Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/56

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46
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

says Sir John Lubbock, "but not so to children. I have myself heard a little girl say to her brother, 'If you eat so much goose you will be quite silly,' and there are perhaps few children to whom the induction would not seem perfectly legitimate."

Consider furthermore the world of fable and fairies, in which children live and move, in which no laws are adhered to or transgressed, in which nothing is impossible and nothing expected, and we are in quite the same atmosphere as that in which savage myth and belief flourish and multiply. Many such myths are doubtless earnest attempts at explaining natural phenomena, and we can not but be struck with the fact that the childish attention is spontaneously directed to the same kind of problems, and often gives them very similar answers. The same mental tendency invests inanimate objects with mysterious powers and creates the belief in fetiches, in some occult connection between a force, power, or demon, and something that is regarded as its representative. The savage mind requires some concrete object upon which to hang the epithets and work the spells; no matter by what far-fetched analogy the two are regarded as connected, the fetich serves as a substitute of a more abstract notion, too vague for the savage's weak mind to retain. The name, the image, the shadow, the picture, a part of the person or dress thus acquire a peculiar relation to the person or object in question, and we meet with names that are tabooed, sorcery with a man's shadow or lock of hair, the dread of having one's picture taken, and the like. Analogies to these procedures among children could doubtless be traced had we a pertinent collection of their spontaneous sayings and doings. In the absence of such I must refer to the childish habit of talking to animals and obtaining answers from them, to their unquestioning faith in the personifications of fable, to the fact that of forty-eight children questioned by Dr. Stanley Hall "twenty believed sun, moon, and stars to live, fifteen thought a doll and sixteen thought flowers would suffer pain if burned"; or again, to the early and marked development of the dramatic instinct, that transforms everything and everybody into something else, and invests prosaic objects with an endless variety of qualities and histories. This is the function of toys; they form the lay figures upon which the child's imagination can weave and drape its fancies; and the doll, whether as some believe a direct descendant of the old-time fetich or not, is certainly related to it psychologically. The real and the ideal, the world of fact and the world of fiction, are divided in the mind of savage and of child by no definite boundaries, and are constantly confused.

We may linger a moment longer in our comparison of the childhood of the race and of the individual, to notice the possi-