Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/135

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

Reviews. 123

peoples they go to convert to penetrate to " the back of their minds ! " They are so preoccupied with their own ideas and their own objects, that they do not seem to attach any impor- tance to the study of the mental furniture and principles of civilisation (such as it is) of the heathen about them. An illustration of this attitude, which is apparent throughout the work before us, may be given from the reflections of the writer concerning the attempt made by a promising native pupil on the missionary's life. " One naturally seeks to know why Po-wit should have suddenly cast away all his privileges and opportun ities, and attempted the life of a man who had proved himself to have been in every way his friend. The only explanation seems to be that, in spite of his cleverness and apparent comprehension of Christian principles, there had remained at the bottom of his heart a fearful belief in his old superstitions." He had, in fact, dreamed that the missionary was going to shoot him for stealing his cattle, and the attempt was, as is admitted, from his point of view, an act of self-defence. A hundred observations as naive as those just quoted betray an attitude of mind which looks down from the height of its prepossessions upon the heathen "super- stitions," and renders its possessor quite incapable, so long as he maintains that attitude, of thoroughly comprehending the flock he has to Christianise and civilise, and consequently impedes his work.

Six chapters of the book deal with superstitions, life, habits, and customs, industries, implements and weapons, language and organisation. They are meagre, but they contain some interest- ing glimpses that make one eager for further particulars. The writer does not know what to look for, and still less does he know the meaning of what he sees. He narrates, for example, the piercing of a boy's lip, which is probably only one of the puberty ceremonies, without a hint that there are any more, and then turns to the girls. He tells something of their puberty ceremonies, but of the ideas connected with them nothing. He has nought to say of the family organisation, or the reckoning of kinship ; though he does tell us that the hus- band generally goes to reside with the wife, a custom which points to actual or former reckoning of kinship only through the