Page:Amazonian Tortoise Myths.djvu/11

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that he would dictate it to me in Lingua Geral. He had already received a long training in dictation, and my first Tupí myth was soon recorded; but, for a long time it was all in vain that I coaxed him to tell me another.

I soon found that the Indian myth was always recited without mental effort, its function being simply to please, like a ballad, and not to communicate information, and that when the Indian, unsurrounded by the evening circle of listeners about the camp-fire, and by all those circumstances that make story-telling proper and enjoyable, is soberly asked to relate a mythical tale, he is incapable of the mental effort required to to recall it, and, for that reason, he promptly and stoutly pleads ignorance. So, the myth collector will usually go empty away, if he attempts to gather a harvest simply by asking. The only way is to seek for, and create occasions when story-telling would be natural, and, if necessary, to set the ball rolling by recounting some native myth, with which those present are known to be well acquainted, taking care not to show too much curiosity in the stories it elicits.

"Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coûte." After one has obtained his first myth, and has learned to recite it accurately and spiritedly, the rest is easy. I may here remark, in passing, that one must be on his guard on the Amazonas, and elsewhere, for that matter,