Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 3 1885.djvu/249
THE FORBIDDEN CHAMBER.
from asking for her sisters, but does the work required of her cheerfully, and in her husband's absence she prays and invokes blessings on him. This is duly reported to him by the magical head on his return. He is pleased with her, and by way of reward shows her her dead sisters in the secret chamber. She bides her time, and during another absence she comes to his room, and, finding the magical head hanging in a basket, she flatters it and persuades it to come down, a course which the sheldrake duck had vainly attempted with the hunter's elf. The magical head follows the heroine into the kitchen, and there, like the sheldrake duck, she combs it. Suddenly she lifts it by the cue, and, flinging it into the oven, destroys it. The robber's life is bound up with the life of his talisman, and he dies too. Above the window where the basket hung she finds a jar of ointment, and, taking it, anoints the bodies in the chamber, thus bringing them all to life again, and they divide the robber's treasure. In this variant the union of the ogre with the magical head is much closer than that of the hunter with his elf, for his actual life and not merely his luck depends upon it. We have already had occasion to notice examples of the myth now under consideration approaching that of Puchkin. In the idea embodied in stories belonging to the Punchkin group we recognise, as Mr. Clodd has already suggested in the Folk-Lore Journal, the relic of a more primitive belief; and it may very well be that this belief, at all events put in so striking a form, would appeal more strongly to the uncultured or the half cultured imagination, and so would survive longer the departure from the mental condition that gave birth to it, than the worship of a fetish. If I am right in thinking this the Sicilian tale marks a stage of thought beyond that of the Algonquin, though we find the forbidden chamber still (if I may use such a metaphor) in an embryonic condition, but in a condition from which its advance to the fullblown life of the stories examined at the commencement of this paper is both easy and certain. The cluster of variants I have called that of the Dead Hand may probably disclose the next step in its evolution.
We thus appear to see the story developing from the slaughter of his wife and children by a capricious or cannibal husband, to a marriage and murder for previously incurred vengeance, or for purposes