Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/67

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


The European Sky-God. 57

And at the bottom, when I looked,

I saw its roots Even into hell descending,

In midst of great darkness.

And its branches growing up,

Even to heaven high in light ; And it was without bark altogether,

Both the head and the boughs.

This religious or mythological transition from oak-tree to apple-tree corresponds to an actual advance in pre- historic civilization. Tribes that were once content to subsist upon acorns and wild fruits in general learnt gradually the art of cultivating the more edible varieties of the latter, and so came in the course of many centuries to keep well-stocked orchards. Here and there this important advance has left a trace of itself upon language. The apple in particular, the oldest cultivated fruit-tree in Europe,^ is felt to be the equivalent of the oak; and words denoting the one are used freely of the other. Thus, in the Volsungasaga the oak-tree that grows in the hall of king Volsungr is also spoken of as apaldr, ' an apple-tree.' 2 The Irish omne, meaning 'oak,' is the Latin po)mcm, meaning ' apple or other fruit.' The Slavonic zi-ru, ' means of living ' (cp. Old Slavonic zi-ii, ' to live '), denotes 'acorns' in the South-Slavonic dialects, 'beech- nuts ' in Slovenic, and ' orchard fruit ' among the Croatians of Istria. Nay, the English acorn itself appears in the Cornish acran as ' plum,' in the Irish dime as ' sloe,' and in the Welsh acron as ' fruit ' without restriction.^

We need not be surprised, therefore, to find that, whereas Nodons dwelt in an oak-wood, Lud may be

^ On the earliest cultivation of fruit-trees in Europe see J. Hoops IVald- baiinie und Ktilturpflanzcn im germanischen Alterlum Strassburg 1905 pp. 299, 334 ff-, 338. 475 ff-> 572 ff., 603 ff., 647 f.

^E, Wilken Die Prosaiscke Edda p. 151 f.

^ O. Schrader Reallexikon der indogermanischen Altertunisknnde Strassburg 1901 p. 583.