Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/366

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


34 Journal of American Folk-Lore.

Once I imagined that I saw a man driving a flock of sheep in the clouds. Then when I was sick I thought I saw a baby in a cradle in a tree, and a mother was sitting over the baby. Then on my way to school I thought that a long pile of leaves was a snake. Once when I looked at a tree a long way off, it seemed to be a castle with two birds on the top of it. One night when I was out by a bon- fire I saw two bushes that looked like a yak with long hair. One night coming home I saw a tree that seemed to be a man with a horse beside him. That same night I saw a big stone that was the shape of a turtle. At another time when I was sick, every morning I saw some trees close together ; they looked like a lot of fairies dancing. Then once in a while I look up at the sky and try to find a wagon with twenty horses. Once I imagined I saw it, but every other time I could not make it out." So we see in the child, as in primitive people, the projection of his own fancies born of fear, or love, or desire, into the things about him which then become per- sonified.

Before trying to unravel the origin of animal myths, it would be well to consider briefly the theories accounting for the origin of the animals themselves. The doctrine of spontaneous generation has been accepted in every age, including our own. From old meat maggots are born, and from the gall the gall-fly springs forth like armed Minerva from the head of Zeus. Anaximander, 1 the first great teacher of abiogenesis, held that eels and other aquatic ani- mals arise in such equivocal manner. Anaximenes, the pupil of Anaximander, gave a much more extended theory, when he taught that the sunlight streaming upon a slime, made up of earth and water, generates organisms. Aristotle also advanced the opinion that frogs, snakes, eels, and smaller organisms are automatically developed from the mud, while Lucretius says, " Plants and trees arise directly out of the earth in the same manner that feathers and hair grow from the bodies of animals. Living beings certainly have not fallen down from heaven, nor, as Anaxagoras supposed, have land animals arisen from the sea. But as even now many animals under the influence of rain, and the heat of the sun, arise from the earth, so under the fresh youthful productive forces of the younger earth they were spontaneously produced in larger numbers."

Ovid says in his Tenth Fable, " And although fire is the antago- nist of heat, yet a moist vapor creates all things, and the discordant concord is suited for generation ; when, therefore, the Earth, covered with mud by the late deluge, was thoroughly heated by the astherial sunshine and a penetrating warmth, it produced species of creatures

1 This, and the three following citations from Osborn, From the Greeks to Darwin.

�� �