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Page:A book of folk-lore (1913).djvu/140

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In all stories of this kind," says Professor Child, "the person upon whom a task is imposed stands acquitted if another of no less difficulty is devised which must be performed first."

Among the Bretons, when a young couple are engaged, they go to the graves of their parents and grandparents, and announce the fact to them. In all these cases the dead are supposed to be in a comatose state, and there is no thought of the soul as apart from the body.

But there have existed ideas concerning the intercourse between the dead and the living still more close. The classic story of the Bride of Corinth formed the basis of a not over-pleasant ballad by Goethe. A similar idea is found in Iceland.

Helgi Hundingsbane was visited in his grave-mound by his wife Sigrun, who spent a night there with him. He informed her that all her tears fell on and moistened him. "Here, Helgi," said she, "have I prepared for thee in thy mound a peaceful bed. On thy breast, chieftain, will I repose as I was wont in my lifetime." To which the dead Helgi replies: "Nothing is to be regarded as unexpected, since thou, living, a king's daughter, sleepest in a grave-mould in the arms of a corpse."