Page:Grimm Goblins (1876).djvu/27

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


• ■

EXTRACTS. xxi

stupendoos strncinre was raised by a profound philosophical knowledge of the mechanical arts, are founded on the Arabic literature.

The Spaniards believed the existence of ffiants and dwarfs ; they had some notion of fairies ; they were stongly possessed with the belief of spells and enchantment, and were fond of inventing combats with dragons and monsters. . . . Even to the pi-esent age the people are still infatuated with a belief of the power of magicians, witches, spirits, aiid genii, concealed under the earth or in the waters ? Do we not discover, in these religious opinions, that source bt the marvellous with which our ancestors filled their romances, and in which we see dwarfs and giants, ^iries and demons, &c. 7

And here it will be much to our present argument to observe, that some of the old Gothic and Scandinavian superstitions are to this day retained in the English laufTuage. Mara, from whence our night-mare is derived, was in the Runic theology a spirit or spectre of the nighty which seized men in their sleep and suddenly deprived them of speech and motion. Nicha was the Grothic demoh who inhabited the elements of water, and who strangled persons that were drowning. Boh was one of the most fierce and formidable of the Gothic generals, and the son of Odin : the mention of whose name was sufficient to spread an immediate panic among his enemies.

The fictions of Odin and of his Scandinavians, must have taken still deeper root in the British Islands, at least in England, from the Saxon and Danish invasions. . . . • The songs of the Irish bards are by some conceived to be strongly marked with the traces of Scaldic imagination ; and these traces, which will be reconsidered, are believed still to survive among a species of poetical historians, whom they call tale-tellera, supposed to be the descendants of the original Iiish bards. A writer of equal elegance and veracity relates, *' that a gentleman of the north of Ireland has told me of his own experience, that in his wolf-huntings there, when he used to be abroad in the mountains three or four days together, and laid very ill a-nights, so as he could not well sleep, they would bring him. one of these tale-tellers, that when he lay down would begin a story of a King or a Oyant, a Dvtarf, and a DamoseV^ . . And that this Fairy hypothesis is partly true, may be concluded from the subjects of some of the old Scanilic romances, manuscripts of which now remain in the royal library at Stockholm. The titles of a few slmll serve for a specimen ; which I will make no apology for eiving at large : — " Saoak af Hialmter oc Olwer."-— " The History of Hiahnter King of SweSsn, son of a Syrian Princess, and of Olver Jarl, containing their Expeditions into Hunlaud, aud Arabia, with their numerous encounters with the Vikings and the Giants. Also their Leagues with Alsola, daughter of Binger King of Arabia, afterwards married to Hervor King of Hunland, ker ** Saoav ap Siod."— " The History of Siod, son of Ridgare King of England, who first was made King of England, afterwards of Babylon and Nineoeli. Compre- hending various occurrences in Saxland, Babylon, Greece, Africa, and especially in Eirice (or Irish Land) the region of the Giants." "Saoan af Albfleck.*' — The History of Alefleck, a King of England, and of his Expeditions into India and Tar- tary*' " Sagan af Erik Widforla."-— ** The History of Eric, the Traveller, who, with his companion, Eric, a Danish Prince, undertook a wonderful journey to Odin's Hall, or Oden's Aker, near the river Pison in India J* Here we see the circle of Icelandic poetry enlarged ; and the names of countries and cities belonging to another quarter of the globe — Arabia, India, Tartary, Syria, Greece, Babylon, and Nineveh — intermixed with those of Unnland; Sweden, and England, and adopted into tbe Northern romantic narratives. Even Charlemagne and Arthur, whose his- tories, as we have already seen, had been so lavishly decorated by the Arabian fablers,

b2