Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/293

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279
THEORIES OF PRIMITIVE MARRIAGE.

was: 'Stupid white fellows! why did you not bring away the girls?'" And P. Martyr says that among the cannibal Caribs in his day "to eat women was considered unlawful. . . Those who were captured young were kept for breeding, as we keep fowl, etc." Early legends of the semi-civilized show us the same thing; as when in the "Iliad" we read that the Greeks plundered "the sacred city of Eëtion," and that part of the spoils "they divided among themselves" were the women. And there need no examples to recall the fact that in later and more civilized times successes in battle have been followed by transactions allied in character, if not the same in form. Hence it is obvious that, from the beginning down to comparatively late stages, women-stealing has been an incident of successful war.

Observe, next, that the spoils' of conquest, some of them prized for themselves, are some of them prized as trophies. Proofs of prowess are above all things treasured by the savage. He brings back his enemy's scalp, like the North American Indian. He dries and preserves his enemy's head, like the New-Zealander. He fringes his robe with locks of hair cut from his slain foe. Among other signs of success in battle is return with a woman of the vanquished tribe. Beyond her intrinsic value she has an extrinsic value. Like a native wife, she serves as a slave; but, unlike a native wife, she serves also as a trophy. As, then, among savages, warriors are the honored members of the tribe—as among warriors the most honored are those whose bravery is best shown by achievements—the possession of a wife taken in war becomes a badge of social distinction. Hence members of the tribe thus married to foreign women are held to be more honorably married than those married to native women. What must result?

In a tribe not habitually at war, or not habitually successful in war, no decided effect is likely to be produced on the marriage customs. If the great majority of the men have native wives, the presence of a few whose superiority is shown by having foreign wives will fail to change the practice of taking native wives: the majority will keep one another in countenance. But if the tribe, becoming more successful in war, robs adjacent tribes of their women more frequently, there will grow up the idea that the now-considerable class having foreign wives form the honorable class, and that those who have not proved their bravery by bringing back these living trophies are dishonorable: non-possession of a foreign wife will come to be regarded as a proof of cowardice. An increasing ambition to get foreign wives will therefore arise; and as the number of those who are without them decreases, the brand of disgrace attaching to them will grow more decided; until, in the most warlike tribes, it becomes an imperative requirement that a wife shall be obtained from another tribe if not in open war, then by private abduction.

A few facts showing that by savages proofs of courage are often