Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/291

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
283
Cinderella in Britain.

customs; they become with him and his followers in this regard, Mr. Hartland and Mr. Gomme, parts of primitive science. I contend that they are literature, folk-literature, if you will, but still literature, and so a part of savage or primitive art. It was for this reason that I ventured to express my surprise that Mr. Lang, a literary man par excellence, should have seemingly shown such little interest in fairy tales as literature. So far as his researches showed, he seemed interested in them not as gems of folk-literature, but as containing "survivals". Here, again, I appear to have misunderstood him, and he is indebted to me for an opportunity of disavowing such a heresy.

I know what Mr. Lang will reply to all this; he has so often explained his position that it is not difficult to apriorise the necessary deductions from that position. His chief concern was with the unnatural incidents in folk-tales. He had to rescue these from the mythological interpretations of the school of Kuhn and Max Müller. Instead of being degraded sun-myths, he has proved—it is not too strong a word—that they are "survivals" of savage customs. These he further considers to have existed among the European peasantry when they were in a savage state. With regard to the similarity in folk-tales, he is frankly an agnostic. Agnosticism is cheap to-day, as they say at the fruiterers. It may be scientific caution, but, on the other hand, it may be intellectual inertia. At any rate, it is particularly unfortunate that we should be made to halt between two ways on this question of diffusion, as upon it depends the whole value of the research after "survivals".

Mr. Lang is aware that for a certain class of folk-tales the problem of diffusion has been solved, for the derivation of a certain number of drolls from India has been, pace M. Bédier, definitely proved. Why may we not hope that we can also trace the paths of diffusion even when we are deprived of the aid of literary proof of transmission, as in the Indian cases? At any rate, it is in this hope that collections like those of Miss Cox are compiled. They may