Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 3 1885.djvu/248

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240
THE FORBIDDEN CHAMBER.

higher stages of culture, or at least more easily understood. This is consonant to all that we know of the tendency of tradition to modify itself in accordance with the environment of the people in whose mind it is embedded; and this is what has actually happened. Luck-worship is doubtless in many phases still familiar to the most civilised nations, but the downright fetishism of the Indian hunter has passed away and been forgotten. Europe however is not so far removed from the barbarous feudalism which a living Bluebeard might conceivably adorn as to make a tyrannical husband who had murderous secrets from his wife and who avenged her curiosity in blood seem an absolute impossibility to peasants not yet wholly escaped from the oppression of a military aristocracy. Hence the transformation of the caged elf to the corpse-chamber. This is the first difference I have referred to; and it involves the other, namely, the introduction of the express prohibition. In the Algonquin tale the prohibition is at, most an implied one, and perhaps this is all that is necessary to a savage mind; for it would go without saying that the utmost care must be taken of so important a part of an Indian ménage as the fetish, and the violation of a rale so well comprehended would of course entail serious consequences. Oddly enough a Sicilian tale presents us with a somewhat similar incident.[1] A king who has three daughters offers his eldest daughter as wife to any one who can guess what beast's hide a certain skin is. At last a robber, who lives in a desert place alone and possesses a magical head, consults the head and by its aid guesses the riddle and obtains the prize. He takes her home and compels her to work hard. One day he goes away, charging the magical head to listen to what his wife says of him. As soon as he is gone she exclaims on him and abuses him. The head reports this to the robber on his return, and he puts her to death, throwing her body into a chamber where were the corpses of many other maidens who had met their fate in the same way. Then he goes to the king and by means of the usual pretence obtains his second daughter, who comes to a similar end. He then fetches the third daughter. She professes great admiration for the robber's house, carefully abstains

  1. Gonzenbach, Sicilianische Märchen, Story No. 22, vol. i. p. 135.