surveying the literary achievements of Archibald
Lampman (1861-1899) during his years as a student
at Trinity College, Toronto (1879-1882), a teacher
at the high school in Orangeville (1882), and
a clerk in the Savings Bank Branch of the Post
Office Department in Ottawa (1883-1884), Carl
Y. Connor observes that "Lampman the prose
writer somewhat preceded Lampman the poet in the
volume and the character of his earliest work"(15).
Although Connor’s remarks refer primarily to Lampman’s
"fluent essays and letters" of the early
eighteen eighties, they are also applicable to
the two fairy tales that he wrote during that
period, "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson"
and "The Fairy Fountain," both of which
are equal to the best of his early non-fictional
prose in fluency and substance. Yet Connor’s discussion
of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" is
restricted to a brief account of its publication
history (it first appeared in Man [Toronto]
in November 1885)1
and an even briefer summary of its plot ( "[i]t
[is] the story of a German minstrel who became
so bitter that he is changed into a frog until
he...[finds] out the meaning of the song of the
stream"). Moreover, Connor makes no mention
at all of "The Fairy Fountain," perhaps
because he wished to confine himself largely to
Lampman’s published work ("The Fairy Fountain"
did not appear in print until 1975 in Barrie Davies’
edition of Lampman’s Selected Prose). That
"Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The
Fairy Fountain" deserve serious treatment
has been recognized by several critics, however,
none more clearly than L.R. Early, who aligns
them with Lampman’s most accomplished long poem,
The Story of an Affinity (written between
1892 and 1894) as "quest-narratives of an
essentially Romantic kind" in which the hero
can be assumed to represent aspects of the poet’s
own journey towards "self-discovery"
and "spiritual integration" (Archibald
Lampman 38-39). Connor makes a more significant
point than he realizes when he observes of "The
Song of the Stream-drops" that indicates
the minstrel’s coming to knowledge in "Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" that it was subsequently
published in Among the Millet, and Other Poems
Lampman’s fairy tales and poems are related rather
than separate manifestations of his development
towards intellectual, artistic, and, indeed, psychological
maturity in the years following his move to Ottawa
in January 1883.
The few references to "Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy
Fountain" in Lampman’s surviving correspondence
indicate that the period in which the fairy tales
were written—the period of Lampman’s adjustment
to life as a poorly paid civil servant in The
Post Office Department—was a time of troubled
and painful soul-searching for the fledgling poet.
Writing to his college friend John Almon Ritchie
in a letter that Connor dates only to the "summer"
of 1884 (77), Lampman notes that "[t]he ‘St.
Nicholas [: a Monthly Magazine for Boys and Girls]’
[New York] has returned… ‘Hans Fingerhut’ with
no acknowledgement but their ignominious printed
form" and adds that this is "all [he
had] expected" (qtd. in Connor 77). He then
proceeds to describe his present psychological
state and its creative consequences:
a great assistance self-conceit is to diligent
and effective writing! I have alternating periods—the
period of vanity and the period of self-distrust.
Sometimes for weeks together I get into my head
mysteriously that I have power to do something
and then I can work away— write at any time—make
my fingers fly like ostriches. Then comes the
opposite mood, and I can do nothing. The slightest
self-distrust utterly unnerves me. The only
condition in which one can write properly seems
to be that of happy self-approval. I am in the
barren wilderness at present. The only thing
to do is to read and study myself back again. (qtd.
in Connor 77-78)
this account of vacillation between the Romantic
poles of creative elation and dejection are references
to various poetic achievements and schemes, including
a "plan for a…Canadian poem… [set] in the
Niagara district" that may well have been
the basis for The Story of an Affinity.3
Of greatest relevance to Lampman’s fairy tales,
however, is his perception of "happy self-approval"
as the cure for creative inactivity, for in both
"Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The
Fairy Fountain" happiness born of contentment
with one’s life and work is seen as the secret
and consequence of "spiritual integration":
in the former, Hans Fingerhut’s discovery, while
in the form of a frog, that "the song that
[the water drops] sing is neither weary nor sad,
but perfectly happy and peaceful"’ (267-69)
enables him to regain his humanity and creativity,
and, in the latter, Anders Christensen’s recovery
of his lost appreciation of "life, and light,
and the sound of mirth and business" (874)
permits him to find contentment in life and love
and to achieve renown as a poet and a benefactor.
surviving reference to "The Fairy Fountain"
in a letter of January 29, 1885 to another friend,
May McKeggie, are similarly embedded in comments
about his psychological and creative condition:
have been very dull and out of spirits—oppressed
with innumerable things—debts; ill success in
everything, incapacity to write and want of
any hope of ever succeeding in it if I do.
I cannot do anything—I
believe I am the feeblest and most good-for-nothing
mortal anywhere living. I am poor and in debt….
Where every blockhead’s work is accepted and
paid for, mine is hardly treated with civility….
So I go on dragging through the days drearily
enough, with a few, very few, sunny spaces here
and there— just so many as to keep me from breaking
I wrote another
fairy tale the other day—much to mother’s disgust;4
who is unlimited in her complaints of the impractical
and outlandish character of my writings, which
indeed fetch no money—or even respect. As to
the story, I made it in a dull lifeless state
of mind, so I dare say it is bad enough. I have
also made 5 stanzas of a poem on winter—one
stanza which is good—the rest bad—very good
and very bad—the majority bad however.5
judge by Lampman’s subsequent letters to McKeggie
and Ritchie, the mood of gloom and doom that permeates
such passages as this did not begin to lift until
the spring of 1885. In May of that year, he still
viewed his recent poems as "imperfect"
but judged "Winter" "the best…[he
had] yet written" because "the most
artistic and truest to nature." "The
springtime is come at last," he wrote, "and
I am breaking my back with digging paths in the
garden and laying out beds. I walk out to the
woods also very often and sit down on logs and
dream: for this is the sweetest season of the
year for wood-wandering; there are no mosquitoes
yet." Three months later, in a letter of
August 8 to his future wife, Maud Playter, he
explains that, although he has "written a
poem called ‘Among the Millet’" (which he
is "afraid is…very dry"), he is "not
quite in mood for work" but "still…plodding
on" and "thinking of getting down to
another fairy tale."6
It is as if Lampman gradually found or recovered
his métier in the spring of 1885 and, in
so doing, imitated in his own life the successful
quests of the poet-heroes of his fairy tales.
Some two years after his move to Ottawa, the mental
state that had prompted the spiritual searchings
and wish-fulfilments embodied in "Hans Fingerhut’s
Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain"
had moderated. Lampman would never be entirely
free of self-doubt and dark thoughts, but the
winters of his deepest discontent were over.
one reason for this was merely meteorological,
others were his romantic interest in Maud Playter,
whom he met in 1884, his growing friendship with
his fellow poet, Duncan Campbell Scott, whom he
also met in 1884, and his increasing success in
finding outlets for his work in Canadian and American
periodicals such as Century Magazine, which
published his "Bird Voices" in May 1885,
and Man, which was owned by Maud’s father.7
As important as these factors but in a very different
sphere, was his development at this time of a
philosophy of work whose roots lie in Thomas Carlyle.
"I very often feel totally forlorn and impotent
in the presence of what I have planned for myself
to do," he told McKeggie in a letter of May
I find that it is useless to be always examining
myself and endeavouring to calculate one’s own
strength and resources. The best way is to go
actively to work on the first thing in the way
of one’s art that lies in the road—to forget
if possible that one is trying to be great and
just endeavour to do what one has in hand as
naturally and truthfully as one can. Life has
some boons either visibly or invisibly for everyone,
and all work that is faithful and comes from
a full heart is of value. I…have very little
time to work—I seem to be getting less [and]
less all the time—but I keep pounding away—and
manage to produce some small thing every now
and then—not much, but as good as I can make
it…. I think a great deal of the good work that
has been done in the world has been the outcome
simply of a spirit of blind cheerful
activity such as I describe. The great
souls never knew half the time where they were
going or what was to be the net result of it
all—but they toiled carelessly and divinely
on. Let us emulate them.
in its rejection of obsessive subjectivity, its
advocacy of "blind cheerful activity,"
its deference to "great souls" who have
"toiled carelessly and divinely on,"
and, above all, in its tone of moral earnestness,
this "sermon" (as Lampman proceeds to
call it) is an explicit expression of the attitude
that he gives to his poet-heroes at the conclusion
of his fairy tales: as "Hans Fingerhut’s
Frog-lesson" draws to a close, Hans sings
his "glad, beautiful songs" while working
"diligently" as a tailor (308) and in
the final paragraphs of "The Fairy Fountain"
Anders sings of "beautiful things" while
earning his living as a "cobbler" (1003,
990). "Two men I honour, and no third,"
runs a famous passage in Sartor Resartus (1833-1834):
"[f]irst, the toilworn Craftsman…[and] second,
and still more highly, …[the] Artist…the inspired
Thinker…. Unspeakingly touching is it, however,
when I find both dignities united; and he that
must toil outwardly for the lowest of man’s wants,
is also toiling inwardly for the highest"
philosophy that Lampman incarnated in his fairy
tales and articulated to May McKeggie in the mid-eighteen
eighties would have been entirely congenial to
the author whose work apparently provided one
of three principal quarries for "Hans Fingerhut’s
Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain":
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875). First translated
into English in 1846 and, by the time Lampman
was a child in the eighteen sixties, available
in more than a dozen English translations, Andersen’s
fairy tales may not only have shaped Lampman’s
understanding of the fairy tale as such but also
served as models when he turned his own hand to
the genre in the early eighteen eighties, by which
time the number of English translations had doubled.
But which of Andersen’s more than eighty fairy
tales and in what translation lie in the background
of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and
"The Fairy Fountain"? Neither of these
questions can be answered with certainty, though
it can be said that Lampman was perhaps most likely
to have encountered Andersen’s fairy tales in
one or more of the collections of his most able
and prolific mid-Victorian translators, Henry
William Dulken (1832-1894). The twenty-volumes
of the The Hans Andersen Library that appeared
between 1869 and 1887 included Dulken’s translations
of most of Andersen’s fairy tales with numerous
illustrations by A.W. Bayes, and volumes of similarly
illustrated translations of the tales by Dulken
were published in the ’sixties and ’seventies,
culminating in Fairy Tales and Stories,
which ran to three editions between 1880 and 1883.
Lampman does not mention either Dulken or Andersen
in any of his letters or essays, but he may have
been acquainted with Dulken’s translations of
German songs (see Lampman, Essays and Reviews
215) and the name of the protagonist in "The
Fairy Fountain," Anders Christensen, is surely
a gesture towards the great Danish writer.
might be expected from both the title and the
plot of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson"—the
protagonist of the tale, a poet and tailor whose
surname in German means "thimble,"8
is transformed by an elf into a frog so that he
may learn the lesson of the stream and regain
his sense of the beauty and freshness of the world—the
Andersen fairy tales and stories that it most
resembles are of two kinds: (1) fairy tales that
accord with the strict definition of the genre
in depicting encounters between ordinary humans
and supernatural, human-like beings9
and (2) stories in which a plant or animal is
made to embody an attitude to life or a body of
wisdom. In the category of fairy tales, "Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" most resembles portions
of two of Andersen’s best-known works in the genre:
the third episode in "The Snow Queen,"
in which Gerda makes her way out of town to a
river where she encounters an old woman who can
"conjure" and hears riddling messages
from various flowers (271-74), and the opening
episode of "The Wild Swans," where Eliza
makes a similar journey from town to country in
search of her brothers and, on the advice of an
old woman who turns out to be Fata Morgana, follows
a "stream …to the great open ocean,"
where the "smoothness of the pebbles"
gives her an insight into the nature of water
and the need for perseverance: "‘[i]t rolls
on unweariedly, and thus what is hard becomes
smooth. I will be just as unwearied. Thanks for
your lesson, you clear rolling waters…’"
(406-410). ("‘[T]he song that [the water
drops] sing is neither weary nor sad,"’ explains
Lampman’s elf in his gloss of "‘the meaning
of the stream song,’" "‘but perfectly
happy and peaceful. So everything in the world
has something great and noble to strive towards’"
[268-70].) In the category of stories, "Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" bears some resemblance
both to "The Buckwheat," where the plant
is punished for its pride, and some sparrows,
curious about the weeping of a willow tree over
its demise, express their unmitigatedly positive
vision of the world ("‘everything is so cheerful:
see how the sun shines, see how the clouds sail
on. Do you not breathe the scent of flowers and
bushes?"’ ) and to "The Flax,"
where the plant expresses similarly positive views
through the various stages of its metamorphosis
from plant to linen, to paper, and finally to
ashes, at which point the "little invisible
beings" that constitute its essence proclaim
in unison that they are the "happiest of
all things"’ because they know that "‘[t]he
song is never done’" (190). Very likely Lampman
read widely among Andersen’s fairy tales and stories
either (or both) as a child or (and) in preparation
for writing "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson,"
but in "The Snow Queen," "The Wild
Swans," "The Buckwheat," and "The
Flax" he seems to have found the principal
materials that, like the poet-tailor of his tale,
he "sewed…stitched" and shaped for the
"delight and wonder" of little children
and their parents (307-08, 312).
conspicuously a part of the fabric of "Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" as some of Andersen’s
fairy tales are materials evocative of the other
major nineteenth-century exponents of the genre,
Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (1785-1863) and his younger
brother Wilhelm Carl (1789-1859). First translated
into English as German Popular Stories
by Edgar Taylor in 1823, Grimms’ fairy tales could
have been known to Lampman as a child in any of
several editions and reprintings of Taylor’s translations
or in the translations of James Edward Taylor,
E.H. Wehnert, and M.L. Davis, and by the early
eighteen eighties they were also available in
several other editions, reprintings, and translations,
including the ten volumes of the The Grimm
Fairy Library (1879). As is the case with
Andersen, neither the Grimms’ fairy tales nor
any of their translators are mentioned in Lampman’s
essays and letters. Moreover, the grotesque and
macabre aspects of some of the Grimms’ best-known
tales ("Rumple-stilts-kin," for example
and "The Goose-Girl") are very much
at odds with the spirit of both "Hans Fingerhut’s
Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain."
Nevertheless, the German name of the protagonist
and the German setting of "Hans Fingerhut’s
Frog-lesson" raise numerous echoes in the
Grimms’ fairy tales, as does the transformation
of Hans from a human to a frog and back again
by an elf: as intimated by the mere titles of
some of the Grimms’ best-known fairy tales ("Hans
in Luck," "Hansel and Grettel,"
"Hans and his Wife Grettel) the name Hans
and its cognates is given to several of their
protagonists; the word "Fingerhut"—Thimble—
recalls such characters as Tom Thumb and the Tumbling
of "The Young Giant and the Tailor";
and Hans’s double transformation cannot but recall
the transformations of "The Frog-Prince"
and "Cherry, the Frog-Bride." The very
fact that Hans Fingerhut is a tailor aligns him
with the craftsmen in several more of the Grimms’
fairy tales ("The Elves and the Shoemaker"
and "The Four Clever Brothers" are cases
in point), but herein lies a significant difference:
Hans is not simply a tailor but, by virtue of
his frog-lesson, a tailor re-tailored (sartor
resartus) along Carlylean lines so that he
is no longer angry, bitter, and out of tune with
the natural world but the author of songs that
are "sweet and beautiful and wise" like
the song of the water drops (322). "Close
thy Byron; open thy Goethe"
is Carlyle’s famous commandment in Sartor Resartus
(1:153). Lampman may not quite have closed his
Grimm when he wrote his fairy tales, but he certainly
opened his Andersen and, as will be seen in a
few moments, perhaps also his Goethe.
"Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson," "The
Fairy Fountain" contains elements of the
fairy tales of both Andersen and the Grimms and
bears a particular resemblance to "The Snow
Queen," this time in the elaborateness of
Anders’ experiences in the land revealed by the
fairy fountain and in the narrative of his quest
for the love of the scholar’s daughter to whom
he sings his songs about the fairy world. But
the origins of "The Fairy Fountain"
appear to be more complex than those of "Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and, indeed, to
indicate that the lineage of the earlier work
is less straightforward than it might so far have
seemed. Given Lampman’s enormous reliance on Carlyle
in the early-to-mid eighties (and more evidence
of this, if required, can be found in the deep
indebtedness of his 1883 essay on the French politician
Léon Gambetta to The French Revolution 
and On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic
in History ),10
it can scarcely come as a surprise that another
work by Carlyle apparently furnished him with
the third body of material upon which he drew
for his fairy tales. The work in question is Carlyle’s
German Romance, a collection of translations
of German stories and novellas that was first
published in 1827, and the body of material to
which it provided access is the work of Johann
Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853), "a true Poet…
born as well as made," according
to Carlyle’s introductory and critical note, whose
"own peculiar province.… [was] that of the
Mährchen… [or] Popular Traditionary Tale"
(21:264, 265). "Such tales ought to be poetical,
because they spring from the very fountains of
natural feeling," continues Carlyle in a
definition of the Märchen or, more accurately,
Kunstmärchen (art tale) that applies equally
well to Lampman’s fairy tales; "they ought
to be moral, not as exemplifying some contemporary
apophthegm, but as imaging forth in shadowy emblems
the universal tendencies and destinies of man"
(21: 266). Since literary works are more likely
to be generated by examples than by definitions,
it is only to be expected that the resemblance
between Tieck’s Kunstmärchen and Lampman’s
fairy tales is most apparent at the level of detail
than precept. A juxtaposition of three passages,
the first from Tieck and the second two from Lampman
will make the point:
young hunter…was musing on his destiny; how
he…had forsaken his father and mother, and accustomed
home… and …found himself in this valley, in
this employment. Great clouds were passing over
him, and sinking behind the mountains; birds
were singing from the bushes, and an echo was
replying to them. He slowly descended the hill;
and seated himself on the margin of a brook,
that was gushing down among the rocks with foamy
murmur. He listened to the fitful melody of
the water; and it seemed to him as if the waves
were saying to him, in unintelligible words,
a thousand things that concerned him nearly;
and he felt an inward trouble that he could
not understand their speeches. Then…he looked
aloft, and thought that he was glad and
happy; so he took new heart, and sang aloud…his
hunting-song…. (Tieck, "The Runenberg"
• • •
ago, almost out of recollection, there lived
in a small town in a woody German valley a poet
named Hans Fingerhut. He had come from the far
north somewhere, and had travelled many years
with his harp…buying his bread with songs that
the gentlefolk at first were never tired of
At last one day…he…passed
away out of town, determined never to return.
Everything seemed to mock him as walked; the
blue sky and the fresh green earth, the song
of the birds, the piping of the crickets and
grasshoppers, the wind in the trees and the
clink of the cow-bell, all so full of fair delight
At last he came
to a forest and then to a little stream running
among stones and fallen moss-grown trees. More
than ever the cheery ripple and murmur of the
water angered him. It seemed to say to him—
"How very miserable you are, to be sure,
Hans Fingerhut, you dishevelled outcast; see
how happy I am and how delightfully I sing."
And Hans Fingerhut began to fling stones into
the stream; but it never heeded. ("Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" 1-48)
in a northern city…far from here, there dwelt
a cobbler whose name was Anders Christensen.
He was very young, being scarcely twenty years
of age. His parents were both dead….
fell to thinking…and he determined to make the
next day a holiday, and spend it all by himself
in… sweet places…. Early in the morning, before
it was sunrise, he got up and packed a loaf
of bread in his wallet and set out. The sun
was not quite risen yet when he reached the
highway; but all the East was white, and the
birds were breaking into sweet muffled songs
in the cool grey of the morning.
Hour after hour
he journeyed on, ever lighter of heart, and
it was high noon and the sun was very hot, when
he reached the hills and came into a narrow
valley, with a small beautiful stream running
through it…. At last in a quiet hidden place
he came to a fountain… and on the wall was carved
the figure of a fairy blowing a horn, and from
the horn the water leaped into the basin and
from this it ran down sparkling and murmuring
over the slope…. He sat down on the rim of the
fountain and looked over into the chrystal water….[A]s
he gazed it seemed to him that the fairy was
no longer of stone, but living flesh, and her
lips were like those of a living being…. Then
the quiet lips moved, and the sense of words
came into Anders’ heart so softly that he could
hardly tell whether it were a voice or not….
Fairy Fountain" 1-78)
be sure, there are many differences such as the
occupations of their principal characters between
"The Runenberg" and Lampman’s fairy
tales, but as these passages indicate, "Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy
Fountain" appear indebted to Carlyle’s translation
of Tieck’s Kunstmärchen not only in their
setting and details, but also in their diction,
tone, and even punctuation (notice particularly
the use of semicolons in the three passages).
Perhaps most striking in the three passages is
the parallel between the cryptically meaningful
utterances of the streams in "The Runenburg"
and "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and,
as merely intimated by the excerpts from these
two tales, the presence in both of songs that
preach "cheerful activity" ("Blithe
and cheery through the mountains / Goes the huntsman
to the chase…" begins the hunter’s song;
"We labor and sing sweet songs, but we never
moan" proclaim the water drops ).11
Whatever characteristics "The Runenberg"
and "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" may
share, however, they differ radically in atmosphere
and outcome: at the end of Tieck’s gothic tale
the hunter abandons his wife and children for
a "hideous Woodwoman" (342), but Lampman’s
fairy tale concludes with Hans Fingerhut working
and singing in the certainty that his songs are
the gift of the "Great Father" (325-26).
If Lampman drew upon "The Runenberg,"
it was not slavishly but as a point of departure
for his own concerns and aims.
the same can be said of the relationship between
"The Runenberg" and "The Fairy
Fountain," though a comparison of the two
in their entirety leaves the impression that Lampman’s
second fairy tale is in more ways than "Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" a generic variation
of Tieck’s. In both works, the protagonists’ fathers
loom large in their childhood education, but,
whereas the young hunter disregards his father’s
advice to read the "old books, which he used
to see at home" (320), Anders spends "many
a happy hour" listening to his father’s stories
and "almost kn[ows]… by heart" the "few
books" given to him by a priest (19-20).
In both tales, the protagonists are inducted into
a supernatural realm while sitting beside a stream,
but whereas the harbinger of the uncanny in "The
Runenberg" is a "mysterious mandrake-root"
at which the young hunter "[u]nthinkingly"
tugs (320-21), in "The Fairy Fountain,"
it is the fairy fountain itself that furnishes
Anders with the "golden key" that provides
access to a "half strange, half natural"
land (185). And in both tales, the protagonists
encounter bewildering distortions of space and
time in the supernatural realm but, whereas the
young hunter falls "headlong down [a] precipice"
before "awakening [to] f[ind] himself upon
a pleasant hill" in "a strange and remote
Anders simply walks "to the end of [a] plain,"
falls asleep on a slope, and awakens to find himself
in "a great cornfield" (and, moreover,
wearing "the rough homespun garb of a husbandman"
[126-27], this being the first of several changes
that accord with the different levels of society
to which he is introduced during his otherworldly
travels). In the light of such resemblances and
departures, it may be wondered whether the name
Anders Christensen might not also be a variation
on the names of two of Tieck’s protagonists, Christian
("The Runenberg") and Anders ("The
Elves"), and, indeed, whether the obsession
with making money that enslaves Christensen to
his work, results in his becoming a usurer, stifles
his artistic creativity, denies him access to
the "hidden land" (814), and nearly
destroys his relationship with the woman he loves
(and, thanks to his change of heart, finally marries)
might not be an adaptation of the obsession with
money that gradually destroys Christian after
his experiences in the supernatural realm and
eventually dooms him to the clutches of the Woodwoman.
As these last possibilities intimate, whatever
resemblances and differences of content and genre
separate and link "The Fairy Fountain"
and "The Runenberg," the two tales embody
the same Christian moral concerning "the
universal tendencies and destinies of man":
radix malorum cupiditas est: "the
love of money is the root of all evil": "[y]e
cannot serve God and Mammon"(1 Timothy 6.10;
the combination of Andersen’s and the Grimms’
fairy tales and stories and Tieck’s Märchen
or Kunstmärchen may be sufficient to explain
the genre and many of the components of "Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy
Fountain," two more bodies of translation
need to be mentioned as a possible influence on
the form and content of Lampman’s tales, especially
the latter. A little over a month before informing
May McKeggie on January 29, 1885 that he had written
"another fairy tale the other day,"
Lampman wrote to thank her for her Christmas present
and to send his seasonal good wishes. Brief through
it is, his letter of December 28, 188413
contains two clusters of information that may
have considerable bearing on "The Fairy Fountain":
(1) the fact that he also received for Christmas
"a copy of Dante" from his mother and
"a copy of Goethe’s short novels and Tales"
from a male friend in Ottawa (perhaps Duncan Campbell
Scott); and (2) the fact that he has "written
some but not very much since the last batch of
poems" that he had sent her earlier in the
month. Now, if "The Fairy Fountain"
was not written until after Christmas 1884, then
the possibility exists that the various and, of
course, typologically identical women whom Anders
encounters in fairy land and the real world—the
maiden who meets him in various guises in the
cornfield, the forest, and the town and, later,
the scholar’s daughter with whom he falls in love—were
conceived under the influence of Dante and on
the model of Beatrice as Ander’s guide(s) towards
moral and spiritual truths.14
Indeed, the scholar’s daughter says as much when,
towards the end of the tale, she informs Anders
that the purpose of her earlier refusal of his
love (this being the equivalent of Beatrice’s
denying of her salutation to Dante in the Vita
Nuova) was to "turn [him] away from what
was spoiling [him], and make [him] as [he] had
been before"(979-81). Needless to say this
Dantean possibility does not diminish—in fact,
it may increase—the likelihood that Lampman had
Maud Playter in mind when he envisaged the scholar’s
daughter and her spiritual counterparts, for in
the wake of the Pre-Raphaelites it was difficult
to construe the spiritual guide of the Divina
Commedia as other than the representation
of an actual person in Dante’s life.15
"The Fairy Fountain" was not written
until after Christmas 1884, then the likelihood
also exists that it was composed under the influence
of "Goethe’s short novels and Tales"—that
is, R.D. Boylan’s translation of Johann Wolfgang
von Goethe’s Novels and Tales
(1871). As well as Elective Affinities
(Die Wahlverwandtschaften), a novel that
lies centrally in the background of The Story
of Affinity, Boylan’s translation contains
two tales, "A Fairy Tale" ("Das
Märchen") and "A Tale" (Novelle)
that, if nothing else, must have reminded Lampman
of the potential of the Kunstmärchen as
a vehicle for artistic and philosophical expression.
Over forty years earlier, as appendices to the
studies of Goethe and other German writers that
were collected in his Critical and Miscellaneous
Essays (1839), Carlyle included translations
of both "Das Märchen" and the Novelle
with notes explaining the significance of
their characters, landscapes, and events, arguing,
for example, that "the great River"
by which "the ancient Ferryman" sleeps
in his "little Hut" at the beginning
of "Das Märchen" represents "time"
flowing between "the world of supernaturalism"
and "the working week-day world" of
"naturalism" and that the Novelle
is a "[p]arable of the bright Morningtide
of life" that teaches "childlike Trust
in God" and "the Divine Harmony of his
omnipotent Love" (28: 449, 507). That such
ideas are by no means remote from either "Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" or "The Fairy
Fountain" is but further evidence of how
deeply rooted the two works are in the nineteenth-century
tradition of using and seeing materials actually
or supposedly derived from folklore or intended
for children as, in Carlyle’s terms, a means of
matters of the "deepest significance"
to sum up the discussion of the background and
components of Lampman’s fairy tales and to place
them in the context of his other work: "Hans
Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy
Fountain" draw together elements from a variety
of sources, especially Hans Christian Andersen,
the Grimm brothers, and Johann Ludwig Tieck, into
a synthesis that reflects Lampman’s intellectual,
artistic and psychological concerns in the mid-’eighties
and belongs to the same stage of his thinking
and writing as "What Do Poets Want with Gold?"16
and his essay on "The Modern School of Poetry
both of which come to much the same conclusions
about the need for poets to put aside selfish
and material considerations and, in the concluding
words of the essay, "to help mankind in the
gradual and eternal movement toward order and
divine beauty and peace" (Essays and Reviews
69). Lampman’s fairy tales also belong to the
same stage of his development as several poems
about maturation and sexual love, including "The
Little Handmaiden," a literary ballad that
could well owe a part of its inspiration to a
fairy tale, and "The Growth of Love,"
a sequence of sonnets to Maud Playter, that would
not be out of place as interspersed poems in "The
Fairy Fountain." With the possible exception
of "In October," which he completed
in October 1884 (Early, "Chronology"
78), none of the essays, poems, and fairy tales
that Lampman wrote before the summer of 1885 is
more than an accomplished exercise in a particular
manner or genre, but each in its own way lays
the stylistic and philosophical groundwork for
the extraordinary poems that soon followed—for
"Among the Timothy," "The Frogs,"
"Heat," and the other masterpieces of
Among the Millet, and Other Poems (1888).
Hans Christian. Fairy Tales and Stories.
Trans. H.W. Dulken. 1880. London: George Routledge,
D.M.R. Intoduction. The Story of Affinity.
By Archibald Lampman. London: Canadian Poetry
Press, 1986. xi-xxxi.
Elias. Hans Christian Andersen: the Story of
His Life and Work, 1805-75. London: Phaidon,
Thomas. Works. Centenary Edition. 30 vols.
London: Chapman and Hall, 1897. New York: AMS
Carl Y. Archibald Lampman: Canadian Poet of
Nature. Montreal: Louis Carrier, 1929.
L.R. "A Chronology of Lampman’s Poems."
Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews
14 (Spring/Summer, 1984): 75-87.
Archibald Lampman. Twayne World Authors
Series: Canadian Literature. Boston: Twayne, 1986.
Johann Wolfgang von. Novels and Tales.
[Trans. R.D. Boylan.] London: Bell and Daldy,
"The Tale." Trans. Thomas Carlyle. In
Works. By Thomas Carlyle. 28: 454-79.
"Novelle." Trans. Thomas Carlyle. In
Works. By Thomas Carlyle. 28: 480-96.
Jacob Ludwig Karl, and Wilhelm Carl Grimm. German
Popular Stories. Trans. [Edgar Taylor]. 1823.
2 vols. London: C. Baldwin, 1824-1826.
John. Poetical Works. Ed. H.W. Garrod.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 1956.
Archibald. At the Long Sault and Other New
Poems. Ed. E.K. Brown and Duncan Campbell
Scott. Toronto: Ryerson, 1943.
Essays and Reviews. Ed. D.M.R. Bentley.
London: Canadian Poetry Press, 1996.
"The Fairy Fountain." Archibald Lampman
Papers, National Archives of Canada, MG 29 D59
vol. 1. 635-65.
"Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson." Archibald
Lampman Papers, National Archives of Canada, MG
29 D59 vol. 3. 1605-24.
Letters to May McKeggie. Trinity College Archives,
University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.
Papers. W.A.C. Bennet Library, Simon Fraser University,
Burnaby, British Columbia.
Poems. Toronto: Morang, 1900.
Selected Prose. Ed. Barrie Davies. Ottawa:
Johann Ludwig. "The Elves." Trans. Thomas
Carlyle. In Works. By Thomas Carlyle. 21:
"The Runenberg." Trans. Thomas Carlyle.
In Works. By Thomas Carlyle. 21: 319-42.
Duncan Campbell. "Memoir." In Poems.
By Archibald Lampman. Toronto: Morang, 1900. xi-xxv.