Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/83

This page needs to be proofread.

Reviews. 6i

fifty miles further away, and with even a smaller proportion than the still more northerly Shuswap, who dwell on the middle reaches of the Fraser River between the Athabascans and the Kootenay. Professor Boas gives no information as to the Koote- nay, the south-eastern neighbours of the Shuswap, through whom, perhaps, the route of the Ponca tales may be traced. Moreover, it is curious that, although detached branches of the Athabascans are the immediate neighbours of the Chinook to north and south, and the territory occupied by the main body of the Athabascan tribes is not much more than 200 miles away, the proportion of tales common to the Chinook and Athabascans is less than half the proportion of those common to the Chinook and Micmacs across the whole breadth of the continent ; while it is fifty per cent, greater than the proportion of those common to the Atha- bascans and the Tsimschians, who are next neighbours to the bulk of the Athabascan tribes. Other examples might be given. Pro- fessor Boas does not call attention to these divergences ; and we are consequently left to guess at their cause. But they suggest either that there is much more traditional wealth to be collected, or that there are obstacles to transmission more power- ful than mere distance or remoteness from the physical possi- bilities of intercourse. In other words, if the traditional wealth already collected represent fairly the sum of the folklore of the North-west, and if the tables be accurate, race and social con- ditions are probably a more efficient hindrance to transmission of stories than Professor Boas would seem willing to allow.

Questions are thus raised which demand for their solution an observer as able, as experienced, and as intimately acquainted with the people as Professor Boas himself. Some of them, indeed, are among the most difiicult with which the student of folklore is called upon to deal, such as the question whether a given story has arisen independently among two different tribes, or been borrowed by one mediately or immediately from the other. The author assumes that stories common to the Micmacs or the Poncas and the North-western tribes have been borrowed, and not separately evolved. But he does not, in his concluding words, exclude the possibility of elementary ideas {elementargedanken) arising independently. Nobody can doubt, he tells us, that the human mind has again and again brought forth certain cycles of ideas, and still does so ; but nobody can say where the boundary