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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/443

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435
Some Recent Utterances.

artistic culture, and as percolating downwards both among the ruder, less advanced members of the particular section of the race to which its originators belonged, and among such ruder and less advanced sections of the race generally as may come into culture contact with the centre of origination. In the course of this process, the tale, which in its first shape may be comparatively free from what we call archaic features, acquires them, and it is this acquisition by degradation that gives them a false look of primitiveness to the eye of the modern folk-lorist.

Mr. Jacobs has certainly not formulated his views in an equally uncompromising way, but I think I am not doing him an injustice in saying that he shares with Mr. Newell the belief in a comparatively late origin of the bulk of our folk-tales, in a definite centre of origin for each tale, and in an absolutely late period of dispersion for a very considerable proportion of tales. Moreover, for him India is certainly the centre of origin in a large number of cases, and the period of dispersion is that during which India has been in culture contact with Europe. Such contact has been intermittent, and successive phases of contact have introduced successive strata of folk-literature from India into Europe, or, at all events as far as the later phases are concerned, from Europe into India.

It is worth while pausing a moment to ask why these particular explanations of an exceedingly complex group of facts should have commended themselves to these two scholars, neither of whom would deny that alternative explanations have much in their favour. In the case of Mr. Newell I cannot doubt that he has been influenced by his work on games, on the merit of which it would be superfluous to enlarge. In a large number of cases the origin of children's games has been successfully sought for in the imitation of rites and customs of grown-up people, rites and customs which may often have completely died out save in the survival due to the imitative propensity of the child. Substitute "folk" for "child", and generalise