Page:The Grateful Dead.djvu/135

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CHAPTER VI.


THE GRATEFUL DEAD AND THE WATER OF LIFE
OR KINDRED THEMES.


The märchen known in its various forms as The Water of Life[1] is based on the myth which goes by the same name.[2] The myth, as has been shown quite independently by two recent investigators, Dr. Wünsche[3] and Dr. E. W. Hopkins,[4] is of Semitic origin, and is found among the traditions of the Assyrio-Babylonian cycle. It is to be distinguished from the very similar myth of The Fountain of Youth, which apparently originated in India.[5] The latter concerns the magic properties of the "water of rejuvenation"; the former in its uncontamin-

  1. The most adequate treatment of the motive yet published is by August Wünsche, Die Sagen vom Lebensbaum und Lebenswasser, 1905, pp. 90-104. This is the same study which had previously been printed in the Zts. f. vergleichende Litteraturgeschichte, 1899, N.F. xiii. 166-180, but is furnished with a new introduction and a few additional illustrations. Dr. Wünsche's monograph, thoroughgoing amd conclusive as it is with reference to the myths of the Tree of Life and the Water of Life, leaves much to be desired as an account of the folk-tale based on the latter belief. He himself says in his preface, p. iv; "Man sieht auch daraus, dass es sich um Wanderstoffe handelt, an die sich immer neue Elemente ankristallisiert haben." These elements he has not studied with any degree of completeness. Thus, for example, he does not use Cosquin's valuable contributions in Contes populaires de Lorraine, i. 212-222, which would have given him valuable assistance. The theme yet awaits definitive treatment.
  2. See Wünsche, p. 92.
  3. P. 71.
  4. "The Fountain of Yovith," Journal of the American Oriental Society, xxvi. 1st half, 19 and 55.
  5. Hopkins, pp. 19, 42, 55, etc.