Page:The Grateful Dead.djvu/17

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CHAPTER I.


A REVIEW.


To Karl Simrock is due the honour of discovering the importance of The Grateful Dead for the student of literature and legend. In his little book, Der gute Gerhard und die dankbaren Todten,[1] he called attention to the theme as a theme, and treated it with a breadth of knowledge and a clearness of insight remarkable in an attempt to unravel for the first time the mixed strands of so wide-spread a tale. Using the Middle High German exemplary romance, Der gute Gerhard, as his point of departure, he examined seventeen other stories, all but two of which have the motive well preserved.[2] Unhappily, the versions which he found came from a limited section of Europe, most of them from Germanic sources. Thus he was led to an interpretation of the tale on the basis of Germanic mythology. This, though ingenious enough and very erudite, need not detain us. It was done according to a fashion of the time, which has long since been discarded. Simrock took the essential traits of the theme to be the burial of the dead and the ransom from captivity.[3] "Wo nur noch eine von beiden das Thema zu bilden scheint," he said, "da hat die Ueberlieferung gelitten." Here again he was misled by the narrow

  1. 1856.
  2. Guter Gerhard, as will be seen later, does not follow the theme at all.
  3. P. 114.