Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/204

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the purpose of explaining the shining through of moon and stars. Stars are, as we know, commonly thought of by the child as holes in the sky letting through the light beyond. One Boston child ingeniously applied the idea of the thinness of the sky to explain the appearance of the moon when one half is bright and the other faintly illumined, supposing it to be halfway through the partially diaphanous floor. Others, again, prettily accounted for the waning of the moon to a crescent by saying it was half stuck or half buttoned into the sky.

As with the savage, so with the child, the heavenly bodies seem to be personified spontaneously, and quite independently of theological instruction. A little boy, two years and two months old, sitting on the floor one day in a great temper, looked up and saw the sun shining, and said angrily, "Sun not look at Hennie," and then, when he found this unavailing, "Please, sun, not look at poor Hennie."[1] Many children seem quite spontaneously to apperceive stars as eyes, and the moon of course as a human face.

The movements of the sun and other heavenly bodies are similarly apperceived by the help of ideas of movements of familiar terrestrial objects. Thus the sun was thought by the Boston children half mythologically, half mechanically, to roll, to fly, to be blown (like a soap bubble or balloon), and so forth. The anthropocentric form of teleological explanation is apt to creep in, as when a Boston child said charmingly that the moon comes round when people forget to light some lamps. Theological ideas, too, are pressed into this sphere of explanation, as when the disappearance of the sun is variously attributed to God's pulling it up higher out of sight, to his taking it into heaven and putting it to bed, and so forth. These ideas are pretty obviously not those of a country child with a horizon. There is rather more of Nature-observation in the idea of another child that the sun after setting lies under the trees, where angels mind it. But I confess that many of these answers of the Boston children look to me more like attempts of vacuous minds to invent something smart on the spur of the moment than spontaneous growths pre-existing before the questioner appears on the scene.

The impressive phenomena of thunder and lightning give rise in the case of the child, as in that of the Nature-man, to some fine myth-making. The American children, as already observed, have different mechanical illustrations for setting forth the modus of the supernatural action here, thunder being thought of now as God groaning, now as his walking loud on the floor of heaven (cf. the old Norse idea that thunder is caused by the rolling of Thor's chariot), now as his hammering, now as

  1. See note by E. M. Stevens, Mind, vol. xi, p. 150.