Ian F. Hancock's Works
The Origin and Function of the Gypsy Image in Children's Literature

Gypsies, or Romanies, have provided writers with a source of color since their very appearance in Europe in the Middle Ages. Black’s Gypsy Bibliography, which includes nothing later than 1914, lists 351 novels, 199 plays, and 133 ballads in the English literary tradition alone, which have been written about or which feature Gypsy characters. In children’s literature, in Britain perhaps even more than in the United States, Gypsies turn up with some frequency — never as characters who happen incidentally also to be Gypsies, but because they are Gypsies, and because they serve a specific purpose. This purpose has, broadly speaking, three manifestations: the Gypsy as liar and thief either of property or (especially) of non-Gypsy children; the Gypsy as witch or caster of spells; and the Gypsy as romantic figure. In order to understand why the Gypsy should find him or herself in this mainly unflattering role, it is necessary first of all to understand what a Gypsy really is, and what historical circumstances have led to the emergence
of so deeply-rooted a fictional image.

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Hancock, I. (1987). The Origin and Function of the Gypsy Image in Children’s Literature. The Lion and the Unicorn 11(1), 47-59. Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved July 26, 2018, from Project MUSE database.

Author: Roma Center

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