Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/131

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La Formation des Legendes. By A. van Gennep. Paris : E. Flammarion, 19 lo. f. 8vo, pp. 326.

M. VAN Gennep, one of the most fertile and learned of the younger French students of folklore and ethnography, has issued in a series sufficiently described by its general title oi Bibliotheque de Philosophic Scientifique, to which many of the most distinguished scientists of France have contributed, this little book of criticism on the methods of enquiry into the genesis and growth of folk- tales. Its value is not to be measured by its size.

In a comparatively few pages the author surveys the entire area of modern research and interpretation. Of necessity the survey is summary. In short successive chapters he discusses the social and moral utility of folk-tales, their classification, and the relative antiquity of the different kinds of folk-tales. On this point he decides rightly in favour of the saga or tale believed to be true, told of definite individuals, definitely localized, and having an immediate purpose. He then proceeds to consider the geographi- cal distribution of the various themes, whereof some are found only in certain wide regions, denominated by him provinces themaiiques, while others are common to the world. In connection with this he deals with the cycles of the themes and their order in the stories, insisting here and elsewhere on the extreme fluidity of the folk-tale. The next division of the book relates to stories of the natural world, including totems and culture-heroes. The dis- cussion of these is completed in the portion following, which embraces stories of the supernatural world. Here he boldly com- mits himself to the opinion that gods are evolved only from culture- heroes, and apparently culture-heroes in turn from totems. Among