Grimm's Household Tales, Volume 1/Introduction
THEIR ORIGIN, DIFFUSION, AND RELATIONS
TO THE HIGHER MYTHS.
Problems suggested by the study of Household Tales.—The stories consist of few incidents, in many combinations —The tales are widely distributed.—The incidents are often monstrous and incredible.—The incidents recur in Greek and Indian epics, and in Lives of the Saints.—How are we to explain the Origin of Household Tales, their Diffusion, their Relations to Epic Myths?—Theories of the Diffusion of Tales.—Caution necessary in Examining Tales.—Example: "The Wolf and Kids:" explanation of Sir George Cox.—His Theory of the Diffusion of Household Tales.—Common heritage of Aryan Race.—His Theory of the Origin of the Tales from mental habits and linguistic eccentricities of early man.—Man was "animistic," vastly concerned about Phenomena of day and year, and he was oblivious of the meaning of proverbial and popular expressions.—Household Tales are chiefly myths of day, night, summer winter, dawn, dew, sun, moon, wind, etc. This theory criticised.—Scantiness of Evidence for early man's poetic interest in Nature, and forgetfulness of meaning of language. Sir George Cox's early men really savages.—Comtemporary savages have not mental and linguistic habits ascribed to the early men.—Difference between Sir George Cox's and Mr. Max Müller's conception of mythopoeic men.—The evidence of Anthropological science neglected.—Criticism of theory of "Polyonymy" and "Oblivion."—Use of these processes in Sir George Cox's system.—Illustrated by Myth of Jason.—Condemnations of the "Solar" method quoted.—The criterion of Mr. Max Müller criticised.—The story of "Frosch-König" as interpreted by Messrs. Cox and Müller.—Sir George Cox's theory that the animals in fairy tales are derived from linguistic confusions criticised.—Relations of Märchen to myths examined.—Theory that Märchen are detritus of myths.—Converse theory that myths are a younger form of Märchen.—A Theory of the Origin of Household Tales stated.—The monstrous incidents are survivals from savagery.—The Myths are Märchen elaborated.—European Märchen hold a mean position between savage tales and heroic myths.—Origin of this theory.—Nature of evidence for savage Märchen and for savage ideas.—Defence of trustworthiness of this evidence when carefully handled.—Statement of chief savage ideas.—They reappear in savage and in civilised Tales.—Examples given.—The Myth of Jason criticised according to this Theory.—Summary.—Conclusion.—Notes.
By Andrew Lang.
Till shortly before the time of the Brothers Grimm the stories which they gathered (Kinder- und Hausmärchen) had been either neglected by men of learning or treated as mere curiosities. Many collections had been made in Sanskrit, Arabic, Italian, French, but they were made for literary, not scientific purposes. The volumes of the Brothers Grimm following on several other scientific collections, and the notes of the Grimms (now for the first time reproduced in English), showed that popular tales deserved scientific study. The book of the Grimms has been succeeded by researches made among all Aryan peoples. We have tales from the Norse, French, Breton, Gaelic, Welsh, Spanish, Scotch, Romaic, Finnish, Italian, in fact, the topic of Household Tales is almost obscured by the abundance of material. Now the least careful reader of these collections must notice certain facts which constitute the problem of this branch of mythology.
In the first place the incidents, plots, and characters of the tales are, in every Aryan country, almost identical. Everywhere we find the legends of the ill-treated, but ultimately successful younger daughter; of the triumphant youngest son; of the false bride substituted for the true; of the giant's wife or daughter who elopes with the adventurer, and of the giant's pursuit; everywhere there is the story about the wife who is forced by some mysterious cause, to leave her husband, or of the husband driven from his wife, a story which sometimes ends in the reunion of the pair. The coincidences of this kind are very numerous, and it soon becomes plain that most Aryan Household Tales are the common possession of the peoples which speak an Aryan language. It is also manifest that the tales consist of but few incidents, grouped together in a kaleidoscopic variety of arrangements.
In the second place, it is remarked that the incidents of household tales are of a monstrous, irrational, and unnatural character, answering to nothing in our experience. All animate and inanimate nature is on an intellectual level with man. Not only do beasts, birds, and fishes talk, but they actually intermarry, or propose to intermarry, with human beings.
Queens are accused of giving births to puppies and the charge is believed. Men and women are changed into beasts. Inanimate objects, drops of blood, drops of spittle, trees, rocks, are capable of speech. Cannibals are as common in the role of the villain as solicitors and baronets are in modern novels. Everything yields to the spell of magical rhymes or incantations. People descend to a very unchristian Hades, or home of the dead. Familiar as these features of the Household Tale have been to us all from childhood, they do excite wonder when we reflect on the wide prevalence of ideas so monstrous and crazy.
Thirdly, the student of märchen soon notices that many of the Household Tales have their counterparts in the higher mythologies of the ancient civilised races, in mediæval romance and saintly legend. The adventure of stealing the giant's daughter, and of the flight, occurs in the myth of Jason and Medea, where the giant becomes a wizard king. The tale of the substituted bride appears in the romance of Berthe aux grans piés. The successful younger son was known to the Scythians. Peau d'Ane became a saint of the Irish Church, and the "supplanted bride" developed into St. Tryphine. The smith who made hell too hot for him is Sisyphus in Greek. The bride mysteriously severed from her lord in fairy tales, is Urvasi in the Rig Veda. Thus it is clear that there is some connection, however it is to be explained, between Aryan household tales and the higher Aryan mythology. The same plots and incidents are common to both myth and märchen.
These three sets of obvious facts introduce us to the three-fold problem of "storyology," of the science of nursery tales.
The first discovery—that these tales among the most widely severed Aryan peoples are the same in plot and incident —leads us to inquire into the cause of this community of fable. How are we to explain the Diffusion of Household Tales?
The second feature we observed, namely, the crazy "irrational," monstrous character of the incidents leads us to ask, how did such incidents ever come to be invented, and almost exclusively selected for the purpose of popular fiction? What, in fact, is the Origin of Household Tales?
The third observation we made on the resemblances between household tales and Greek and Vedic myths, and mediæval romances, compels us to examine into the Relations between märchen and the higher mythologies.
Taking these three topics in their order, we must first look at what can be said as to the diffusion of Household Tales, Why do people so far apart, so long severed by space, and so widely different in language as Russians and Celtic Highlanders, for example, possess the same household stories? There are three, or perhaps we should say four, possible explanations. There is the theory of conscious borrowing. The Celts, it might be averred, read Russian folk tales and acclimatised them. The French took their ideas from the modern Greeks. This hypothesis, thus nakedly stated, may be at once dismissed. The peasant class, which is the guardian of the ancient store of legends, reads little, and travels scarcely at all. Allied to the theory of borrowing, but not manifestly absurd, is the theory of slow transmission. We may be as convinced as Sir George Cox (Aryan Mythology, vol. i. 109), that the Aryan peoples did not borrow consciously from each other. We may agree with Mr. Max Müller that "nursery tales are generally the last things to be borrowed by one nation from another" (Chips, ii. 216). But we cannot deny that "in the dark backward and abysm of Time," in the unrecorded wanderings of Man, Household Tales may have drifted from race to race. In the shadowy distance of primitive commerce, amber and jade and slaves were carried half across the world by the old trade-routes and sacred ways. It is said that oriental jade is found in Swiss lake-dwellings, and that an African trade cowry has been discovered deep in a Cornish barrow. Folk tales might well be scattered abroad in the same manner by merchantmen gossiping over their Khan fires, by Sidonian mariners chatting in the sounding loggia of an Homeric house, by the slave dragged from his home and passed from owner to owner across Africa or Europe, by the wife who, according to primitive law, had to be chosen from an alien clan. Time past is very long, land has lain where the sea roars now; we know not how the ancestors of existing races may have met and mixed before Memphis was founded, or Babylon. Thus the hypothesis of the transmission of Household Tales cannot absolutely be set aside as in every case without possible foundation.
Before examining theories of the Diffusion and Origin of Household Tales, and of their relations to the higher mythologies, something must be said about the materials we possess. A strict criticism of the collections of tales offered to the inquirer, a strict avoidance of theory founded on hasty analogies is needful. We must try to distinguish as far as possible what is ancient and essential, from what is relatively modern and accidental in each tale. We must set apart scientific and exact collections from merely literary collections in which the traditional element is dressed up for the sake of amusement. Grimms' collection of Household Tales or Märchen is among the earliest of those which were made for scientific purposes. Sanskrit stories, Arab and Egyptian stories, Italian stories, French stories, had been gathered long before into the garners of Somadeva, The Thousand and One Nights, Straparola, the Queen of Navarre, Perrault, and others. But to bring together popular narratives merely to divert the reader is an aim which permits the collector to alter and adorn his materials almost as much as he pleases. Consequently the old compilations we have named, however delightful as literature, must be used with great caution for purposes of comparative science. Modern touches, as will be seen, occur freely even in such collections as the Grimms'. Science accepts these narratives (when it can get them unadulterated) as among the oldest productions of the human fancy, as living evidence to the character of the early imaginative faculty. But we must be quite certain that we do not interpret late additions to the tales, as if these incidents were of the primitive essence. An example of this error may be taken from Grimms' Legend (No. 5), "The Wolf and the Kids." Here a wolf deceives seven little kids, and eats them all except the youngest, who hides (like the hero of one of M. Fortuné du Boisgobey's novels) "in the clock-case." The bereaved old she-goat comes home; finds that only the youngest kid survives, and goes in quest of the wolf. The wolf is found asleep: the old goat cuts him open, and out frisk all the little kids. They then fill the wolf's stomach with stones, and sew up the orifice they had made. When the wolf awakens he is thirsty, and goes to drink, but the heavy stones make him lose his balance, he falls into the well, and is drowned.
Here the essential idea is probably nothing more than the fashioning of a comic story of a weak beast's victory over a strong beast. Similar stories are frequent among the Negroes and Bushmen (see Bleek's Reynard the Fox in South Africa, and Uncle Remus), among the Red Indians, and, generally, among uncivilised peoples.A story in some ways like that of the "Wolf and the Kids," is common among the negroes of Georgia. In a Kaffir tale (Theal) the arts of the wolf are attributed to a cannibal. Apparently the tale (as the negroes tell it) is of African origin, and is not borrowed from the whites. Old Mrs. Sow had five little pigs, whom she warned against the machinations of Brer Wolf. Old Mrs. Sow died, and each little pig built a house for itself. The youngest pig built the strongest house. Brer Wolf, by a series of stratagems, which may be compared to those in Grimms' Märchen, entrapped and devoured the four elder pigs. The youngest pig was the wisest, and would not let Brer Wolf come in by the door. He had to enter by way of the chimney, fell into a great fire the youngest pig had lighted, and was burnt to death. Here we have only to note the cunning of the wolf, and his final defeat by the youngest of the pig family, who, as in almost all household tales, is wiser and more successful than his elder brethren. In the same way Grimms' youngest kid was the kid that escaped from the wolf.
The incident on which the revenge turns, the swallowing of the victims and their escape alive, though missing in the negro version, is of almost universal occurrence.
It is found in Australia, in Greece it has made its way into the legend of Cronus, in Brittany into the legend of Gargantua. Callaway's collection gives us Zulu examples: in America it is familiar to the Indians of the North, and to those of British Guiana. Grimm gives some German variants in his note; Bleek's Bushman Folklore contains several examples of the incident. The Mintiras of Malay have introduced the conception of swallowing and disgorging alive into a myth, which explains the movements of sun, moon, and stars. (Tylor's Primitive Culture, i. 338, 356).
In the tale of the Wolf and the Seven Kids, then, the essence is found in the tricks whereby the wolf deceives his victims; in the victory of the goat, in the disgorging of the kids alive, and the punishment of the wolf (as of Cronus in Hesiod) by the stone which he is obliged to admit into his system. In these events there is nothing allegorical or mystical, no reference to sunrise or storms. The crude ideas and incidents are of world-wide range, and suit the fancy of the most backward barbarians. But what is clearly modern in Grimm's tale is the introduction of the clock-case. That, obviously, cannot be older than the common use of tall clocks. If, then, we interpret the tale by regarding the clock-case as its essential feature, surely we mistake a late and civilised accident for the essence of an ancient and barbarous legend. Sir G. W. Cox lays much stress (Aryan Mythology, i. 358) on the affair of the clock-case. "The wolf," he says, "is here the Night, or the Darkness, which tries to swallow up the seven days of the week, and actually swallows six. The seventh, the youngest, escapes by hiding herself in the clock-case; in other words, the week is not quite run out, and, before it comes to an end, the mother of the goats unrips the wolf's stomach, and places stones in it in place of the little goats who come trooping out, as the days of the week begin again to run their course."
This explanation rests on the one obviously modern feature of the story. If the explanation is correct, the state of mind in which Night could be conceived of as a wolf, and as capable of being slit open, loaded with stones, and sewn up again, must have lasted and remained intelligible, till the quite recent invention of clock-cases. The clock-case was then intelligently introduced into the legend. This seems hard to believe, though Mr. Tylor writes (Primitive Culture, i. 341) thus, "We can hardly doubt there is a quaint touch of sun-myth in a tale which took its present shape since the invention of clocks."
Surely a clock-case might seem (as to M. Boisgobey's hero, and to the lady freemason in the old story, it did seem) a good hiding-place, even to a mind not occupied at all with the sun. What makes the whole interpretation the more dubious is, that while with Sir George Cox the Wolf is the Night, with M. Husson (in the similar tale of the swallowing of Red Riding Hood) the Wolf is the Sun. And this is proved by the peculiar brilliance of the wolf's fur, a brilliance recognised by Sir G. Cox when he wants the sun to be a wolf.
On the whole, then, the student of märchen must avoid two common errors. He must not regard modern interpolations as part of the mythical essence of a story. He must not hurry to explain every incident as a reference to the natural phenomena of Dawn, Sunset, Wind, Storm, and the like. The points which are so commonly interpreted thus, are sometimes modern interpolations; more frequently they are relics of ancient customs of which the mythologist never heard, or survivals from an archaic mental condition into which he has never inquired. Besides, as Mr. Tylor has pointed out, explanations of the elemental sort, all about storm and dawn, are so easy to find that every guesser can apply them at will to every märchen. In these inquiries we must never forget that "rash inferences which, on the strength of mere resemblances, derive episodes of myth from episodes of nature, must be regarded with utter distrust, for the student who has no more stringent criterion than this for his myths of sun, and sky, and dawn, will find them wherever it pleases him to seek them" (Primitive Culture, i. 319). This sort of student, indeed, finds his myths of sun, and sky, and dawn all through the Grimms' Collection.
We have now set forth the nature of the problems which meet the inquirer into Household Tales, and we have tried to illustrate the necessity of a critical method, and the danger of being carried away by faint or fancied resemblances and analogies. Our next step is to examine the theory of the diffusion and origin of Household Tales set forth by Sir George Cox in his Mythology of the Aryan Nations (1870) This theory was suggested by, and, to a certain extent, corresponds with the mythological philosophy of Mr. Max Müller, as published in Oxford Essays (1856), and more recently in Selected Essays (1881). There are, however, differences of detail and perhaps of principle in the systems of these two scholars. As to the diffusion of identical folk tales among peoples of Aryan speech. Sir George Cox (dismissing theories of borrowing or adaptation) writes:
"The real evidence points only to that fountain of mythical language from which have flowed all the streams of Aryan epic poetry, streams so varied in their character yet agreeing so closely in their elements. The substantial identity of stories told in Italy, Norway and India can but prove that the treasure-house of mythology was more abundantly filled before the dispersion of the Aryan tribes than we had taken it to be." Sir George proceeds to remark on resemblances between German and Hindoo tales, which shew "the extent to which the folklore of the Aryans was developed while they still lived as a single people" (Mythol. Aryan, i. 145). Thus Sir George Cox accounts, on the whole, for the majority of the resemblances among Aryan household tales, by the theory that these tales are the common inheritance of the Aryan race, such narratives the Aryans possessed "while they still lived as a single people." The difficulties in which this theory lands the inquirer will afterwards be set forth. Here it may be observed that people who are not Aryans none the less possess the stories.
So much for the Diffusion of Aryan Household Tales. They are widely scattered (the theory goes), because the single people which possessed them in its common seat has itself been scattered widely, from Ceylon to Iceland.
Next, what is Sir George Cox's hypothesis as to the Origin of Household Tales? We have seen how he supposes they were diffused. "We have still to ask how such crazy legends were originally evolved. Why are all things animate and inanimate on a level with man in the tales; why do beasts and trees speak; why are cannibalism, metamorphosis, magic, descents into Hades, and many other impossible incidents so common? What, in short, is the Origin of Household Tales?
Here it is not easy to be brief, as we have to give a summary of Sir George Cox's theory of the intellectual human past, from which he supposes these tales to have been evolved. In the beginning of things, or as near the beginning as he can go. Sir George finds men characterised by "the selfishness and violence, the cruelty and slavishness of savages." Yet these cruel and violent savages had the most exquisitely poetical, tender, and sympathetic way of regarding the external world (Mythol. Ar. i. 39), "Deep is the tenderness with which they describe the deaths of the sun-stricken dew, the brief career of the short-lived sun, and the agony of the Earth-mother mourning for her summer child." Not only did early man cherish these passionate sympathies with the fortunes of the sun and the dew, but he cherished them almost to the exclusion of emotions perhaps more obvious and natural as we moderns hold. Man did not get used to the dawn; he was always afraid that the sun had sunk to rise no more, "years might pass, or ages, before his rising again would establish even the weakest analogy." Early man was apparently much more difficult to satisfy with analogies than modern mythologists are. After the sun had set and risen with his accustomed regularity, "perhaps for ages," "man would mourn for his death as for the loss of one who might never return."
While man was thus morbidly anxious for the welfare of the sun, and tearfully concerned about the misfortunes of the dew, he had, as we have seen, the moral qualities of the savage. He had also the intellectual confusion, the perplexed philosophy of the contemporary savage. Mr. Tylor, Mr. Im Thurn, Mr. Herbert Spencer, and most scientific writers on the subject, have observed that savages draw no hard and fast line between themselves and the animal or even the inanimate world. To the mind of the savage all things organic or inorganic appear to live and to be capable of conscious movement and even of speech. All the world is made in the savage's own image. Sir George Cox's early man was in this savage intellectual condition, "He had life, and therefore all things else must have life also. The sun, the moon, the stars, the ground on which he trod, the clouds, storms, and lightnings were all living beings: could he help thinking that, like himself, they were conscious beings also?"
As man thought of all things as living, so he spoke of them all as living. He could not get over the idea that any day living clouds might spring lip and choke the living sun, while he had the most unaffected sympathy with the living dawn and the living dew. "In these spontaneous utterances of thoughts awakened by outward phenomena, we have the source of the myths which must be regarded as primary" (Myth. Ar. i. 42). In all this period, "there was no bound or limit to the images, suggested by the sun in his ever varying aspects." Man, apparently, was almost absorbed in his interest in the sun, and in speculations about the dew, the cloud, the dawn.
We now approach another influence on mythology, the influence of language. While man was in the conditions of mind already described by Sir George Cox, he would use "a thousand phrases to describe the actions of the beneficent or consuming sun, of the gentle or awful night, of the playful or furious wind, and every word or phrase became the germ of a new story, as soon as the mind lost its hold on the original force of the name." Now the mind was always losing its hold on the original force of the name, and the result would be a constant metamorphosis of the remark made about a natural phenomenon, into a myth about something denoted by a term which had ceased to possess any meaning. These myths, caused by forgetfulness of the meaning of words (as we understand our author), were of the secondary class, and a third class came into existence through folk-etymologies, as they are called, popular guesses at the derivations of words. We have now briefly stated Sir George Cox's theory of the origins of myths, and of the mental condition and habits through which myths were evolved. But how does this theory explain the origin of Household Tales?
This question ought to lead us to our third problem, what are the relations of Household Tales to the higher mythologies? But it may suffice to say here that in Sir George Cox's opinion, most of the Household Tales are, in origin, myths of the phenomena of day and night. They are versions of the myths about the dark Night-powers stealing the golden treasure of Day; about Dawn loving the Dew; about the Birth and Death of the Sun; about the fortune of the Clouds, and so forth. Briefly, to illustrate the theory, we have a primary myth when early man says the (living) sun (Kephalos) loves the (living) dew (Prokris), and slays her by his arrows (that is, his rays).
We have a secondary myth where it is forgotten that Kephalos only meant the sun, and Prokris only meant the dew, and when Kephalos is taken for a shepherd swain, and Prokris for a pretty nymph. Lastly, we have a tertiary myth when Apollo Lycæus (whose name meant Apollo of the Light) is supposed—by a folk-etymology—to be Apollo the Wolf, and is said to have been born from a were-wolf.
Household Tales are these myths in the making, or these myths filtered down through the memories and lips of uncounted generations (Myth. Ar.165). It is on these principles that Sir George seeks to explain the irrational and unnatural element so powerful in folk tales.
We must now briefly criticise Sir George's system as a whole. Next we must see how the system is applied by him, and, lastly, we must approach the theory which we propose to substitute for that set forth in Mythology of the Aryan Peoples.
The point most open to criticism in Sir George Cox's statement of his views, and in the similar views of Husson, De Gubernatis, and many other mythologists. is the very inadequate evidence. The framers of Primary Myths, in Sir George Cox's system are (apparently) savages.
Of savages they have the moral qualities and the intellectual habits. "The prominent characteristics of that early time were the selfishness, the violence, the cruelty and harshness of savages." So much for morality. As for intellect, of the several objects which met his eye, says our author, mythopoeic man had no positive knowledge, whether of their origin, their nature, or their properties. But he had life, and therefore all things else must have life also. This mental stage "Animism," "personalism," or whatever we may call it, is also characteristic of savages. Now when we come in our turn to advance a theory of the origin of Household Tales, many points in these tales will be deduced from the cruelty and from the "Animism" of men like the framers of Sir George Cox's "Primary Myths." But Sir George's evidence for the savage estate of early myth-making man is mainly derived from the study of language. This study has led him to views of the barbarism of the mythmakers with which we are glad to agree, yet he dissents here from his own chief authority, Mr. Max Müller. In the third chapter of the first volume of Mythology of the Aryan Races, the chapter which contains evidence for the intellectual condition of early humanity. Sir George Cox quotes scarcely any testimony except that of Mr. Max Müller.
The most important result of the whole examination, as conducted by Sir George Cox, is that mythopoeic man, knowing nothing of the conditions of his own life or of any other, "invested" all things on the earth or in the heavens with the same vague idea of existence. But while Sir George Cox makes this "Animism"—this investing of all things with life—the natural result of man's thought, Mr. Max Müller ascribes the habit to the reflex action on thought of man's language. Man found himself, according to Mr. Müller (Selected Essays, i. 360), speaking of all objects in words which had " a termination expressive of gender, and this naturally produced in the mind the corresponding idea of sex," and, as a consequence, people gave "something of an individual, active, sexual, and at last personal character" to the objects of which they spoke. Mr. Müller is aware that the "sexual character of words reflects only the quality of the child's mind," but none the less he attributes the "animism" of mythopoeic man to the reflex influence of man's language, whereas Sir George Cox attributes it to the direct influence of man's thought. Thus Sir George deserts the authority from which he derives his evidence, and it is not here alone that he differs from Mr. Müller. Sir George's framers of "primary myths" are savages, morally and intellectually; Mr. Müller's mythopoeic men, on the other hand, are practically civilised. Man, in Mr. Müller's "mythopoeic age," had the modern form of the Family, had domesticated animals, was familiar with the use of the plough, was a dweller in cities, a constructor of roads, he was acquainted with the use of iron as well as of the earlier metals. (Selected Essays, vol. i. " Comparative Mythology.") There is thus no escaping from the conclusion that, though Mr. Müller's evidence is nearly the sole basis of Sir George Cox's theories, yet from that evidence Sir George draws inferences almost the reverse of those attained by Mr. Müller. Yet starting from the same evidence, and from different inferences, the two authors arrive at much the same conclusion in the long run.
We have complained of the inadequate evidence for Sir George Cox's system. It is, as we have seen, derived from Mr. Max Müller's analysis of the facts of language. But there is another sort of evidence which was germane to Sir George's purpose, and which he has almost absolutely neglected. That evidence is drawn from the study of the manners and customs of men, and is collected and arranged by the science of Anthropology. The materials of that science are found in the whole of human records, in history, in books of travel, in law, customs, superstition. A summary of the results so far attained by anthropology and ethnology is to be studied by English readers in Mr. Tylor's Primitive Culture and Early History of Man. These works deal with the evolution of human institutions of every kind from their earliest extant forms found among savages. We are thus enabled, by the science of students like Mr. Tylor, to understand what the ideas and institutions of savages are, and how far they survive, more or less modified, in civilisation. Now Sir George Cox's makers of primary myths were in the savage state of culture, or, as he himself puts it, "The examination of our language carries us back to a condition of thought not many degrees higher than that of tribes which we regai d as sunk in hopeless barbarism" (Myth. Ar. i. 35). But his description of the intellectual and moral condition of the primary myth-makers (Myth. Ar. i. 39-41) shows that really Sir George's mythopoeic men were in no higher degree of "culture" than Red Indians and Maoris. As this is the case, it would surely have been well to investigate what history has to say about the mental habits of savages. As the makers of primary myths were savages, it would have been scientific to ask, "How do contemporary savages, and how did the savages of history, regard the world in which they find themselves, and of what character are their myths?" Sir George Cox, however, leaves on one side and practically unnoticed all evidence except philological evidence as to the general habits of men in the same intellectual condition as his own makers of primary myths. Herein lies, we think, the original error of his system.
Instead of examining the natural history of savages to see how men like his primary myth-makers regard the universe, Sir George Cox describes the prevalence among mythopoeic men of what we must regard as a purely fanciful mental attitude. Sir George's myth-makers, as we have seen, lived in a tremulous and passionate sympathy with nature, and with the fortunes of the day and the year, of the dawn and the dew. "Perhaps for ages they could not believe that the sun would rise again in the morning." From every stage in the sun's progress the myth-makers derived thrilling excitement. They threw themselves with their whole souls into the love affairs and distresses of the dew. They mourned for the setting sun, "as for the loss of one who might never return."
Now does Sir George give any evidence, drawn from the natural history of man, for all this sentimental, yet sincere, primitive excitement about the processes of nature. None, or next to none. We do find summer-feasts and winter-fasts, rituals of regret and rejoicing for the coming and departing of summer among many races. Here and there (as in the Popol Vuh, an enigmatic, Quichua record) we see traces of anxious interest in the sun. Again, all savage races have nature-myths explanatory of the motions of the heavenly bodies—a rude sort of science. But as to this all absorbing, all-pervading tender and poetic habit of primitive sympathy with natural phenomena, we find no proof of it anywhere. Savages, like civilised people, are much more interested in making love, making war, making fun, and providing dinner, than in the phenomena of nature. But in Sir George Cox's system of mythology the enormous majority of myths and of household tales are simply the reflections of the supposed absorbing and passionate early sympathy of savages with the processes of nature. For the existence to the necessary extent of that sympathy we find no evidence. In all ages men must have been more concerned about earthly gold and mortal young women than about the "dawn gold" or "the dawn maiden," yet in myths where gold or girls occur, Sir George sees the treasures of the light, or the radiant maiden of the morn. This is natural, while he is convinced that the makers of primary myths were so intensely absorbed in sympathy with clouds, and dew, and sunshine. But we ask again for sufficient evidence that these sentiments existed in a degree capable of exercising an exclusive influence on myths.
Turning from the theory of the primary to that of the secondary myths, we again note the absence of convincing testimony, or indeed of any valid testimony at all.
Primary myths arose, Sir George says, from thought; secondary myths from language. They came into existence because "a thousand phrases would be used to describe the action of the beneficent or consuming sun," and so forth, "and every word or phrase became the germ of a new story, as soon as the mind lost its hold on the original force of the name" (Myth. Ar. i. 42). This application of dozens of names and phrases to the same object is called Polyonymy by Mr. Max Müller, and the converse use of one name for a vast variety of objects (which become "homonyms") he calls Synonymy. It is Mr. Müller's opinion that, in the mythopoeic age, people might call the sun (let us say) by some fifty names expressive of different qualities (this is polyonymy), while some of these names would be applicable to other objects also. These other objects would then be homonyms of the sun, would be called by the same names as the sun was called by. (This is synonymy). The meaning of all these names would be lost in perhaps three generations, but the names and the phrases in which the names occurred would survive after their significance was lost. It is clear that if ever such a state of language prevailed, the endless consequent misunderstandings might well blossom into myths. For example, the grandfather (in the mythopoeic age) observes the rush of the ascending sun, and calls him "the lion." The father, being accustomed to the old man’s poetic way, understands his meaning perfectly well, and the family style the sun "the lion," as they also, ex hypothesi, call him by forty-nine other names, most of which they moreover apply to other objects, say to the tide, the wind, the clouds. But the grandson finds this kind of talk hopelessly puzzling (and no wonder), and he, forgetting the original meanings, comes to believe that the sun is a lion, and the night (perhaps) a wolf, and so he tells stories about the night-wolf, the sun—lion, and so on. (Here the examples are our own, but the theory is Mr. Müller's. Selected Essays, i. 376-378.)
No marvel if myths arose in an age when people spoke in this fashion, and when the grandson retained the grandsire’s phrase, though he had helplessly forgotten the grandsire’s meaning. Mr. Müller protests against degrading our ancestors into "mere idiots," but if they escaped becoming hopeless imbeciles during this “mythopoeic age" it is highly to their credit.
But where is the evidence for Polyonymy, Synonymy and rapid oblivion, the three factors in secondary mythmaking? As far as we have been able to discover, we are offered no convincing evidence at all. Mr. Müller gives cases of polyonymy and synonymy from the Veda (Selected Essays, i. 377). But (1.) The Vedic age is, ex hypothesi, long subsequent to the mythopoeic age. (2.) The necessary and indispensable process of forgetfulness of the meaning of phrases does not occur in the age of the Veda. People in the Veda call the earth wide, broad, great (polyonymy). They also apply the term "broad" to a river, sky, and dawn. But did their grandchildren on this account mistake the Earth for the Dawn, or the Sky for the Earth? Thus Mr. Müller is apparently unable to give examples of his causes of myth from the age in which myths proceeded from these causes, and when he does produce examples of the causes, they result in no myths. Where he finds the effects he does not demonstrate the existence of the causes; when he has evidence for the existence of the causes, he shows no effects. (Selected Essays, i. 377, 378). When Mr. Müller does attempt to adduce a term which originally was a mere name, and later became a proper name, and so indicated a person, the process can be accounted for by another explanation. (Selected Essays, i. 378), Zeús being originally a name for the sky, like the Sanskrit Dyáus, became gradually a proper name." But if the sky was in the mind of the makers of primary myths, a person inevitably and from the first (as we think, in agreement with Sir George Cox), then the name of the sky was from the first a proper name. When all things were persons (as they are to the minds of savages and primary myth-makers) all names may be regarded as proper names. It is the ascertained condition of the savage intellect (as stated by Sir George Cox and by anthropologists) which invests all things with personal character. Forgetfulness of meaning of words is not the cause. The processes of polyonymy, synonymy, and oblivion are superfluous as means of accounting for the personal aspect of all things in mythology. They are also (as far as we have been able to discover) processes for which no good evidence is produced.
Sir George Cox has borrowed Polyonymy and its effects from Mr. Müller, though he gives no evidence to prove that it was ever a large factor in mythology. At first the processes of polyonymy and oblivion seem superfluous in Sir George's system, because he has already (in the intellectual condition of his primary myth-makers) sufficient myth-making power. While his early men regarded all things as living and personal, they would account for all natural processes on that hypothesis, and the explanations thus given would be nature-myths of the class current among savages. For example, if Sir George's early men thought (as they did) that the sun was alive, they might well marvel at the regularity of his movements; why did he not run about the sky at random as a brute runs about the woods? Why did he go, like a driven beast, in a regular round? To answer this question the New Zealanders and North American Indians have evolved a story that Maui or Tcha-ka-betch once set traps for the sun, caught him, beat him, and made him move for the future with orderly propriety. This is an undeniable nature-myth, and savage mythology, like that of Greece and of the Veda, is full of similar mythic explanations of natural phenomena. To explain such myths no processes of polyonymy, synonymy, and oblivion are needed. Why then are those processes required in the system of Sir George Cox? For this reason; he is not content with the myths which declare themselves to be nature-myths. He wishes to prove that epic and romantic legends, which say nothing about sun, moon, stars, and wind, are nature-myths in disguise. Here the processes of polyonymy and oblivion become useful.
For example, we have the myth which tells how Jason sought the golden fleece in an eastern land, how he won the treasure and the daughter of its owner, how he returned home, deserted Medea, wedded Glauce, and died. Now nothing is openly said in this legend about natural phenomena, except that the Colchian Royal House belongs to the solar race as the royal family did in India and Peru, and as the Totem tribe or gens of suns (Natchez and Aurelii) did in North America and in Rome. How, then, can the Jason legend be explained on a nature-myth? By the aid of Polyonymy, thus: The sun had countless names. The names for sun, and dawn, and cloud, lost (in Sir George's opinion) their original sense, and became names of heroes, ladies, gods and goddesses. The original sense of the names was half remembered and half forgotten. Athene is " the dawn goddess" (Myth. Ar. ii. 119). Phrixus, the child of Nephele, is the son of the cloud. Hellê, the drowned girl of the fable, is " the bright clear air illumined by the rays of the sun." When we are told that she was drowned, no more was originally meant than that "before the dawn can come the evening light must die out utterly" (Ar. Myth. ii. 273). Here let us pause and reflect. In the myth, Phrixus and Hellê, children of Nephele, escaped being sacrificed by flying away on a winged ram with a golden fleece. Helle fell off and was drowned. How does Sir George Cox explain all this? Nephele is the cloud, so far all is plain sailing. The cloud has two children, one "the frigid Phrixus;" the other, "the bright clear air illuminated by the rays of the sun;" or again, "the evening light." Early men, we are to suppose, said that the cloud produced cold, and also bore the warm evening air. Why do the warm air and the cold air go off together eastward on a golden flying ram? This we do not see that Sir George explains, but the fleece of the ram (after that animal has been slain) becomes the treasure of the light, which is sought in the east by Jason. But who is Jason? His name "must be classed with the many others, Jasion, Janus, Iolaos, Iaso, belonging to the same root" (Myth. Ar. i. 150, note 1), And what is the root? Well (ii. 81) Iamus, from the same root, means "the violet child;" he was found among violets. Now ίον (violet) applies to the violet coloured sunset clouds, and ἰός also means a spear, and "represents the far-darting rays of the sun." "The word as applied to colour is traced by Prof. Max Müller to the root i, as denoting a crying hue, that is, a loud colour." Thus, whether we take ἰός to mean a spear, or violet, or what you please, Jason's name connects him with the sun. The brain reels in the attempt to make sense of the cold air and the hot air, children of the cloud, going eastward, on a ram covered with the treasures of the light, and when we come to the warm air dying, and the light being stripped (in the east) from the ram, and being sought for by a man whose name more or less means violet, and who comes from the west, and when all this is only the beginning of the tale, we are absolutely perplexed. Who ever told such tales? Yes, we say, if ever men were deep in the perplexing processes of polyonymy, synonymy and oblivion, if ever the grandfather used countless allegorical phrases, which the grandchild piously retained, while he quite forgot their sense, then, indeed, this kind of muddled and senseless nature-myth may have been evolved. But we have vainly asked for evidence of the existence and activity of polyonymy, synonymy, and oblivion. The first and last of the three factors are useful, however, to Sir George Cox, when he tries to show that myths which do not give themselves out for nature-myths are nature-myths in disguise after all. But we have observed no evidence (except the opinion of some philologists) for the theory on which the whole demonstration depends. Again, M. Decharme, with just as much reason, makes Phrixus "the demon of thunder," and Hellê, "a goddess of lightning!" This kind of philosophy is too facile. To opinions like those which Sir George Cox has advanced with so much earnestness, and in such a captivating style of eloquence, it has always been objected that there is an improbable monotony in the theory which resolves most of old romance into a series of remarks about the weather. This objection has not been made by uncritical writers only. M. Meyer complains, almost petulantly, of that "eternal lay-figure," the sun in all his mythological disguises. (Romania.) No historical hero, no custom, no belief, M. Meyer vows, is out of danger from the solar mythologists.
Mr. Tylor again writes (Primitive Culture, i. 319), "No legend, no allegory, no nursery rhyme is safe from the hermeneutics of a thorough-going mythologic theorist. Should he, for instance, demand as his property the nursery 'Song of Sixpence,' his claim would be easily established: obviously the four-and-twenty blackbirds are the four-and-twenty hours, and the pie that holds them is the underlying earth covered with the over-arching sky: how true a touch of nature is it that 'when the pie is opened,' that is, when day breaks, 'the birds begin to sing,' the King is the Sun, and his 'counting out his money,' is pouring out the sunshine, the golden shower of Danae; the Queen is the Moon, and her transparent honey the moonlight. The maid is the "rosy-fingered" Dawn, who rises before the Sun, her master, and 'hangs out the clothes' (the clouds) across the sky; the particular blackbird who so tragically ends the tale by 'snipping off her nose,' is the hour of sunrise. The time-honoured rhyme really wants but one thing to prove it a sun-myth, that one thing being a proof by some argument more valid than analogy." Mr. Tylor easily shows that historical persons may be disposed of no less readily than the characters of Nursery Rhymes as solar-myths. Analogy is usually the one argument advanced for this scheme, and the analogies (as will be shown) are often so faint as to be practically non-existent. What "false analogies" can be made to prove, Mr. Max Müller has demonstrated (Selected Essays, ii. p. 449). Mr. Müller has also gently censured (Selected Essays, i. 564, 565) the ready way in which M. Husson shows that Red Hiding Hood was the Dawn: "It would be a bold assertion to say that the story of Red Riding Hood was really a metamorphosis of an ancient story of the rosy-fingered Eos, or the Vedic Ushas with her red horses." In Mr. Müller's opinion "there is but one safe path to follow in these researches into the origin of words or stories.... In addition to the coincidences in characteristic events, we have the evidence of language. Names are stubborn things," and more to the same purpose. Here we touch one of the differences between Sir George Cox and Mr. Max Müller. Mr. Müller, like Sir George Cox, is of opinion that all the stories of princesses imprisoned, and delivered by young bright heroes, "can be traced back to mythological tradition about the spring being released from the bonds of winter." But in each case Mr. Müller asks for names of characters in the story, names capable of being analysed into some equivalent for powers of nature, sun, wind, night, or what not. Now, we have elsewhere tried to show that, in mythological interpretation, scarcely any reliance can be placed on analysis of the names of the characters. It seems more than probable that in most cases the stories are older than the names. Again, the custom of giving to real persons names derived from forces and phenomena of nature is widely prevalent in early society. Men and women are styled "cloud," "sun," "wind," and so forth. These names, then, even when they can be traced in myths, offer no surer ground for a theory than the analysis of such names as Jones and Thompson would do in a novel. Having to name the characters in his tale, the early story-teller might naturally give such personal titles as were common in his own tribe, such terms as "Wind," "Cloud" "Sun," and so forth. Thirdly, the best philologists differ widely from each other as to the roots from which the names spring, and as to the sense of the names. But feeble as is the method which relies on analysis of mythical names, it is at all events less casual than the method which is satisfied with mere "coincidence in characteristic events." The simple argument of many mythologists may be stated thus. "The dawn is a maiden, therefore all maidens in myths are the dawn." "The sun is golden, therefore all gold in myths must be solar." These opinions are derived, in the long run, from the belief that the savage primary myth-makers were so much preoccupied with the daily phenomena of nature, and again from belief in the action of polyonymy and oblivion. We have attempted to show that there is no evidence given to prove either that early man was in passionate, ceaseless anxiety about nature, or that "polyonymy" and oblivion ever existed in such strength as to produce the required effects on myths. As a rule, a real nature-myth avows itself for what it is, and attempts to give a reason (unscientific of course) for this or that fact, or assumed fact, in nature. Such tales though wild, and based on misconception, are intelligible and coherent. We have already seen how far from coherent or intelligible is Sir George Cox's explanation of part of the Jason legend as nature-myth.
We promised that, after criticising Sir George Cox's theory of the Origin of Myths and Household Tales, we would examine his method of interpreting individual stories. Let us see how Mr. Müller, followed by Sir George, handles a tale with which we are all familiar. In Grimm's Frosch König (vol. i. Tale i.), a frog (who in Grimm turns out to be a disguised prince) is betrothed to a princess. "How came such a story," asks Mr. Max Müller, "ever to be invented? Human beings were, we may hope, at all times sufficiently enlightened to know that a marriage between a frog and the daughter of a Queen was absurd. . . . We may ascribe to our ancestors any amount of childlike simplicity, but we must take care not to degrade them to the rank of mere idiots."
Mr. Müller thus explains the frog who would a-wooing go. As our ancestors were not mere idiots, the frog story must have had a meaning which would now seem rational. In old times (Mr. Müller says) the sun had many names. "It can be shown that 'frog' was an ancient name for the sun." But though it can be shown, Mr. Müller never shows it. He observes "this feminine Bheki (frog) must at one time have been used as a name for the sun." But though he himself asks for "chapter and verse from the Veda," he gives us no verse and no chapter for his assertions (Chips, ii. 201, 247). His theory is that tales were told of the sun, under his frog name, that people forgot that the frog meant the sun, and that they ended by possessing an irrational tale about the frog going a-wooing.
The Frog-sun whose existence is established on this scanty testimony, is a great favourite with Sir George Cox, and occurs no fewer than seven times in his Mythology of the Aryan Peoples. Nay, this frog is made to explain the presence of many of the wonderful talking animals in Myth and Household Tale. "The frog prince or princess is only one of the thousand personifications of names denoting originally the phenomena of day and night. As carrying the morning light from the east to the west the sun is the Bull bearing Eurôpê from the purple land (Phoinikia), and the same changes which converted the Seven Shiners into the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, or the 'Seven Sages' (of Greece?), or the Seven Champions of Christendom, or the Seven Bears, transformed the sun into a wolf, a bear, a lion, a swan." (Ar. Myth. i. 105.)
Here we have the old use of analogies. Because of a theory (probably incorrect) that the Seven Bears of Indian stellar myth were originally seven shiners, all sorts of people in sets of seven twinkle off as "shiners" also, stellar or solar shiners. In the same way the theory of the sun-frog (without chapter or verse as it is) proves that all animals in Household Tales are the sun.
As the appearance of beasts with human qualities and accomplishments is one of the most remarkable features of Household Tales, we may look at another statement of Sir George Cox's views on this subject. Metamorphosis of men into animals and of animals into men is as common in Household Tales as a sprained ankle is in modern novels. Sir George Dasent (Popular Tales, p. cxix) pointed out that the belief in such metamorphoses "is primeval, and the traditions of every race tell of such transformations." Sir George Cox takes one of Sir George Dasent's numerous examples, and remarks "if this be an illustration, it accounts for all such transformations, but it does so in a way which is completely subversive of any hypothesis of nature-worship. Such myths may all he traced to mere forgeifulness of the original meaning of words." As proof, Sir George Cox adduces the well worn "seven shiners," and the supposed confusion between λευκός, shining, and λύκός, a wolf, "so named from the glossiness of his 'coat,'" as if wolves had coats so peculiarly glossy. By these examples alone (omitting the frog-sun) Sir George Cox contests the plain straightforward theory of Sir George Dasent, that men everywhere naturally believe in metamorphosis and lykanthropy. Sir George Cox wishes to trace lykanthropy to a confusion between λύκός, and λευκός. On this point Sir Alfred Lyall, after long observation of Indian beliefs, says, "To those who live in a country where wicked people and witches are constantly taking the form of wild beasts, the explanation of lykanthropy by a confusion between Leukos and Lukos seems wanton." (Fortnightly Review.)
Wantonly or not, Sir George Cox traces "all such myths to mere forgetfulness of the original meaning of words." For this prodigiously sweeping generalisation no evidence except evidence like that of the supposed frog-sun and "seven shiners" and Leukos and Lukos is afforded. (Ar. Myth. i. 140-141, note 1.) "Bears, wolves, foxes, ducks, swans, eagles, ants, all these are names under which the old mythical language spoke of the clouds, or the wind, or of the light which conquers the darkness." Here again we have, by way of supporting evidence, the "seven shiners," and "the wolf in the stories of Phoibos Lykeios." As the belief in metamorphosis,and in beasts which are rational and loquacious, is world wide, and is the natural result of the ideas of "primary myth-makers," or savages, Sir George Cox's theory, that such notions are all to be traced to forgetfulness of the meaning of words denoting natural phenomena, is too narrow, and is too devoid of evidence. Another explanation will presently be offered.
We may now leave Sir George's theories of the diffusion and origin of Household Tales. They are widely diffused, he thinks, because the race which originally evolved them is also scattered far and wide, and has carried them everywhere in its wanderings. The stories originated, again, in man's early habit of imaginatively endowing all things with life, in his almost exclusive preoccupation with the changes of the day and the year, and in "polyonymy," and forgetfulness of the meaning of language. The third problem, as we saw, is to explain the relations between Household Tales and the higher mythologies. Are children's märchen the detritus the last worn relics of the higher myths, as these reached the peasant class, and passed through the fancy of nurses and grandmothers? Or do the Household Tales rather represent the oldest forms of the Romantic myths, and are the heroic legends of Greece, India, Finland, Scandinavia, Wales, merely the old nursery stories elaborated and adorned by the arts of minstrels and priests? On the former hypothesis, märchen are a detritus; on the latter märchen are rather the surviving shapes of the original germs of myths. On this topic Sir George Cox, as far as we have ascertained his meaning, appears to hold what is perhaps the most probable opinion, that in certain cases the Household Tale is the decaying remnant of the half-forgotten myths, while in other cases it rather represents the original näif form out of which the higher myth has been elaborated (Ar. Myth. i. 123). Possibly we have not succeeded here in apprehending the learned author's sense. As a rule, however, writers on these subjects believe in the former hypothesis, namely, that Household Tales are the detritus of the higher myths; are the old heroic coins defaced and battered by long service. Thus, about the time when the Grimms were collecting their stories, Scott wrote (in a note to the Lady of the Lake), "The mythology of one period would appear to pass into the romance of the next, and that into the nursery tales of subsequent ages." Mr. Max Müller expresses the same idea (Chips, xi. 243), "The gods of ancient mythology were changed into the demigods and heroes of ancient epic poetry, and these demigods again became at a later age the principal characters in our nursery tales." The opposite of this theory might be expressed thus, "Stories originally told about the characters of savage tales were finally attracted into the legends of the gods of ancient mythology, or were attributed to demigods and heroes." The reasons for preferring this view (the converse of Mr. Müller's) will presently be explained. In the meantime Mr. Müller's hypothesis "has great allies" in Scott; and in Von Hahn, who holds that myths are imaginative descriptions of the greater elementary powers and changes of nature; that the Saga or heroic epic localises the myths in real places, and attributes the adventures to supposed ancestral heroes, and, finally, " that the Märchen, or Household Tale is the last and youngest form of the saga" (Griechische Märchen p. 5).
Starting from this point, namely, from the doubt as to whether märchen are the youngest (Von Hahn. Max Müller), or rather, as we shall attempt to show, the oldest extant form of the higher myths, we will endeavour to explain our theory of the whole subject. That theory must first be stated as briefly and clearly as possible.
With regard (1) to the Origin of the peculiar and irrational features of myth and märchen we believe them to be derived and inherited from the savage state of man, from the savage conditions of life, and the savage way of regarding the world. (2) As to the Diffusion of the tales, we think it impossible at present to determine how far they may have been transmitted from people to people, and wafted from place to place, in the obscure and immeasurable past of human antiquity, or how far they may be due to identity of human fancy everywhere. (3) As to the relations between Household Tales and Greek or other civilised myths, we prefer the following theory, which leaves room for many exceptions. The essence both of märchen and myths is a number of impossible and very peculiar incidents. These incidents are due to the natural qualities of the savage imagination. Again, the incidents are combined into various romantic arrangements, each of these arrangements being a märchen. The märchen were originally told, among untutored peoples, about anonymous heroes,—a boy, a girl, a lion, a bear,—such were the leading characters of the earliest tales. As tribes became settled, these old stories were localised, the adventures (originally anonymous) were attributed to real or imaginary named persons or gods, and were finally adorned by the fancy of poets like the early singers of Greece. Thus, while a savage race has its märchen (in which the characters are usually beasts or anonymous persons), the civilised race (or the race in a state of higher barbarism) has the same tale, developed and elaborated into a localised myth, with heroes rejoicing in such noble names as Perseus, Odysseus, Jason, Leminkainen, or Maui. But while the progressive classes in civilised countries are acquainted with the named heroes, and the elaborate forms of the legends, the comparatively stationary and uneducated classes of shepherds, husbandmen, wood-men, and fishers, retain a version but little advanced from the old savage story. They have not purified away the old ferocious and irrational elements of the tale, or at most they have substituted for the nameless heroes, characters derived from history or from Christian records. Thus the Household Tales of the European peasantry occupy a mean position between the savage story, as we find it among African tribes, and the elaborate myth which, according to our theory, poets and priests have evolved out of the original savage data.
To sum up the theory thus briefly stated:
1. The origin of the irrational element in myth and tale is to be found in the qualities of the uncivilised imagination.
2. The process of Diffusion remains uncertain. Much may be due to the identity everywhere of early fancy: something to transmission.
3. Household Tales occupy a middle place between the stories of savages and the myths of early civilisations.
There are probably märchen, however, especially among the tales of modern Greece, which are really the detritus, or worn and battered relics of the old mythologies.
Nothing is easier than to advance new theories. The difficulty begins when we try to support them by argument and evidence. It may be as well to show how the system which we have just explained occurred to the mind of the writer. It was first suggested, years ago, by the study of savage märchen. If Bushmen and Samoyeds, and Zulus, and Maoris, and Eskimo, and Odjibwas, and Basutos have household tales essentially identical with European märchen, how, we asked, is this to be explained? Mr. Max Müller and Sir G. W. Cox had scouted the idea of borrowing. Then, was it to be supposed that all the races with Household Tales had once shared the capacious "cradle of the Aryan Race?" That seemed hard to demonstrate. To account for the identity of savage and Indo-European märchen, there remained the process of slow filtration and transmission on one hand, and the similarity of the workings of the human mind (especially in its earlier stages) on the other hand. But Mr. Max Müller had already discredited the hypothesis that märchen "might have been invented more than once" (Chips, ii. 233). "It has been said," writes Mr. Müller, "that there is something so natural in most of the tales, that they might well have been invented more than once. This is a sneaking argument, but has nevertheless a certain weight. It does not apply, however, to our fairy tales. They surely cannot be called 'natural.' They are full of the most unnatura] conceptions. . ." Among these unnatural conceptions, Mr. Müller noted the instance of a frog wooing a maiden; and he went on, as we have already seen, to explain such ideas on the hypothesis that they resulted from "a disease of language," from forgetfulness of the meaning of words. Now some little anthropological study had shown us that the ideas (so frequent in Household Tales), which Mr. Müller calls unnatural, were exactly the ideas most natural to savages. So common and so natural is the idea of animal kinship and matrimonial alliance with animals to the savage mind, that stories turning on these data are, of all stories, the most likely to have been invented in several places. We do not say that they were thus separately invented, but only that the belief on which they turn is, of all beliefs, the most widely diffused. Having once attained this point, we soon discovered that other essential incidents in märchen, incidents which seem unnatural to civilised men, are common and accredited parts of the savage conception of the world he lives in. When this was once ascertained, the rest of our theory followed on the ordinary lines of the evolution of human institutions. To take an example in another province. Savages of a certain degree of culture make hand-turned pots of clay. Civilised races use the wheel. Peasants in remote disstricts of civilised countries make hand-turned pots of clay much like those of savages. The savage tale answers to the savage pipkin. The vase from Vallauris answers to the civilised myth. The hand-turned pot from Uist or Barra, answers to the peasant märchen; pot and märchen both surviving, with modifications, from the savage state, among the non-progressive class in civilised countries.
Such pipkins from the Hebrides (where Mr. Campbell collected his Tales) resemble much more the prehistoric and savage pot than they resemble our Vallauris vase, with its classic shape, ornament, and balance. Just in the same way, the West Highland or Russian märchen is much more akin to the Zulu story than to the civilised myth of Greece, which turns on the same ideas. In both the material and the imaginative product, you have the same process of evolution. You have the rude stuff, clay and small flints and shells for the savage pot, savage ideas for the savage tale. You have the refined, selected clay for the civilised vase, the ingenious process of fabrication, the graceful form and ornament. In the realm of imagination these answer to the plastic fancy of old minstrels, and of Homer or Apollonius Rhodius, refining and modifying the rude stuff of savage legend. Finally, among the non-progressive crofters of the Hebrides you have (in manufacture) the rude clay, the artless façon, the ornament incised with the nails; and you have, in the imaginative province, tales almost as wild as the working of Bushman or Zulu imagination. (Campbell's Tales of the West Highlands).
Here then is an example, and dozens might be given of the process of evolution, which is the mainspring of our system. Another example may be taken from the realm of magic. All over the world savages practise spells, divinations, superstitious rites; they maim images to hurt the person whom the image resembles; they call up the dead; they track the foot-prints of ghosts in ashes; they tie "witch-knots;" they use incantations; they put sharp objects in the dust where a man has trodden that the man may be lamed. Precisely the same usages survive everywhere in the peasant class, and are studied by amateurs of folk-lore. But among the progressive classes of civilisation those practices do not occur at all; or if they do occur, it is by way of revival and recrudescence. On the other hand, the magical ideas are found much elaborated, in the old myths of civilisation, in the sagas of Medea and Circe, of Odin and Loki. Probably it will now be admitted that we have established the existence of the process of evolution on which our theory depends. It is a vera causa, a verifiable working process. If more examples are demanded, they may be found in any ethnological museum. In General Pitt Rivers's anthropological collection, the development may be traced. Given stone, clay, the tube, or blow-pipe, and the throwing-stick, and you advance along the whole line of weapons and projectiles, reaching the boomerang, the bow, the stone-headed arrow, the metal arrow-head, the dagger, the spear, the sword, and, finally, the rifle and bayonet. The force which works in the evolution of manufactured objects works also in the transmutation of custom into law, of belief into tale, and of tale into myth, with constant minute modification, and purification, degradation, and survival.
If we have established the character of our theory, as one of a nature acknowledged and accepted by science, we have still to give evidence for our facts. The main purpose of our earlier pages was to show that the popular mythological theory of Sir G. W. Cox, had either no evidence, or scanty evidence, or evidence capable of a more correct interpretation than it receives from its friends. The evidence for our own theory will be closely scrutinised: let us examine its nature and extent. First, Have savages Household Tales, and do they correspond with those of the Aryan race?
The questions raised by the similarity between Aryan folk-tales on the one hand, and African folk-tales on the other, have not yet been seriously considered by mythologists. When Mr. Max Müller wrote (Chips, ii. 211) on Dr. Callaway's Zulu Märchen, he had only the first part of the collection before him. As the learned writer observed, much more material was required; we wanted more Zulu tales, and other tales from members of the same great South African race, for purposes of comparison. We still need, for comparative purposes, much larger collections of savage instances than we possess. But these collections are amassed slowly, and it has seemed well, for our present end, to make use of the materials at hand. If comparatively scanty in quantity, they are very remarkable in character. From Africa we have "Nursery Tales, Traditions, and Histories of the Zulus, in their own words, with a translation into English, and notes," by the Rev. Canon Callaway, M.D. (Trübner, London, 1868.) We have also Dr. Bleek's Bushman Folk-lore (Trübner, 1875), and his Reynard the Fox in Africa, and Steere's Swahili Tales. Madagascar is represented by the collections of the Rev. James Sibree, published in the Folk Lore Record (1883). Some Basuto tales are given by Casalis (Les Bassoutos, ou 23 ans de séjour au Sud de l'Afrique, 1860). Some Ananzi stories from West Africa are printed in Sir George Dasent's Tales from the Norse (1859). From the Kaffirs we derive Theal's Kaffir Folk-lore (Sonnenschein, London, n.d.). Mr. Gill has given us some South Sea examples in his Myths and Songs from the South Pacific. (London, 1876.) The Folk Lore Society of South Africa, in a little periodical now extinct, gave other African examples. Jülg's Kalmückische Märchen are Indian in origin. Schoolcraft and his associates collected North American Indian examples in Algic Researches. Samoyed Märchen have been published by Castren (Ethnologische Vorlesungen, St. Petersburg, 1857); and examples of Märchen magnified and elaborated, occur in Japanese mythology (Transactions of Asiatic Society of Japan, vol. x.); in New Zealand Myths (Taylor's New Zealand); and in the accounts of Melanesian and Andaman myth, by Mr. Codrington and other writers, in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute. While Mr. Mitford has given us Tales of Old Japan, Prof. Hartt has collected the Märchen of the Indians on the Amazon. Rink has published those of the Eskimo; and scattered examples are to be found in Bancroft's large compilation on the Native Races of the Pacific, and in the old Relations of the Jesuit fathers and other missionaries. Thus there are gleanings which may be provisionally used as samples of a large harvest of savage children's tales. The facts already in our possession are important enough to demand attention, particularly as the savage tales (in Africa especially) correspond, as will be shewn, so closely with the European and Aryan examples.
Here then, in the volumes named, we have a gleaning at least, from the harvest of savage Märchen. The names of most of the collectors will be to anthropologists, if not to all etymologists, a guarantee of their accuracy. Here, too, it may be observed, that a race so non-Aryan as the ancient Egyptians possessed Household Tales identical (in "unnatural" incident, and to a great extent in plot) with our own (Maspero, Contes Egyptiens).
It will be shown later that the ideas, stock incidents and even several of the plots of savage and other non-Aryan Household Tales are identical with the ideas, incidents, and plots of Aryan Märchen. It will also be shown that in the savage Märchen, the ideas and incidents are the inevitable result of the mental habits and beliefs of savages. The inference will be that the similar features in European tales are also derived from the savage conditions of the intellect. By "savages" we here mean all races from the Australians and Bushmen to such American tribes as the Algonquins, and such people as the Maoris. In this great multitude of stocks there are found many shades of nascent civilisation, many degrees of "culture." But the races to whom we refer are all so far savage, that they display the characteristic feature of the savage intellect.
Before taking another step, we must settle the question of evidence as to savage ideas. We have ourselves criticised severely the evidence offered by certain mythologists, without, however denying that they may possess more than they offer. It is natural and necessary that we, in turn, should be asked for trustworthy testimony. How do we know anything about the ideas of savages? How can we pretend to understand anything about the nature of the savage imagination? The philological school of mythologists, about whose scanty show of proof we have complained, are conscientiously desirous that our evidence should be full and trustworthy. Now, according to Mr. Max Müller, the materials which we possess for the study of savage races "are often extremely untrustworthy" (India and what it can Teach us). This remark, or its equivalent, is constantly repeated, when any attempt is made to study the natural history of man. M. Reville, on the other hand, declares with truth that our evidence is chiefly embarrassing by the very wealth of documents. (Les religions des Peuples non Civilisés). We naturally side with M. Reville.
Consider for a moment what our evidence as to the life and ideas of savages is; our evidence, in the first place, from the lips of civilised eyewitnesses. It begins with the Bible, which is rich in accounts of early religious ideas, animal worship, stone worship, ritual, taboos on articles of food; marriage customs and the like. Then we have Herodotus, with his descriptions of savage manners, myths, and customs. Next come all the innumerable Greek and Roman geographers, and many of the historians and general writers, Aristotle, Strabo, Pliny, Plutarch, Ptolemy, and dozens of others. For the New World, for Asia, for Africa, we have the accounts of voyagers, merchants, missionaries, from the Arab travellers in the East to Marco Polo, to Sahagun, to Bernal Diaz, to Garcilasso de la Vega, to Hawkins, to all the Spanish travellers, and the Portuguese, to Hakluyt's men; we have the Jesuits, with their Relations Edifiantes; we have evangelists of every Christian church and sect; we have travellers of every grade of learning and ignorance, from shipwrecked beech-combers to Nordenskiöld and Moseley. Now from Leviticus to the Cruise of the Challenger, from Herodotus to Mariner, nay, from the Rig-Veda to Fison and Howitt, we possess a series of independent documents on savage customs and belief, whether found among actual savages or left as survivals in civilisation. These documents all coincide on certain points, and establish, we venture to say, with evidence that would satisfy any jury, the ancient existence of certain extraordinary savage customs, myths, ideas, and rites of worship. These ideas and rites are still held and practised by savages, and seem natural to their state of mind. Thus the coincident testimony of a cloud of witnesses, through three thousand years, establishes the existence of certain savage beliefs and rites, in every quarter of the globe. Doubtless in each instance the evidence must be carefully scrutinised. In matters of religion, missionaries may be witnesses biassed in various ways, they may want to make out that the savage has no religion at all, or that he is a primitive methodist. The scientific explorer may have a sceptical bias: the shipwrecked mariner who passes years with a savage tribe, may be sceptical or orthodox, or may have his report tinged by the questions put to him on his return to civilisation. Again, savages take pleasure in hoaxing their catechists, and once more, the questions put by the European may suggest answers appropriate but wholly false. Therefore in examining the reports as to savage character, we must deal cautiously with the evidence. If our witness be as candid, logical, and fair as Dr. Bleek, Mr. Codrington, Mr. Orpen, Mr. Gill, Egede, Dr. Rink, Dobrizhoffer, or a score of other learned missionaries and explorers, we may yield him some confidence. If he be tinged and biassed more or less by scientific theories, philological or anthropological, let us allow somewhat for the bias; probably we must allow still more in our own case. If the witness be unlearned, we have, at least, the probability that he is not transplanting to Otaheite or to Queensland ideas and customs which he has read about in Herodotus or Strabo, or theories of Müller or McLennan. Lastly, if all evidence from all quarters and all ages, evidence learned and unlearned, ancient, mediæval, and modern agrees in certain points, and if many of the witnesses express surprise at the occurrence of customs and notions, which our reading shows to be almost universal, then let the undesigned coincidence itself stand for confirmation. To our mind this kind of treatment of evidence is not unscientific. It is permitted to investigators, like Darwin and Romanes. Mr. Max Müller, however, is so far from being satisfied with the method (as we have stated it) that he draws a line between what will content the scholar, and what the ethnologist will put up with. Mr. Müller's criticism deserves quotation in full (Nineteenth, Century, Jan. 1882): "Comparative mythology is chiefly studied by two classes—by scholars and by anthropologists. Now the true scholar who knows the intricacies of a few languages, who is aware of the traps he has to avoid in exploring their history, who in fact has burnt his fingers again and again when dealing with Greek, and Latin, and Sanskrit, shrinks by a kind of instinct from materials which crumble away as soon as critical scholarship attempts to impart to them a certain cohesion and polish. These materials are often supplied by travellers ignorant of the language, by missionaries strongly biassed in one direction or the other, or by natives who hardly understood the questions they were asked to answer. A very useful collection was made some time ago by Mr. Tylor to show the untrust worthiness of the accounts of most travellers and missionaries, when they give us their impressions of the languages, religions, and traditions of races among whom they lived for a longer or shorter time. The same people who by one missionary are said to worship either one or many gods, are declared by another to have no idea and no name of a Divine Being. But, what is stranger still, even the same person sometimes makes two equally confident assertions which flatly contradict each other." Several examples of these inconsistencies are quoted.
Any reader of this passage might naturally suppose that Mr. Tylor thought our materials for the study of savage religions, language, and traditions quite untrustworthy. If Mr. Tylor really thought thus, we might abandon any attempt to explain mythology and customs by the study of savages. But as Mr. Tylor has devoted several chapters of Primitive Culture to examining the savage origins of mythology and religion, he apparently does not think our evidence so very hopeless after all. The passage in Mr. Tylor's work to which Mr. Müller refers is (probably). Primitive Culture, i. 418, 419. Mr. Tylor there remarks, "It is not unusual for the very writer who declares in general terms the absence of religious phenomena among some savage people, himself to give evidence that shows his expressions to be misleading." But, far from dismissing the whole topic as one on which no anthropological reports can be trusted, Mr. Tylor goes on to shew that the inconsistencies of evidence have chiefly arisen from want of a definition of religion. The missionary says, "the savage has no religion," meaning nothing like what the missionary understands by religion. He then proceeds to describe practices which, in the eyes of the anthropologist, are religious enough. Mr. Tylor then discounts reports which are hasty, or made in ignorance, and finds that there is still left that enormous body of testimony on which he bases his theory of savage philosophies, religions, and mythologies. Mr. Tylor, to be brief, judges evidence by the tests we have already proposed. The inquirer "is bound to use his best judgment as to the trustworthiness of all the authors he quotes … but it is over and above these measures of precautions that the test of recurrence comes in." By "recurrence" Mr. Tylor means what we have called "undesigned coincidence." Thus, "if two independent visitors to different countries, say a mediæval Mahommedan in Tartary, and a modern Englishman in Dahome, or a Jesuit missionary in Brazil, and a Wesleyan in the Fijian Islands, agree in describing some analogousart or rite or myth among the people they have visited, it becomes difficult or impossible to set down such correspondence to accident or wilful fraud" (Primitive Culture, i. 9.)
Such, then, are our tests of reported evidence. Both the quantity and the quality of the testimony seem to justify an anthropological examination of the origin of myths and märchen. As to the savage ideas from which we believe these märchen to spring we have yet stronger evidence.
We have the evidence of institutions. It may be hard to understand what a savage thinks, but it is comparatively easy to know what he does. Now the whole of savage existence, roughly speaking, is based on and swayed by two great institutions. The first is the division of society into a number of clans or stocks. The marriage laws of savages depend on the conception that these stocks descend from certain plants, animals, or inorganic objects. As a rule no man and woman believed to be connected by descent and blood kinship with the same animal, plant, stone, natural phenomenon, or what not, can intermarry. This law is sanctioned by severe, sometimes by capital, punishment. Now about the evidence for this institution there can be no mistake. It has been observed by travellers in North and South America, in Australia, Samoa, India, Arabia, in Northern Asia, and in West and South Africa. The observations were obviously made without collusion or intention to support a scientific theory, for the scientific importance of the institution was not perceived till about 1870.
The second institution of savage life, from which the nature of savage ideas may be deduced, is the belief in magic and in "medicine-men." Everywhere we find Australians, Maoris, Eskimo, old Irish, Fuegians, Brazilians, Samoyeds, Iroquois, and the rest, showing faith in certain jugglers or wizards of their own tribe. They believe that these men can turn themselves or their neighbours into animal shapes; that they can go down into the abodes of the dead; that they can move inanimate objects by incantations; that they can converse with spirits, and magically cure or inflict diseases. This belief declares itself in the institutions of untutored races; the sorcerer has a considerable share in what may be called political and priestly power.
We have now unfolded the character of onr evidence. It is based, first on the testimony of innumerable reports corroborated by recurrence or coincidence; next on the testimony of institutions.
If this evidence seems inadequate, what have we to fall back upon? Merely the conjectures of philologists; we must follow the star of etymological guesses after which our fathers, the old antiquaries, went wandering. It may be said, with truth, that modern philology has a method far more scientific and patient than the random practice of old etymology. Granted, but a glance at the various philological interpretations, for example, of Greek mythical names, will shew that philologists still differ on most mythical points where difference is possible. When applied to the interpretation of the past of human thought and human history, philology is a most uncertain guide. Thus, Schrader observes (Sprachvergleichung und Urgeschichte, p. 431), that comparative philology has as yet contributed very little certain knowledge to the study of mythology. In the region of history, as he shews, the best philologists contradict each other and themselves, as to the metals possessed by the early Aryans. Yet philology is the science which claims possession of "the only method that can lead to scientific results," results which differ with the views of each individual scholar.
We are now able to prove, from the social and political institutions of savages, their belief in human descent from animals, in kinship with animals, in powers of metamorphosis, in the efficacy of incantations, and in the possibility of communion with the dead. Savages also believe in the possibility of "personal intercourse between man and animal, "the savage man's idea of the nature of those lower animals is very different from the civilised man's" (Tylor, Primitive Culture, i. 467; ii. 230). Mr. Tylor gives many curious observances, as proofs of the existence of these wild conceptions. We may add that savages believe the human soul passes into animal shapes at death, and that women may bear animal children.
Similar views prevail about inanimate nature. "To the savage all nature seems animated, all things are persons." We have already seen that Sir George Cox assumed this state of thought in the makers of his "primary" myths. "To the Indian all objects animate and inanimate seem exactly of the same nature, except that they differ in the accident of bodily form." (Im Thurn, Indians of Guiana, p. 350).
Other savage ideas may be briefly explained. Among savages many harmless and necessary acts are "taboo'd' or forbidden for some mystic or ceremonial reason.
Again, the youngest child in polygamous families is apt to be the favourite and heir. Animals of miraculous power are supposed to protect men and women. Cannibalism is not unknown in practice, and, as savages seldom eat members of their own tribe, alien tribes are regarded as cannibals. Further, various simple moral ideas are inculcated in savage tales. We may now offer a shoit list of savage ideas, and compare each idea with an incident in a savage and in a civilised Household Tale.
|1. Savage Idea.
Belief in kinship with Animals
|Savage Tale.||European Tale.|
Woman marries an elephant
Man weds girl whose brothers are ravens.
|2. Savage Idea.|
|Belief in Metamorphosis|
|Savage Tale.||European Tale.|
Hero becomes Insect.
Hero becomes Worm.
|3. Savage Idea.|
|A. Inanimate objects obey incantations, and speak.|
|Savage Tale.||European Tale.|
|Hero uses incantations with success.||Hero uses incantations with success.|
|B. Inanimate objects may speak.|
|Savage Tale.||European Tale.|
|Drops of spittle speak.||Drops of spittle speak.|
|4. Savage Idea.|
|Animals help favoured Men and Women.|
|Savage Tale.||European Tale.|
Hero is helped by Ox.
Heroine is helped by Bull.
|5. Savage Idea.|
|Cannibals are a constant danger.|
|Savage Tale.||European Tale.|
Hero and Heroine are captured by Cannibals.
Hero and Heroine are captured by Cannibals.
|6. Savage Idea.|
|The belief in possible descents into Hades, a place guarded by strange beasts, and where living men must not eat.|
|Savage Tale.||European Tale.|
Descent by a Melanesian.
Descent of Psyche.
|7. Savage Custom.|
Husband and wife are forbidden to see each other, or to name each other's names.
|Savage Tale.||European Tale.|
Wife disappears (but not apparently because of infringement of taboo).
Wife disappears after infringement of taboo.
Husband or wife disappear when seen, or when the name is named. (These acts being prohibited by savage custom.)
|8. Savage Custom.|
The youngest son in the Polygamous family is the heir.
|Savage Tale.||European Tale.|
King's youngest son, as heir, is envied and ill-treated by his brothers.
Youngest son or daughter succeeds where the elders fail, and is betrayed by jealousy of the elders.
|9. Savage Idea. A.|
Human strength, or soul, resides in this or that part of the body, and the strength of one man may be acquired by another who secures this part.
|Savage Tale.||European Tale.|
Certain Giants take out their hearts when they sleep, and are overcome by men who secure the hearts.
The Giant who has no heart in his body.
The man whose life or force depends on a lock of hair, and is lost when the hair is lost.
|Savage Idea. B.|
Souls of dead enter animal forms.
|Savage Tale.||European Tale.|
Dead Boy becomes a Bird.
Dead Boy becomes a Bird.
The lists now furnislied exhibit several of the leading and most "unnatural" ideas in European Household Tales. It has been shown that these ideas are also found in savage Household Tales. It has further been demonstrated that the notions on which these incidents are based are as natural to, and as common among, savages as they seem "unnatural" to the modern civilised student of Aryan dialects. The conclusion appears to follow inevitably, that the incidents of savage stories are derived from the beliefs and ideas of savages, while the identical incidents in civilised tales are an inheritance, a survival from a past of savagery. If we are not to believe this, we must first reject the evidence offered as untrustworthy, and next explain the phenomena as the result of forgetfulness of the meaning of words, and of other linguistic processes for which, as we have shewn, the evidence is neither copious, nor unimpeachable, nor to the point.
At the beginning of this essay we remarked that Household Tales consist of but few incidents, in an immense variety of combinations. To the incidents already enumerated, we may add such as spring from a few simple moral conceptions. Thus, among savages as in Europe, the duty of good temper and courtesy is illustrated by the tale of the good girl, or boy, who succeeded in enterprises where the bad girl or boy failed as a punishment of churlishness or disobedience. Again, in savage as well as civilised tales, curiosity in forbidden matters is punished, as in all the stories of opening a taboo'd door, or tampering with matters taboo' d. Once more the impossibility of avoiding Fate is demonstrated in such tales as "The Sleeping Beauty," the unborn child who is exposed to make of no effect an evil prophecy, and so forth. Again, the folly of hasty words is set forth in stories of the type of Jeptha's foolish vow. By help of such simple moral conceptions as these, and of supernatural incidents which appear natural to the savage, the web of Household Tales is woven.
There remain, however, features in Household Tales, savage or civilised, which we do not even pretend to explain. Why does the supplanted bride, whose place is taken by a false bride, appear so often What superstition is at the bottom of the incident of the lover who forgets his beloved after he has been kissed by his mother or his hound? Why does the incident of the deserted girl, who hides in a tree, and whose beautiful face is seen reflected in a well beneath, occur so frequently in countries as far apart as Scotland and Madagascar? These are among the real difficulties of the subject. Again, while most of the incidents of Household Tales are, as we have seen, easily accounted for, the tissue of plot into which they are woven is by no means so readily explained.
We may now examine, as briefly as possible, a famous myth of the classical world, and point out its component parts and stock ideas, which are scattered through the Household Tales of the civilised and barbarous races. For our present purpose the myth of Jason is as well suited as any other.
If our system be correct, the Jason myth is a heroic legend, with a plot composed of incidents now localised, and with characters now named, but the events were originally told as happening in no particular place, and the characters were originally mere "somebodies." The Jason myth starts from the familiar situation common in Household Tales. A Boeotian king (Athamas) has a wife, Nephele, and two children, a boy and a girl, named Phrixus (or Phryxus) and Helle. But Athamas takes a a new wife or mistress, Ino, and she conspires against her step-children. By intrigues, which it is needless to explain, Ino procures a decree that Phrixus and Helle shall be sacrificed to Zeus, this feature being a survival from the age of human sacrifice in Greece. As Phrixus stood at the altar, Nephele brought forward a golden ram which could speak. Phrixus and Helle mounted on the ram; the beast flew eastwards; Helle fell off, and was drowned in the Hellespont; Phrixus reached Colchis, sacrificed the ram, dedicated the golden fleece in a temple, and became the eponymous, or name-giving hero of Phrygia (Apollodorus, 1. ix. 1). The Scholiast, on Iliad vii. 86, quotes the story, with some unimportant variations from Philostephanus. He says that the ram met Phrixus and revealed to him the plot against his life. The Scholiast on Apoll. Rhod. 1. 256, gives Hecataeus as authority for the ram's power of conversation. Apollonius writes,
άλλά καί άυδήν
άνδρoμέην πρoέηκε κακόν τέρας.
The classical writers were puzzled by the talkative ram, but to students of Household Tales the surprise would be if the ram did not speak. According to De Gubernatis, the ram is the cloud or the sun, or a mixture; "the sun in the cloud butts with its rays until it opens the stable and its horns come out." And so forth.
We may now compare Household Tales which contain unlocalised versions of the early incidents in the Jason myth. The idea of the earlier incidents is that children, oppressed or threatened at home, escape by aid of an animal, or otherwise, and begin a series of adventures. The peculiar wrong from which the children escape, in the classic and heroic myth, is human sacrifice. In the Household Tales, on the other hand, they usually run away to escape being eaten. As human sacrifice is generally a survival of cannibalism, and is often found clinging to religion after cannibalism has died out of custom, it is only natural that the religious rite should be found in the classic myth, the savage custom in savage tales, and in the household stories which we regard as survivals of savagery. In the following Household Tales, the children flee from home like Phrixus and Helle, to escape being eaten, sometimes by a step-mother, sometimes by a mother, while in the most civilised version they only run away from a step-mother's ill-treatment.
Our first example is from Samojedische Märchen (Castren. p. 164). Here the childless wife intends to devour the daughters of her rival, whom she has slain. The daughters escape, and when they reach the sea, they are carried across not by a golden ram, but by a beaver. The Epirote version of the story is given by Von Hahn (Gr. Mär. i. 65). A man brings home a pigeon for dinner, the cat eats it; the wife, to conceal the loss of the pigeon, cooks one of her own breasts; the husband relishes the food, and proposes to kill his own two children and eat them. Exactly as the ram warned Phrixus, according to Philostephanus, so the dog warns the boy hero of the Epirote märchen, and he and his sister make their escape. The tale then shades off into one of the märchen of escape by magical devices, which are the most widely diffused of all stories. But these incidents recur later in the Jason legend. Turning from the Samoyeds and the Epirotes to Africa, we find the motif (escape of brother and sister) in a Kaffir tale, "Story of the Bird that made Milk." Here the children flee into the desert to avoid the anger of their father, who had "hung them on a tree that projected over a river." The children escape in a magical manner, and intermarry with animals (Theal's Kaffir Folk Lore, p. 36). Finally, among the Kaffirs, we find a combination of the form of the stories as they occur in Grimm (ii. 15). Grimm's version opens thus, "Little brother took his little sister by the hand and said, 'Since our mother died our stepmother beats us every day . . . come, we will go forth into the wide world.'" The Kaffir tale (Demane and Demazana) tells how a brother and sister who were twins and orphans were obliged on account of ill-usage to run away from. their relatives. Like Hänsel and Grethel they fall into the hands of cannibals, and escape by a ruse. Ip their flight they are carried over the water, neither by a ram nor a beaver, but by a white duck.
Here, then, we see how widely diffused are the early ideas and incidents of the Jason cycle. We see, too, that they are consistent with the theory of a savage origin, if cannibalism be a savage practice, and if belief in talking and protective animals be a savage belief.
The Jason myth proceeds from the incidents of the flight of the children, and enters a new cycle of ideas and events. We come to incidents which may be arranged thus:
- The attempt to evade prophecy. (Compare Zulu Tales'', p. 41).
- The arrival of the true heir.
- Endeavour to get rid of the heir by setting him upon a difficult or impossible adventure. (Callaway's Zulu Tales p. 170).
- The hero starts on the adventure, accompanied by friends possessed of miraculous powers. (Compare Kalewala).
In the Jason Legend the true heir is Jason himself. His uncle, Pelias, the usurper of his kingdom, has been warned by prophecy to guard against a one-shoe'd man. Jason has lost one shoe crossing the river. His uncle, to get rid of him, sends him to seek, in far away Colchis, the golden fleece of the talking ram. He sets forth in a boat with a talking figure-head, and accompanied by heroes of supernatural strength, and with magical powers of seeing, hearing, and flying.
All these inventions are natural, and require no comment. The companions of the hero, "Quick Sight," "Fine Ear" and the rest, are well known in European Household Tales, where their places are occasionally taken by gifted beasts. The incident of the expedition, the companions, and the quest in general, recurs in the Kalewala, the national poem of the Finns. When Jason with his company arrive in Colchis, we enter on a set of incidents perhaps more widely diffused than any others in the whole of folk-lore. Briefly speaking, the situation is this: an adventurer comes to the home of a powerful and malevolent being. He either is the brother of the wife of this being, or he becomes the lover of his daughter. In the latter case, the daughter helps the adventurer to accomplish the impossible tasks set him by her father. Afterwards the pair escape, throwing behind them, in their flight, various objects which detain the pursuer. When the adventurer is the brother of the wife of the malevolent being, the story usually introduces the "fee fo, fum" formula,—the husband smells the flesh of the stranger. In this variant, tasks are not usually set to the brother as they are to the lover. The incidents of the flight are much the same everywhere, even when, as in the Japanese and Lithuanian myths a brother is fleeing from the demon-ghost of his sister in Hades, or when, as in the Samoyed tale, two sisters are evading the pursuit of a cannibal step-mother. The fugitives always throw small objects behind them, such as a comb, which magically turns into a forest, and so forth.
We have already alluded to the wide diffusion of these incidents, which recur, in an epic and humanised form, in the Jason myth. By way of tracing the incidents from their least civilised to their Greek shape, we may begin with the Nama version. It is a pretty general rule that in the myths of the lower races, animals fill the rôles which, in civilised story, are taken by human beings. In Bleek's Hottentot Fables and Tales, p. 60, the incidents turn on the visit of brothers to a sister, not on the coming of an adventurous lover. The sister has married, not a wizard king, nor even a giant, but an elephant. The woman hides her brothers, the elephant "smells something." In the night, the woman escapes, with all the elephant's herds except three kine, which she instructs to low as loud as if they were whole flocks. These beasts then act like the "talking spittle," in Gaelic and Zulu, and like the chattering dolls in the Russian tale. The woman bids a rock open, she and her brothers enter, and when the elephant comes the rock closes on him, like the "Rocks Wandering," or clashing rocks, in the Odyssey, and he is killed. In the Eskimo Tale (Rink, 7) two brothers visit a sister married to a cannibal, but she has become a cannibal too. A tale much more like the Hottentot story of the Nama woman is the Eskimo "Two Girls" (Rink 8). One of the girls married, not an elephant, but a whale. To visit her, her two brothers built a boat of magical speed. In their company the woman fled from the whale. But instead of leaving magical objects, or obediently lowing animals behind her, she merely tied the rope by which the whale usually fastened her round a stone. The whale discovered her absence, pursued her, and was detained by various articles which she threw at him. Finally she and her brothers escaped, and the whale was transformed into a piece of whale-bone. In the Samoyed story (Castren. 11) the pursuit of the cannibal is delayed by a comb which the girl throws behind her, and which becomes "a thick wood;" other objects tossed behind become rivers and mountains. The same kind of feats are performed during the flight, in a story from Madagascar (Folk-lore Record, Aug. 1883), a story which, in most minute and curious detail of plot, resembles the Scotch "Nicht, Nocht, Nothing," the Russian "Tsar Morskoi," and the Gaelic "Battle of the Birds." In Japan, as among the Samoyeds, the hero (when followed by the Loathly Lady of Hades) throws down his comb, and it turns into bamboo sprouts, which naturally check her in her approach (Trans. Asiat. Soc. of Japan, vol. x. p. 36). The Zulu versions will be found in Callaway, pp. 51, 90, 145. In the Russian Tale (Ralston, p. 120), we find that the adventurer is not the brother of the wife of an animal, but the lover of the daughter of the Water King. By her aid he accomplishes the hard tasks set him, and he escapes with her, not by throwing objects behind, but by her magical gift of shape-shifting. The story takes the same form in the old Indian collection of Somadeva (cf. Köhler, Orient und Occident, ii. pp. 107-114. Ralston, pp. 132, 133). The father of the maiden in the Indian version is both animal and giant, a Rakshasa, who can fly about as a crane. In Grimm (51) the girl and her lover flee, by the aid of talking drops of blood, from a cruel witch step-mother. The best German parallel to the incidents of the adventurer's success in love, success in performing the hard tasks, and flight with the girl, is Grimm's "Two Kings' Children" (110). The Scotch version is defective in the details of the flight. (Nicht, Nought, Nothing, collected by the present writer, and published, with notes by Dr. Köhler, in Revue Celtique, vol. iii. 3, 4.)
It is scarcely necessary to show how the incidents which we have been tracing are used in the epic of Jason. He himself is the adventurer; the powerful and malevolent being is the Colchian King Æetes, the daughter of the king, who falls in love with the adventurer, is Medea. Hard tasks, as usual, are set the hero; just as in the Kalewala, Ilmarinen is compelled to plough the adder-close with a plough of gold, to bridle the wolf and the bear of Hades, and to catch the pike that swims in the waters of forgetfulness. The hard tasks in the Highlands and in South Africa may be compared. (Campbell, ii. 328; Callaway, 470). Instead of sowing dragons' teeth, the Zulu boy has to "fetch the liver of an Ingogo," a fabulous monster. When the tasks have been accomplished, the adventurer and the king's daughter, Jason and Medea, flee, as usual, from the wrath of the king, being aided (again as usual) by the magic of the king's daughter. And what did the king's daughter throw behind her in her flight, to delay her father's pursuit? Nothing less than the mangled remains of her own brothers. Other versions are given: that of Apollonius Rhodius (iv. 476, cf. Scholia) contains a curious account of a savage expiatory rite performed by Jason. But Grote (ed. 1869, i. 232) says, "So revolting a story as that of the cutting up of the little boy cannot have been imagined in later times." Perhaps, however, the tale, though as old as Pherecydes, is derived from a Folk-etymology of the place called Tomi (τέμνω). While the wizard king mourned over the cast-away fragments of his boy, the adventurer and the king's daughter made their escape. The remainder of the Jason legend is chiefly Greek, though some of the wilder incidents (as Medea's chaldron) have their parallels in South Africa.
We have now examined a specimen of the epic legends of Greece. We have shown that it is an arrangement, with local and semi-historical features, of a number of incidents, common in both savage and European Household Tales. Some moments in the process of the arrangement, for example, the localising of the scene in Colchis, and the attachment of the conclusion to the fortunes of the Corinthian House, are discussed by Grote (i. 244). Grote tries to show that the poetic elaboration and arrangement were finished between 600 and 500 B.C. Whatever the date may have been, we think it probable that the incidents of the Jason legend, as preserved in märchen, are much older than the legend in its epic Greek form. We have also shown that the incidents for the most part occur in the tales of savages, and we believe that they are the natural expressions of the savage imagination. We have not thought it necessary to explain (with Sir George Cox) the mutilation of the son of Ætes as a myth of sunset (Ar. Myth, i. 153) "a vivid image of the young sun as torn to pieces among the vapours that surround him, while the light, falling in isolated patches on the sea, seems to set bounds to the encroaching darkness." Is the "encroaching darkness" Æetes? But Æetes, in myth, was the son of the Sun, while Sir George Cox recognises him as "the breath or motion of the air." Well, Jason was (apparently) the Sun, and Apsyrtus is the young Sun, and Medea is the Dawn, and Helle is the evening Air, and Phryxus is the cold Air, and the fleece is the Sunlight, and Æetes is the breath of the air, and the child of the Sun, and why they all behave as they do in the legend is a puzzle which we cannot pretend to unravel.
Did space permit, we might offer analyses of other myths. The Odyssey we have dealt with in the introduction to our prose translation (Butcher and Lang ed. 1883). The myths of Perseus and of Urvasi and Pururavas may be treated in a similar way. As to the relations between the higher myths and Märchen, civilised or savage, there is this to be said: where the Märchen is diffused among many distinct races, while the epic use of the same theme is found only among one or two cultivated peoples, it is probable that the Märchen is older than the cultivated epic. Again, when the popular tale retains references to the feats of medicine men, to cannibalism, to metamorphosis, and to kinship with beasts, all of which are suppressed or smoothed down in the epic form of the story, these omissions strengthen the belief that the epic is later than the tale, and has passed through the refining atmosphere of a higher civilisation.
As to the origin of the wild incidents in Household Tales, let any one ask himself this question: Is there anything in the frequent appearance of cannibals, in kinship with animals, in magic, in abominable cruelty, that would seem unnatural to a savage? Certainly not; all these things are familiar in his world. Do all these things occur on almost every page of Grimm? Certainly they do. Have they been natural and familiar incidents to the educated German mind during the historic age? No one will venture to say so. These notions, then, have survived in peasant tales from the time when the ancestors of the Germans were like Zulus or Maoris or Australians.
Finally, as to the diffusion of similar incidents in countries widely severed, that may be, perhaps, ascribed to the identical beliefs of early man all over the world. But the diffusion of plots is much more hard to explain, nor do we venture to explain it, except by the chances of transmission in the long past of human existence. As to the "roots" or "radicals" of stories, the reader who has followed us will probably say, with Mr. Farrer (Primitive Manners, p. 257), "We should look, not in the clouds, but upon the earth; not in the various aspects of nature, but in the daily occurrences and surroundings," he might have added, in the current opinions and ideas, "of savage life."
These notes are intended to corroborate by reference to authorities the statements on pp. 51-53.
1.—Belief in Kinship with Animals.
Marsden, Sumatra, p. 292; Brookes's Sarawak, i. 64; Australia: Fison and Hewitt's Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 109; Grey's Travels, ii. 225; Lang's Australian Aborigines, p, 10; Laws based on these opinions, Kamilaroi and Kurnai, passim, Grey, ii. 226. Ashanti: Bowditch's Mission, p. 180, 181. Aleuts and Koniagas of the North-West Pacific Coast. Barrett Lenuard, pp. 54, 57; Dale's Alaska, pp. 421, 422. Bancroft, iii. 104, quoting Bargoa, iii. 74. Lafitau, Moeurs des Sauvages, 467. For Peru, Garcilasso de la Vega.
Basutos. Casalis, p. 211. North Asia: Dalton, Trans. Eth. Soc. vi. 36. Latham, Descript. Ethn. i, 364. Strahlenberg on the Yakuts. Osages of North America. Schoolcraft, iv. 221. Catlin, Letters, ii. 128. Charlevoix, iii. 353; Schoolcraft, iv. 225, iv. 86, iii. 268. Kohl. p. 148, Africa, Bechuanas, Livingstone Travels, p. 13. India, Dalton, Ethnol. of Bengal, p. 63, p. 166, p. 189, p. 255. Melanesia, Codrington's Journal. Anthrop. Inst. p. 305.
"Whilst Tawaki was of human form, his brethren were sharks; there were mixed marriages among them." (Taylor, New Zealand, p. 136). For further information on this belief and its survivals in civilised races, see McLennan's Worship of Plants and Animals ('Fortnightly Review,' 1869), and article Family (A. L.) in Encyclopaedia Britannica, also Early History of the Family (Contemp. Rev. 1883).
I. Examples of Belief in Kinship with Animals found in Household Tales.
Savage Tales. Girl wooed by a Frog (Zulu). Callaway, pp. 211, 237, 241, 248.
Girl marries a Pigeon (Zulu). Callaway, p. 71 (cf. note on frequency of this idea).
Girl marries an Elephant (Hottentot). Bleek, p. 61.
Girl marries a Bird (Calnuck). Jüig, No. 7.
Girls marry Eagles and Whales (Eskimo), Rink, 8, 9.
Man marries a Beaver (Kohl).
Girl marries Pumpkin (Wallachian). (Schott, 23.)
Girl marries Goat (Russian). Afanasief, vi. 50 (Ap, Ralston).
Girl marries Frog (German). Grimm, 1 (some of the Tsimsheean Indians of British Columbia believe that they are descended from a frog).
Girl marries Bear (Norse). Dasent ("East o' the Sun, West o' the Moon").
Man marries Frog (Russian). Afanasief, ii. 23. Ap. Ealston.
Girl marries Frog (Scotch). Chambers.
Man marries a Frog (Max Müller, Chips, ii.)
Other examples might be given to any extent.
II. Belief in Metamorphosis into Animal, or into Inanimate Object.
Examples of the belief in metamorpnosis are almost too common to need citation.
In the Introduction to his Translations of the Arabian Nights, Mr. Lane says he found this belief in full force in Egypt, and he naturally derives the frequency of metamorphosis in Arab stories from the belief which he found at work among the people. As examples we may select Tales of Old Japan (Mitford, passim), in Honduras (where, as usual, sorcerers possess this power), Bancroft, i. 740. Lapland, Reynard (ap. Pinkerton, i. 471). Bushmen, Bleek (Brief Account, &c., pp 1.5, 40). Among the Abipones, Dobrizhofifer, Engl. Trans, i. 63. Africa, Livingstone (Travels, p. 642). Mayas of Central America, Bancroft, ii. 797. Thlinkeets (Dale's Alaska, p. 423). Moquis, Schoolcraft, iv. 80. Aztecs, Sahagun, v. 13. Khonds. Campbell's Narrative, p. 45. The Hos, and others, non-Aryan tribas of India. Dalton, p. 200. Madagascar, Folk-Lore Journal, Oct. 1883.
It appears superfluous to give examples of metamorphosis from Household Tales. In the stories of red men (Schoolcraft), black men (Tlieal, Callaway, Bleek), yellow men (Jülg), and white men, people are metamorphosed or transform their neighbours into birds, beasts, vegetables, and stones.
III. Savage Belief that Inanimate Objects obey Incantations.
This is proved by all the accounts of sorcerers, pow-wows, medicinemen, piays, and what not, in North and South America, Melanesia, New Zealand, Africa, Siberia, and so forth. The idea had a strong hold as is well known, on the imagination of the Greeks and Romans. In savage tales (Taylor's New Zealand, p. 156; Schoolcraft's Algic Researches), Bleek, Callaway, Theal (Kaffir Folk Tales, p. 80), all difficulties yield when the hero or heroine chants a snatch of verse. Rocks open, streams dry up, supernatural beings appear, and so on. It is needless to quote instances from civilised folk tales, from the Scotch Rashin Coatie, to Grimm's "Little Snow-white" (53), and the Russian Vasilissa, all the characters are obeyed by inanimate objects when they repeat some lines of verse. The subordinate idea that inanimate objects may speak is illustrated by the talking spittle. (Zulu, Gaelic, Callaway, 64. Campbell, Battle of Birds).
IV. Savage Idea that Animals supernaturally aid Persons they Favour.
Evidence for this belief will be found in the notes under I. If animals are akin to men, it is only to be expected that they will assist their relations. A curious example of a kangaroo giving advice to a human kinsman of his own in a dream, is printed by Mr. Fison in the Journal Anthrop. Inst, Nov. 1883. In Australia, Sir George Grey says that the animal with which a native claims kinship is his "friend" or "protector" (Grey, Travels, ii. 323). An odd American example is given by Long (Voyages, p. 86). In America each native not only believed iti the beast which was akin to his clan, but selected a special animal as his own manitou, or friendly spiritual power in a material form. An instance is quoted in which the manitou (a duck), of an Ojibway Indian, helped a crew of Ojibways to escape from their enemies. Each Ojibway prayed to the beast, which was his manitou, or animal patron saint (Dormau, Origin of Primitive Superstitions, p. 271). Among the Eskimo not only are protecting animals common, but magicians send a sort of magical animal (the Finnish Saivo) to do their bidding. (Rink, p. 53.) The tornak, or familiar spirit and helper of the Eskimo is usually in animal shape. In traditions of civilised and semi-civilise 1 nations, Aztecs, Eomans, and others, the animal, woodpecker, wolf, cow, or what not, which leads wandering hosts to their destined homes, is a kind of manitou or, perhaps, a Tribal Totem.
In Household Tales friendly animals occur very frequently. An excellent example is given in the Mabinogion, where salmon, deer, and ravens help the heroes. Hans and Grethel (Grimm, 15), are aided by a white duck, as in Cupid and Psyche, ants help the hero (The White Snake, Grimm, 17). Birds are equally serviceable to the hero in the Scotch Nicht, Nocht, Nothing. A savage example from the Eskimo occurs in Rink (1), a wolf (amarok) befriends the hero. The "Bird that made Milk" (Theal 1) is an African example. Mice and frogs are friendly and helpful in the 'Story of Five Heads' (Theal, p. 17). Among the Zulus "Ubabuze is helped by a Mouse" (Callaway, p. 97). Beavers and sturgeons assist the girl in the Samoyed legend (Castren. 2). In Russian, Emilian the Fool is aided by a friendly pike (Ralston, p. 205); and every one knows how the little fish saved Munu from the Flood in the Indian legend. More examples are probably superfluous, they may be found by opening any collection of Household Tales at random.
5. Savage Belief. Danger from Cannibals.
It would be pedantic to offer "chapter and verse" for the prevalence of cannibalism in savage countries. Mr. Tylor's article Cannibalism, in the Encyclopædia Britannica, may be consulted by any scholars who think our testimony on this point untrustworthy. It only remains to note that cannibalism is the most frequent form of peril in German and Modern Greek, and English and Indian, as in Zulu, Hottentot, Eskimo, and Samoyed Household Tales. The appearance of cannibalism in the stories of savages is perfectly natural. Why it should occur so frequently in European tales (unless it be a survival) it were difficult to explain. The ferocious cruelty of the punishments inflicted on evil-doers in the European tales need not date further back than the middle ages, which were vindictive enough in their penalties.
6. The Savage Conception of Hades.
It is a place guarded by strange beasts. No living man may enter there and return to the upper world if he has tasted the food of Hell. The best known Household Tale on this topic is Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius. Psyche's adventures in Hades fully agree with Ojibway, Melanesian, Japanese, Mangaian, Maori, Etruscan, and Finnish descriptions of the homes of the departed (Kalewala. Canto XVI. Taylor's New Zealand, p. 233. Codrington, 'Religious Ideas of the Melanesians,' Journal Anthrop. Inst., x. iii. Gill, Myths of South Pacific, p. 102. Kohl (Ojibways), p. 211. It is to a pagan Hades of the sort indicated in these references that people in Märchen go, when in quest of "the Deil.")
Savage Customs. Restrictions on Meetings between Husband and Wife..
Among the strange taboos, or mystic prohibitions of harmless things common to savage races, none are more frequent than taboos on the intercourse of husband and wife. Sometimes they may not meet by daylight, sometimes the wife may not name the husband. The old Spartan rule which made a bridegroom visit his wife only by stealth, was probably a survival from these taboos. As specimens of the rules we may take Astley's Voyages, ii. 240. Wives in Futa never permit their husbands to see them unveiled for three years after marriage. Amongst the Yorubas, "conventional modesty forbids a woman to speak to her husband, or even to see him if it can be avoided." (Bowen, Central Africa, p. 303). Of the Iroquois, Lafitau says, "Ils n'osent aller dans les cabanes particulières où habitent leurs épouses que durant l'obscurité de la nuit" (Lafitau, i. 576). The Circassian women have a similar scruple "till they have borne a child " (Lubbock, O. C. 1875, p. 75). Similar examples are reported from Fiji. In the Bulgarian ballad (Dozon, p. 172), the woman tells her daughter that she must not speak to her bridegroom for nine whole months. In Zululand, as is well known, the name of the husband, and words like the name of the husband are tabooed to the women.
By way of saving space, Mr. Ralston's article on 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'Cinderella' (Nineteenth Century, Dec. 1878), may be referred to for examples in tales of husbands and wives mysteriously punished for seeing each other when they should not have done so. Instances of punishment for mentioning the name are found in Professor Rhys's article on Welsh tales in Cymmrodorion (iv. 2). The most famous example of the tale is the disappearance of the Vedic Urvasi, after she has seen her husband naked. To see him naked was prohibited as "against the custom of women" (Brahmana of Yajur Veda. Max Müller, Selected Essays, i. 408). Now Mr. Müller explains this legend as originally a story of "the chaste Dawn hiding her face when she had seen her husband." But no attention is paid in this interpretation to the actual mention of "the custom of women." We have shewn that customs of this kind are not unusual. The Milesian women for example, had a sacred custom of never using the names of their husbands (Herodotus, i. 147). Obviously usages like these might readily produce tales which enforced the usage by the sanction of a punishment. This explanation of the common class of Household Tales referred to, seems at least as plausible as any theory about the "chaste dawn," and the like (Cox, ii. 402).
8. The Custom of Jüngsten Recht, or Preference of the
Youngest Son, who is usually the Heir.
This old custom (Borough English) is of the widest diffusion in the world. Compare Elton, Origins of English History, and Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 431. A Zulu example occurs (Callaway, pp. 6465, Notes), and in this example we have a natural explanation of the common incident in Folk Tales, the jealousy of the elder brothers, who betray their successful younger brother (Compare Ralston, Russian Tales, pp. 74-81). It is needless to suppose, with Mr. Ralston, that these tales "came west in Christian times" from a polygamous eastern country. The custom of Jüngsten Recht points to the probable existence of polygamy, with the natural preference for the youngest wife's son, all over Europe long before Christianity.
9. The Separable Soul.
The idea of the separable soul or strength occurs in the ancient Egyptian Story of Two Brothers, (Maspero. Contes Egyptiens) in the Samoyed tale of men who lay aside their hearts, in the legend of the golden hairs, in which was the strength of Minos, in The Giant with no Heart in his Body, in the tale of Koschkei the Deathless (Ralston), and in numberless other Household Tales. The other idea, that the soul of the dead may enter a bird or a flower, is common in Grimm's Collection. For example, of the savage beliefs on which these incidents of folk-lore are founded, it must suffice to refer to the collections of instances made by Mr. Tylor, Primitive Culture, i. 430; i. 309, 438; i. 436, 475; ii. 9, 147, 153, 192, 232. See especially ii. 153, where our explanation of the "separable heart" and life is put forward to interpret the Household tale. Among the Eskimos a soul may be taken out, cleaned, and repaired, or the entrails taken out, a process called angmainek (Rink, Eskimo, p. 60).
The evidence here advanced has been limited by our space, but it is perhaps enough to indicate that most of the wild incidents, common to savage and civilised tales and myths, are based on beliefs us natural to savages, as monstrous in the eyes of civilised races.
- In his Origine des Romans, Huet, the learned Bishop of Avranches, (1630-1720), mentions the Iroquois Tales of Beavers, Racoons, and Wolves.
- In these examples Sir G. Cox's theories are only accepted for the sake of argument and illustration.
- When The Mythology of the Aryan Nations was written, philologists were inclined to believe that their analysis of language was the true, perhaps the only key, to knowledge of what men had been in the pre-historic past. It is now generally recognised (though some scholars hold out against the opinion) that the sciences of Anthropology and Archæoloy also throw much light on the human past, which has left no literary documents. Compare Schrader's Sprach- Vergleichung und Urgeschichte. (Jena, 1883.)
- Mr. Müller has stated this proposition, but a note in Selected Essays proves that he now admits the uncertainty of the early use of iron.
- Inferences drawn from the Vedas are not to the point,as the Vedas contain the elaborate hymns of an advanced society, not (except by way of survival) the ideas of early myth-makers.
- Kuhn also brings forward the Vedic language as proof of the existence of polyonymy and synonymy. Ueber Entwicklungsstufen der Mythenbildung, p. 1.
- The "violet shrinking meanly" of Miss Bunion's poem, has a "loud," or "crying" colour!
- Fraser's Magazine. Mythological Philosophy of Mr. Max Müller.
- See note, ad fin, and "Cupid and Psyche" in the author's Custom and Myth.
- This appears, however, to be the theory by which Sir George Cox would prefer to account for the diffusion of myths possessed by the Aryan race among the Indians of Labrador (cf. Hind's Explorations in Labrador).
- 'Oμoίως που άνέμιξαν θηρία καί άνθρώπους, says Porphyry, speaking of the founders of the old Religions; "they mixed up men and beasts indiscriminately." Porph. ap. Euseb. Praep. ev.. iii. 4.
- Dr. Reinhold Köhler informs the author that he has written nothing on the Märchen of savages. Felix Liebrecht has used a few Zulu and Maori examples in Zur Volkskunde (Heilbronn, 1879). Some remarks on these topics, disavowing the theory that any one single source of myth can be discovered, will be found in Mr. Max Müller's preface to Mr. Gill's Myths and Songs of the South Pacific. Mr. Ralston (Nineteenth Century, Nov. 1879) says that "the popular tales which are best known to us possess but few counterparts in genuine savage folk-lore," though he admits that some incidents are common both to European and uncivilised Märchen. We trust to shew, however, that the common incidents, and even plots, are unexpectedly numerous.
- Turner's Samoa (1884) also contains some South Sea Märchen.
- Compare the monotheism of Mr. Ridley's Kamilaroi (Kamilaroi and other Australian Languages, p. 135), with Mr. Howitt's remarks (Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 254). Mr. Howitt thinks that the Missionaries have connected the idea of a God with the Australian Trinity of mere demons, Brewin, Ballamdut, and Baukan.
- "Illiterate men, ignorant of the writings of each other, bring the same reports from various quarters of the globe." So the author of the Origin of Rank (Prof. Millar, of Glasgow) wrote in the last century. This argument from undesigned coincidence, or recurrence, must be faced by people who deny the adequateness of anthropological evidence.
- Mr. Ralston (Nineteenth Century, Nov. 1879) seems to think that the historical interpreters of märchen wish to resolve all incidents into traces of actual customs. But traces of customs are few, compared with survivals of ideas, or states of opinion, or "wild beliefs" of which Mr. Ralston (p. 852, loc. cit.) himself contributes an example.
- The first writer who collected examples of these facts was Mr. McLennan. ('The Worship of Plants and Animals,' Fortnightly Review, 1869).
- Mr. Ralston writes ('Beauty and the Beast,' Nineteenth Century, Dec. 1878), "The were-wolf stands alone." But a reference to the article on Lykanthropy (Encyclop. Britann.) will shew that sorcerers are believed to be capable of transforming either themselves or their neighbours into all manner of animals. The wolf is only the beast most commonly selected for purposes of transformation in Europe. Lions, tigers, crocodiles, birds, are quite as frequent in other parts of the world.
- The authorities for the existence of these ideas, customs, and beliefs, with references for the tales based on the beliefs and customs, will be found at the end of this Introduction.
- See "A Far Travelled Tale" in the author's Custom and Myth.
- While Æetes is the "breath or motion of the air" with Sir George Cox in the opinion of Mr. Brown (The Myth of Kirke), Æetes is Lunus, and forms with Circe "an androgynous Moon, i.e., the ascription of both male and female potentialities to the lunar power." Medea is the Moon, too, with Mr. Brown, while Sir George Cox writes, "Medeia herself appears in benignant guise in the legend of the Goose-girl at the Well (the Dawn-maiden with her snow-white clouds") (Ar. Myth,i. 429). Where incidents may be explained by fanciful guesses at the etymology of words, every scholar has an equal right to his own interpretations. Each may see the moon, where another finds the sun, or the wind, or the cloud. But the conflicting guesses destroy each other.
- See "Cupid, Psyche, and the Sun-Frog" in the author's Custom and Myth.
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