Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/237

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213
A Solution of the Gorgon Myth.

patterns and decorative ornaments had their origin in some concrete object, of which the pattern or ornament is a pictorial evolution. In the same way, I venture to assert that every myth that has taken such firm hold, and been evolved into so many phases and forms as that of the Gorgon, had originally, indeed must have had, some solid foundation in an actual occurrence with real living actors, though those actors were not necessarily human beings. For I contend that the modern fashion of calling every unexplained story, a nature or a sun-myth, has nothing substantial to be said for it, and is but a convenient way of getting over a difficulty or an inconsistency, of which the explanation is not readily at hand. Such indeed I believe to be the case with the story of the Gorgons; it is no sun-myth, but the development by imaginative people of a veritable fact.

I would first draw attention to the fact that in the more definite forms handed down to us by classic art as well as tradition, the area of the myth is circumscribed, and may be said to be almost limited to the basin of the Mediterranean. It has been well pointed out that "the localities where the myth exists are all warm areas, where also the Cephalopods are abundant, and it does not appear in cold areas, where these animals do not occur."[1] I am not aware that the story is to be found at all either among early Teutonic or Scandinavian races, nor, so far as my information goes, is there any present trace of it among the several races of the far East, though of course it appears plainly in India, and so must be considered to be distinctly Aryan. Another point to be noted is that in all the stories of the adventures of Perseus with the Gorgons, either the scene is laid by the sea, or we find that the approach to it is over sea; therefore, it may be assumed with certainty that it is in its essentials a sea-story. This contention is confirmed by the special mention of the countries where

  1. Edward Lovett (Letter to the author, dated December 15, 1902).