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sire to explain its absurdities or to understand its origin aright.
It is curious to find among the Andamanese a legend closely resembling the European story of the wren, said to have once flown to heaven to bring down fire for mortals, and to have had its tailfeathers singed in consequence. A
flood once put out all the fires of the people, and destroyed most of the human race. To the four sole survivors of mankind, at a loss what to do, one of their deceased friends appeared in the form of a kingfisher. He flew up to the sky where the god Puluga was seated by his fire, seized and endeavored to carry off on his back a burning log, but it fell on Puluga, who, hurling it in anger at the bold intruder, missed the kingfisher, so that the log fell on the very spot where the four fireless ones were deploring their fate.
The similarity between stories in different parts of the earth points to the narrow limits within which human imagination moves when applied to the peculiarities or habits of the animal world. It is in fact almost difficult to believe that the following Odjibwa version of the fable of the hare and the tortoise was of native growth, and not due to contact with Europeans. The fable is taken from a collection of tales purporting to be of Odjibwa origin; and the reader must form his own conclusions. The pigeon-hawk once challenged the tortoise to a race, which the tortoise would only consent to on the condition that the race should extend over several days. The bird accepted the condition. gladly enough, but the tortoise, knowing that his chances of victory depended on his diligence, went down into the earth, and, taking a straight line, stopped for nothing. The hawk, on the contrary, knowing that he could easily beat his competitor, kept carelessly flying this way and that way in the air, stop ping now to visit one and then another, till so much time had been lost that when he came in sight of the winning point the tortoise had just come up of the earth and gained the prize.
Compare, again, the following North American traditions with the French legend of the woodpecker. A deluge having resulted from an attempt on the part of the fish to drown the god Wa
sackootacht, with whom they had quarrelled, that hero ordered several kinds of aquatic creatures to dive to the bottom to bring back some earth. All were drowned except the musk-rat, who succeeded in returning with a mouthful of mud, with which Wasackootacht made a new earth, by imitating the manner in which rats built their houses. So the Minnetaree Indians believed that all was water, till the first man sent down a great red-eyed bird to bring up the earth. In France it is the woodpecker that plays a leading part in popular cosmogony. When the seas and rivers and lakes were being made, all the birds were charged with the task of making the channels and reservoirs that were to receive the water; but the woodpecker disobeyed, and, for refusing to dig the earth with his beak, was condemned to dig with it for ever the wood of trees; and for refusing to help to construct the receptacles of terrestrial water, he was confined thenceforth to drink only of the water of heaven, that being the reason why his head is so constantly turned skyward, and why with his cry pluiplui," he still invokes the clouds to send him rain.
The striking peculiarities of natural history give rise to explanatory myths, instances of which from the folk-lore of modern Europe, like this one of the woodpecker, are precisely similar in construction and kind to the traditions found among savages. The infinite possibilities of transformation constitute the leading feature alike in the primitive or the more advanced mythology. The cuckoo, for instance, is a decidedly remarkable bird, and glories, consequently, in some decidedly remarkable myths. The Albanians say that there were once two brothers and a sister, and that the latter, rising suddenly from her needlework, accidentally pierced one of her brothers with her scissors, so that he died. She and her surviving brother mourned so much that they were turned into birds, he calling out by night to his lost brother, Gjon, Gjon, and she by day, ku ku, ku ku, which is to say, Where are you?''
The Servians also regard the cuckoo as a girl, by name kukavitza, who lamented her brother's death till she turned into a bird, that ever uttered the same
plaintive cry. But in Bohemia the cuckoo is a disguised miller or baker, who refused to give the Disciples some new bread when they were sent to ask for it. His wife and six daughters, who were more compassionate and secretly gave some bread, were, for reward, placed among the stars, where they shine as the Pleiades; but the baker was transformed into a cuckoo, whose cries are heard as long as those seven stars are visible in the sky. They also have another tradition: that the cuckoo once had a crown on her head, but that she has never been able to recover it from the hoopoe, to whom she once lent it at a wedding at which he was the bridegroom. She is always crying out, kluku, Rascal," to which he always replies, jdu, jdu, I come, I come, although
he never does so.
In the old Sclavonic mythology, Zywiec, the ruler of the universe was wont to change himself into a cuckoo (just as Indra did, and Zeus, too, on the occasion of his first visit to Here, the hill on which they met being known in historical times as Cuckoo Mountain") in order to announce to mortals the number of years remaining to them to live. Crowds used to flock every May to his temple to pray for long and prosperous health. And to this day it is a common article of popular belief that a man's remaining years to live may be measured by the number of times he hears the cuckoo's voice for the first time in spring. Illustrative of which a good story has been handed down of a worldly-minded monk, who, feeling the monotony of convent life, resolved to inquire of the cuckoo how long he had yet to live. The bird said twenty-two, so the monk thought he might safely devote himself for a season to the pleasures of this world, and yet have time enough to prepare for the next. Unfortunately, however, the bird was a heathenish and false oracle, and death surprised the recreant monk in the twentieth year of his pursuit of pleasure. That in Poland it once ranked as a capital crime to kill a cuckoo may doubtless be attributed to the identity or close connection between Zywiec and the bird.
The Westphalians have a curious explanatory myth regarding the nightin
gale. They imagine that the bird's' song may be rendered in these syllables of human speech: Is tit, is tit, is tît, to wit, to wit-Trizy, Trizy, Trizy, to bucht, to bucht, to bucht. But the last syllables are the usual shepherd's cry to his dog when he wishes the sheep collected. Therefore Trizy must be the name of the dog to whom the cry to bucht is addressed. Therefore the nightingale must have been a shepherdess, whom a shepherd cursed because she always postponed the marriage she had promised. He uttered the wish that she might not sleep till the day of judgment. Nor does she, for may not her voice still be heard at night as she cries to bucht, to bucht, to bucht, to her good dog Trizy?
The same people give a strange explanation of the face of the shard or flounder, which is all awry, with its eyes on one side of its face, instead of being straight, like the eyes of most other fish. Originally its face was a straight and sensible fish-face, but one day it insulted a passing herring, and made a mocking face at it, for which, as a punishment, it was never able to draw its face back to its natural position.
The natural history of savage races corresponds exactly with this natural history of European folk-lore. The Zulu will tell you that the reason the hyrax has no tail wherewith to drive away the flies is, that on the day when tails were distributed, the hyrax, fearing it was going to rain, begged the other animals to bring him his tail, to save himself the trouble of going. So that the proverb to this day addressed to a Zulu who from laziness asks another to do or fetch something for him is
The hyrax went without a tail because he sent for it." The Bushman will tell you that the jackal's back is black, because he once carried the sun on his back when he found that great luminary, then a mortal on earth, sitting weary by the wayside. And the Aht will tell you, in explanation of the melancholy note of the loon, of a fisherman robbed by a companion of his fish and at the same time of his tongue, unable to respond to questions about his sport, save by a noise like the loon's, whose plaintive cry is still the voice of that hapless fisherman, trying in vain to make
himself understood. And just so the Greek would have told you that the nightingale was in reality Philomela, the unhappy sister of Procne, bewailing in the form of a bird the wrong done to her by Tereus, her brother-in-law, who, in order to prevent her from informing her sister, deprived her of her tongue.
The mythology of the Red Indians abounded in similar strange explanations of natural peculiarities, in all of which Manabozho, the Indian Zeus or Odin, played a leading part. Why was the bear so fat, and the hare so thin, and why had the duck so few tail-feathers? Manabozho once killed so gigantic a fish that its oil and fat formed a small lake, whither he invited all the birds and beasts to come to be fed, decreeing that the fatness of each should depend on the order in which they arrived. The bear came first, and therefore became the fattest of animals. The bison and the moose were slower in coming; the partridge looked on till the reservoir was nearly exhausted; while the hare and the marten, arriving last, came in for no fat at all. The feast over, Manabozho made them all dance round him with their eyes shut, and wrung the necks of the fatter ones as they passed him, but a small duck, suspicious enough to open her eyes, saw her danger and made for the water, which, how ever, she only just reached as Manabozho gave her a kick that flattened her back, and caused the ducks of all future time to be marked as a race with a deficiency of tail-feathers.
So again, why had the woodpecker red feathers on its head? Because the bird told Manabozho, when engaged in mortal combat with a great Manito or spirit, the spot where the latter was vulnerable, and for reward had his head rubbed with the blood of the slain Manito. Or why had the kingfisher a white mark on its breast, and the feathers on its head tufted? Because Manabozho once presented it with a white sort of medal for useful information, and because the bird barely escaped with the ruffling of its feathers Manabozho's deliberate attempt to wring its neck while so rewarding it. And why did the adjidamo or squirrel make a barking or coughing noise when any one approached its nest? Because
Manabozho once invited the moose and the woodpecker to a feast of bear's flesh, which, as soon as they tasted it, turned into a dry powder that made them cough. Their sense of decorum and of respect for their host prompted them to continue to eat and to cough, till Manabozho at last changed both of them into the coughing adjidamo.
Mythology of this sort continued to be formed in Europe long after Christianity was introduced; and the new religion afforded fresh nutriment to the myth-maker's fancy. The magpie in England is an inauspicious bird, and in Scotland it used to be called the devil bird, because credited with carrying a drop of his blood in its tongue. haps the following French legend supplies the clew: The magpie and the robin were both present at the Crucifixion; but while the latter extracted the thorns, the other was heartless and insolent. Therefore the robin, which up to that time had been a poor little insignificant gray bird, was rewarded with the permanent affection of mankind; while the magpie, thitherto the most beautiful of all birds, with a lovely voice and a tail like a peacock's, was deprived for ever after both of its voice and its beauty.
Another French legend says that one day when Christ, pursued by the Jews, was resting in a wood, the magpies came and covered Him all over with thorns, which the swallows from pity came and removed. Therefore it was said to the swallow : "Thou shalt make thy nest in shelter from all danger, and shall be universally beloved;' but to the magpie: "Thou shalt make thy nest on the topmost branches of the trees, and be universally detested."' Another story associates the swallow with the removal of the crown of thorns at the crucifixion. Consequently all good French people (except at Arles) hold it sacrilege to kill a swallow, which is often called la poule de Dieu, and in Germany the Madonna's bird. If a swallow's nest is disturbed or its life taken, severe penalties must be looked for in the quality of the milk of the cows.
In all cases of sacred birds there was, perhaps, some older and more pagan reason for their sanctity than that which
Christian mythology has caused to prevail. Perhaps there was an older superstitious reason for never doing an injury to a robin than the Christian story that his breast was red by reason of the thorn he extracted from the crown of thorns, or of the drop of water which he daily threw upon the flames of hell. So of the crossbill, which in Bohemia is sacred, because at the Crucifixion it tried to extract the nails; or of the bee, whose name in the same country is actually derived from the humane part it played on the same occasion.*
In Iceland the cat represents the result of the devil's attempt to make a man, an attempt in which he so signally failed that St. Peter in pity had to add to it a skin. So far off as Albania there is a very similar story, though there the attempt resulted in a wolf. It is also a curious fancy on the part of the Icelanders to recognize in seals the drowned host of Pharaoh, who are believed to come to land on St. John's Eve, and to resume for a brief period the shape of mortals. The old pagan ideas die hard, and in many cases do not die at all. The sanctity which in some places still protects the lives of cats, dates, no doubt, from a time when cats were thought worthy to draw the chariot of Freja. All over Europe reverence is still paid to a certain kind of housesnake which is regarded partly as the bearer of good fortune to mankind, and partly as a guardian angel. Perhaps our ancestors once thought that they embodied the dead, which is the reason for precisely the same reverence still paid to them by the Zulus. These harmless snakes are looked upon as most desirable guests in Germany and Switzerland, their presence being a sure indication of approaching blessing, they must on no account be killed, but be fed with milk and honored in every way. A number of them in a house are taken to represent each member of the family, the death of a particular reptile causing a fearful foreboding regarding the individual whose representative it is.
Harmful snakes are otherwise regarded. The general German theory
* Die Biene (vcela) hat ihren Namen davon, dass sie sich tief auf die Stirne (na celo) des gekreuzigten Heilandes setzte und den Schweiss von ihm sog.
sees in them the old goddess Hertha and her train, who were so transformed at the time of the conversion of Germany from paganism. In the Tyrol they are thought to be under a curse for having escaped without a blessing at the time of the creation. There they also say that the blind adder once enjoyed sight like other snakes, but that it was punished with total blindness for having one day frightened the Madonna as she sat with her child in the grass.
Why should cocks figure on the tops of steeples? Christians connect the custom with the reproach the cock once conveyed to St. Peter. But the cock used to be placed on the tops of sacred trees long before it was transferred to church steeples, and in North Germany it still stands upon the may-poles. It was partly a watchman, and partly a weather prophet, and by its crowing it could disperse evil spirits and all approaching calamities. Its life was sacred in India and Persia, and Cicero speaks of the ancients regarding the killing of a cock as a crime equal in blackness to the suffocation of a father. Our weather-cocks are doubtless the survivals of these old ideas; though the solar mythologists trace all these things to the use of the domestic fowls as obvious personifications of the sun, so that
the pearl which the fowl searches for in the dunghill is naught else but its own egg, and the egg of the hen in the sky is the sun itself," and "the hen of the fable and fairy tales which lays golden eggs is the mythical hen (the earth or the sky) which gives birth every day to the sun." One can scarcely conceive anything more absurd, and it would be interesting to know how on solar principles would be explained the Tyrolese custom of not letting a black hen live for seven years, lest she should then lay an egg, out of which might issue a dragon destined to live a hundred years. Popular mythology, as it associates sanctity with some creatures, so it associates piety with others or the same. In Germany the swallow, the lark, and the stork all rank as pious" birds. The pious swallow twitters a song at dawn to the Mother of God; the pious lark is sacred to her, and rises skyward in prayer, setting such an example of grace-giving before and after food that
Simply that wrong-minded people, like the Albigenses, Waldenses, and even the Templar knights, were popularly credited with worshipping a black cat, and for that reason were denominated ketzer.
a child is likely to grow up pious whose
But if one creature could be pious, another could be the contrary, and the unhappy bat was looked on as distinctly irreligious, its shrill notes being taken for blasphemies. Consequently the French and Sicilians would manifest their piety by catching bats, and torturing them, burning them, or nailing them to small crosses; a custom which naturally made it blaspheme all the more, and fully corroborated the charge which supported it. From similar motives of piety it was once the custom in France every St. John's Day, with anthems and hymns and priestly processions, to throw twenty-four live black cats into a large fire, kindled in the public square by the bishops and clergy. No worse, after all, than burning heretics-and in fact heretics or Protestants they were thought to be, just as witches and black cats were thought to be instantaneously convertible into one another. A peculiar dread still attaches in the Monferrato to black cats, from the belief that the animals are in reality not cats but witches. And in German at least the connection between cat and heretic is tolerably clear. The origin of the word katze, a cat, has baffled Grimm himself, but the word katzer, ketzer, a heretic, is an admitted derivative from the humbler word. What was the connection?
For the ultimate meaning of our common names of the animal world philologists search for the most part in vain. We can carry words like the French loup, a wolf, back to the Latin lupus, but there we are stopped. The French sanglier, a boar, is derived from the Latin singularis, because of the supposed solitude-loving habits of the animal. The French ours, a bear, is obviously from the Latin ursus; though as a sample of the myth-making tendency as applied to verbal derivation the following French explanation is worth givDu temps que Dieu vivait sur la terre, un homme caché dans un bois voulut lui faire peur, et écria brusquement Oche. Dieu lui dit : Tu seras comme tu as dit. (Oche ours!)
Closely connected as mythology and folk-lore are thus shown to have been, it is difficult or impossible to say in any given case whether the superstition is derived from the myth or the myth from the superstition. The usual method of interpretation deduces superstition from mythology, making the latter the primary starting-point. But it is often quite as likely that the custom was there first, and that the myth made use of already existing customs; for instance, that the horse figured conspicuously in legend, from the horses that drew Indra or Phoebus to Pegasus; the winged steed of Bellerophon, because it had long been an object of worship or superstition, is at least as likely as that it became an object of worship or superstition because it figured so conspicuously in legend. The horse is thickly set in folk-lore. In parts of Germany a horse's head may still be seen over the doors of cattle stalls or about the houses, a custom which survives among ourselves in the luck attaching to a horse's hoof. This, perhaps, dates from the custom of our ancestors, mentioned by Tacitus, of keeping white horses in sacred groves at the public expense and exempt from toil, and forecasting the future from their neighings. A horse's neighing always presaged victory to a warrior, as his silence presaged defeat,