There are even indications of an earlier literary contact between Europe and India, in the case of one branch of the folk-tale, the Fable or Beast Droll. In a somewhat elaborate discussion. I have come to the conclusion that a goodly number of the fables that pass under the name of the Samian slave, Aesop, were derived from India, probably from the same source whence the same tales were utilised in the Jatakas, or Birth-stories of Buddha.
These Jatakas contain a large quantity of genuine early Indian folk-tales, and form the earliest collection of folk-tales in the world, a sort of Indian Grimm, collected more than two thousand years before the good German brothers went on their quest among the folk with such delightful results. For this reason I have included a considerable number of them in this volume; and shall be surprised if tales that have roused the laughter and wonder of pious Buddhists for the last two thousand years, cannot produce the same effect on English children.
The Jatakas have been fortunate in their English translators, who render with vigour and point; and I rejoice in being able to publish the translation of two new Jatakas, kindly done into English for this volume by Mr. W. H. D. Rouse, of Christ's College, Cambridge. In one of these I think I have traced the source of the Tar Baby incident in "Uncle Remus."
Though Indian fairy tales are the earliest in existence, yet they are also from another point of view the youngest. For it is only about twenty-five years ago that Miss Frere began the modern collection of Indian folk-tales with her charming "Old Deccan Days" (London, John Murray, 1868; fourth edition, 1889). Her example has been followed by Miss Stokes, by Mrs. Steel, and Captain (now Major) Temple, by the Pandit Natesa Sastri, by Mr. Knowles and Mr. Campbell, as well as others who have published folk-tales in such periodicals as the Indian Antiquary and The Orientalist.
The story-store of modern India has been well dipped into during the last quarter of a century, though the immense range of the country leaves room for any number of additional workers and collections.