Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/152

This page needs to be proofread.


140 Back- Footed Beings.

from the eye of the sceptic. And so Levarcham, instead of becoming a bird like Maui or " Snake-skin," simply contorts her legs in imitation of a bird.^

How easy would be the transition from bird-legs to human legs with knees inverted is shown by the repre- sentations of birds in early art — e.g. the bird-women on the so-called "Harpy Tomb" of Lycia, and the soap-stone birds found at Zimbabwe in Mashonaland.^ And as soon as this transition is complete, the inversion of the feet follows of necessity from that of the knees, in legs otherwise human ; even if it be not actually suggested by the way in which a bird folds over its foot when perched on a branch or standing with one leg raised from the ground.

The connection with birds would soon be forgotten, and so render it possible, as sometimes appears to be the case, for the inverted feet to be found alone. This may be explained by the fact that the inversion of the feet, though only the logical outcome of the inversion of the knees, is yet a more noticeable contortion. At the same time, where spirits are conceived as wearing clothes, the feet are more exposed than the rest of the leg. Stor-Junkare and the Ramsflue dwarfs, being cloaked from head to foot, are only described as having the feet of birds, though the legs may also be birdlike, but covered by their robes. It is by his "cloven hoof" not by his goat's legs, that the Devil is discovered. So, the true significance of the deformity being lost sight of, the inversion of the feet might well be chosen in descriptions of such beings, to the exclusion of the inversion of the knees, as sufficiently conveying the idea of inverted legs.

A. T. Crawford Cree.

^ At a still later stage in culture winged sandals are worn for the purpose. Perseus borrows those of Hermes.

^Bent, Ruined Cities of Masho7ialand, passim, andy.A.L, xxxv., Plate 7.