Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 9, 1898.djvu/132
The Wooing of Penelope.
Dulichium, at any rate was not in his kingdom. It is improbable that the question was ever seriously considered by the poet, and he does not trouble himself to state distinctly in what degree of relationship they may have stood to Odysseus or Penelope. If we may follow the analogy of Hindu law, their connection with the family would not be carefully scrutinised. They would attend such a meeting if they belonged to the Birâdari, "brotherhood," or Phatria of wife or husband. But, I venture to think that what we are told about the Suitors is not inconsistent with the theory that in the more primitive version of the tale they may have been regarded as the family or tribal council, like the Hindu Panchâyat, and that their presence in Ithaca, after the assumed death of Odysseus, may have been based on the generally recognised right inherent in the kinsfolk of arranging and enforcing the marriage of Penelope with one or other of their number according to the current tribal law of the age. Their assemblage in the palace of the absent prince would then be the meeting described in the Mahâbhârata of the Kshatriya nobles at the Svayamvara of Draupadi, or the family council of a sept of modern Râjputs to settle a moot question of tribal usage.
This conception of their position, startling as it may appear at first, seems to be borne out by at least two facts. To begin with, there is evidence in the poem that they were, or claimed to be, acting under a show of authority. This, which I hold to be the primitive type of the legend, is naturally disguised in the Epic, where their position as lawless intruders is the basis of the plot as we have it. But Antinous, for instance, clearly asserts their right to interfere in the future settlement of Penelope, and Eurymachus claims that they are entitled to sit there, as a Hindu sits in Dharna, until she obeys their mandate ;  and he also asserts the corporate right of the Suitors to impose a fine on
- Iliad, ii., 625 ; Odyssey, xiv., 336.
- Odyssey, ii., 85-110, 192, 208.