Myths and Myth-Makers: Old Tales and Superstitions Interpreted
comparative mythology by John Fiske

Part 3 out of 5

with its extreme simplicity when analyzed, need not surprise

[109] In his interesting appendix to Henderson's Folk Lore of
the Northern Counties of England, Mr. Baring-Gould has made an
ingenious and praiseworthy attempt to reduce the entire
existing mass of household legends to about fifty story-roots;
and his list, though both redundant and defective, is
nevertheless, as an empirical classification, very

The extreme limits of divergence between stories descended
from a common root are probably reached in the myths of light
and darkness with which the present discussion is mainly
concerned The subject will be best elucidated by taking a
single one of these myths and following its various fortunes
through different regions of the Aryan world. The myth of
Hercules and Cacus has been treated by M. Breal in an essay
which is one of the most valuable contributions ever made to
the study of comparative mythology; and while following his
footsteps our task will be an easy one.

The battle between Hercules and Cacus, although one of the
oldest of the traditions common to the whole Indo-European
race, appears in Italy as a purely local legend, and is
narrated as such by Virgil, in the eighth book of the AEneid;
by Livy, at the beginning of his history; and by Propertius
and Ovid. Hercules, journeying through Italy after his victory
over Geryon, stops to rest by the bank of the Tiber. While he
is taking his repose, the three-headed monster Cacus, a son of
Vulcan and a formidable brigand, comes and steals his cattle,
and drags them tail-foremost to a secret cavern in the rocks.
But the lowing of the cows arouses Hercules, and he runs
toward the cavern where the robber, already frightened, has
taken refuge. Armed with a huge flinty rock, he breaks open
the entrance of the cavern, and confronts the demon within,
who vomits forth flames at him and roars like the thunder in
the storm-cloud. After a short combat, his hideous body falls
at the feet of the invincible hero, who erects on the spot an
altar to Jupiter Inventor, in commemoration of the recovery of
his cattle. Ancient Rome teemed with reminiscences of this
event, which Livy regarded as first in the long series of the
exploits of his countrymen. The place where Hercules pastured
his oxen was known long after as the Forum Boarium; near it
the Porta Trigemina preserved the recollection of the
monster's triple head; and in the time of Diodorus Siculus
sight-seers were shown the cavern of Cacus on the slope of the
Aventine. Every tenth day the earlier generations of Romans
celebrated the victory with solemn sacrifices at the Ara
Maxima; and on days of triumph the fortunate general deposited
there a tithe of his booty, to be distributed among the

In this famous myth, however, the god Hercules did not
originally figure. The Latin Hercules was an essentially
peaceful and domestic deity, watching over households and
enclosures, and nearly akin to Terminus and the Penates. He
does not appear to have been a solar divinity at all. But the
purely accidental resemblance of his name to that of the Greek
deity Herakles,[110] and the manifest identity of the
Cacus-myth with the story of the victory of Herakles over
Geryon, led to the substitution of Hercules for the original
hero of the legend, who was none other than Jupiter, called by
his Sabine name Sancus. Now Johannes Lydus informs us that, in
Sabine, Sancus signified "the sky," a meaning which we have
already seen to belong to the name Jupiter. The same
substitution of the Greek hero for the Roman divinity led to
the alteration of the name of the demon overcome by his
thunderbolts. The corrupted title Cacus was supposed to be
identical with the Greek word kakos, meaning "evil" and the
corruption was suggested by the epithet of Herakles,
Alexikakos, or "the averter of ill." Originally, however, the
name was Caecius, "he who blinds or darkens," and it
corresponds literally to the name of the Greek demon Kaikias,
whom an old proverb, preserved by Aulus Gellius, describes as
a stealer of the clouds.[111]

[110] There is nothing in common between the names Hercules
and Herakles. The latter is a compound, formed like
Themistokles; the former is a simple derivative from the root
of hercere, "to enclose." If Herakles had any equivalent in
Latin, it would necessarily begin with S, and not with H, as
septa corresponds to epta, sequor to epomai, etc. It should be
noted, however, that Mommsen, in the fourth edition of his
History, abandons this view, and observes: "Auch der
griechische Herakles ist fruh als Herclus, Hercoles, Hercules
in Italien einheimisch und dort in eigenthumlicher Weise
aufgefasst worden, wie es scheint zunachst als Gott des
gewagten Gewinns und der ausserordentlichen
Vermogensvermehrung." Romische Geschichte, I. 181. One would
gladly learn Mommsen's reasons for recurring to this
apparently less defensible opinion.

[111] For the relations between Sancus and Herakles, see
Preller, Romische Mythologie, p. 635; Vollmer, Mythologie, p.

Thus the significance of the myth becomes apparent. The
three-headed Cacus is seen to be a near kinsman of Geryon's
three-headed dog Orthros, and of the three-headed Kerberos,
the hell-hound who guards the dark regions below the horizon.
He is the original werewolf or Rakshasa, the fiend of the
storm who steals the bright cattle of Helios, and hides them
in the black cavernous rock, from which they are afterwards
rescued by the schamir or lightning-stone of the solar hero.
The physical character of the myth is apparent even in the
description of Virgil, which reads wonderfully like a Vedic
hymn in celebration of the exploits of Indra. But when we turn
to the Veda itself, we find the correctness of the
interpretation demonstrated again and again, with
inexhaustible prodigality of evidence. Here we encounter again
the three-headed Orthros under the identical title of Vritra,
"he who shrouds or envelops," called also Cushna, "he who
parches," Pani, "the robber," and Ahi, "the strangler." In
many hymns of the Rig-Veda the story is told over and over,
like a musical theme arranged with variations. Indra, the god
of light, is a herdsman who tends a herd of bright golden or
violet-coloured cattle. Vritra, a snake-like monster with
three heads, steals them and hides them in a cavern, but Indra
slays him as Jupiter slew Caecius, and the cows are recovered.
The language of the myth is so significant, that the Hindu
commentators of tile Veda have themselves given explanations
of it similar to those proposed by modern philologists. To
them the legend never became devoid of sense, as the myth of
Geryon appeared to Greek scholars like Apollodoros.[112]

[112] Burnouf, Bhagavata-Purana, III. p. lxxxvi; Breal, op.
cit. p. 98.

These celestial cattle, with their resplendent coats of purple
and gold, are the clouds lit up by the solar rays; but the
demon who steals them is not always the fiend of the storm,
acting in that capacity. They are stolen every night by Vritra
the concealer, and Caecius the darkener, and Indra is obliged
to spend hours in looking for them, sending Sarama, the
inconstant twilight, to negotiate for their recovery. Between
the storm-myth and the myth of night and morning the
resemblance is sometimes so close as to confuse the
interpretation of the two. Many legends which Max Muller
explains as myths of the victory of day over night are
explained by Dr. Kuhn as storm-myths; and the disagreement
between two such powerful champions would be a standing
reproach to what is rather prematurely called the SCIENCE of
comparative mythology, were it not easy to show that the
difference is merely apparent and non-essential. It is the old
story of the shield with two sides; and a comparison of the
ideas fundamental to these myths will show that there is no
valid ground for disagreement in the interpretation of them.
The myths of schamir and the divining-rod, analyzed in a
previous paper, explain the rending of the thunder-cloud and
the procuring of water without especial reference to any
struggle between opposing divinities. But in the myth of
Hercules and Cacus, the fundamental idea is the victory of the
solar god over the robber who steals the light. Now whether
the robber carries off the light in the evening when Indra has
gone to sleep, or boldly rears his black form against the sky
during the daytime, causing darkness to spread over the earth,
would make little difference to the framers of the myth. To a
chicken a solar eclipse is the same thing as nightfall, and he
goes to roost accordingly. Why, then, should the primitive
thinker have made a distinction between the darkening of the
sky caused by black clouds and that caused by the rotation of
the earth? He had no more conception of the scientific
explanation of these phenomena than the chicken has of the
scientific explanation of an eclipse. For him it was enough to
know that the solar radiance was stolen, in the one case as in
the other, and to suspect that the same demon was to blame for
both robberies.

The Veda itself sustains this view. It is certain that the
victory of Indra over Vritra is essentially the same as his
victory over the Panis. Vritra, the storm-fiend, is himself
called one of the Panis; yet the latter are uniformly
represented as night-demons. They steal Indra's golden cattle
and drive them by circuitous paths to a dark hiding-place near
the eastern horizon. Indra sends the dawn-nymph, Sarama, to
search for them, but as she comes within sight of the dark
stable, the Panis try to coax her to stay with them: "Let us
make thee our sister, do not go away again; we will give thee
part of the cows, O darling."[113] According to the text of
this hymn, she scorns their solicitations, but elsewhere the
fickle dawn-nymph is said to coquet with the powers of
darkness. She does not care for their cows, but will take a
drink of milk, if they will be so good as to get it for her.
Then she goes back and tells Indra that she cannot find the
cows. He kicks her with his foot, and she runs back to the
Panis, followed by the god, who smites them all with his
unerring arrows and recovers the stolen light. From such a
simple beginning as this

has been deduced the Greek myth of the faithlessness of

[113] Max Muller, Science of Language, II 484.

[114] As Max Muller observes, "apart from all mythological
considerations, Sarama in Sanskrit is the same word as Helena
in Greek." Op. cit. p. 490. The names correspond phonetically
letter for letter, as, Surya corresponds to Helios, Sarameyas
to Hermeias, and Aharyu to Achilleus. Muller has plausibly
suggested that Paris similarly answers to the Panis.

These night-demons, the Panis, though not apparently regarded
with any strong feeling of moral condemnation, are
nevertheless hated and dreaded as the authors of calamity.
They not only steal the daylight, but they parch the earth and
wither the fruits, and they slay vegetation during the winter
months. As Caecius, the "darkener," became ultimately changed
into Cacus, the "evil one," so the name of Vritra, the
"concealer," the most famous of the Panis, was gradually
generalized until it came to mean "enemy," like the English
word fiend, and began to be applied indiscriminately to any
kind of evil spirit. In one place he is called Adeva, the
"enemy of the gods," an epithet exactly equivalent to the
Persian dev.

In the Zendavesta the myth of Hercules and Cacus has given
rise to a vast system of theology. The fiendish Panis are
concentrated in Ahriman or Anro-mainyas, whose name signifies
the "spirit of darkness," and who carries on a perpetual
warfare against Ormuzd or Ahuramazda, who is described by his
ordinary surname, Spentomainyas, as the "spirit of light." The
ancient polytheism here gives place to a refined dualism, not
very different from what in many Christian sects has passed
current as monotheism. Ahriman is the archfiend, who struggles
with Ormuzd, not for the possession of a herd of perishable
cattle, but for the dominion of the universe. Ormuzd creates
the world pure and beautiful, but Ahriman comes after him and
creates everything that is evil in it. He not only keeps the
earth covered with darkness during half of the day, and
withholds the rain and destroys the crops, but he is the
author of all evil thoughts and the instigator of all wicked
actions. Like his progenitor Vritra and his offspring Satan,
he is represented under the form of a serpent; and the
destruction which ultimately awaits these demons is also in
reserve for him. Eventually there is to be a day of reckoning,
when Ahriman will be bound in chains and rendered powerless,
or when, according to another account, he will be converted to
righteousness, as Burns hoped and Origen believed would be the
case with Satan.

This dualism of the ancient Persians has exerted a powerful
influence upon the development of Christian theology. The very
idea of an archfiend Satan, which Christianity received from
Judaism, seems either to have been suggested by the Persian
Ahriman, or at least to have derived its principal
characteristics from that source. There is no evidence that
the Jews, previous to the Babylonish captivity, possessed the
conception of a Devil as the author of all evil. In the
earlier books of the Old Testament Jehovah is represented as
dispensing with his own hand the good and the evil, like the
Zeus of the Iliad.[115] The story of the serpent in Eden--an
Aryan story in every particular, which has crept into the
Pentateuch--is not once alluded to in the Old Testament; and
the notion of Satan as the author of evil appears only in the
later books, composed after the Jews had come into close
contact with Persian ideas.[116] In the Book of Job, as
Reville observes, Satan is "still a member of the celestial
court, being one of the sons of the Elohim, but having as his
special office the continual accusation of men, and having
become so suspicious by his practice as public accuser, that
he believes in the virtue of no one, and always presupposes
interested motives for the purest manifestations of human
piety." In this way the character of this angel became
injured, and he became more and more an object of dread and
dislike to men, until the later Jews ascribed to him all the
attributes of Ahriman, and in this singularly altered shape he
passed into Christian theology. Between the Satan of the Book
of Job and the mediaeval Devil the metamorphosis is as great
as that which degraded the stern Erinys, who brings evil deeds
to light, into the demon-like Fury who torments wrong-doers in
Tartarus; and, making allowance for difference of
circumstances, the process of degradation has been very nearly
the same in the two cases.

[115] "I create evil," Isaiah xiv. 7; "Shall there be evil in
the city, and the Lord hath not done it?" Amos iii. 6; cf.
Iliad, xxiv. 527, and contrast 2 Samuel xxiv. 1 with 1
Chronicles xxi. 1.

[116] Nor is there any ground for believing that the serpent
in the Eden myth is intended for Satan. The identification is
entirely the work of modern dogmatic theology, and is due,
naturally enough, to the habit, so common alike among
theologians and laymen, of reasoning about the Bible as if it
were a single book, and not a collection of writings of
different ages and of very different degrees of historic
authenticity. In a future work, entitled "Aryana Vaedjo," I
hope to examine, at considerable length, this interesting myth
of the garden of Eden.

The mediaeval conception of the Devil is a grotesque compound
of elements derived from all the systems of pagan mythology
which Christianity superseded. He is primarily a rebellious
angel, expelled from heaven along with his followers, like the
giants who attempted to scale Olympos, and like the impious
Efreets of Arabian legend who revolted against the beneficent
rule of Solomon. As the serpent prince of the outer darkness,
he retains the old characteristics of Vritra, Ahi, Typhon, and
Echidna. As the black dog which appears behind the stove in
Dr. Faust's study, he is the classic hell-hound Kerberos, the
Vedic Carvara. From the sylvan deity Pan he gets his goat-like
body, his horns and cloven hoofs. Like the wind-god Orpheus,
to whose music the trees bent their heads to listen, he is an
unrivalled player on the bagpipes. Like those other wind-gods
the psychopomp Hermes and the wild huntsman Odin, he is the
prince of the powers of the air: his flight through the
midnight sky, attended by his troop of witches mounted on
their brooms, which sometimes break the boughs and sweep the
leaves from the trees, is the same as the furious chase of the
Erlking Odin or the Burckar Vittikab. He is Dionysos, who
causes red wine to flow from the dry wood, alike on the deck
of the Tyrrhenian pirate-ship and in Auerbach's cellar at
Leipzig. He is Wayland, the smith, a skilful worker in metals
and a wonderful architect, like the classic fire-god
Hephaistos or Vulcan; and, like Hephaistos, he is lame from
the effects of his fall from heaven. From the lightning-god
Thor he obtains his red beard, his pitchfork, and his power
over thunderbolts; and, like that ancient deity, he is in the
habit of beating his wife behind the door when the rain falls
during sunshine. Finally, he takes a hint from Poseidon and
from the swan-maidens, and appears as a water-imp or Nixy
(whence probably his name of Old Nick), and as the Davy (deva)
whose "locker" is situated at the bottom of the sea.[117]

[117] For further particulars see Cox, Mythology of the Aryan
Nations, Vol. II. pp 358, 366; to which I am indebted for
several of the details here given. Compare Welcker,
Griechische Gotterlehre, I. 661, seq.

According to the Scotch divines of the seventeenth century,
the Devil is a learned scholar and profound thinker. Having
profited by six thousand years of intense study and
meditation, he has all science, philosophy, and theology at
his tongue's end; and, as his skill has increased with age, he
is far more than a match for mortals in cunning.[118] Such,
however, is not the view taken by mediaeval mythology, which
usually represents his stupidity as equalling his malignity.
The victory of Hercules over Cacus is repeated in a hundred
mediaeval legends in which the Devil is overreached and made a
laughing-stock. The germ of this notion may be found in the
blinding of Polyphemos by Odysseus, which is itself a victory
of the sun-hero over the night-demon, and which curiously
reappears in a Middle-Age story narrated by Mr. Cox. "The
Devil asks a man who is moulding buttons what he may be doing;
and when the man answers that he is moulding eyes, asks him
further whether he can give him a pair of new eyes. He is told
to come again another day; and when he makes his appearance
accordingly, the man tells him that the operation cannot be
performed rightly unless he is first tightly bound with his
back fastened to a bench. While he is thus pinioned he asks
the man's name. The reply is Issi (`himself'). When the lead
is melted, the Devil opens his eyes wide to receive the deadly
stream. As soon as he is blinded, he starts up in agony,
bearing away the bench to which he had been bound; and when
some workpeople in the fields ask him who had thus treated
him, his answer is, 'Issi teggi' (`Self did it'). With a laugh
they bid him lie on the bed which he has made: 'selbst
gethan, selbst habe.' The Devil died of his new eyes, and was
never seen again."

[118] "Many amusing passages from Scotch theologians are cited
in Buckle's History of Civilization, Vol. II. p. 368. The same
belief is implied in the quaint monkish tale of "Celestinus
and the Miller's Horse." See Tales from the Gesta Romanorum,
p. 134.

In his attempts to obtain human souls the Devil is frequently
foiled by the superior cunning of mortals. Once, he agreed to
build a house for a peasant in exchange for the peasant's
soul; but if the house were not finished before cockcrow, the
contract was to be null and void. Just as the Devil was
putting on the last tile the man imitated a cockcrow and waked
up all the roosters in the neighbourhood, so that the fiend
had his labour for his pains. A merchant of Louvain once sold
himself to the Devil, who heaped upon him all manner of riches
for seven years, and then came to get him. The merchant "took
the Devil in a friendly manner by the hand and, as it was just
evening, said, 'Wife, bring a light quickly for the
gentleman.' 'That is not at all necessary,' said the Devil;
'I am merely come to fetch you.' 'Yes, yes, that I know very
well,' said the merchant, 'only just grant me the time till
this little candle-end is burnt out, as I have a few letters
to sign and to put on my coat.' 'Very well,' said the Devil,
'but only till the candle is burnt out.' 'Good,' said the
merchant, and going into the next room, ordered the
maid-servant to place a large cask full of water close to a
very deep pit that was dug in the garden. The men-servants
also carried, each of them, a cask to the spot; and when all
was done, they were ordered each to take a shovel, and stand
round the pit. The merchant then returned to the Devil, who
seeing that not more than about an inch of candle remained,
said, laughing, 'Now get yourself ready, it will soon be burnt
out.' 'That I see, and am content; but I shall hold you to
your word, and stay till it IS burnt.' 'Of course,' answered
the Devil; 'I stick to my word.' 'It is dark in the next
room,' continued the merchant, 'but I must find the great book
with clasps, so let me just take the light for one moment.'
'Certainly,' said the Devil, 'but I'll go with you.' He did
so, and the merchant's trepidation was now on the increase.
When in the next room he said on a sudden, 'Ah, now I know,
the key is in the garden door.' And with these words he ran
out with the light into the garden, and before the Devil could
overtake him, threw it into the pit, and the men and the maids
poured water upon it, and then filled up the hole with earth.
Now came the Devil into the garden and asked, 'Well, did you
get the key? and how is it with the candle? where is it?' 'The
candle?' said the merchant. 'Yes, the candle.' 'Ha, ha, ha! it
is not yet burnt out,' answered the merchant, laughing, 'and
will not be burnt out for the next fifty years; it lies there
a hundred fathoms deep in the earth.' When the Devil heard
this he screamed awfully, and went off with a most intolerable

[119] Thorpe, Northern Mythology, Vol. 11. p. 258.

One day a fowler, who was a terrible bungler and could n't hit
a bird at a dozen paces, sold his soul to the Devil in order
to become a Freischutz. The fiend was to come for him in seven
years, but must be always able to name the animal at which he
was shooting, otherwise the compact was to be nullified. After
that day the fowler never missed his aim, and never did a
fowler command such wages. When the seven years were out the
fowler told all these things to his wife, and the twain hit
upon an expedient for cheating the Devil. The woman stripped
herself, daubed her whole body with molasses, and rolled
herself up in a feather-bed, cut open for this purpose. Then
she hopped and skipped about the field where her husband stood
parleying with Old Nick. "there's a shot for you, fire away,"
said the Devil. "Of course I'll fire, but do you first tell me
what kind of a bird it is; else our agreement is cancelled,
Old Boy." There was no help for it; the Devil had to own
himself nonplussed, and off he fled, with a whiff of brimstone
which nearly suffocated the Freischutz and his good

[120] Thorpe, Northern Mythology, Vol. II. p. 259. In the
Norse story of "Not a Pin to choose between them," the old
woman is in doubt as to her own identity, on waking up after
the butcher has dipped her in a tar-barrel and rolled her on a
heap of feathers; and when Tray barks at her, her perplexity
is as great as the Devil's when fooled by the Frenschutz. See
Dasent, Norse Tales, p. 199.

In the legend of Gambrinus, the fiend is still more
ingloriously defeated. Gambrinus was a fiddler, who, being
jilted by his sweetheart, went out into the woods to hang
himself. As he was sitting on the bough, with the cord about
his neck, preparatory to taking the fatal plunge, suddenly a
tall man in a green coat appeared before him, and offered his
services. He might become as wealthy as he liked, and make his
sweetheart burst with vexation at her own folly, but in thirty
years he must give up his soul to Beelzebub. The bargain was
struck, for Gambrinus thought thirty years a long time to
enjoy one's self in, and perhaps the Devil might get him in
any event; as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. Aided by
Satan, he invented chiming-bells and lager-beer, for both of
which achievements his name is held in grateful remembrance by
the Teuton. No sooner had the Holy Roman Emperor quaffed a
gallon or two of the new beverage than he made Gambrinus Duke
of Brabant and Count of Flanders, and then it was the
fiddler's turn to laugh at the discomfiture of his old
sweetheart. Gambrinus kept clear of women, says the legend,
and so lived in peace. For thirty years he sat beneath his
belfry with the chimes, meditatively drinking beer with his
nobles and burghers around him. Then Beelzebub sent Jocko, one
of his imps, with orders to bring back Gambrinus before
midnight. But Jocko was, like Swiveller's Marchioness,
ignorant of the taste of beer, never having drunk of it even
in a sip, and the Flemish schoppen were too much for him. He
fell into a drunken sleep, and did not wake up until noon next
day, at which he was so mortified that he had not the face to
go back to hell at all. So Gambrinus lived on tranquilly for a
century or two, and drank so much beer that he turned into a

[121] See Deulin, Contes d'un Buveur de Biere, pp. 3-29.

The character of gullibility attributed to the Devil in these
legends is probably derived from the Trolls, or "night-folk,"
of Northern mythology. In most respects the Trolls resemble
the Teutonic elves and fairies, and the Jinn or Efreets of the
Arabian Nights; but their pedigree is less honourable. The
fairies, or "White Ladies," were not originally spirits of
darkness, but were nearly akin to the swan-maidens,
dawn-nymphs, and dryads, and though their wrath was to be
dreaded, they were not malignant by nature. Christianity,
having no place for such beings, degraded them into something
like imps; the most charitable theory being that they were
angels who had remained neutral during Satan's rebellion, in
punishment for which Michael expelled them from heaven, but
has left their ultimate fate unannounced until the day of
judgment. The Jinn appear to have been similarly degraded on
the rise of Mohammedanism. But the Trolls were always imps of
darkness. They are descended from the Jotuns, or Frost-Giants
of Northern paganism, and they correspond to the Panis, or
night-demons of the Veda. In many Norse tales they are said to
burst when they see the risen sun.[122] They eat human flesh,
are ignorant of the simplest arts, and live in the deepest
recesses of the forest or in caverns on the hillside, where
the sunlight never penetrates. Some of these characteristics
may very likely have been suggested by reminiscences of the
primeval Lapps, from whom the Aryan invaders wrested the
dominion of Europe.[123] In some legends the Trolls are
represented as an ancient race of beings now superseded by the
human race. " 'What sort of an earth-worm is this?' said one
Giant to another, when they met a man as they walked. 'These
are the earth-worms that will one day eat us up, brother,'
answered the other; and soon both Giants left that part of
Germany." " 'See what pretty playthings, mother!' cries the
Giant's daughter, as she unties her apron, and shows her a
plough, and horses, and a peasant. 'Back with them this
instant,' cries the mother in wrath, 'and put them down as
carefully as you can, for these playthings can do our race
great harm, and when these come we must budge.' " Very
naturally the primitive Teuton, possessing already the
conception of night-demons, would apply it to these men of the
woods whom even to this day his uneducated descendants believe
to be sorcerers, able to turn men into wolves. But whatever
contributions historical fact may have added to his character,
the Troll is originally a creation of mythology, like
Polyphemos, whom he resembles in his uncouth person, his
cannibal appetite, and his lack of wit. His ready gullibility
is shown in the story of "Boots who ate a Match with the
Troll." Boots, the brother of Cinderella, and the counterpart
alike of Jack the Giant-killer, and of Odysseus, is the
youngest of three brothers who go into a forest to cut wood.
The Troll appears and threatens to kill any one who dares to
meddle with his timber. The elder brothers flee, but Boots
puts on a bold face. He pulled a cheese out of his scrip and
squeezed it till the whey began to spurt out. "Hold your
tongue, you dirty Troll," said he, "or I'll squeeze you as I
squeeze this stone." So the Troll grew timid and begged to be
spared,[124] and Boots let him off on condition that he would
hew all day with him. They worked till nightfall, and the
Troll's giant strength accomplished wonders. Then Boots went
home with the Troll, having arranged that he should get the
water while his host made the fire. When they reached the hut
there were two enormous iron pails, so heavy that none but a
Troll could lift them, but Boots was not to be frightened.
"Bah!" said he. "Do you suppose I am going to get water in
those paltry hand-basins? Hold on till I go and get the spring
itself!" "O dear!" said the Troll, "I'd rather not; do you
make the fire, and I'll get the water." Then when the soup
was made, Boots challenged his new friend to an eating-match;
and tying his scrip in front of him, proceeded to pour soup
into it by the ladleful. By and by the giant threw down his
spoon in despair, and owned himself conquered. "No, no! don't
give it up yet," said Boots, "just cut a hole in your stomach
like this, and you can eat forever." And suiting the action to
the words, he ripped open his scrip. So the silly Troll cut
himself open and died, and Boots carried off all his gold and

[122] Dasent, Popular Tales from the Norse, No. III. and No.

[123] See Dasent's Introduction, p. cxxxix; Campbell, Tales of
the West Highlands, Vol. IV. p. 344; and Williams, Indian Epic
Poetry, p. 10.

[124] "A Leopard was returning home from hunting on one
occasion, when he lighted on the kraal of a Ram. Now the
Leopard had never seen a Ram before, and accordingly,
approaching submissively, he said, 'Good day, friend! what may
your name be?' The other, in his gruff voice, and striking
his breast with his forefoot, said, 'I am a Ram; who are you?'
'A Leopard,' answered the other, more dead than alive; and
then, taking leave of the Ram, he ran home as fast as he
could." Bleek, Hottentot Fables, p. 24.

Once there was a Troll whose name was Wind-and-Weather, and
Saint Olaf hired him to build a church. If the church were
completed within a certain specified time, the Troll was to
get possession of Saint Olaf. The saint then planned such a
stupendous edifice that he thought the giant would be forever
building it; but the work went on briskly, and at the
appointed day nothing remained but to finish the point of the
spire. In his consternation Olaf rushed about until he passed
by the Troll's den, when he heard the giantess telling her
children that their father, Wind-and-Weather, was finishing
his church, and would be home to-morrow with Saint Olaf. So
the saint ran back to the church and bawled out, "Hold on,
Wind-and-Weather, your spire is crooked!" Then the giant
tumbled down from the roof and broke into a thousand pieces.
As in the cases of the Mara and the werewolf, the enchantment
was at an end as soon as the enchanter was called by name.

These Trolls, like the Arabian Efreets, had an ugly habit of
carrying off beautiful princesses. This is strictly in keeping
with their character as night-demons, or Panis. In the stories
of Punchkin and the Heartless Giant, the night-demon carries
off the dawn-maiden after having turned into stone her solar
brethren. But Boots, or Indra, in search of his kinsfolk, by
and by arrives at the Troll's castle, and then the dawn-nymph,
true to her fickle character, cajoles the Giant and enables
Boots to destroy him. In the famous myth which serves as the
basis for the Volsunga Saga and the Nibelungenlied, the dragon
Fafnir steals the Valkyrie Brynhild and keeps her shut up in a
castle on the Glistening Heath, until some champion shall be
found powerful enough to rescue her. The castle is as hard to
enter as that of the Sleeping Beauty; but Sigurd, the Northern
Achilleus, riding on his deathless horse, and wielding his
resistless sword Gram, forces his way in, slays Fafnir, and
recovers the Valkyrie.

In the preceding paper the Valkyries were shown to belong to
the class of cloud-maidens; and between the tale of Sigurd and
that of Hercules and Cacus there is no difference, save that
the bright sunlit clouds which are represented in the one as
cows are in the other represented as maidens. In the myth of
the Argonauts they reappear as the Golden Fleece, carried to
the far east by Phrixos and Helle, who are themselves
Niblungs, or "Children of the Mist" (Nephele), and there
guarded by a dragon. In all these myths a treasure is stolen
by a fiend of darkness, and recovered by a hero of light, who
slays the demon. And--remembering what Scribe said about the
fewness of dramatic types--I believe we are warranted in
asserting that all the stories of lovely women held in bondage
by monsters, and rescued by heroes who perform wonderful
tasks, such as Don Quixote burned to achieve, are derived
ultimately from solar myths, like the myth of Sigurd and
Brynhild. I do not mean to say that the story-tellers who
beguiled their time in stringing together the incidents which
make up these legends were conscious of their solar character.
They did not go to work, with malice prepense, to weave
allegories and apologues. The Greeks who first told the story
of Perseus and Andromeda, the Arabians who devised the tale of
Codadad and his brethren, the Flemings who listened over their
beer-mugs to the adventures of Culotte-Verte, were not
thinking of sun-gods or dawn-maidens, or night-demons; and no
theory of mythology can be sound which implies such an
extravagance. Most of these stories have lived on the lips of
the common people; and illiterate persons are not in the habit
of allegorizing in the style of mediaeval monks or rabbinical
commentators. But what has been amply demonstrated is, that
the sun and the clouds, the light and the darkness, were once
supposed to be actuated by wills analogous to the human will;
that they were personified and worshipped or propitiated by
sacrifice; and that their doings were described in language
which applied so well to the deeds of human or quasi-human
beings that in course of time its primitive purport faded from
recollection. No competent scholar now doubts that the myths
of the Veda and the Edda originated in this way, for philology
itself shows that the names employed in them are the names of
the great phenomena of nature. And when once a few striking
stories had thus arisen,--when once it had been told how Indra
smote the Panis, and how Sigurd rescued Brynhild, and how
Odysseus blinded the Kyklops,--then certain mythic or
dramatic types had been called into existence; and to these
types, preserved in the popular imagination, future stories
would inevitably conform. We need, therefore, have no
hesitation in admitting a common origin for the vanquished
Panis and the outwitted Troll or Devil; we may securely
compare the legends of St. George and Jack the Giant-killer
with the myth of Indra slaying Vritra; we may see in the
invincible Sigurd the prototype of many a doughty
knight-errant of romance; and we may learn anew the lesson,
taught with fresh emphasis by modern scholarship, that in the
deepest sense there is nothing new under the sun.

I am the more explicit on this point, because it seems to me
that the unguarded language of many students of mythology is
liable to give rise to misapprehensions, and to discredit both
the method which they employ and the results which they have
obtained. If we were to give full weight to the statements
which are sometimes made, we should perforce believe that
primitive men had nothing to do but to ponder about the sun
and the clouds, and to worry themselves over the disappearance
of daylight. But there is nothing in the scientific
interpretation of myths which obliges us to go any such
length. I do not suppose that any ancient Aryan, possessed of
good digestive powers and endowed with sound common-sense,
ever lay awake half the night wondering whether the sun would
come back again.[125] The child and the savage believe of
necessity that the future will resemble the past, and it is
only philosophy which raises doubts on the subject.[126] The
predominance of solar legends in most systems of mythology is
not due to the lack of "that Titanic assurance with which we
say, the sun MUST rise";[127] nor again to the fact that the
phenomena of day and night are the most striking phenomena in
nature. Eclipses and earthquakes and floods are phenomena of
the most terrible and astounding kind, and they have all
generated myths; yet their contributions to folk-lore are
scanty compared with those furnished by the strife between the
day-god and his enemies. The sun-myths have been so prolific
because the dramatic types to which they have given rise are
of surpassing human interest. The dragon who swallows the sun
is no doubt a fearful personage; but the hero who toils for
others, who slays hydra-headed monsters, and dries the tears
of fair-haired damsels, and achieves success in spite of
incredible obstacles, is a being with whom we can all
sympathize, and of whom we never weary of hearing.

[125] I agree, most heartily, with Mr. Mahaffy's remarks,
Prolegomena to Ancient History, p. 69.

[126] Sir George Grey once told some Australian natives about
the countries within the arctic circle where during part of
the year the sun never sets. "Their astonishment now knew no
bounds. 'Ah! that must be another sun, not the same as the one
we see here,' said an old man; and in spite of all my
arguments to the contrary, the others adopted this opinion."
Grey's Journals, I. 293, cited in Tylor, Early History of
Mankind, p. 301.

[127] Max Muller, Chips, II. 96.

With many of these legends which present the myth of light and
darkness in its most attractive form, the reader is already
acquainted, and it is needless to retail stories which have
been told over and over again in books which every one is
presumed to have read. I will content myself with a weird
Irish legend, narrated by Mr. Patrick Kennedy,[128] in which
we here and there catch glimpses of the primitive mythical
symbols, as fragments of gold are seen gleaming through the
crystal of quartz.

[128] Fictions of the Irish Celts, pp. 255-270.

Long before the Danes ever came to Ireland, there died at
Muskerry a Sculloge, or country farmer, who by dint of hard
work and close economy had amassed enormous wealth. His only
son did not resemble him. When the young Sculloge looked about
the house, the day after his father's death, and saw the big
chests full of gold and silver, and the cupboards shining with
piles of sovereigns, and the old stockings stuffed with large
and small coin, he said to himself, "Bedad, how shall I ever
be able to spend the likes o' that!" And so he drank, and
gambled, and wasted his time in hunting and horse-racing,
until after a while he found the chests empty and the
cupboards poverty-stricken, and the stockings lean and
penniless. Then he mortgaged his farm-house and gambled away
all the money he got for it, and then he bethought him that a
few hundred pounds might be raised on his mill. But when he
went to look at it, he found "the dam broken, and scarcely a
thimbleful of water in the mill-race, and the wheel rotten,
and the thatch of the house all gone, and the upper millstone
lying flat on the lower one, and a coat of dust and mould over
everything." So he made up his mind to borrow a horse and take
one more hunt to-morrow and then reform his habits.

As he was returning late in the evening from this farewell
hunt, passing through a lonely glen he came upon an old man
playing backgammon, betting on his left hand against his
right, and crying and cursing because the right WOULD win.
"Come and bet with me," said he to Sculloge. "Faith, I have
but a sixpence in the world," was the reply; "but, if you
like, I'll wager that on the right." "Done," said the old
man, who was a Druid; "if you win I'll give you a hundred
guineas." So the game was played, and the old man, whose right
hand was always the winner, paid over the guineas and told
Sculloge to go to the Devil with them.

Instead of following this bit of advice, however, the young
farmer went home and began to pay his debts, and next week he
went to the glen and won another game, and made the Druid
rebuild his mill. So Sculloge became prosperous again, and by
and by he tried his luck a third time, and won a game played
for a beautiful wife. The Druid sent her to his house the next
morning before he was out of bed, and his servants came
knocking at the door and crying, "Wake up! wake up! Master
Sculloge, there's a young lady here to see you." "Bedad, it's
the vanithee[129] herself," said Sculloge; and getting up in a
hurry, he spent three quarters of an hour in dressing himself.
At last he went down stairs, and there on the sofa was the
prettiest lady ever seen in Ireland! Naturally, Sculloge's
heart beat fast and his voice trembled, as he begged the
lady's pardon for this Druidic style of wooing, and besought
her not to feel obliged to stay with him unless she really
liked him. But the young lady, who was a king's daughter from
a far country, was wondrously charmed with the handsome
farmer, and so well did they get along that the priest was
sent for without further delay, and they were married before
sundown. Sabina was the vanithee's name; and she warned her
husband to have no more dealings with Lassa Buaicht, the old
man of the glen. So for a while all went happily, and the
Druidic bride was as good as she was beautiful But by and by
Sculloge began to think he was not earning money fast enough.
He could not bear to see his wife's white hands soiled with
work, and thought it would be a fine thing if he could only
afford to keep a few more servants, and drive about with
Sabina in an elegant carriage, and see her clothed in silk and
adorned with jewels.

[129] A corruption of Gaelic bhan a teaigh, "lady of the

"I will play one more game and set the stakes high," said
Sculloge to himself one evening, as he sat pondering over
these things; and so, without consulting Sabina, he stole away
to the glen, and played a game for ten thousand guineas. But
the evil Druid was now ready to pounce on his prey, and he did
not play as of old. Sculloge broke into a cold sweat with
agony and terror as he saw the left hand win! Then the face of
Lassa Buaicht grew dark and stern, and he laid on Sculloge the
curse which is laid upon the solar hero in misfortune, that he
should never sleep twice under the same roof, or ascend the
couch of the dawn-nymph, his wife, until he should have
procured and brought to him the sword of light. When Sculloge
reached home, more dead than alive, he saw that his wife knew
all. Bitterly they wept together, but she told him that with
courage all might be set right. She gave him a Druidic horse,
which bore him swiftly over land and sea, like the enchanted
steed of the Arabian Nights, until he reached the castle of
his wife's father who, as Sculloge now learned, was a good
Druid, the brother of the evil Lassa Buaicht. This good Druid
told him that the sword of light was kept by a third brother,
the powerful magician, Fiach O'Duda, who dwelt in an enchanted
castle, which many brave heroes had tried to enter, but the
dark sorcerer had slain them all. Three high walls surrounded
the castle, and many had scaled the first of these, but none
had ever returned alive. But Sculloge was not to be daunted,
and, taking from his father-in-law a black steed, he set out
for the fortress of Fiach O'Duda. Over the first high wall
nimbly leaped the magic horse, and Sculloge called aloud on
the Druid to come out and surrender his sword. Then came out a
tall, dark man, with coal-black eyes and hair and melancholy
visage, and made a furious sweep at Sculloge with the flaming
blade. But the Druidic beast sprang back over the wall in the
twinkling of an eye and rescued his rider, leaving, however,
his tail behind in the court-yard. Then Sculloge returned in
triumph to his father-in-law's palace, and the night was spent
in feasting and revelry.

Next day Sculloge rode out on a white horse, and when he got
to Fiach's castle, he saw the first wall lying in rubbish. He
leaped the second, and the same scene occurred as the day
before, save that the horse escaped unharmed.

The third day Sculloge went out on foot, with a harp like that
of Orpheus in his hand, and as he swept its strings the grass
bent to listen and the trees bowed their heads. The castle
walls all lay in ruins, and Sculloge made his way unhindered
to the upper room, where Fiach lay in Druidic slumber, lulled
by the harp. He seized the sword of light, which was hung by
the chimney sheathed in a dark scabbard, and making the best
of his way back to the good king's palace, mounted his wife's
steed, and scoured over land and sea until he found himself in
the gloomy glen where Lassa Buaicht was still crying and
cursing and betting on his left hand against his right.

"Here, treacherous fiend, take your sword of light!" shouted
Sculloge in tones of thunder; and as he drew it from its
sheath the whole valley was lighted up as with the morning
sun, and next moment the head of the wretched Druid was lying
at his feet, and his sweet wife, who had come to meet him, was
laughing and crying in his arms. November, 1870.


THE theory of mythology set forth in the four preceding
papers, and illustrated by the examination of numerous myths
relating to the lightning, the storm-wind, the clouds, and the
sunlight, was originally framed with reference solely to the
mythic and legendary lore of the Aryan world. The phonetic
identity of the names of many Western gods and heroes with the
names of those Vedic divinities which are obviously the
personifications of natural phenomena, suggested the theory
which philosophical considerations had already foreshadowed in
the works of Hume and Comte, and which the exhaustive analysis
of Greek, Hindu, Keltic, and Teutonic legends has amply
confirmed. Let us now, before proceeding to the consideration
of barbaric folk-lore, briefly recapitulate the results
obtained by modern scholarship working strictly within the
limits of the Aryan domain.

In the first place, it has been proved once for all that the
languages spoken by the Hindus, Persians, Greeks, Romans,
Kelts, Slaves, and Teutons are all descended from a single
ancestral language, the Old Aryan, in the same sense that
French, Italian, and Spanish are descended from the Latin. And
from this undisputed fact it is an inevitable inference that
these various races contain, along with other elements, a
race-element in common, due to their Aryan pedigree. That the
Indo-European races are wholly Aryan is very improbable, for
in every case the countries overrun by them were occupied by
inferior races, whose blood must have mingled in varying
degrees with that of their conquerors; but that every
Indo-European people is in great part descended from a common
Aryan stock is not open to question.

In the second place, along with a common fund of moral and
religious ideas and of legal and ceremonial observances, we
find these kindred peoples possessed of a common fund of
myths, superstitions, proverbs, popular poetry, and household
legends. The Hindu mother amuses her child with fairy-tales
which often correspond, even in minor incidents, with stories
in Scottish or Scandinavian nurseries; and she tells them in
words which are phonetically akin to words in Swedish and
Gaelic. No doubt many of these stories might have been devised
in a dozen different places independently of each other; and
no doubt many of them have been transmitted laterally from one
people to another; but a careful examination shows that such
cannot have been the case with the great majority of legends
and beliefs. The agreement between two such stories, for
instance, as those of Faithful John and Rama and Luxman is so
close as to make it incredible that they should have been
independently fabricated, while the points of difference are
so important as to make it extremely improbable that the one
was ever copied from the other. Besides which, the essential
identity of such myths as those of Sigurd and Theseus, or of
Helena and Sarama, carries us back historically to a time when
the scattered Indo-European tribes had not yet begun to hold
commercial and intellectual intercourse with each other, and
consequently could not have interchanged their epic materials
or their household stories. We are therefore driven to the
conclusion--which, startling as it may seem, is after all the
most natural and plausible one that can be stated--that the
Aryan nations, which have inherited from a common ancestral
stock their languages and their customs, have inherited also
from the same common original their fireside legends. They
have preserved Cinderella and Punchkin just as they have
preserved the words for father and mother, ten and twenty; and
the former case, though more imposing to the imagination, is
scientifically no less intelligible than the latter.

Thirdly, it has been shown that these venerable tales may be
grouped in a few pretty well defined classes; and that the
archetypal myth of each class--the primitive story in
conformity to which countless subsequent tales have been
generated--was originally a mere description of physical
phenomena, couched in the poetic diction of an age when
everything was personified, because all natural phenomena were
supposed to be due to the direct workings of a volition like
that of which men were conscious within themselves. Thus we
are led to the striking conclusion that mythology has had a
common root, both with science and with religious philosophy.
The myth of Indra conquering Vritra was one of the theorems of
primitive Aryan science; it was a provisional explanation of
the thunder-storm, satisfactory enough until extended
observation and reflection supplied a better one. It also
contained the germs of a theology; for the life-giving solar
light furnished an important part of the primeval conception
of deity. And finally, it became the fruitful parent of
countless myths, whether embodied in the stately epics of
Homer and the bards of the Nibelungenlied, or in the humbler
legends of St. George and William Tell and the ubiquitous

Such is the theory which was suggested half a century ago by
the researches of Jacob Grimm, and which, so far as concerns
the mythology of the Aryan race, is now victorious along the
whole line. It remains for us to test the universality of the
general principles upon which it is founded, by a brief
analysis of sundry legends and superstitions of the barbaric
world. Since the fetichistic habit of explaining the outward
phenomena of nature after the analogy of the inward phenomena
of conscious intelligence is not a habit peculiar to our Aryan
ancestors, but is, as psychology shows, the inevitable result
of the conditions under which uncivilized thinking proceeds,
we may expect to find the barbaric mind personifying the
powers of nature and making myths about their operations the
whole world over. And we need not be surprised if we find in
the resulting mythologic structures a strong resemblance to
the familiar creations of the Aryan intelligence. In point of
fact, we shall often be called upon to note such resemblance;
and it accordingly behooves us at the outset to inquire how
far a similarity between mythical tales shall be taken as
evidence of a common traditional origin, and how far it may be
interpreted as due merely to the similar workings of the
untrained intelligence in all ages and countries.

Analogies drawn from the comparison of languages will here be
of service to us, if used discreetly; otherwise they are
likely to bewilder far more than to enlighten us. A theorem
which Max Muller has laid down for our guidance in this kind
of investigation furnishes us with an excellent example of the
tricks which a superficial analogy may play even with the
trained scholar, when temporarily off his guard. Actuated by a
praiseworthy desire to raise the study of myths to something
like the high level of scientific accuracy already attained by
the study of words, Max Muller endeavours to introduce one of
the most useful canons of philology into a department of
inquiry where its introduction could only work the most
hopeless confusion. One of the earliest lessons to be learned
by the scientific student of linguistics is the uselessness of
comparing together directly the words contained in derivative
languages. For example, you might set the English twelve side
by side with the Latin duodecim, and then stare at the two
words to all eternity without any hope of reaching a
conclusion, good or bad, about either of them: least of all
would you suspect that they are descended from the same
radical. But if you take each word by itself and trace it back
to its primitive shape, explaining every change of every
letter as you go, you will at last reach the old Aryan
dvadakan, which is the parent of both these strangely
metamorphosed words.[130] Nor will it do, on the other hand,
to trust to verbal similarity without a historical inquiry
into the origin of such similarity. Even in the same language
two words of quite different origin may get their corners
rubbed off till they look as like one another as two pebbles.
The French words souris, a "mouse," and souris, a "smile," are
spelled exactly alike; but the one comes from Latin sorex and
the other from Latin subridere.

[130] For the analysis of twelve, see my essay on "The Genesis
of Language," North American Review, October 1869, p. 320.

Now Max Muller tells us that this principle, which is
indispensable in the study of words, is equally indispensable
in the study of myths.[131] That is, you must not rashly
pronounce the Norse story of the Heartless Giant identical
with the Hindu story of Punchkin, although the two correspond
in every essential incident. In both legends a magician turns
several members of the same family into stone; the youngest
member of the family comes to the rescue, and on the way saves
the lives of sundry grateful beasts; arrived at the magician's
castle, he finds a captive princess ready to accept his love
and to play the part of Delilah to the enchanter. In both
stories the enchanter's life depends on the integrity of
something which is elaborately hidden in a far-distant island,
but which the fortunate youth, instructed by the artful
princess and assisted by his menagerie of grateful beasts,
succeeds in obtaining. In both stories the youth uses his
advantage to free all his friends from their enchantment, and
then proceeds to destroy the villain who wrought all this
wickedness. Yet, in spite of this agreement, Max Muller, if I
understand him aright, would not have us infer the identity of
the two stories until we have taken each one separately and
ascertained its primitive mythical significance. Otherwise,
for aught we can tell, the resemblance may be purely
accidental, like that of the French words for "mouse" and

[131] Chips from a German Workshop, Vol. II. p. 246.

A little reflection, however, will relieve us from this
perplexity, and assure us that the alleged analogy between the
comparison of words and the comparison of stories is utterly
superficial. The transformations of words--which are often
astounding enough--depend upon a few well-established
physiological principles of utterance; and since philology has
learned to rely upon these principles, it has become nearly as
sure in its methods and results as one of the so-called "exact
sciences." Folly enough is doubtless committed within its
precincts by writers who venture there without the laborious
preparation which this science, more than almost any other,
demands. But the proceedings of the trained philologist are no
more arbitrary than those of the trained astronomer. And
though the former may seem to be straining at a gnat and
swallowing a camel when he coolly tells you that violin and
fiddle are the same word, while English care and Latin cura
have nothing to do with each other, he is nevertheless no more
indulging in guess-work than the astronomer who confesses his
ignorance as to the habitability of Venus while asserting his
knowledge of the existence of hydrogen in the atmosphere of
Sirius. To cite one example out of a hundred, every
philologist knows that s may become r, and that the broad
a-sound may dwindle into the closer o-sound; but when you
adduce some plausible etymology based on the assumption that r
has changed into s, or o into a, apart from the demonstrable
influence of some adjacent letter, the philologist will shake
his head.

Now in the study of stories there are no such simple rules all
cut and dried for us to go by. There is no uniform
psychological principle which determines that the three-headed
snake in one story shall become a three-headed man in the
next. There is no Grimm's Law in mythology which decides that
a Hindu magician shall always correspond to a Norwegian Troll
or a Keltic Druid. The laws of association of ideas are not so
simple in application as the laws of utterance. In short, the
study of myths, though it can be made sufficiently scientific
in its methods and results, does not constitute a science by
itself, like philology. It stands on a footing similar to that
occupied by physical geography, or what the Germans call
"earth-knowledge." No one denies that all the changes going on
over the earth's surface conform to physical laws; but then no
one pretends that there is any single proximate principle
which governs all the phenomena of rain-fall, of
soil-crumbling, of magnetic variation, and of the distribution
of plants and animals. All these things are explained by
principles obtained from the various sciences of physics,
chemistry, geology, and physiology. And in just the same way
the development and distribution of stories is explained by
the help of divers resources contributed by philology,
psychology, and history. There is therefore no real analogy
between the cases cited by Max Muller. Two unrelated words may
be ground into exactly the same shape, just as a pebble from
the North Sea may be undistinguishable from another pebble on
the beach of the Adriatic; but two stories like those of
Punchkin and the Heartless Giant are no more likely to arise
independently of each other than two coral reefs on opposite
sides of the globe are likely to develop into exactly similar

Shall we then say boldly, that close similarity between
legends is proof of kinship, and go our way without further
misgivings? Unfortunately we cannot dispose of the matter in
quite so summary a fashion; for it remains to decide what kind
and degree of similarity shall be considered satisfactory
evidence of kinship. And it is just here that doctors may
disagree. Here is the point at which our "science" betrays its
weakness as compared with the sister study of philology.
Before we can decide with confidence in any case, a great mass
of evidence must be brought into court. So long as we remained
on Aryan ground, all went smoothly enough, because all the
external evidence was in our favour. We knew at the outset,
that the Aryans inherit a common language and a common
civilization, and therefore we found no difficulty in
accepting the conclusion that they have inherited, among other
things, a common stock of legends. In the barbaric world it is
quite otherwise. Philology does not pronounce in favour of a
common origin for all barbaric culture, such as it is. The
notion of a single primitive language, standing in the same
relation to all existing dialects as the relation of old Aryan
to Latin and English, or that of old Semitic to Hebrew and
Arabic, was a notion suited only to the infancy of linguistic
science. As the case now stands, it is certain that all the
languages actually existing cannot be referred to a common
ancestor, and it is altogether probable that there never was
any such common ancestor. I am not now referring to the
question of the unity of the human race. That question lies
entirely outside the sphere of philology. The science of
language has nothing to do with skulls or complexions, and no
comparison of words can tell us whether the black men are
brethren of the white men, or whether yellow and red men have
a common pedigree: these questions belong to comparative
physiology. But the science of language can and does tell us
that a certain amount of civilization is requisite for the
production of a language sufficiently durable and wide-spread
to give birth to numerous mutually resembling offspring
Barbaric languages are neither widespread nor durable. Among
savages each little group of families has its own dialect, and
coins its own expressions at pleasure; and in the course of
two or three generations a dialect gets so strangely altered
as virtually to lose its identity. Even numerals and personal
pronouns, which the Aryan has preserved for fifty centuries,
get lost every few years in Polynesia. Since the time of
Captain Cook the Tahitian language has thrown away five out of
its ten simple numerals, and replaced them by brand-new ones;
and on the Amazon you may acquire a fluent command of some
Indian dialect, and then, coming back after twenty years, find
yourself worse off than Rip Van Winkle, and your learning all
antiquated and useless. How absurd, therefore, to suppose that
primeval savages originated a language which has held its own
like the old Aryan and become the prolific mother of the three
or four thousand dialects now in existence! Before a durable
language can arise, there must be an aggregation of numerous
tribes into a people, so that there may be need of
communication on a large scale, and so that tradition may be
strengthened. Wherever mankind have associated in nations,
permanent languages have arisen, and their derivative dialects
bear the conspicuous marks of kinship; but where mankind have
remained in their primitive savage isolation, their languages
have remained sporadic and transitory, incapable of organic
development, and showing no traces of a kinship which never

The bearing of these considerations upon the origin and
diffusion of barbaric myths is obvious. The development of a
common stock of legends is, of course, impossible, save where
there is a common language; and thus philology pronounces
against the kinship of barbaric myths with each other and with
similar myths of the Aryan and Semitic worlds. Similar stories
told in Greece and Norway are likely to have a common
pedigree, because the persons who have preserved them in
recollection speak a common language and have inherited the
same civilization. But similar stories told in Labrador and
South Africa are not likely to be genealogically related,
because it is altogether probable that the Esquimaux and the
Zulu had acquired their present race characteristics before
either of them possessed a language or a culture sufficient
for the production of myths. According to the nature and
extent of the similarity, it must be decided whether such
stories have been carried about from one part of the world to
another, or have been independently originated in many
different places.

Here the methods of philology suggest a rule which will often
be found useful. In comparing, the vocabularies of different
languages, those words which directly imitate natural sounds--
such as whiz, crash, crackle--are not admitted as evidence of
kinship between the languages in which they occur.
Resemblances between such words are obviously no proof of a
common ancestry; and they are often met with in languages
which have demonstrably had no connection with each other. So
in mythology, where we find two stories of which the primitive
character is perfectly transparent, we need have no difficulty
in supposing them to have originated independently. The myth
of Jack and his Beanstalk is found all over the world; but the
idea of a country above the sky, to which persons might gain
access by climbing, is one which could hardly fail to occur to
every barbarian. Among the American tribes, as well as among
the Aryans, the rainbow and the Milky-Way have contributed the
idea of a Bridge of the Dead, over which souls must pass on
the way to the other world. In South Africa, as well as in
Germany, the habits of the fox and of his brother the jackal
have given rise to fables in which brute force is overcome by
cunning. In many parts of the world we find curiously similar
stories devised to account for the stumpy tails of the bear
and hyaena, the hairless tail of the rat, and the blindness of
the mole. And in all countries may be found the beliefs that
men may be changed into beasts, or plants, or stones; that the
sun is in some way tethered or constrained to follow a certain
course; that the storm-cloud is a ravenous dragon; and that
there are talismans which will reveal hidden treasures. All
these conceptions are so obvious to the uncivilized
intelligence, that stories founded upon them need not be
supposed to have a common origin, unless there turns out to be
a striking similarity among their minor details. On the other
hand, the numerous myths of an all-destroying deluge have
doubtless arisen partly from reminiscences of actually
occurring local inundations, and partly from the fact that the
Scriptural account of a deluge has been carried all over the
world by Catholic and Protestant missionaries.[132]

[132] For various legends of a deluge, see Baring-Gould,
Legends of the Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 85-106.

By way of illustrating these principles, let us now cite a few
of the American myths so carefully collected by Dr. Brinton in
his admirable treatise. We shall not find in the mythology of
the New World the wealth of wit and imagination which has so
long delighted us in the stories of Herakles, Perseus, Hermes,
Sigurd, and Indra. The mythic lore of the American Indians is
comparatively scanty and prosaic, as befits the product of a
lower grade of culture and a more meagre intellect. Not only
are the personages less characteristically pourtrayed, but
there is a continual tendency to extravagance, the sure index
of an inferior imagination. Nevertheless, after making due
allowances for differences in the artistic method of
treatment, there is between the mythologies of the Old and the
New Worlds a fundamental resemblance. We come upon solar myths
and myths of the storm curiously blended with culture-myths,
as in the cases of Hermes, Prometheus, and Kadmos. The
American parallels to these are to be found in the stories of
Michabo, Viracocha, Ioskeha, and Quetzalcoatl. "As elsewhere
the world over, so in America, many tribes had to tell of ....
an august character, who taught them what they knew,--the
tillage of the soil, the properties of plants, the art of
picture-writing, the secrets of magic; who founded their
institutions and established their religions; who governed
them long with glory abroad and peace at home; and finally did
not die, but, like Frederic Barbarossa, Charlemagne, King
Arthur, and all great heroes, vanished mysteriously, and still
lives somewhere, ready at the right moment to return to his
beloved people and lead them to victory and happiness."[133]
Everyone is familiar with the numerous legends of
white-skinned, full-bearded heroes, like the mild
Quetzalcoatl, who in times long previous to Columbus came from
the far East to impart the rudiments of civilization and
religion to the red men. By those who first heard these
stories they were supposed, with naive Euhemerism, to refer to
pre-Columbian visits of Europeans to this continent, like that
of the Northmen in the tenth century. But a scientific study
of the subject has dissipated such notions. These legends are
far too numerous, they are too similar to each other, they are
too manifestly symbolical, to admit of any such
interpretation. By comparing them carefully with each other,
and with correlative myths of the Old World, their true
character soon becomes apparent.

[133] Brinton, Myths of the New World, p. 160.

One of the most widely famous of these culture-heroes was
Manabozho or Michabo, the Great Hare. With entire unanimity,
says Dr. Brinton, the various branches of the Algonquin race,
"the Powhatans of Virginia, the Lenni Lenape of the Delaware,
the warlike hordes of New England, the Ottawas of the far
North, and the Western tribes, perhaps without exception,
spoke of this chimerical beast,' as one of the old
missionaries calls it, as their common ancestor. The totem, or
clan, which bore his name was looked up to with peculiar
respect." Not only was Michabo the ruler and guardian of these
numerous tribes,--he was the founder of their religious
rites, the inventor of picture-writing, the ruler of the
weather, the creator and preserver of earth and heaven. "From
a grain of sand brought from the bottom of the primeval ocean
he fashioned the habitable land, and set it floating on the
waters till it grew to such a size that a strong young wolf,
running constantly, died of old age ere he reached its
limits." He was also, like Nimrod, a mighty hunter. "One of
his footsteps measured eight leagues, the Great Lakes were the
beaver-dams he built, and when the cataracts impeded his
progress he tore them away with his hands." "Sometimes he was
said to dwell in the skies with his brother, the Snow, or,
like many great spirits, to have built his wigwam in the far
North on some floe of ice in the Arctic Ocean..... But in the
oldest accounts of the missionaries he was alleged to reside
toward the East; and in the holy formulae of the meda craft,
when the winds are invoked to the medicine lodge, the East is
summoned in his name, the door opens in that direction, and
there, at the edge of the earth where the sun rises, on the
shore of the infinite ocean that surrounds the land, he has
his house, and sends the luminaries forth on their daily
journeys."[134] From such accounts as this we see that Michabo
was no more a wise instructor and legislator than Minos or
Kadmos. Like these heroes, he is a personification of the
solar life-giving power, which daily comes forth from its home
in the east, making the earth to rejoice. The etymology of his
name confirms the otherwise clear indications of the legend
itself. It is compounded of michi, "great," and wabos, which
means alike "hare" and "white." "Dialectic forms in Algonquin
for white are wabi, wape, wampi, etc.; for morning, wapan,
wapanch, opah; for east, wapa, wanbun, etc.; for day, wompan,
oppan; for light, oppung." So that Michabo is the Great White
One, the God of the Dawn and the East. And the etymological
confusion, by virtue of which he acquired his soubriquet of
the Great Hare, affords a curious parallel to what has often
happened in Aryan and Semitic mythology, as we saw when
discussing the subject of werewolves.

[134] Brinton, op. cit. p. 163.

Keeping in mind this solar character of Michabo, let us note
how full of meaning are the myths concerning him. In the first
cycle of these legends, "he is grandson of the Moon, his
father is the West Wind, and his mother, a maiden, dies in
giving him birth at the moment of conception. For the Moon is
the goddess of night; the Dawn is her daughter, who brings
forth the Morning, and perishes herself in the act; and the
West, the spirit of darkness, as the East is of light,
precedes, and as it were begets the latter, as the evening
does the morning. Straightway, however, continues the legend,
the son sought the unnatural father to revenge the death of
his mother, and then commenced a long and desperate struggle.
It began on the mountains. The West was forced to give ground.
Manabozho drove him across rivers and over mountains and
lakes, and at last he came to the brink of this world. 'Hold,'
cried he, 'my son, you know my power, and that it is
impossible to kill me.' What is this but the diurnal combat of
light and darkness, carried on from what time 'the jocund morn
stands tiptoe on the misty mountain-tops,' across the wide
world to the sunset, the struggle that knows no end, for both
the opponents are immortal?"[135]

[135] Brinton, op. cit. p. 167.

Even the Veda nowhere affords a more transparent narrative
than this. The Iroquois tradition is very similar. In it
appear twin brothers,[136] born of a virgin mother, daughter
of the Moon, who died in giving them life. Their names,
Ioskeha and Tawiskara, signify in the Oneida dialect the White
One and the Dark One. Under the influence of Christian ideas
the contest between the brothers has been made to assume a
moral character, like the strife between Ormuzd and Ahriman.
But no such intention appears in the original myth, and Dr.
Brinton has shown that none of the American tribes had any
conception of a Devil. When the quarrel came to blows, the
dark brother was signally discomfited; and the victorious
Ioskeha, returning to his grandmother, "established his lodge
in the far East, on the horders of the Great Ocean, whence the
sun comes. In time he became the father of mankind, and
special guardian of the Iroquois." He caused the earth to
bring forth, he stocked the woods with game, and taught his
children the use of fire. "He it was who watched and watered
their crops; 'and, indeed, without his aid,' says the old
missionary, quite out of patience with their puerilities,
'they think they could not boil a pot.' " There was more in it
than poor Brebouf thought, as we are forcibly reminded by
recent discoveries in physical science. Even civilized men
would find it difficult to boil a pot without the aid of solar
energy. Call him what we will,--Ioskeha, Michabo, or
Phoibos,--the beneficent Sun is the master and sustainer of us
all; and if we were to relapse into heathenism, like
Erckmann-Chatrian's innkeeper, we could not do better than to
select him as our chief object of worship.

[136] Corresponding, in various degrees, to the Asvins, the
Dioskouroi, and the brothers True and Untrue of Norse

The same principles by which these simple cases are explained
furnish also the key to the more complicated mythology of
Mexico and Peru. Like the deities just discussed, Viracocha,
the supreme god of the Quichuas, rises from the bosom of Lake
Titicaca and journeys westward, slaying with his lightnings
the creatures who oppose him, until he finally disappears in
the Western Ocean. Like Aphrodite, he bears in his name the
evidence of his origin, Viracocha signifying "foam of the
sea"; and hence the "White One" (l'aube), the god of light
rising white on the horizon, like the foam on the surface of
the waves. The Aymaras spoke of their original ancestors as
white; and to this day, as Dr. Brinton informs us, the
Peruvians call a white man Viracocha. The myth of Quetzalcoatl
is of precisely the same character. All these solar heroes
present in most of their qualities and achievements a striking
likeness to those of the Old World. They combine the
attributes of Apollo, Herakles, and Hermes. Like Herakles,
they journey from east to west, smiting the powers of
darkness, storm, and winter with the thunderbolts of Zeus or
the unerring arrows of Phoibos, and sinking in a blaze of
glory on the western verge of the world, where the waves meet
the firmament. Or like Hermes, in a second cycle of legends,
they rise with the soft breezes of a summer morning, driving
before them the bright celestial cattle whose udders are heavy
with refreshing rain, fanning the flames which devour the
forests, blustering at the doors of wigwams, and escaping with
weird laughter through vents and crevices. The white skins and
flowing beards of these American heroes may be aptly compared
to the fair faces and long golden locks of their Hellenic
compeers. Yellow hair was in all probability as rare in Greece
as a full beard in Peru or Mexico; but in each case the
description suits the solar character of the hero. One
important class of incidents, however is apparently quite
absent from the American legends. We frequently see the Dawn
described as a virgin mother who dies in giving birth to the
Day; but nowhere do we remember seeing her pictured as a
lovely or valiant or crafty maiden, ardently wooed, but
speedily forsaken by her solar lover. Perhaps in no respect is
the superior richness and beauty of the Aryan myths more
manifest than in this. Brynhild, Urvasi, Medeia, Ariadne,
Oinone, and countless other kindred heroines, with their
brilliant legends, could not be spared from the mythology of
our ancestors without, leaving it meagre indeed. These were
the materials which Kalidasa, the Attic dramatists, and the
bards of the Nibelungen found ready, awaiting their artistic
treatment. But the mythology of the New World, with all its
pretty and agreeable naivete, affords hardly enough, either of
variety in situation or of complexity in motive, for a grand
epic or a genuine tragedy.

But little reflection is needed to assure us that the
imagination of the barbarian, who either carries away his wife
by brute force or buys her from her relatives as he would buy
a cow, could never have originated legends in which maidens
are lovingly solicited, or in which their favour is won by the
performance of deeds of valour. These stories owe their
existence to the romantic turn of mind which has always
characterized the Aryan, whose civilization, even in the times
before the dispersion of his race, was sufficiently advanced
to allow of his entertaining such comparatively exalted
conceptions of the relations between men and women. The
absence of these myths from barbaric folk-lore is, therefore,
just what might be expected; but it is a fact which militates
against any possible hypothesis of the common origin of Aryan
and barbaric mythology. If there were any genetic relationship
between Sigurd and Ioskeha, between Herakles and Michabo, it
would be hard to tell why Brynhild and Iole should have
disappeared entirely from one whole group of legends, while
retained, in some form or other, throughout the whole of the
other group. On the other hand, the resemblances above noticed
between Aryan and American mythology fall very far short of
the resemblances between the stories told in different parts
of the Aryan domain. No barbaric legend, of genuine barbaric
growth, has yet been cited which resembles any Aryan legend as
the story of Punchkin resembles the story of the Heartless
Giant. The myths of Michabo and Viracocha are direct copies,
so to speak, of natural phenomena, just as imitative words are
direct copies of natural sounds. Neither the Redskin nor the
Indo-European had any choice as to the main features of the
career of his solar divinity. He must be born of the
Night,--or of the Dawn,--must travel westward, must slay
harassing demons. Eliminating these points of likeness, the
resemblance between the Aryan and barbaric legends is at once
at an end. Such an identity in point of details as that
between the wooden horse which enters Ilion, and the horse
which bears Sigurd into the place where Brynhild is
imprisoned, and the Druidic steed which leaps with Sculloge
over the walls of Fiach's enchanted castle, is, I believe,
nowhere to be found after we leave Indo-European territory.

Our conclusion, therefore, must be, that while the legends of
the Aryan and the non-Aryan worlds contain common mythical
elements, the legends themselves are not of common origin. The
fact that certain mythical ideas are possessed alike by
different races, shows that in each case a similar human
intelligence has been at work explaining similar phenomena;
but in order to prove a family relationship between the
culture of these different races, we need something more than
this. We need to prove not only a community of mythical ideas,
but also a community between the stories based upon these
ideas. We must show not only that Michabo is like Herakles in
those striking features which the contemplation of solar
phenomena would necessarily suggest to the imagination of the
primitive myth-maker, but also that the two characters are
similarly conceived, and that the two careers agree in
seemingly arbitrary points of detail, as is the case in the
stories of Punchkin and the Heartless Giant. The mere fact
that solar heroes, all over the world, travel in a certain
path and slay imps of darkness is of great value as throwing
light upon primeval habits of thought, but it is of no value
as evidence for or against an alleged community of
civilization between different races. The same is true of the
sacredness universally attached to certain numbers. Dr.
Blinton's opinion that the sanctity of the number four in
nearly all systems of mythology is due to a primitive worship
of the cardinal points, becomes very probable when we
recollect that the similar pre-eminence of seven is almost
demonstrably connected with the adoration of the sun, moon,
and five visible planets, which has left its record in the
structure and nomenclature of the Aryan and Semitic week.[137]

[137] See Humboldt's Kosmos, Tom. III. pp. 469-476. A
fetichistic regard for the cardinal points has not always been
absent from the minds of persons instructed in a higher
theology as witness a well-known passage in Irenaeus, and also
the custom, well-nigh universal in Europe, of building
Christian churches in a line east and west.

In view of these considerations, the comparison of barbaric
myths with each other and with the legends of the Aryan world
becomes doubly interesting, as illustrating the similarity in
the workings of the untrained intelligence the world over. In
our first paper we saw how the moon-spots have been variously
explained by Indo-Europeans, as a man with a thorn-bush or as
two children bearing a bucket of water on a pole. In Ceylon it
is said that as Sakyamuni was one day wandering half starved
in the forest, a pious hare met him, and offered itself to him
to be slain and cooked for dinner; whereupon the holy Buddha
set it on high in the moon, that future generations of men
might see it and marvel at its piety. In the Samoan Islands
these dark patches are supposed to be portions of a woman's
figure. A certain woman was once hammering something with a
mallet, when the moon arose, looking so much like a
bread-fruit that the woman asked it to come down and let her
child eat off a piece of it; but the moon, enraged at the
insult, gobbled up woman, mallet, and child, and there, in the
moon's belly, you may still behold them. According to the
Hottentots, the Moon once sent the Hare to inform men that as
she died away and rose again, so should men die and again come
to life. But the stupid Hare forgot the purport of the
message, and, coming down to the earth, proclaimed it far and
wide that though the Moon was invariably resuscitated whenever
she died, mankind, on the other hand, should die and go to the
Devil. When the silly brute returned to the lunar country and
told what he had done, the Moon was so angry that she took up
an axe and aimed a blow at his head to split it. But the axe
missed and only cut his lip open; and that was the origin of
the "hare-lip." Maddened by the pain and the insult, the Hare
flew at the Moon and almost scratched her eyes out; and to
this day she bears on her face the marks of the Hare's

[138] Bleek, Hottentot Fables and Tales, p. 72. Compare the
Fiji story of Ra Vula, the Moon, and Ra Kalavo, the Rat, in
Tylor, Primitive Culture, I. 321.

Again, every reader of the classics knows how Selene cast
Endymion into a profound slumber because he refused her love,
and how at sundown she used to come and stand above him on the
Latmian hill, and watch him as he lay asleep on the marble
steps of a temple half hidden among drooping elm-trees, over
which clambered vines heavy with dark blue grapes. This
represents the rising moon looking down on the setting sun; in
Labrador a similar phenomenon has suggested a somewhat
different story. Among the Esquimaux the Sun is a maiden and
the Moon is her brother, who is overcome by a wicked passion
for her. Once, as this girl was at a dancing-party in a
friend's hut, some one came up and took hold of her by the
shoulders and shook her, which is (according to the legend)
the Esquimaux manner of declaring one's love. She could not
tell who it was in the dark, and so she dipped her hand in
some soot and smeared one of his cheeks with it. When a light
was struck in the hut, she saw, to her dismay, that it was her
brother, and, without waiting to learn any more, she took to
her heels. He started in hot pursuit, and so they ran till
they got to the end of the world,--the jumping-off
place,--when they both jumped into the sky. There the Moon
still chases his sister, the Sun; and every now and then he
turns his sooty cheek toward the earth, when he becomes so
dark that you cannot see him.[139]

[139] Tylor, Early History of Mankind, p. 327.

Another story, which I cite from Mr. Tylor, shows that Malays,
as well as Indo-Europeans, have conceived of the clouds as
swan-maidens. In the island of Celebes it is said that "seven
heavenly nymphs came down from the sky to bathe, and they were
seen by Kasimbaha, who thought first that they were white
doves, but in the bath he saw that they were women. Then he
stole one of the thin robes that gave the nymphs their power
of flying, and so he caught Utahagi, the one whose robe he had
stolen, and took her for his wife, and she bore him a son. Now
she was called Utahagi from a single white hair she had, which
was endowed with magic power, and this hair her husband pulled
out. As soon as he had done it, there arose a great storm, and
Utahagi went up to heaven. The child cried for its mother, and
Kasimbaha was in great grief, and cast about how he should
follow Utahagi up into the sky." Here we pass to the myth of
Jack and the Beanstalk. "A rat gnawed the thorns off the
rattans, and Kasimbaha clambered up by them with his son upon
his back, till he came to heaven. There a little bird showed
him the house of Utahagi, and after various adventures he took
up his abode among the gods."[140]

[140] Tylor, op. cit., p. 346.

In Siberia we find a legend of swan-maidens, which also
reminds us of the story of the Heartless Giant. A certain
Samojed once went out to catch foxes, and found seven maidens
swimming in a lake surrounded by gloomy pine-trees, while
their feather dresses lay on the shore. He crept up and stole
one of these dresses, and by and by the swan-maiden came to
him shivering with cold and promising to become his wife if he
would only give her back her garment of feathers. The
ungallant fellow, however, did not care for a wife, but a
little revenge was not unsuited to his way of thinking. There
were seven robbers who used to prowl about the neighbourhood,
and who, when they got home, finding their hearts in the way,
used to hang them up on some pegs in the tent. One of these
robbers had killed the Samojed's mother; and so he promised to
return the swan-maiden's dress after she should have procured
for him these seven hearts. So she stole the hearts, and the
Samojed smashed six of them, and then woke up the seventh
robber, and told him to restore his mother to life, on pain of
instant death, Then the robber produced a purse containing the
old woman's soul, and going to the graveyard shook it over her
bones, and she revived at once. Then the Samojed smashed the
seventh heart, and the robber died; and so the swan-maiden got
back her plumage and flew away rejoicing.[141]

[141] Baring-Gould, Curious Myths, II. 299-302.

Swan-maidens are also, according to Mr. Baring-Gould, found
among the Minussinian Tartars. But there they appear as foul
demons, like the Greek Harpies, who delight in drinking the
blood of men slain in battle. There are forty of them, who
darken the whole firmament in their flight; but sometimes they
all coalesce into one great black storm-fiend, who rages for
blood, like a werewolf.

In South Africa we find the werewolf himself.[142] A certain
Hottentot was once travelling with a Bushwoman and her child,
when they perceived at a distance a troop of wild horses. The
man, being hungry, asked the woman to turn herself into a
lioness and catch one of these horses, that they might eat of
it; whereupon the woman set down her child, and taking off a
sort of petticoat made of human skin became instantly
transformed into a lioness, which rushed across the plain,
struck down a wild horse and lapped its blood. The man climbed
a tree in terror, and conjured his companion to resume her
natural shape. Then the lioness came back, and putting on the
skirt made of human skin reappeared as a woman, and took up
her child, and the two friends resumed their journey after
making a meal of the horse's flesh.[143]

[142] Speaking of beliefs in the Malay Archipelago, Mr.
Wallace says: "It is universally believed in Lombock that some
men have the power to turn themselves into crocodiles, which
they do for the sake of devouring their enemies, and many
strange tales are told of such transformations." Wallace,
Malay Archipelago, Vol. I. p. 251.

[143] Bleek, Hottentot Fables and Tales, p. 58.

The werewolf also appears in North America, duly furnished
with his wolf-skin sack; but neither in America nor in Africa
is he the genuine European werewolf, inspired by a diabolic
frenzy, and ravening for human flesh. The barbaric myths
testify to the belief that men can be changed into beasts or
have in some cases descended from beast ancestors, but the
application of this belief to the explanation of abnormal
cannibal cravings seems to have been confined to Europe. The
werewolf of the Middle Ages was not merely a transformed
man,--he was an insane cannibal, whose monstrous appetite, due
to the machinations of the Devil, showed its power over his
physical organism by changing the shape of it. The barbaric
werewolf is the product of a lower and simpler kind of
thinking. There is no diabolism about him; for barbaric races,
while believing in the existence of hurtful and malicious
fiends, have not a sufficiently vivid sense of moral abnormity
to form the conception of diabolism. And the cannibal craving,
which to the mediaeval European was a phenomenon so strange as
to demand a mythological explanation, would not impress the
barbarian as either very exceptional or very blameworthy.

In the folk-lore of the Zulus, one of the most quick-witted
and intelligent of African races, the cannibal possesses many
features in common with the Scandinavian Troll, who also has a
liking for human flesh. As we saw in the preceding paper, the
Troll has very likely derived some of his characteristics from
reminiscences of the barbarous races who preceded the Aryans
in Central and Northern Europe. In like manner the long-haired
cannibal of Zulu nursery literature, who is always represented
as belonging to a distinct race, has been supposed to be
explained by the existence of inferior races conquered and
displaced by the Zulus. Nevertheless, as Dr. Callaway
observes, neither the long-haired mountain cannibals of
Western Africa, nor the Fulahs, nor the tribes of Eghedal
described by Barth, "can be considered as answering to the
description of long-haired as given in the Zulu legends of
cannibals; neither could they possibly have formed their
historical basis..... It is perfectly clear that the cannibals
of the Zulu legends are not common men; they are magnified
into giants and magicians; they are remarkably swift and
enduring; fierce and terrible warriors." Very probably they
may have a mythical origin in modes of thought akin to those
which begot the Panis of the Veda and the Northern Trolls. The
parallelism is perhaps the most remarkable one which can be
found in comparing barbaric with Aryan folk-lore. Like the
Panis and Trolls, the cannibals are represented as the foes of
the solar hero Uthlakanyana, who is almost as great a
traveller as Odysseus, and whose presence of mind amid trying
circumstances is not to be surpassed by that of the
incomparable Boots. Uthlakanyana is as precocious as Herakles
or Hermes. He speaks before he is born, and no sooner has he
entered the world than he begins to outwit other people and
get possession of their property. He works bitter ruin for the
cannibals, who, with all their strength and fleetness, are no
better endowed with quick wit than the Trolls, whom Boots
invariably victimizes. On one of his journeys, Uthlakanyana
fell in with a cannibal. Their greetings were cordial enough,
and they ate a bit of leopard together, and began to build a
house, and killed a couple of cows, but the cannibal's cow was
lean, while Uthlakanyana's was fat. Then the crafty traveller,
fearing that his companion might insist upon having the fat
cow, turned and said, " 'Let the house be thatched now then we
can eat our meat. You see the sky, that we shall get wet.'
The cannibal said, 'You are right, child of my sister; you are
a man indeed in saying, let us thatch the house, for we shall
get wet.' Uthlakanyana said, 'Do you do it then; I will go
inside, and push the thatching-needle for you, in the house.'
The cannibal went up. His hair was very, very long.
Uthlakanyana went inside and pushed the needle for him. He
thatched in the hair of the cannibal, tying it very tightly;
he knotted it into the thatch constantly, taking it by
separate locks and fastening it firmly, that it might be
tightly fastened to the house." Then the rogue went outside
and began to eat of the cow which was roasted. "The cannibal
said, 'What are you about, child of my sister? Let us just
finish the house; afterwards we can do that; we will do it
together.' Uthlakanyana replied, 'Come down then. I cannot go
into the house any more. The thatching is finished.' The
cannibal assented. When he thought he was going to quit the
house, he was unable to quit it. He cried out saying, 'Child
of my sister, how have you managed your thatching?'
Uthlakanyana said, 'See to it yourself. I have thatched well,
for I shall not have any dispute. Now I am about to eat in
peace; I no longer dispute with anybody, for I am now alone
with my cow.' " So the cannibal cried and raved and appealed
in vain to Uthlakanyana's sense of justice, until by and by
"the sky came with hailstones and lightning Uthlakanyana took
all the meat into the house; he stayed in the house and lit a
fire. It hailed and rained. The cannibal cried on the top of
the house; he was struck with the hailstones, and died there
on the house. It cleared. Uthlakanyana went out and said,
'Uncle, just come down, and come to me. It has become clear.
It no longer rains, and there is no more hail, neither is
there any more lightning. Why are you silent?' So
Uthlakanyana ate his cow alone, until he had finished it. He
then went on his way."[144]

[144] Callaway, Zulu Nursery Tales, pp. 27-30.

In another Zulu legend, a girl is stolen by cannibals, and
shut up in the rock Itshe-likantunjambili, which, like the
rock of the Forty Thieves, opens and shuts at the command of
those who understand its secret. She gets possession of the
secret and escapes, and when the monsters pursue her she
throws on the ground a calabash full of sesame, which they
stop to eat. At last, getting tired of running, she climbs a
tree, and there she finds her brother, who, warned by a dream,
has come out to look for her. They ascend the tree together
until they come to a beautiful country well stocked with fat
oxen. They kill an ox, and while its flesh is roasting they
amuse themselves by making a stout thong of its hide. By and
by one of the cannibals, smelling the cooking meat, comes to
the foot of the tree, and looking up discovers the boy and
girl in the sky-country! They invite him up there; to share in
their feast, and throw him an end of the thong by which to
climb up. When the cannibal is dangling midway between earth
and heaven, they let go the rope, and down he falls with a
terrible crash.[145]

[145] Callaway, op. cit. pp. 142-152; cf. a similar story in
which the lion is fooled by the jackal. Bleek, op. cit. p. 7.
I omit the sequel of the tale.

In this story the enchanted rock opened by a talismanic
formula brings us again into contact with Indo-European
folk-lore. And that the conception has in both cases been
suggested by the same natural phenomenon is rendered probable
by another Zulu tale, in which the cannibal's cave is opened
by a swallow which flies in the air. Here we have the elements
of a genuine lightning-myth. We see that among these African
barbarians, as well as among our own forefathers, the clouds
have been conceived as birds carrying the lightning which can
cleave the rocks. In America we find the same notion
prevalent. The Dakotahs explain the thunder as "the sound of
the cloud-bird flapping his wings," and the Caribs describe
the lightning as a poisoned dart which the bird blows through
a hollow reed, after the Carib style of shooting.[146] On the
other hand, the Kamtchatkans know nothing of a cloud-bird, but
explain the lightning as something analogous to the flames of
a volcano. The Kamtchatkans say that when the mountain goblins
have got their stoves well heated up, they throw overboard,
with true barbaric shiftlessness, all the brands not needed
for immediate use, which makes a volcanic eruption. So when it
is summer on earth, it is winter in heaven; and the gods,
after heating up their stoves, throw away their spare
kindlingwood, which makes the lightning.[147]

[146] Brinton, op. cit. p. 104.

[147] Tylor, op. cit. p. 320.

When treating of Indo-European solar myths, we saw the
unvarying, unresting course of the sun variously explained as
due to the subjection of Herakles to Eurystheus, to the anger
of Poseidon at Odysseus, or to the curse laid upon the
Wandering Jew. The barbaric mind has worked at the same
problem; but the explanations which it has given are more
childlike and more grotesque. A Polynesian myth tells how the
Sun used to race through the sky so fast that men could not
get enough daylight to hunt game for their subsistence. By and
by an inventive genius, named Maui, conceived the idea of
catching the Sun in a noose and making him go more
deliberately. He plaited ropes and made a strong net, and,
arming himself with the jawbone of his ancestress,
Muri-ranga-whenua, called together all his brethren, and they
journeyed to the place where the Sun rises, and there spread
the net. When the Sun came up, he stuck his head and fore-paws
into the net, and while the brothers tightened the ropes so
that they cut him and made him scream for mercy, Maui beat him
with the jawbone until he became so weak that ever since he
has only been able to crawl through the sky. According to
another Polynesian myth, there was once a grumbling Radical,
who never could be satisfied with the way in which things are
managed on this earth. This bold Radical set out to build a
stone house which should last forever; but the days were so
short and the stones so heavy that he despaired of ever
accomplishing his project. One night, as he lay awake thinking
the matter over, it occurred to him that if he could catch the
Sun in a net, he could have as much daylight as was needful in
order to finish his house. So he borrowed a noose from the god
Itu, and, it being autumn, when the Sun gets sleepy and
stupid, he easily caught the luminary. The Sun cried till his
tears made a great freshet which nearly drowned the island;
but it was of no use; there he is tethered to this day.

Similar stories are met with in North America. A Dog-Rib
Indian once chased a squirrel up a tree until he reached the
sky. There he set a snare for the squirrel and climbed down
again. Next day the Sun was caught in the snare, and night
came on at once. That is to say, the sun was eclipsed.
"Something wrong up there," thought the Indian, "I must have
caught the Sun"; and so he sent up ever so many animals to
release the captive. They were all burned to ashes, but at
last the mole, going up and burrowing out through the GROUND
OF THE SKY, (!) succeeded in gnawing asunder the cords of the
snare. Just as it thrust its head out through the opening made
in the sky-ground, it received a flash of light which put its
eyes out, and that is why the mole is blind. The Sun got away,
but has ever since travelled more deliberately.[148]

[148] Tylor, op. cit. pp. 338-343.

These sun-myths, many more of which are to be found collected
in Mr. Tylor's excellent treatise on "The Early History of
Mankind," well illustrate both the similarity and the
diversity of the results obtained by the primitive mind, in
different times and countries, when engaged upon similar
problems. No one would think of referring these stories to a
common traditional origin with the myths of Herakles and
Odysseus; yet both classes of tales were devised to explain
the same phenomenon. Both to the Aryan and to the Polynesian
the steadfast but deliberate journey of the sun through the
firmament was a strange circumstance which called for
explanation; but while the meagre intelligence of the
barbarian could only attain to the quaint conception of a man
throwing a noose over the sun's head, the rich imagination of
the Indo-European created the noble picture of Herakles doomed
to serve the son of Sthenelos, in accordance with the
resistless decree of fate.

Another world-wide myth, which shows how similar are the
mental habits of uncivilized men, is the myth of the tortoise.
The Hindu notion of a great tortoise that lies beneath the
earth and keeps it from falling is familiar to every reader.
According to one account, this tortoise, swimming in the
primeval ocean, bears the earth on his back; but by and by,
when the gods get ready to destroy mankind, the tortoise will
grow weary and sink under his load, and then the earth will be
overwhelmed by a deluge. Another legend tells us that when the
gods and demons took Mount Mandara for a churning-stick and
churned the ocean to make ambrosia, the god Vishnu took on the
form of a tortoise and lay at the bottom of the sea, as a
pivot for the whirling mountain to rest upon. But these
versions of the myth are not primitive. In the original
conception the world is itself a gigantic tortoise swimming in
a boundless ocean; the flat surface of the earth is the lower
plate which covers the reptile's belly; the rounded shell
which covers his back is the sky; and the human race lives and
moves and has its being inside of the tortoise. Now, as Mr.
Tylor has pointed out, many tribes of Redskins hold
substantially the same theory of the universe. They regard the
tortoise as the symbol of the world, and address it as the
mother of mankind. Once, before the earth was made, the king
of heaven quarrelled with his wife, and gave her such a
terrible kick that she fell down into the sea. Fortunately a
tortoise received her on his back, and proceeded to raise up
the earth, upon which the heavenly woman became the mother of
mankind. These first men had white faces, and they used to dig
in the ground to catch badgers. One day a zealous burrower
thrust his knife too far and stabbed the tortoise, which
immediately sank into the sea and drowned all the human race
save one man.[149] In Finnish mythology the world is not a
tortoise, but it is an egg, of which the white part is the
ocean, the yolk is the earth, and the arched shell is the sky.
In India this is the mundane egg of Brahma; and it reappears
among the Yorubas as a pair of calabashes put together like
oyster-shells, one making a dome over the other. In Zulu-land
the earth is a huge beast called Usilosimapundu, whose face is
a rock, and whose mouth is very large and broad and red: "in
some countries which were on his body it was winter, and in
others it was early harvest." Many broad rivers flow over his
back, and he is covered with forests and hills, as is
indicated in his name, which means "the rugose or
knotty-backed beast." In this group of conceptions may be seen
the origin of Sindbad's great fish, which lay still so long
that sand and clay gradually accumulated upon its back, and at
last it became covered with trees. And lastly, passing from
barbaric folk-lore and from the Arabian Nights to the highest
level of Indo-European intelligence, do we not find both Plato
and Kepler amusing themselves with speculations in which the
earth figures as a stupendous animal?

[149] Tylor, op. cit. p. 336. November, 1870


[150] Juventus Mundi. The Gods and Men of the Heroic Age. By
the Rt. Hon. William Ewart Gladstone. Boston: Little, Brown,
& Co. 1869.

TWELVE years ago, when, in concluding his "Studies on Homer
and the Homeric Age," Mr. Gladstone applied to himself the
warning addressed by Agamemnon to the priest of Apollo,

"Let not Nemesis catch me by the swift ships."

he would seem to have intended it as a last farewell to
classical studies. Yet, whatever his intentions may have been,
they have yielded to the sweet desire of revisiting familiar
ground,--a desire as strong in the breast of the classical
scholar as was the yearning which led Odysseus to reject the
proffered gift of immortality, so that he might but once more
behold the wreathed smoke curling about the roofs of his
native Ithaka. In this new treatise, on the "Youth of the
World," Mr. Gladstone discusses the same questions which were
treated in his earlier work; and the main conclusions reached
in the "Studies on Homer" are here so little modified with
reference to the recent progress of archaeological inquiries,
that the book can hardly be said to have had any other reason
for appearing, save the desire of loitering by the ships of
the Argives, and of returning thither as often as possible.

The title selected by Mr. Gladstone for his new work is either
a very appropriate one or a strange misnomer, according to the
point of view from which it is regarded. Such being the case,
we might readily acquiesce in its use, and pass it by without
comment, trusting that the author understood himself when he
adopted it, were it not that by incidental references, and
especially by his allusions to the legendary literature of the
Jews, Mr. Gladstone shows that he means more by the title than
it can fairly be made to express. An author who seeks to
determine prehistoric events by references to Kadmos, and
Danaos, and Abraham, is at once liable to the suspicion of
holding very inadequate views as to the character of the epoch
which may properly be termed the "youth of the world." Often
in reading Mr. Gladstone we are reminded of Renan's strange
suggestion that an exploration of the Hindu Kush territory,
whence probably came the primitive Aryans, might throw some
new light on the origin of language. Nothing could well be
more futile. The primitive Aryan language has already been
partly reconstructed for us; its grammatical forms and
syntactic devices are becoming familiar to scholars; one great
philologist has even composed a tale in it; yet in studying
this long-buried dialect we are not much nearer the first
beginnings of human speech than in studying the Greek of
Homer, the Sanskrit of the Vedas, or the Umbrian of the
Igovine Inscriptions. The Aryan mother-tongue had passed into
the last of the three stages of linguistic growth long before
the break-up of the tribal communities in Aryana-vaedjo, and
at that early date presented a less primitive structure than
is to be seen in the Chinese or the Mongolian of our own
times. So the state of society depicted in the Homeric poems,
and well illustrated by Mr. Gladstone, is many degrees less
primitive than that which is revealed to us by the
archaeological researches either of Pictet and Windischmann,
or of Tylor, Lubbock, and M'Lennan. We shall gather evidences
of this as we proceed. Meanwhile let us remember that at least
eleven thousand years before the Homeric age men lived in
communities, and manufactured pottery on the banks of the
Nile; and let us not leave wholly out of sight that more
distant period, perhaps a million years ago, when sparse
tribes of savage men, contemporaneous with the mammoths of
Siberia and the cave-tigers of Britain, struggled against the
intense cold of the glacial winters.

Nevertheless, though the Homeric age appears to be a late one
when considered with reference to the whole career of the
human race, there is a point of view from which it may be
justly regarded as the "youth of the world." However long man
may have existed upon the earth, he becomes thoroughly and
distinctly human in the eyes of the historian only at the
epoch at which he began to create for himself a literature. As
far back as we can trace the progress of the human race
continuously by means of the written word, so far do we feel a
true historical interest in its fortunes, and pursue our
studies with a sympathy which the mere lapse of time is
powerless to impair. But the primeval man, whose history never
has been and never will be written, whose career on the earth,


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