23 JULY 1948, Page 26

Romani and Rai

Gypsy Folk-Tales. Selected and Introduced by Dora Yates: (Phoenix House. 12s. 6d.) Gypsy Folk-Tales. Selected and Introduced by Dora Yates: (Phoenix House. 12s. 6d.)

MR. CROFT-COOKE makes it easy for the reader to share his delight in gypsies and the way they live - he neither romanticises his friends, as Borrow did, not puffs himself up, like Leland, with his own uncommon learning. The Moon in My Pocket is primarily autobiographical—a modest, affectionate tale of-how a rai, a house- dweller, discovered an ancient, alien race, and chose for a time to travel with it. But it records, too, adventures among the books written about a people with none of its own, it speculates about the history of a people that has forgotten its own origins, and sets down the words that have never been set down by those who use them.

Such a people—nomadic builders of camp-fires, without a religion or a literature—are story-tellers by nature. Some of their tales have been collected by Miss Yates, and odd, charming folk- tales they are. Those hi Romani she has translated into a prim, fairy-tale English that suits them well enough, but there is a raciness about those told in the gypsies' own English that is even more appealing. " Once on a time, when I was a handsome young fellow, an' that ain't bin so very long ago as you can see," is a good way to begin any story, and so is, " The' was wonst a big lord—a King he was in fact—what put a 'vartisement into the papers." That, indeed, is the typical mixture of fancy and matter of fact, and it is in the borderland between the two that the gypsy imagination seems