Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/144

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For the interest of these lies not in what they are, but in what they denote. Analysis is good, but it is of value only in the degree that it makes synthesis possible. It is the meaning at the heart of things which excites our quest, unless we be content to remain mere makers of catalogues, dull pigeon-holers of facts, with never a thought or care about their import or relation. The value of the materials with which our Society deals is becoming more and more obvious. That there is nothing "common or unclean," that the folktale crystallizes some thought or speculation of a remote past, and the folkwont some obscure custom, is our main task to show. Whether the story embodies man's serious reflections, or is the outcome of his idle, playful mood, it is this trivial or earnest purpose which we seek to reach. Fortunately for the credit of a study which is by many regarded as frivolous, our research brings us more often than not, and sometimes when least suspected, near some deposit of early thought, some strivings after a philosophy which embraces all life in one common origin and destiny; and in sympathy with instinctive feelings of the barbaric nature which are ultimately verified by reason and experience.

Such, then, is the justification for the work of our Society, such the answer to the question Dic cur hie—"Why are you here?"

Following on the lines of a paper which I had the honour of reading before you some time ago, and in which, under the title of "The Philosophy of Punchkin," I sought to show what was the common idea at the root of the widespread tales grouped thereunder, namely, the belief in the separateness of the soul, or strength, or heart, or whatever else is regarded as the seat of life, from the body, the fate of the soul involving the fate of the body, I propose, in the present paper, to deal with another group of stories likewise embodying a primitive philosophy, to which the generic title of "Rumpelstiltskin" may be conveniently given, being borrowed from the well-known story of that name in Grimm's Kinder und Haus-märchen, of which the following is an outline:—

A poor miller who had a beautiful daughter, thought to make himself of more importance before his king by telling him that she could spin straw into gold. When the king heard this, he bade the man