Popular Tales from the Norse/Diffusion
This general affinity established, we proceed to narrow our subject to its proper limits, and to confine it to the consideration, first, of Popular Tales in general, and, secondly, of those Norse Tales in particular, which form the bulk of this volume.
In the first place, then, the fact which we remarked on setting out, that the groundwork or plot of many of these tales is common to all the nations of Europe, is more important, and of greater scientific interest, than might at first appear. They form, in fact, another link in the chain of evidence of a common origin between the East and West, and even the obstinate adherents of the old classical theory, according to which all resemblances were set down to sheer copying from Greek or Latin patterns, are now forced to confess not only that there was no such wholesale copying at all, but that, in many cases, the despised vernacular tongues have preserved the common traditions far more faithfully than the writers of Greece and Rome. The sooner in short that this theory of copying, which some even besides the classicists have maintained, is abandoned, the better, not only for the truth but for the literary reputation of those who put it forth. No one can, of course, imagine that during that long succession of ages when this mighty wedge of Aryan migration was as driving its way through that prehistoric race, that nameless nationality, the traces of which we everywhere find underlying the intruders in their monuments and implements of bone and stone—a race akin, in all probability, to the Mongolian family, and whose miserable remnants we see pushed aside, and huddled up in the holes and corners of Europe, as Lapps, and Finns, and Basques—no one, we say, can suppose for a moment, that in that long process of contact and absorption, some traditions of either race should not have been caught up and adopted by the other. We know it to be a fact with regard to their language, from the evidence of philology, which cannot lie; and the witness borne by such a word as the Gothic Atta for father, where a Mongolian has been adopted in preference to an Aryan word, is irresistible on this point; but that, apart from such natural assimilation, all the thousand shades of resemblance and affinity which gleam and flicker through the whole body of popular tradition in the Aryan race, as the Aurora plays and flashes in countless rays athwart the Northern heaven, should be the result of mere servile copying of one tribe's traditions by another, is a supposition as absurd as that of those good country-folk, who, when they see an Aurora, fancy it must be a great fire, the work of some incendiary, and send off the parish engine to put it out. No! when we find in such a story as "The Master Thief" traits which are to be found in the Sanscrit Hitopadesa, and which reminds us at once of the story of Rhampsinitus in Herodotus; which are also to be found in German, Italian, and Flemish popular tales, but told in all with such variations of character and detail, and such adaptations to time and place, as evidently show the original working of the national consciousness upon a stock of tradition common to all the race, but belonging to no tribe of that race in particular; and when we find this occurring not in one tale but in twenty, we are forced to abandon the theory of such universal copying, for fear lest we should fall into a greater difficulty than that for which we were striving to account.
To set this question in a plainer light, let us take a well-known instance; let us take the story of William Tell and his daring shot, which is said to have been made in the year 1307. It is just possible that the feat might be historical, and, no doubt, thousands believe it for the sake of the Swiss patriot, as firmly as they believe in anything; but, unfortunately, this story of the bold archer who saves his life by shooting an apple from the head of his child at the command of a tyrant is common to the whole Aryan race. It appears in Saxo Grammaticus, who flourished in the twelfth century, where it is told of Palnatoki,
King Harold Gormson's thane and assassin. In the thirteenth century the Wilkina Saga relates it of Egill, Völundr's—our Wayland Smith's—younger brother. So also in the Norse Saga of Saint Olof, king and martyr: the king, who died in 1030, eager for the conversion of one of his heathen chiefs Eindridi, competes with him in various athletic exercises, first in swimming and then in archery. After several famous shots on either side, the king challenges Eindridi to shoot a tablet off his son's head without hurting the child. Eindridi is ready, but declares he will revenge himself if the child is hurt. The king has the first shot, and his arrow strikes close to the tablet. Then Eindridi is to shoot, but at the prayers of his mother and sister, refuses the shot, and has to yield and be converted. So, also, King Harold Sigurdarson, who died 1066, backed himself against a famous marksman, Hemingr, and ordered him to shoot a hazel-nut off the head of his brother Björn, and Hemingr performed the feat. In the middle of the fourteenth century, the Malleus Maleficarum refers it to Puncher, a magician of the Upper Rhine. Here in England, we have it in the old English ballad of Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly, where William performs the feat. It is not told at all of Tell in Switzerland before the year 1499, and the earlier Swiss chronicles omit it altogether. It is common to the Turks and Mongolians; and a legend of the wild Samoyeds, who never heard of Tell or saw a book in their lives, relates it, chapter and verse, of one of their famous marksmen. What shall we say then, but that the story of this bold master-shot was primeval amongst many tribes and races, and that it only crystallised itself round the great name of Tell by that process of attraction which invariably leads a grateful people to throw such mythic wreaths, such garlands of bold deeds of precious memory, round the brow of its darling champion. Nor let any pious Welshman be shocked if we venture to assert that Gellert, that famous hound upon whose last resting-place the traveller comes as he passes down the lovely vale of Gwynant, is a mythical dog, and never
snuffed the fresh breeze in the forest of Snowdon, nor saved his master's child from ravening wolf. This, too, is a primeval story, told with many variations. Sometimes the foe is a wolf, sometimes a bear, sometimes a snake. Sometimes the faithful guardian of the child is an otter, a weasel, or a dog. It, too, came from the East. It is found in the Pantcha-Tantra, in the Hitopadesa, in Bidpai's
violence escaped scot-free.'"—Saxo Gram., Book x. p. 166, ed. Frankf.
"About that time the young Egill, Wayland's brother, came to the court of King Nidung, because Wayland (Smith) had sent him word. Egill was the fairest of men, and one thing he had before all other men—he shot better with the bow than any other man. The king took to him well, and Egill was there a long time. Now, the king wished to try whether Egill shot so well as was said or not, so he let Egill's son, a boy of three years old, be taken, and made them put an apple on his head, and bade Egill shoot so that the shaft struck neither above the head nor to the left nor to the right; the apple only was he to split. But it was not forbidden him to shoot the boy, for the king thought it certain that he would do that on no account, if he could at all help it. And he was to shoot one arrow only, no more. So Egill takes three, and strokes their feathers smooth, and fits one to his string, and shoots and hits the apple in the middle, so that the arrow took along with it half the apple, and then fell to the ground. This master-shot has long been talked about, and the king made much of him, and he was the most famous of men. Now, King Nidung asked Egill why he took out three arrows, when it was settled that one only was to be shot with. Then Egill answered, 'Lord,' said he, 'I will not lie to you; had
service rendered by a faithful hound against a snake. This, too, like Tell's master-shot, is as the lightning which shineth over the whole heaven at once, and can be claimed by no one tribe of the Aryan race, to the exclusion of the rest. "The Dog of Montargis" is in like manner mythic, though perhaps not so widely spread. It first occurs in France, as told of Sybilla, a fabulous wife of Charlemagne; but it is at any rate as old as the time of Plutarch, who relates it as an anecdote of brute sagacity in the days of Pyrrhus.
There can be no doubt, with regard to the question of the origin of these tales, that they were common in germ at least to the Aryan tribes before their migration. We find those germs developed in the popular traditions of the Eastern Aryans, and we find them developed in a hundred forms and shapes in every one of the nations into which the Western Aryans have shaped themselves in the course of ages. We are led, therefore, irresistibly to the conclusion, that these traditions are as much a portion of the common inheritance of our ancestors, as their language unquestionably is; and that they form, along with that language, a double chain of evidence, which proves their Eastern origin. If we are to seek for a simile, or an analogy, as to the relative positions of these tales and traditions, and to the mutual resemblances which exist between them as the several branches of our race have developed them from the common stock, we may find it in one which will come home to every reader as he looks round the domestic hearth, if he should be so happy as to have one. They are like as sisters of one house are like. They have what would be called a strong family likeness; but besides this likeness, which they owe to father or mother, as the case may be, they have each their peculiarities of form and eye and face, and, still more, their differences of intellect and mind. This may be dark, that fair; this may have grey eyes, that black; this may be open and graceful, that reserved and close; this you may love, that you can take no interest in. One may be bashful, another winning, a third worth knowing and yet hard to know. They are so like, and so unlike. At first it may be, as an old English writer beautifully expresses it, "their father hath writ them as his own little story," but as they grow up they throw off the copy, educate themselves for good or ill, and finally assume new forms o feeling and feature under an original development of their own.
Or shall we take another likeness, and say they are national dreams; that they are like the sleeping thoughts of many men upon one and the same thing. Suppose a hundred men to have been eye-witnesses of some event on the same day, and then to have slept and dreamt of it; we should have as many distinct representations of that event, all turning upon it and bound up with it in some way, but each preserving the personality of the sleeper, and working up the common stuff in a higher or lower degree, just as the fancy and the intellect of the sleeper was at a higher or lower level of perfection. There is, indeed, greater truth in this likeness than may at first sight appear. In the popular tale, properly so called, the national mind dreams all its history over again; in its half-conscious state it takes this trait and that trait, this feature and that feature, of times and ages long past. It snatches up bits of its old beliefs, and fears, and griefs, and glory, and pieces them together with something that happened yesterday, and then holds up the distorted reflection in all its inconsequence, just as it has passed before that magic glass, as though it were genuine history, and matter for pure belief. And here it may be as well to say, that besides that old classical foe of vernacular tradition, there is another hardly less dangerous, which returns to the charge of copying, but changes what lawyers call the venue of the trial from classical to Eastern lands. According to this theory, which came up when its classical predecessor was no longer tenable, the traditions and tales of Western Europe came from the East, but they were still all copies. They were supposed to have proceeded entirely from two sources: one the Directorium Humancæ Vitæ of John of Capua, translated between 1262-78 from a Hebrew version, which again came from an Arabic version of the eighth century, which came from a Pehlvi version made by one Barzouyeh, at the command of Chosrou Noushirvan, King of Persia, in the sixth century, which again came from the Pantcha-Tantra, a Sanscrit original of unknown antiquity. This is that famous book of Calila and Dimna, as the Persian version is called, attributed to Bidpai, and which was thus run to earth in. India. The second source of Western tradition was held to be that still more famous collection of stories commonly known by the name of the "Story of the Seven Sages," but which, under many names—Kaiser Octavianus, Diocletianus, Dolopathos, Erastus, etc.—plays a most important part in medieval romance. This, too, by a similar process, has been traced to India, appearing first in Europe at the beginning of the thirteenth century in the Latin Historia Septem Sapientum Romæ, by Dame Jehans, monk in the Abbey of Haute Selve. Here, too, we have a Hebrew, an Arabic, and a Persian version; which last came avowedly from a Sanscrit original, though that original has not yet been discovered. From these two sources of fable and tradition, according to the new copying theory, our Western fables and tales had come by direct translation from the East. Now it will be at once evident that this theory hangs on what may be called a single thread. Let us say, then, that all that can be found in Calila and Dimna, or the later Persian version, made A.D. 1494, of Hossein Vaez, called the Anvari Sohaïli, "the Canopic Lights,"—from which, when published in Paris by David Sahid of Ispahan, in the year 1644, La Fontaine drew the substance of many of his best fables.—Let us say, too, that all can be found in the "Life of the Seven Sages," "or the Book of Sendabad," as it was called in Persia, after an apocryphal Indian sage—came by translation—that is to say, through the cells of Brahmins, magians, and monks, and the labours of the learned—into the popular literature of the West. Let us give up all that, and then see where we stand. What are we to say of the many tales and fables which are to be found in neither of those famous collections, and not tales alone, but traits and features of old tradition, broken bits of fable, roots and germs of mighty growths of song and story, nay, even the very words, which exist in Western popular literature, and which modern philology has found obstinately sticking in Sanscrit, and of which fresh proofs and instances are discovered every day? What are we to say of such a remarkable resemblance as this?—
"The noble King Putraka fled into the Vindhya mountains in order to live apart from his unkind kinsfolk; and as he wandered about there he met two men who wrestled and fought with one another. 'Who are you?' he asked. 'We are the sons of Mayâsara, and here lie our riches; this bowl, this staff, and these shoes; these are what we are fighting for, and whichever is stronger is to have them for his own.
"So when Putraka had heard that, he asked them with a laugh, 'Why, what's the good of owning these things?'
"Then they answered, 'Whoever puts on these shoes gets the power to fly; whatever is pointed at with this staff rises up at once; and whatever food one wishes for in this bowl, it comes at once.'
"So when Putraka had heard that he said, 'Why fight about it? Let this be the prize; whoever beats the other in a race, let him have them all.'
"'So be it,' said the two fools, and set off running, but Putraka put on the shoes at once, and flew away with the staff and bowl up into the clouds."
Well, this is a story neither in the Pantcha-Tantra nor the Hitopadesa, the Sanscrit originals of Calila and Dimna. It is not in the Directorium Humanæ Vitæ, and has not passed west by that way. Nor is it in the Book of Sendabad, and thence come west in the "History of the Seven Sages." Both these paths are stopped. It comes from the Katha Sarit Sagara, the "Sea of Streams of Story" of Somadeva Bhatta of Cashmere, who, in the middle of the twelfth century of our era, worked up the tales found in an earlier collection, called the Vrihat Katha, "the lengthened story," in order to amuse his mistress, the Queen of Cashmere. Somadeva's collection has only been recently known and translated. But west the story certainly came long before, and in the extreme north-west we still find it in these Norse Tales in "The Three Princesses of Whiteland," p. 181.
"'Well!' said the man, 'as this is so, I'll give you a bit of advice. Hereabouts, on a moor, stand three brothers, and there they have stood these hundred years, fighting about a hat, a cloak, and a pair of boots. If any one has these three things, he can make himself invisible, and wish himself anywhere he pleases. You can tell them you wish to try the things, and after that, you'll pass judgment between them, whose they shall be.'
"Yes! the king thanked the man, and went and did as he told him.
'"What's all this?' he said to the brothers. 'Why do you stand here fighting for ever and a day? Just let me try these things, and I'll give judgment whose they shall be.'
"They were very willing to do this; but as soon as he had got the hat, cloak, and boots, he said—
"'When we meet next time I'll tell you my judgment;' and with these words he wished himself away."
Nor in the Norse Tales alone. Other collections shew how thoroughly at home this story was in the East. In the Relations of Ssidi Kur, a Tartar tale, a Chan's son first gets possession of a cloak which two children stand and fight for, which has the gift of making the wearer invisible, and afterwards of a pair of boots, with which one can wish one's-self to whatever place one chooses. Again, in a Wallachian tale, we read of three devils who fight for their inheritance—a club which turns everything to stone, a hat which makes the wearer invisible, and a cloak by help of which one can wish one's-self whithersoever one pleases. Again, in a Mongolian tale, the Chan's son comes upon a group of children who fight for a hood which makes the wearer invisible; he is to be judge between them, makes them run a race for it, but meanwhile puts it on and vanishes from their sight. A little further on he meets another group, who are quarrelling for a pair of boots, the wearer of which can wish himself whithersoever he pleases, and gains possession of them in the same way.
Nor in one Norse tale alone, but in many, we find traces of these three wonderful things, or of things like them. They are very like the cloth, the ram, and the stick, which the lad got from the North Wind instead of his meal. Very like, too, the cloth, the scissors, and the tap, which will be found in p. 252, "The Best Wish." If we drop the number three, we find the Boots again in "Soria Moria Castle," p. 396. Leaving the Norse Tales, we see at once that they are the seven-league boots of Jack the Giant Killer. In the Nibelungen Lied, when Siegfried finds Schilbung and Niblung, the weird heirs of the famous "Hoard," striving for the possession of that heap of red gold and gleaming stones; when they beg him to share it for them, promising him, as his meed, Balrnimg, best of swords; when he shares it, when they are discontent, and when in the struggle which ensues he gets possession of the tarnhut, the "cloak of darkness," which gave its wearer the strength of twelve men, and enabled him to go where he would unseen, and which was the great prize among the treasures of the dwarfs; who is there that does not see the broken fragments of that old Eastern story of the heirs struggling for their inheritance, and calling in the aid of some one of better wit or strength, who ends by making the very prize for which they fight his own?
And now to return for a moment to Calila and Dimna, and "The Seven Sages." Since we have seen that there are other stories, and many of them, for this is by no means the only resemblance to be found in Somadeva's book, which are common to the Eastern and Western Aryans, but which did not travel to Europe by translation; let us go on to say that it is by no means certain, even when some Western story or fable is found in these Sanscrit originals and their translations, that that was the only way by which they came to Europe. A single question will prove this. How did the fables and apologues which are found in Æsop, and which are also found in the Pantcha-Tantra and the Hitopadesa come West? That they came from the East is certain; but by what way?—certainly not by translation or copying, for they had travelled west long before translations were thought of. How was it that Themistius, a Greek orator of the fourth century, had heard of that fable of the lion, fox, and bull, which is in substance the same as that of the lion, the bull, and the two jackals in the Pantcha-Tantra and the Hitopadesa? How, but along the path of that primeval Aryan migration, and by that deep ground-tone of tradition by which man speaks to man, nation to nation, and age to age; along which comparative philology has, in these last days, travelled back thither, listened to the accents spoken, and so found in the East the cradle of a common language and common belief.
And now having, as we hope, finally established this Indian affinity, and disposed of mere Indian copying, let us lift our eyes and see if something more is not to be discerned on the wide horizon now open on our view. The most interesting problem for man to solve is the origin of his race. Of late years comparative philology,
having accomplished her task in proving the affinity of language between Europe and the East, and so taken a mighty step towards fixing the first seat of the greatest—greatest in wit and wisdom, if not in actual numbers—portion of the human race, has pursued her inquiries into the languages of the Turanian, the Semitic, and the Chamitic or African races, with more or less successful results. In a few more years, when the African languages are better known, and the roots of Egyptian and Chinese words are more accurately detected, Science will be better able to speak as to the common affinity of all the tribes that throng the earth. In the meantime, let the testimony of tradition and popular tales be heard, which in this case have outstripped comparative philology, and lead instead of following her. It is beyond the scope of this essay, which aims at being popular and readable rather than learned and lengthy, to go over a prolonged scientific investigation step by step. We repeat it: the reader must have faith in the writer, and believe the words now written are the results of an inquiry, and not ask for the inquiry itself. In all mythologies and traditions, then, there are what may be called natural resemblances, parallelisms suggested to the senses of each race by natural objects and every-day events, and these might spring up spontaneously all over the earth as home growths, neither derived by imitation from other tribes, nor from seeds of common tradition shed from a common stock. Such resemblances have been well compared by William Grimm to those words which are found in all languages derived from the imitation of natural sounds, or, we may add, from the first lisping accents of infancy. But the case is very different when this or that object which strikes the senses is accounted for in a way so extraordinary and peculiar, as to stamp the tradition with a character of its own. Then arises a like impression on the mind, if we find the same tradition in two tribes at the opposite ends of the earth, as is produced by meeting twin brothers, one in Africa and the other in Asia; we say at once, "I know you are so-and-so's brother, you are so like him." Take an instance: In these Norse Tales, p. 172, we are told how it was the bear came to have a stumpy tail, and in an African tale we find how it was the hyæna became tailless and earless. Now, the tailless condition both of the bear and the hyæna could scarcely fail to attract attention in a race of hunters, and we might expect that popular tradition would attempt to account for both; but how are we to explain the fact, that both Norseman and African account for it in the same way—that both owe their loss to the superior cunning of another animal? In Europe the fox bears away the palm for wit from all other animals, so he it is that persuades the bear in the Norse Tales to sit with his tail in a hole in the ice till it is fast frozen in, and snaps short off when he tries to tug it out. In Bornou, in the heart of Africa, it is the weasel who is the wisest of beasts, and who, having got some meat in common with the hyæna, put it into a hole, and said,—
"'Behold two men came out of the forest, took the meat, and put it into a hole: stop, I will go into the hole, and then thou mayst stretch out thy tail to me, and I will tie the meat to thy tail for thee to draw it out.' So the weasel went into the hole, the hyæna stretched its tail out to it, but the weasel took the hyæna's tail, fastened a stick, and tied the hyæna's tail to the stick, and then said to the hyæna, 'I have tied the meat to thy tail; draw, and pull it out.' The hyæna was a fool, it did not know the weasel surpassed it in subtlety; it thought the meat was tied; but when it tried to draw out its tail, it was fast. When the weasel said again to it, 'Pull,' it pulled, but could not draw it out; so it became vexed, and on pulling with force, its tail broke. The tail being torn out, the weasel was no more seen by the hyæna: the weasel was hidden in the hole with its meat, and the hyæna saw it not."
Here we have a fact in natural history accounted for, but accounted for in such a peculiar way as shews that the races among which they are current must have derived them from some common tradition. The mode by which the tail is lost is different indeed; but the manner in which the common ground-work is suited in one case to the cold of the North, and the way in which fish are commonly caught at holes in the ice as they rise to breathe; and in the other to Africa and her pit-falls for wild beasts, is only another proof of the oldness of the tradition, and that it is not merely a copy.
Take another instance. Every one knows the story in the Arabian Nights, where the man who knows the speech of beasts laughs at something said by an ox to an ass. His wife wants to know why he laughs, and persists, though he tells her it will cost him his life if he tells her. As he doubts what to do, he hears the cock say to the house-dog, "Our master is not wise; I have fifty hens who obey me; if he followed my advice, he'd just take a good stick, shut up his wife in a room with him, and give her a good cudgelling." The same story is told in Straparola with so many variations as to shew it is no copy; it is also told in a Servian popular tale, with variations of its own; and now here we find it in Bornou, as told by Kölle.
"There was a servant of God who had one wife and one horse; but his wife was one-eyed, and they lived in their house. Now this servant of God understood the language of the beasts of the forest when they spoke, and of the birds of the air when they talked as they flew by. This servant of God also understood the cry of the hyæna when it arose at night in the forest, and came to the houses and cried near them; so, likewise, when his horse was hungry and neighed, he understood what it neighed, rose up, brought the horse grass, and then returned and sat down. It happened one day that birds had their talk as they were flying by above, and the servant of God understood what they talked. This caused him to laugh, whereupon his wife said to him, 'What dost thou hear that thou laughest?' He replied to his wife, 'I shall not tell thee what I hear, and why I laugh.' The woman said to her husband, 'I know why thou laughest; thou laughest at me because I am one-eyed.' The man then said to his wife, 'I saw that thou wast one-eyed before I loved thee, and before we married and sat down in our house.' When the woman heard her husband's word she was quiet.
"But once at night, as they were lying on their bed, and it was past midnight, it happened that a rat played with his wife on the top of the house, and that both fell to the ground. Then the wife of the rat said to her husband, 'Thy sport is bad; thou saidst to me that thou wouldst play, but when we came together we fell to the ground, so that I broke my back.
"When the servant of God heard the talk of the rat's wife, as he was lying on his bed, he laughed. Now, as soon as he laughed his wife arose, seized him, and said to him as she held him fast, 'Now this time I will not let thee go out of this house except thou tell me what thou nearest and why thou laughest.' The man begged the woman, saying, 'Let me go;' but the woman would not listen to her husband's entreaty."
The husband then tells his wife that he knows the language of beasts and birds, and she is content; but when he wakes in the morning he finds he has lost his wonderful gift; and the moral of the tale is added most ungallantly, "If a man shews and tells his thoughts to a woman, God will punish him for it." Though, perhaps, it is better, for the sake of the gentler sex, that the tale should be pointed with this unfair moral, than that the African story should proceed like all the other variations, and save the husband's gift at the cost of the wife's skin.
Take other African instances. How is it that the wandering Bechuanas got their story of "The Two Brothers," the ground-work of which is the same as "The Machandelboom" and "The Milk-white Doo," and where the incidents and even the words are almost the same? How is it that in some of its traits that Bechuana story embodies those of that earliest of all popular tales, recently published from an Egyptian Papyrus, coeval with the abode of the Israelites in Egypt? and how is it that that same Egyptian tale has other traits which remind us of the Dun Bull in "Katie Woodencloak," as well as incidents which are the germ of stories long since reduced to writing in Norse Sagas of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries? How is it that we still find among the Negroes in the West Indies a rich store of popular tales, and the Beast Epic in full bloom, brought with them from Africa to the islands of the West; and among those tales and traditions, how is it that we find a "Wishing Tree," the counterpart of that in a German popular tale, and "a little dirty scrub of a child," whom his sisters despise, but who is own brother to Boots in the Norse Tales, and like him outwits the Troll, spoils his substance, and saves his sisters? How is it that we find the good woman who washes the loathsome head rewarded, while the bad man who refuses to do that dirty work is punished for his pride; the very ground-work, nay the very words, that we meet in "Bushy Bride," another Norse tale? How is it that we find a Mongolian tale, which came confessedly from India, made up of two of our Norse Tales, "Rich Peter the Pedlar," and "The Giant that had no heart in his body"? How should all these things be, and how could they possibly be, except on that theory which day by day becomes more and more a matter of fact: this, that the whole human race sprung' from one stock, planted in the East, which has stretched out its boughs and branches, laden with the fruit of language, and bright with the bloom of song and story, by successive offshoots to the utmost parts of the earth.
And now, in the second place, for that particular branch of the Aryan race, in which this peculiar development of the common tradition has arisen, which we are to consider as "Norse Popular Tales."
Whatever disputes may have existed as to the mythology of other branches of the Teutonic subdivision of the Aryan race—whatever discussions may have arisen as to the position of this or that divinity among the Franks, the Anglo-Saxons, or the Goths—about the Norsemen there can be no dispute or doubt. From a variety of circumstances, but two before all the rest—the one their settlement in Iceland, which preserved their language and its literary treasures incorrupt; the other their late conversion
- "A Brahmin, who had vowed a sacrifice, went to the market to buy a goat. Three thieves saw him, and wanted to get hold of the goat. They stationed themselves at intervals on the high-road. When the Brahmin, who carried the goat on his back, approached the first thief, the thief said, 'Brahmin, why do you carry a dog on your back?' The Brahmin replied: 'It is not a dog, it is a goat.' A little while after, he was accosted by the second thief, who said, 'Brahmin, why do you carry a dog on your back?' The Brahmin felt perplexed, put the goat down, examined it, and walked on. Soon after he was stopped by the third thief, who said, 'Brahmin, why do you carry a dog on your back?' Then the Brahmin was frightened, threw down the goat, and walked home to perform his ablutions for having touched an unclean animal. The thieves took the goat and ate it." See the notice of the Norse Tales in the Saturday Review, January 15th. In Max Müller's translation of the Hitopadesa, the story has a different ending. See also Le Piacevoli Notti di M. Giovan Francesco Straparola da Caravaggio. Venice, 1567. Notte Prima, Favola III. "Pre Scarpacifico da tre malandrini una sol volta gabbato, tre fiate gabba loro, finalmente vittorioso con la sua Nina lietamente rimane." In which tale the beginning is a parallel to the first part of "The Master Thief," while the end answers exactly to the Norse tale added in this edition, and called "Big Peter and Little Peter."
- Fornm. Sög., ii. 272.
- Müller's Saga Bibl, iii. 359.
- See the ballad in Percy's Reliques.
- The following are translations from Saxo, the Wilkina Saga, and the Malleus Maleficarum. The question is completely set at rest by Grimm, D. M. p. 353 fol. and p. 1214.
"Nor is the following story to be wrapped in silence. A certain Palnatoki, for some time among King Harold's body-guard, had made his bravery odious to very many of his fellow-soldiers by the zeal with which he surpassed them in the discharge of his duty. This man once, when talking tipsily over his cups, had boasted that he was so skilled an archer, that he could hit the smallest apple placed a long way off on a wand at the first shot; which talk, caught up at first by the ears of backbiters, soon came to the hearing of the king. Now, mark how the wickedness of the king turned the confidence of the sire to the peril of the son, by commanding that this dearest pledge of his life should be placed instead of the wand, with a threat that, unless the author of this promise could strike off the apple at the first flight of the arrow, he should pay the penalty of his empty boasting by the loss of his head. The king's command forced the soldier to perform more than he had promised, and what he had said, reported by the tongues of slanderers, bound him to accomplish what he had not said." .... "Nor did his sterling courage, thought caught in the snare of slander, suffer him to lay aside his firmness of heart; nay, he accepted the trial the more readily because it was hard. So Palnatoki warned the boy urgently when he took his stand to await the coming of the hurtling arrow with calm ears and unbent head, lest by a slight turn of his body he should defeat the practised skill of the bowman; and, taking further counsel to prevent his fear, he turned away his face, lest he should be scared at the sight of the weapon. Then taking three arrows from the quiver, he struck the mark given him with the first he fitted to the string. But, if chance had brought the head of the boy before the shaft, no doubt the penalty of the son would have recoiled to the peril of the father, and the swerving of the shaft that struck the boy would have linked them both in common ruin. I am in doubt, then, whether to admire most the courage of the father or the temper of the son, of whom the one by skill in his art avoided being the slayer of his child, while the other by patience of mind and quietness of body saved himself alive, and spared the natural affection of his father. Nay, the youthful frame strengthened the aged heart, and showed as much courage in awaiting the arrow as the father skill in launching it. But Palnatoki, when asked by the king why he had taken more arrows from the quiver, when it had been settled that he should only try the fortune of the bow once, made answer, 'That I might avenge on thee the swerving of the first by the points of the rest, lest perchance my innocence might have been punished, while your violence escaped scot-free.'"—Saxo Gram., Book x. p. 166, ed. Frankf.
"About that time the young Egill, Wayland's brother, came to the court of King Nidung, because Wayland (Smith) had sent him word. Egill was the fairest of men, and one thing he had before all other men—he shot better with the bow than any other man. The king took to him well, and Egill was there a long time. Now, the king wished to try whether Egill shot so well as was said or not, so he let Egill's son, a boy of three years old, be taken, and made them put an apple on his head, and bade Egill shoot so that the shaft struck neither above the head nor to the left nor to the right; the apple only was he to split. But it was not forbidden him to shoot the boy, for the king thought it certain that he would do that on no account, if he could at all help it. And he was to shoot one arrow only, no more. So Egill takes three, and strokes their feathers smooth, and fits one to his string, and shoots and hits the apple in the middle, so that the arrow took along with it half the apple, and then fell to the ground. This master-shot has long been talked about, and the king made much of him, and he was the most famous of men. Now, King Nidung asked Egill why he took out three arrows, when it was settled that one only was to be shot with. Then Egill answered, 'Lord,' said he, 'I will not lie to you; hadI stricken the lad with that one arrow, then I had meant these tvo for you.' But the king took that well from him, and all thought it was boldly spoken."—Wilkina Saga, ch. 27, ed. Pering.
"It is related of him [Puncher] that a certain lord, who wished to obtain a sure trial of his skill, set up his little son as a butt, and for a mark a shilling on the boy's cap, commanding him to carry off the shilling without the cap with his arrow. But when the wizard said he could do it, though he would rather abstain, lest the Devil should decoy him to destruction; still, being led on by the words of the chief, he thrust one arrow through his collar, and, fitting the other to his crossbow, struck off the coin from the boy's cap without doing him any harm; seeing which, when the lord asked the wizard why he had placed the arrow in his collar? he answered, 'If by the Devil's deceit I had slain the boy, when I needs must die, I would have transfixed you suddenly with the other arrow, that even so I might have avenged my death.'"—Malleus Malef., P. 11. ch. 16.
- See Pantcha-Tantra, v. ii. of Wilson's Analysis, quoted by Loiseleur Deslongchamps, Essai sur les Fables Indiennes, Paris (Techener), 1838, p. 54, where the animal that protects the child is a mangouste (Viverra Mungo). See also Hitopadesa, Max Muller's Translation, Leipzig (Brockhaus), p. 178, where the guardian is an otter. In both the foe is a snake.
- Moe: Introd. xxxii.-iii.
- The account in the Nibelungen respecting the tarnhnt is confused, and the text probably corrupt; but so much is plain, that Siegfried got it from Elberich in the struggle which ensued with Schilbung and Niblung, after he had shared the Hoard.
- Thus we find in it the originals or the parallels of Grendel in Beowulf, of Rumpelstiltskin, of the recovery of the Bride by the ring dropped into the cup, as related in Soria Moria Castle, and other tales; of the "wishing ram," which in the Indian story becomes a "wishing cow," and thus reminds us of the bull in one of these Norse Tales, out of whose ear came a "wishing cloth"; of the lucky child, who finds a purse of gold under his pillow every morning; and of the red lappet sown on the sleeping lover, as on Siegfried in the Nibelungen. The devices of Upakosa, the faithful wife, remind us at once of "The Mastermaid," and the whole of the stories of Saktideva and the Golden City, and of Viduschaka, King Adityaseria's daughter, are the same in groundwork and in many of their incidents as "East o' the Sun, and West o' the Moon," "The Three Princesses of Whiteland," and "Soria Moria Castle."
- J. Grimm: Reinhart Fuchs, cclxiii. Intr.
- Kinder- und Hausmärchen, vol. iii., 3d ed., Gottingen,. 1856; a volume worthy of the utmost attention.
- Kölle: Kanuri Proverbs and Fables, London Church Missionary House, 1854. A book of great philological interest, and one which reflects great credit on the religious society by which it was published.
- Kanuri Proverbs, p. 167.
- Notte Duodecima. Favola terza. "Federigo da Pozzuolo che intendeva il linguaggio de gli animali, astretto dalla moglie dirle un segreto, quella stranamente battè."
- The Story of the Two Brothers Anesou and Satou, from the D'Orbiney Papyrus, by De Rougé: Paris, 1852.
- See the Ananzi Stories in the Appendix, which have been taken down from the mouth of a West Indian nurse.
- "The Deeds of Bogda Gesser Cham, by I. J. Schmidt, Petersburg and Leipzig, 1839