Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/143

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(Read at Meeting, 20th December, 1905.)

The frequency with which inverted knees and feet occur in the description of redoubtable persons attracted the attention of M. Gaidoz several years ago. In a series of articles in Mélusine[1] he cites a number of instances, among others those of Cuchulainn, Levarcham, Domhnall, and the Devil, in Irish literature, of Hephaistos and the Erinys in Hellenic myths, Indian demons, a Brazilian Wood-god, an Argentine tribe, a New Caledonian snake-man, and Pliny's story of a distant Scythian people. Such beings belong, for the most part, to the borderline between the sensuous and the spiritual world. They possess powers greater than those of ordinary men, but still such as are claimed by sorcerers and medicine-men. What could be more paradoxical, at first sight, than to represent beings so powerful with a deformity which would render a human being a hopeless cripple?

M. Gaidoz would attribute this inversion of the lower extremities to a desire on the part of the uncivilised mind to represent malignant spirits as distorted human beings—"s'ils sont faits comme des hommes, ils doivent pourtant être laids et dififormes. La laideur est l'expression esthétique de la méchanceté." Three considerations appear to have led him to take this view, the wickedness of many of these beings, the coincidence in some cases

  1. Vol. vi. col. 172; vii. 39 and 63; viii. 77.