Melanesian myth, dawn is cut out of the body of night by Qat, armed with a knife of red obsidian. Here are examples of transparent nature-myths in which this idea occurs for obvious explanatory purposes, and in accordance with the laws of the savage imagination. Thus the conception of the swallowing and disgorging being may very well have arisen out of a nature-myth. But why is the notion attached to the legend of Cronus?
That is precisely the question about which mythologists differ, as has been shown, and perhaps it is better to offer no explanation. However stories arise—and this story probably arose from a nature-myth—it is certain that they wander about the world, that they change masters, and thus a legend which is told of a princess with an impossible name in Zululand is told of the mother of Charlemagne in France. The tale of the swallowing may have been attributed to Cronus, as a great truculent deity, though it has no particular elemental signification in connection with his legend.
This peculiarly savage trick of swallowing each other became an inherited habit in the family of Cronus. When Zeus reached years of discretion, he married Metis, and this lady, according to the scholiast on Hesiod, had the power of transforming herself into any shape she pleased. When she was about to be a mother, Zeus induced her to assume the shape of a fly and instantly swallowed her. In behaving thus, Zeus acted on the advice of Uranus and Gæa. It
- Compare Tylor, Prim. Cult., i. 338.
- Hesoid, Theogonia, 886. See Scholiast and note in Aglaophamus, i. 613. Compare Puss in Boots and the Ogre.