Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/492

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Even popular traditions have thus been metamorphosed. In the mystic recluse of the Barbarossa legend, Professor Grimm recognized the All-father Wodan, whose attributes had been transferred to the person of Charlemagne, and afterward to Frederick Barbarossa. When the oaks of the sacred groves were felled for church-timber, the old Saxon god retired to the mountains, the usual refuge of exiled deities, and finally went to sleep in a mountain-cave, the Untersberg, near Salzburg, and the Kyfhäuser in Northern Germany, where he awaits the return of better times, the resurrection of the buried nature-worship and the departure of the black crows, the clerical birds of ill-omen that fly croaking around his rocky retreat. The prototypes of these croakers did not relish the legend, and managed to substitute a secular hero, and in another case even a spook. The Wild Huntsman was originally a Welt-jäger, a world-hunter, the old sport-loving wood-god, with his hounds and falcons and train of merry companions. In Western Pomerania the leader of the nocturnal chase appears under the semi-incognito of a Junker Hakelberg, the "cowl-bearer" another cognomen of the mist-shrouded Odin.

Sir William Jones's researches into the sacred writings of Brahmanism revealed a still stranger metempsychosis of myths—the transfer of the primeval Krishna legend to the personal history of Buddha Sakya-Muni, and its subsequent exportation to a far Western colony of Buddhism. According to Maurice's translation of the Bhagavat Purana, Krishna (like Buddha) was a Parthenogenitus, a virgin-son. The birth of both Krishna and Buddha was foretold by a heavenly messenger. Both were of royal descent. The delivery of the virgin-mothers was attended by the same prodigies, the rising of a new star and the appearance of a company of heavenly choristers. Three Eastern monarchs visited the new-born infant. Cansa, the ruler of Krishna's birth-land, ordered a massacre of young children in order to prevent the fulfillment of an ominous prophecy. Both Krishna and Buddha passed several years in exile before they entered upon their mission of reform. Krishna, like Buddha, had twelve favorite converts, who accompanied him on his missionary travels. Cæetera, qui nescit?

Our very hobgoblins are of Eastern origin; nearly all international fairy-stories and popular traditions have their roots in the fruitful myth-garden of Hindostan. The stories of Cinderella, of Tamerlane, and Jack the Giant-killer, amused the children of Sind before Nimrod built his great adobe palace; William Tell learned his trade in the archer brigade of a Nepaulese tyrant; and the fair Melusina used to bathe in the Ganges before she built her swimming-hall in the castle of Poitiers.

Of the Melusina legend a modern French evolutionist (M. de Lescure) gives the following curious exegesis: "The discovery of the Marquis of Poitiers, which resulted in the dissolution of his connubial tie, may yet lead to other divorces if the allies of the orthodox cos