Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/151

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Back-Footed Beings. 139

or smaller than men, with the same inversion of the knees and elbows ; their arms are very long and armed with nails like a bird's claws}

I have now, I hope, shown that the legs tend to survive other birdlike features in semi-ornithomorphic beings. I think the comparison of the semi-ornithomorphic creatures with the " back-footed " beings has brought out two points — that the two classes are generically akin, and that the " back-footed " beings often possess qualities and characteristics that are essentially birdlike. The survival of the legs is probably not altogether fortuitous. In combining the human with the bird form, the wings would appear to us, with all our artistic traditions, the most suggestive and the most natural bird-feature to retain ; but to the half-civilised mind, which is gradually anthropomorphising the supernatural, the legs with their inverted knee-joints may well seem a less violent com- bination with the human form. Nor is this choice so irrational, for the inversion of the knee-joints affects the limbs wherein man's swiftness resides. It may be too that there is some idea present that birds are assisted in flight by their legs. Early Greek statues {e.g., the Nike of the sculptor Mikkiades found at Delos), representing flying beings, invariably have the knees bent at right angles as though the legs were being exerted. And it must not be forgotten that birds are credited by primitive men with many powers greater than that of flight. Further, where clothes are worn, the inversion of the legs would commend itself to the medicine-men and sorcerers, who would be largely responsible for the popularity and permanence of this conception, inasmuch as they would be able themselves to pretend to the possession of a peculiarity, which, like the golden thigh of Pythagoras, might be concealed beneath the folds of a long cloak

^Mr. E. T. Leith in Punjab Notes and Queries, ii. p. i86, quoted by M. Gaidoz.