Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/427

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
419
Diffusion of Tales.

that I "practically yield my whole position in granting the probabilities of diffusion by borrowing, and we would gladly know how far he has been convinced against his will." As to "yielding my position", we shall see whether I do or not, and as to being "convinced against my will", to the best of my belief I have always allowed for borrowing.[1] My will, my taste, has never been set against it. I have argued (M. R. R., ii, 316) against the probability of recent borrowing, in cases like that of the Huarochiris. But the hypothesis of prehistoric diffusion, in the unknown past, seems to my taste attractive and romantic. I conceive that many Algonquin märchen really are of quite recent introduction: about the Zulu case I doubt; about the Huarochiris and Samoans I feel nearly convinced that the borrowing was not done in recent ages, say since 1540, in the former case. The remote Eskimo are so distant that, as their tales rarely resemble ours, we may doubt if they have borrowed much from recent Europeans.

My first writing on the subject was done about 1863, when I was an undergraduate at St. Andrew's. Then I merely published two tales, which I call Scotch, in the St. Andrew's University Magazine. I had only read Mr. Max Müller, Perrault, Dasent, and Chambers, and, on the problem as it now stands, had no right to an opinion. But about 1871-72 I wrote an article for The Fortnightly Review, There I stated my whole theory: Märchen were of extreme antiquity, of savage origin, and were the stuff of the great classical epics. This essay was published five or six years before Mr. Farrer advocated similar ideas in The Gentleman's Magazine (1878), and in his Primitive Manners and Customs (1879). In the prose translation of the Odyssey

  1. This was written before I read again my old Fortnightly Review article published in May, 1873. There I say that mythologists do not accept the theory of borrowing. A remark of Mr. Max Müller's was in my mind: twenty years ago I knew little, and thought that Urvasi was—the Dawn! But I do not suppose that my critics will pin me down to opinions so long ago abandoned.