clever thing... Continue reading book >>




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