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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/435

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Diffusion of Tales.

Not much remains to say. I am not a Casualist, as to tales, but a Diffusionist, who believes that there has also, probably, been independent development. As to centre of origin, I am an "Agnostic". I don't know where the tales first arose, nor where language was first spoken, and flints first chipped, and fire first intentionally kindled by man. It is a very ancient art: I shall be interested in the place of discovery, and manner of diffusion of the fire-stick, when the truth is known.

Mr. Jacobs asks whether I think that English children believe in speaking frogs or conversational tables, because they like tales of such things? The question shows how remote the querist is from comprehending the subject of discussion as I "envisage" it. I do not say that savages, or peasants, believe their folk-tales, though some may. I say (Mr. Jacobs cannot, I know, see the difference) that many incidents in these tales were invented when men were capable of believing in Balaam's ass, when sorcerers could understand the speech of birds, as in Zululand, when people, like the modern Australian black fellows, put questions to and took answers from the brutes. What in the world has this to do with asserting that a peasant, who inherits a tale composed when all nature was personal, believes the tale? Yet, when he tells the bees of a death, he is not very remote from the condition in which bees might tell him something. Nor are children remote from that frame of mind. Living in fastasy as they do, talking to animals, making appointments with familiar spirits, their playfellows, who can say what a child does, at certain moments, and in certain moods, believe, or disbelieve?

As to belief in "conversational tables", ask the Psychical Society!

There seems to exist, in some minds, the notion that persons who do not recognise India as the fountain-head of the majority of folk-tales, are Casualists. Thus M. B├ędier, in his work on the Fabliaux, deals what seems a