This, as I have said, is a modern story. It does not tell the reader to be truthful and good. It just tells him a story of thrilling adventures and daring escapes from danger. But the old-fashioned story is different; and now we are getting close to our subject.
I will tell you all about the old-fashioned stories in a moment; but I must remind you that these old stories were written about a hundred years ago. They were usually written to teach a moral lesson. Dear old John Aikin, or his sister Anna Letitia Barbauld, or Maria Edgeworth, or Jane Taylor would say some morning—at any rate, so it seems to me—“I will write a story to-day to teach boys and girls to be industrious.” And so “Busy Idleness” was written. Or one of these old authors would decide to write a story the main object of which was to teach little girls not to be too curious, and so “The Inquisitive Girl” was written. Both of these stories, and many others equally good, are found in this volume.
I could really tell you many interesting things about these old-fashioned stories but I will do something better—urge you to read them yourself. They are quaint, delightful, and entertaining stories, besides teaching a moral. You boys and girls should read every one of them, and then read them again, out loud, to your mothers or to anybody else who will listen.
Among all the old-fashioned stories in this volume I find only one that seems to me “really funny,” and that is “Uncle David’s Nonsensical Story about the Giants and Fairies.” Think of a giant so tall that “he was obliged to climb up a ladder to comb his own hair.” But this bit of humor is not so good as a very modern nonsense-story entitled “The Giant’s Shoes,” which I read the other day, and from which the Managing Editor permits me to quote this little passage:
“The Giant slept for three weeks at a time, and two days after he woke his breakfast was brought to him, consisting of bright brown horses sprinkled on his bread and butter. Besides his boots, the Giant had a pair of shoes, and in one of them his wife lived when she was at home; on other occasions she lived in the other shoe. She was a sensible, practical kind of woman, with two wooden legs and a clothes-horse, but in other respects not rich. The wooden legs were kept pointed at both ends, in order that if the Giant were dissatisfied with his breakfast, he might pick up any stray people that were within reach, using his wife as a fork; this annoyed the inhabitants of the district, so that they built their church in a southwesterly direction from the castle, behind the Giant’s back, that he might not be able to pick them up as they went in. But those who stayed outside to play pitch-and-toss were exposed to great danger and sufferings.”
By Miguel Cervantes