Page:The Mythology of the Aryan Nations.djvu/79

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CHAPTER V.

DIFFUSION OF MYTHS.


CHAP. V.
The common element in Aryan mythodology.
If in the legends of any people we find a number of names which explain themselves, if further the exploits of the gods or heroes who bear these names are in strict accordance with those meanings, then at once we are warranted in conjecturing that other names in the same legends not yet interpreted may be of the same nature, while at the same time a basis is furnished for classifying the several stories. If further we find that in the traditions of different Aryan tribes, or even of the same tribe, the same characters reappear with no other difference than that of title and local colouring, the inference is justified that a search into the mythical stores of all the Aryan tribes would disclose the same phenomenon. If here too our conjectures are verified, it will be impossible to withstand the conclusion that these tribes must have started from a common centre, and that from their ancient home they must have carried away, if not the developed myth, yet the quickened germ from which might spring leaves and fruits varying in form and hue according to the soil to which it should be committed, and the climate under which the plant might reach maturity. These variations in the names, it may be, of all the actors, as well as in the minor details of their career, would prove, in exact proportion to the fidelity with which the essential type was preserved, that this germ was furnished by the every-day speech of the people, or, in other words, by their way of regarding the phenomena of the outward world. If these facts are established, two important consequences follow: I. The hypothesis of any conscious borrowing or adaptation of myths on a large scale by one tribe from another after their separation from the common

home becomes untenable, unless we assume an amount of intercourse between them far in excess of any for which we have the evidence of history; and the clearest proof of direct importation in the case of any given story or fable which does not belong to the genuine mythology of a people fails to throw any suspicion on the latter.