Page:The Grateful Dead.djvu/73

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57
The Poison Maiden.

the identity of the hero's companion is never explained.

With Servian IV.[1] we encounter a most serious problem, which must receive special treatment later on,[2]—the relation of The Grateful Dead to The Thankful Beasts theme. A poor youth three times set free a gold-fish which he had three times caught. Later he was cast out of his father's house and sent into the world. He was joined by a man, who swore friendship with him on a sword, and accompanied him to a city where many men had been mysteriously slain while undertaking to pass a night with the king's daughter. The hero undertook the adventure, and was saved by his companion, who cut off the head of a serpent that came from the princess's mouth. In the morning the youth was married to the lady, and divided all his property with his helper. On their way home the latter demanded half of the bride, and, while she was held by two servants, swung a sword above her. With a shriek she cast first two sections, and finally the tail, of a serpent from her mouth. Thereupon the friend leaped into the sea, for he was the gold-fish.

The burial of the dead has here been ousted by a good deed which the hero does to a gold-fish. That the trait is foreign to the type, however, seems clear. From the time when the companion appears to the hero, the story follows the normal course until the very end, when the man unexpectedly leaps into the sea. The thankful dead has been replaced by the thankful beast, but the tale really belongs to the present category, since otherwise it has all the characteristics of the type. Thus the division of the woman is almost precisely similar to that of Armenian and Gypsy—that is, the sword is raised, and the woman disgorges the serpent with a scream. That it comes out piecemeal may be a faulty recollection

  1. See Hippe, p. 146.
  2. See chapter vii.