Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/99

This page has been validated.
91
Report on Folk-tale Research.

is found persistently as a member of the sequence. Thus it is the presence of the Direction Taboo that gives force to the argument in this instance. But, does the Direction Taboo occur in the sequence elsewhere than in India? I do not find it in the stories referred to by Mr. Jacobs; and, if I did, I do not see how it would prove that Europe must have borrowed from India, either at the time of the Crusades or at any other period. In his note to The Son of Seven Queens, Mr. Jacobs suggests that the idea of a son of seven mothers could only arise in a polygamous country. Heimdall, in the Norse Mythology, was the son of nine mothers: is this a crumb from the Indian loaf? Nor is the stepmother proper so wholly unknown to Indian tales, or to Indian life, that there is any probability in the suggestion that the "Envious Stepmother" of this and other stories was originally a co-wife (cf. Swynnerton, I. N. E., 275, 330). Mr. Jacobs has certainly made a point in urging that in the Punchkin group not the external soul but its numerous wrappers must be evidence of transmission. But he really does not attempt to prove that the wrappers were borrowed from a Hindu lender. This at present is pure assumption.

To discuss the matter further is impossible. I will merely say that I traverse the entire argument starting from the "appropriate atmosphere" created by the Hindu dogma of metempsychosis. It fails to take adequate account of the opinions and practices of the European peasantry, both where those opinions and practices have, and where, as in large tracts of the continent, they have not, been frowned upon by the higher orders. In view of the classical, Norse, and Celtic mythologies it is undeniable (and Mr. Jacobs candidly admits) that the folk of Europe were possessed of a stock-in-trade of stories once. All that we know of their repertory vouches it of the same character as that of the modern story-teller. Its displacement must be shown by reasoning from premises more indisputable, and with fewer broken links. I ought to add a caution to students against the text of the tales in this otherwise admirable volume.