Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/132

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

io6 Reviews.

stories of the supernatural world those relating to divine or quasi- divine personages are the most important, and the consideration of the tale in relation to the rite occupies a prominent place. The chapter dealing with this subject is worthy of careful study. The author comes to the conclusion that the tale preceded the rite, the ritual being founded on the tale and not the tale on the ritual ; and that, while the story was elaborated by social action, its germ must have taken shape in an individual mind. Among stories of heroes and saints the legend of Heracles-Hercules is followed at length in its various incidents and their localization and develop- ment among the Greek and Roman populations. This introduces the general question of Historical Legends. Preeminently sane are the criticisms on the historical evidence afforded by folk-tales, criticisms especially needed now when this evidence has been invoked so much and so indiscriminately. That the collective memory does preserve some events is undisputed ; but the laws of their preservation are little understood. Their obscurity M. van Gennep does little to penetrate, though he has much to say on the subject of the deformation of the facts by tradition. It would be greatly for the advantage of historical science, as well as of folk- lore, if some student would seriously attempt the investigation.

The literary history of folk-tales is passed in review, and in particular the formation of ballads, epopees, and prose contes. Two chapters are devoted to the relation between the legends of Don Juan and Faust and to the epic theme of the Father-and-son- combat. The author then takes up the last branch of his subject, — the formation and transmission of folk-tales. He holds that some real fact underlies every tale, though it may not be possible to trace it in most cases. Very often it is only a dream or an hallucination. Legends are still in course of formation ; but time is required. Patriotism, — family, local, national, religious, — is frequently responsible. Transmission, as he has already insisted, does take place. Soldiers, merchants, sailors, pilgrims, mission- aries, and professional story-tellers all carry tales. Other means of transmission might easily be enumerated. The influence of gypsies he does not count for much ; it has often been exaggerated. The interesting experience of Sir G. Maspero is cited. Having told the old tale of The Two Brothers to some Egyptian schoolmasters, they