Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/288

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Cinderella and Britain.

And now a few words pro domo. Mr. Andrew Lang, in his Preface to Miss Cox's volume, has done me the honour of replying to some remarks of mine on his views, read before the International Folk-lore Congress, and published in its Transactions, pp. 76-86. I there "went for", with as cunning a mixture of vigour and courtesy as I could command, the view that the resemblances in folk-tales of distant countries is due to casual similarity arising independently, owing to the similarity of minds in a primitive stage. I was all for the resemblances having arisen in the most natural way, by nations borrowing one from the other: the other view seemed to me to overlook the improbability on the doctrine of chances of a complicated series of incidents occurring independently and casually in several localities. Thus, a story of twelve incidents could only occur casually with the same order of incidents in two different places once in 479,001,599 times; in other words, it is, roughly speaking, five hundred millions to one against its thus occurring alike by chance[1] in two different places. One does not want any greater certainty than that to be against the Casual Theory of the resemblances in folk-tales, and I therefore protested as vigorously as I could against it, and coupled with it the names of Mr. Lang and Mr. Hartland.

Well, it seems that, with regard to Mr. Lang, I was altogether unjustified in connecting such a theory with his name. He points out, fairly enough, that he has never unreservedly pinned his faith to the Casual Theory. He has "hedged" by granting that "something may be due to transmission", and now further supplements this by allowing that he should have said "much". Generally

  1. A modification would have to be made, however, when, as in most cases, the incidents are to some extent fixed in order. Thus, in Cinderella, the Happy Marriage cannot come before the Shoe Marriage Test. But Cinderella has seventeen incidents (supra, pp. 275-6), and these linkages would not reduce them to less than twelve complex incidents.