Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/169

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161
THE PHILOSOPHY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN.

difference between the higher and lower culture, the search has been vain. One can find variations in details, and in their applications, as these have been affected by the personal equation, as we may call it, of peoples, but not in general principles. As in the physical, so in the intellectual, there is no break in continuity. As in the various states of matter, so in the various phenomena of the mind, there is fundamental unity. As the higher organisms repeat in their embryonic condition the stages through which their ancestral forms passed, so the folktale, in the several changes which it undergoes in the process of transmission, preserves traces of the type to which it belongs. The magic letters "Abracadabra," which were believed to be a remedy for agues and fevers, are equated with that "blessed word Mesopotamia," in which the old lady found such spiritual balm. We have scampered across wide areas in our search after ideas common to those which lie at the heart of "Tom Tit Tot," and we find its variants, and the barbaric notions cognate to those ideas, contributing their evidence to that of the great cloud of witnesses testifying to the like attitude of the mind before like phenomena which frightened and bewildered it, until Science created sympathy between man and the objects of his undisciplined fears.

Note.—Since revising the foregoing for press my friend Mr. H. Courthope Bowen sends me the following apposite story from Mr. J. H. Collens's Guide to Trinidad, published in 1887.—

A doctor in a remote district had one day assembled a number of negro children for vaccination. In the course of his operations he came to a little girl, and the following conversation ensued with the person bringing her:

Doctor. "Are you the child's mother?"

Woman: "Yes, sir—is me darter."

D. And what is your name?"

W. "Is me name?"

D. (rather impatiently): "Yes, I asked you what is your name? "

W. (hesitatingly) "Dey does caal me Sal."

D. "Well, Sal what?"

W. (assuringly, but with a suspicious side-glance at a neighbour who is intently taking all in): "Dey does allus caal me Sal."

D. (getting desperate): "Oh, botheration; will you tell me your proper name or not?"