Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/168

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The European Sky-God.

multiplied into a whole archipelago, and the characteristic features of the Otherworld are consequently scattered abroad; but even a cursory reading of the tale will enable us to piece together the principal fragments. In episode xxviii. Mael-Duin and his seventeen followers mate with the queen of a large island and her seventeen daughters. But in episode xvii., by a sudden blend of Christian with pagan thought, their hostess on another island entertains them, and refuses to do more, on the ground that she knows no sin. A third island, described in episode x., had many trees bearing golden apples, which were eaten during the day-time by beasts resembling red pigs, and at night by a flock of birds. The island had a burning-hot soil and was called a land of fire. Mael-Duin and his comrades entered it by night and carried off some of the golden apples, which preserved them from hunger and thirst. Yet another island, that of episode vii., had a long, narrow forest upon it. On reaching the forest, Mael-Duin took in hand a branch, which he held for three days and nights, while skirting the cliffs of the island. On the third day he found a cluster of three apples on the tip of his branch; and each of these apples supported him and his men for forty nights. Ultimately, in episode xxxiv., he and they returned in safety to Ireland. It seems fairly certain that in these scattered incidents we have the disjecta membra of an ancient tale comparable with those already related, and in particular that the original tale contained an allusion to a tree with golden apples growing in a far-off isle, and a branch with apples on it borne by the hero.

But it is time to consider the significance of this tree and this branch.[1] Much-needed light is thrown upon

  1. Miss E. Hull has a short but scholarly article on 'The Silver Bough in Irish Legend' in Folk-lore xii. 431-445. She rightly insists that the nearest parallel to the Golden Bough of Virgilian fame is to be found in the Silver Bough of Irish mythology, observing that in both cases the