Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/71

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The Voice of the Stone of Destiny. 59

sentation, in some places of prophecy, in other places of the claims of birth.

The study of folktales is often despised as mere trifling. But traditional narratives must always occupy an important place in the study of the past. Rightly used they have much to tell us of human history, of human thought and the evolution of human institutions. It may safely be said that of all the incidents that compose them there is none which is not a concrete presentation either of human insti- tutions or of human belief. They are all thus in a sense the outcome of actual human experiences. The stories of election by augury are not wilder than the authentic facts. The telescopic mountain of Karague, which Rumanika averred himself to have experienced, is at least as wonder- ful as the groaning of the Lia Fail, or the lighting of a dry twig. In one of the stories we found the dying monarch laying down among the conditions to be fulfilled by his successor, that the women of the royal household should recogfnise him. Secret intrigrues of the harem are believed to determine the devolution of many an eastern crown. But that the formal and ceremonial choice of the heir should be made by the wives of the deceased ruler seems too grotesque to be known outside a fairy tale. Yet this was the law a hundred years ago in the kingdom of Quiteve, on the south-eastern coast of Africa. When a king died the queens (that is to say, his legitimate wives) named the person who was to accompany his body to the burial-place, and the person thus named became the successor.^ In an adjoining kingdom a similar law prevailed. It was for- bidden to any prince to enter the palace where the women were, or to take possession of the kingdom without their consent, and whoever entered by violence and took posses-

' Owen, Narrative of Voyages to explore the shores of Africa. Arabia and Madagascar (2 vols., London, 1833), vol. ii., p. 418, translating a MS., of Signer Ferao, a Portuguese governor of the coast. This translation is reprinted by Theal, Records of South-eastern Africa, vol. vii., pp. 371, sqq.