Any editor of Slav folk-tales starts with great advantages. Russia is a country where artistic development began very late; where popular lore was conserved with little alteration owing to the immensities of the country, the primitiveness of the people, and the punctiliousness of the compilers. The principal source for Russian folk-tales is the great collection of Afanáśev, a coeval of Rybnikov, Kirěyevski, Sakharov, Bezsonov, and others who all from about 1850 to 1870 laboriously took down from the lips of the peasants of all parts of Russia what they could of the endless store of traditional song, ballad, and folk-tale. These great collectors were actuated only by the desire for accuracy; they appended laboriously erudite notes; but they were not literary men and did not sophisticate, or improve on their material. But, before venturing on a brief account of the tales, something must be premised as to the position occupied by folk-tales in the cultural development of a people. In Pagan times, there always existed a double religion, the ceremonial worship of the gods of nature and the tribal deities,—a realm of thought in which all current philosophy and idealism entered into a set form that symbolized the State,—and also local cults and superstitions, the adoration of the spirits of streams, wells, hills, etc. To all Aryan peoples, Nature has always been alive, but never universalized, or romanticized, as in modern days; wherever you were, the brook, the wind, the knoll, the stream were all inhabited by agencies, which could be propitiated, cajoled, threatened, but, under all conditions, were personal forces, who could not be disregarded.
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