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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/193

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Reviews. 1 69

poses of its application by Goldziher and Steinthal to the Hebrew legends in a chapter, which, though successful, is to some extent obscured by his hesitation in the definition and use of the terms myth and mythology. Mythology can no longer be understood in the sense of "a mode of language used when dealing with the phenomena of nature as they appear to man in his infancy," when we have rejected the Rig Veda as the exponent of the earliest conceptions of mankind on the subject. We must recognise that man is essentially a tale-teller, that at a stage of civilisation far earlier than the Rig Veda he explains everything by a tale. Myths then become stories explanatory of customs, of the existence of the gods, the earth, the sun, the moon, the winds, animals, moun- tains, rivers, fire — in short, everybody and everything in the world. They are stories, not metaphors conscious or unconscious ; savage philosophy, not the products of diseased language. In Goldziher's sense Dr. Cobb is right in saying that there are no myths in the Bible, save perhaps, we would suggest, in some of its poetry. Accordingly, he would have done better to repudiate this sense altogether, instead of endeavouring to combine it, as he seems to do (see particularly p. 65), with the sense of a story con- cerning an event believed to be historical — a saga.

The kind of conserv^atism which is accountable for the retention of this equivocal use of the word myth hampers the author in more ways than one. Although he rejects Professor Max Miiller's doctrine, for example, he finds it not easy to shake himself clear of the authority which explains so many of the classic and other gods and heroes as the sun. To take another instance, his criticisms on totemism are valuable as pointing to the pressing need of further research in certain directions, and to the dangers of hasty generalisation ; but he does not allow enough weight to the evidence of the prevalence of the superstition in almost all parts of the world. This evidence raises a strong presumption that it was accepted in archaic times by the ancestors of the Hebrews, and that its remains were to be found in the period covered by the historical record. When he argues " that it is a fair inference from the frequency of the description of a tribe or sub-tribe by the name of an animal that that animal was worshipped by them, but there is no necessity which compels us to admit that they went further, and attributed their physiological origin to the animal " (u. 185), he forgets that the problem to be solved is