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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/67

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45
Presidential Address.

Danann wizard hero, or princess of Irish romance, in other words the same ultimate origin as the elf or Puck of peasant belief. Thus Oberon and Puck are members of one clan of supernatural beings and not arbitrarily associated by the genius of Shakespeare.

Here let me forestall a possible objection. Shakespeare's fairies are, it may be said, Teutonic, and only Celtic evidence has been adduced in favour of my thesis. I would answer that, so far as the matter in hand is concerned, the antithesis of Celtic and Teutonic is an imaginary one. I use Celtic evidence because, owing to historical causes I shall touch upon presently, Celtic evidence alone is available. That evidence carries us back to a period long antedating the rise of Christianity; and at that period there was, I believe, substantial agreement between Teuton and Celt in their conception of the processes of nature and in the rites and practices by which the relations between man and nature were regulated. The fairy belief of the modern German peasant is closely akin to that of the modern Irish peasant, not because one has borrowed from the other, but because both go back to a common creed expressing itself in similar ceremonies. The attempt to discriminate modern national characteristics in the older stratum of European folklore is not only idle but mischievous, because based upon the unscientific assumption that existing differences, which are the outcome of comparatively recent historical conditions, have always existed. I will only say that, possibly, the diminutive size of the fairy race belongs more especially to Teutonic tradition as developed within the last 2,000 years, and that in so far the popular element in Shakespeare's fairy world is, possibly, Teutonic rather than Celtic.

No, the fairy creed the characteristics of which I have essayed to indicate, and which I have brought into organic connection with the oldest remains of Celtic mythology, was, I hold, common to all the Aryan-speaking people of Europe, to the ancestors of Greek and Roman and Slavs, as well as to the ancestors of Celts and Teutons. I leave