Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/611

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interest only as affecting men and influencing their lives. Human actions are the perennially interesting things; and obviously, among human actions, those certain to be most discussed are those which diverge most from the ordinary—the victories of the courageous man, the feats of the strong man, the manœuvres of the cunning man. Thus in the first stages, merely from lack of other exciting matter, there goes, after the narratives of individual successes in the day's hunt or the day's fight, a frequent return to the always-interesting account of the great chief's exploits, his ordinary doings, his strong sayings. Gradually the description and laudation of his achievements grows into a more or less coherent narrative of his life's incidents—an incipient biography. As a reason, too, why biography of this simple kind becomes an early mental product, let us note that it is the simplest—the easiest both to speaker and hearer. To tell of deeds and dangers and escapes requires the smallest intellectual power; and the things told are, fully or partially, comprehensible by the lowest intelligence. Every child proves this. The frequent request for a story shows at once the innate liking for accounts of adventures, and the small tax on the mind involved by conceptions of adventures. And it needs but to note how the village crone, mentally feeble as she may be, is nevertheless full of tales about the squire and his family, to see that mere narrative biography (I do not speak of analytical biography) requires no appreciable effort of thought, and for this second reason early takes shape.

Of course, as above said, biography of a coherent kind, arising among peoples who have evolved permanent chiefs and kings, grows gradually out of accounts of those special incidents in their lives which the priest-poets celebrate. Let us gather together a few facts illustrative of this development.

Its earlier stages, occurring as they do before written records exist, can not be definitely traced—can only be inferred from the fragmentary evidence furnished by those uncivilized men who have made some progress. The wild tribes of the Indian hills yield a few examples. Says Malcolm, "The Bhat is both the bard and the chronicler of the Bhils." He also states that certain lands of the Bhils were taken by the Rajpoots, and that—

"Almost all the revered Bhats, or Minstrels, of the tribe, still reside in Rajpootana, whence they make annual, biennial, and some only triennial visits to the Southern tribes, to register remarkable events in families, particularly those connected with their marriages, and to sing to the delighted Bheels the tale of their origin, and the fame of their forefathers."

So, too, concerning another tribe we read, in Hislop:—

"The Pádál, also named Páthádi, Pardhán, and Desái, is a numerous class, found in the same localities as the Ráj Gonds, to whom its members act as religious counselors (Pradhána). They are, in fact, the bhats of the