Page:The Grateful Dead.djvu/175

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159
The Spendthrift Knight.

seemed best to ignore this in order to avoid unnecessary confusion. The matter is of considerable importance, however, and must here be considered. The question that concerns us is whether the appearance of the beast is of any real moment in the development of the theme.

It is sufficiently clear that the well-known stories of grateful animals and ungrateful men, which were first traced by Benfey,[1] have general outlines different from that of The Grateful Dead. Benfey's contention, however, that "konnte der Gedanke von der Dankbarkeit der Thiere schon tief genug auch im Occident einwurzeln, um auch in andere Märchen einzudringen und vielleicht selbst sich in Bildung von verwandten zur Anschauung zu bringen"[2] should be kept in mind. This statement is truer than his later remark[3] that fairies and other superhuman creations of fancy are substituted for animals, instancing our theme as such a case. To argue relationship from the entrance of either helpful beasts, fairies, or ghosts would be dangerous unless the stories in question had the same motive, since they are so frequently found in folkliterature. Indeed, as I have already remarked,[4] one is scarcely called upon to explain the intrusion of thankful or helpful animals at any given point, in view of the fact that the device is almost universally known. Yet if it does not require justification, it may well be of service in the grouping of particular variants.

It is certainly worthy of notice that in eighteen forms of The Grateful Dead a beast appears. That these are of several different compound types would show, if it were not clear from what has been said above, that the appearance of an animal furnishes of itself no evidence of any actual amalgamation of narrative themes. It is rather a case where one stock figure of imagination's realm is substituted for another. The better-known character is perhaps more likely to replace the less-known

  1. Pantschatantra, i. §71.
  2. i. 207.
  3. i. 219.
  4. Pp. 126 f.