Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/360

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MYTHOLOGY.
342

mere broken-down and senseless fragments, but in full shape and significance? In answer it will be enough to quote the story of Vasilissa the Beautiful, brought forward by Mr. W. Ralston in one of his lectures on Russian Folk-lore. Vasilissa's stepmother and two sisters, plotting against her life, send her to get a light at the house of Bába Yagá, the witch, and her journey contains the following history of the Day, told in truest mythic fashion. Vasilissa goes and wanders, wanders in the forest. She goes, and she shudders. Suddenly before her bounds a rider, he himself white, and clad in white, the horse under him white, and the trappings white. And day began to dawn. She goes farther, when a second rider bounds forth, himself red, clad in red, and on a red horse. The sun began to rise. She goes on all day, and towards evening arrives at the witch's house. Suddenly there comes again a rider, himself black, clad all in black, and on a black horse; he bounded to the gates of the Bába Yagá and disappeared as if he had sunk through the earth. Night fell. After this, when Vasilissa asks the witch, who was the white rider, she answers, 'That is my clear Day;' who was the red rider, 'That is my red Sun;' who was the black rider, 'That is my black Night; they are all my trusty friends.' Now, considering that the story of Little Red Ridinghood belongs to the same class of folk-lore tales as this story of Vasilissa the Beautiful, we need not be afraid to seek in the one for traces of the same archaic type of nature-myth which the other not only keeps up, but keeps up with the fullest consciousness of meaning.

The development of nature-myth into heroic legend seems to have taken place among the barbaric tribes of the South Sea Islands and North America much as it took place among the ancestors of the classic nations of the Old World. We are not to expect accurate consistency or proper sequence of episodes in the heroic cycles, but to judge from the characteristics of the episodes themselves as to the ideas which suggested them. As regards the less cultured races, a glance at two legendary cycles, one from Polynesia and the