Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/391

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
383
Celtic Myth and Saga.

monuments, namely, that the historic connection with the kings of the early centuries of our era had faded from the popular memory, whilst the, according to the usual view, far older connection with the Tuatha De retained its full vitality, this fact would be explained at once; the alleged earlier set of traditions would be, as a matter of fact, hundreds of years younger than the other. Nor need we be puzzled, as we must be now, by the curious way in which considerable masses of the so-called mythological cycle stand aloof in literary tradition from any sort of connection with the oldest heroic cycle, that of Conchobor and Cuchulainn. Smaller difficulties,such as the curious parallelism between a passage in the Second Battle of Moytura and one in the Voluspa, to which I called attention in these pages (ante, iii, p. 391), would also disappear.

I may say at once that I do not think a theory, such as I have sketched, likely to be true. I believe it will be found that the Irish mythological cycle is made up of old and genuine Gaelic elements. None the less do I think that a searching examination, starting from the hypothesis of a late and largely foreign origin of this most Interesting and problematic portion of Gaelic legend, would throw much light upon it.

A passage in Prof. Zimmer's book is instructive, if the facts and inferences contained in it be admitted, as to the possibility of apparently genuine and archaic tradition being originated by late and erroneous views of history. In the Red Book Triads, in a poem of the Book of Taliessin, and in other mediæval Welsh texts, we find mention of Beli mawr ab Mynogan, obviously the Bellinus filius Minocanni of Nennius. Nennius obtained this personage from Orosius, who mentions a Minocenobellinus, which the Welsh scribe misread as Minocanni bellinus (i.e., Bellinus son of Minocannus). But the mention of Orosius rests upon a mistranscribed and misunderstood passage of Suetonius (Caligula 44) relating to "Adminio Cynobellini filio". Thus the carelessness of copyists and the ignorance