Researches into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization/Chapter 12
GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION OF MYTHS.
The student of the early History of Mankind finds in Comparative Mythology the same use and the same difficulty which lie before him in so many other branches of his subject. He can sometimes show, in the mythical tales current among several peoples, coincidences so quaint, so minute, or so complex, that they could hardly have arisen independently in two places, and these coincidences he claims as proofs of historical connexion between the tribes or nations among whom they are found. But his great difficulty is how to be sure that he is not interpreting as historical evidence analogies which may be nothing more than the results of the like working of the human mind under like conditions. His ever-recurring problem is to classify the crowd of resemblances which are continually thrusting themselves upon him, so as to keep those things which are merely similar apart from those which, having at some spot of the earth's surface their common source and centre of diffusion, are really and historically united.
No attempt is made in the present chapter to lay down definite rules for the solution of this important problem, but a few illustrations are given of the more general analogies running through the Folk-lore of the world, which Ethnology, for the present at least, has to set aside; and then a few facts are stated, bearing on the diffusion of Myths by recognised channels of intercourse, with the view of introducing a group of similar episodes, which it is for the reader to reject as caused by independent growth or modern transmission, or to accept as a contribution to the early History of the New World.
Firstly, then, there are found among savage tribes myths like in their character, and therefore no doubt in their origin, to those of the great Aryan race which have in our own times been so successfully traced to the very point where they arose out of the contemplation of Nature. No one has yet done for the myths of the lowest tribes what has been done for those of our more highly developed race by Kuhn and Müller, and their school in Germany and England; but Schirren, by his treatment of the gods and mythic ancestors of the South Sea Islanders as personifications of the phenomena of nature, has made an important step toward extending the modern method of interpretation to the Mythology of the World. Still, a very slight acquaintance with the popular tales of America, Polynesia, even Australia and Van Diemen's Land, will show that they are the same in their nature and often in their incidents, by virtue of the like nature of the minds which conceived them.
As Zeus, the personified Heaven of our own race, drops tears on earth which mortals call rain, so does the heaven-god of Tahiti;
"Thickly falls the small rain on the face of the sea,
They are not drops of rain, but they are tears of Oro."
In the dark patches on the face of the moon, the Singhalese sees the pious hare that offered itself to Buddha to be cooked and eaten, when he was wandering hungry in the forest. The Northman saw there the two children whom Mâni the Moon caught up, as they were taking the water from the well Byrgir, and who are carrying the bucket on the pole between them to this day. Elsewhere in Europe, Isaac has been seen carrying the bundle of wood up Mount Moriah for his own sacrifice, and Cain bringing from his field a load of thorns as his offering to Jehovah. Our own "Man in the Moon" was set up there for picking sticks on a Sunday, and he, too, carries his thorn-bush, as Caliban had seen, "I have seen thee in her, and I do adore thee; my mistress showed me thee, and thy dog and thy bush." The Selish Indians of North-West America have devised their story of the "Toad in the Moon;" the little wolf was in love with the toad, and pursued her one bright moonlight night, till, for a last chance of escape, she mads a desperate spring on to the face of the moon, and there she is still. In the Samoan Islands in the Central Pacific, the dweller in the moon is a woman. Her name was Sina, and she was beating out paper- cloth with a mallet. The moon was just rising, and looked like a great bread-fruit, so Sina asked her to come down and let her child have a bit of her. But the moon was very angry at the idea of being eaten, and took up Sina, child, and mallet and all, and there they are to be seen to this day.
The heavenly bodies are gods and heroes, and tales of their deeds in love and arms are found among the lower as among the higher races. Apollo and Artemis, Helios and Selene, are brother and sister, and so in the Polar Regions the Sun is a maiden and the Moon her brother. The Esquimaux tale tells how, when the girl was at a festive gathering, some one declared his love for her by shaking her by the shoulders, after the manner of the country. She could not tell who it was in the dark hut, so she smeared her hand with soot, and when he came back, she blackened his face with her hand. When a light was brought, she saw it was her brother, and fled, and he rushed after her. She came to the end of the earth and sprang out into the sky, and he followed her. There they became the Sun and Moon, and this is why the moon is always chasing the sun through the heavens; and the moon is sometimes dark as he turns his blackened cheek towards the earth.
The natives of Van Diemen's Land, whose dismal history is now closing in total extinction, are among the lowest tribes known to Ethnology. Yet to them, as to higher races, the idea is familiar that the stars are men, or beings of a higher order who have appeared as men on earth. Their myth of the two heroes who are now the twin stars Castor and Pollux, is thus told by Milligan, as related by a native of the Oyster Bay Tribe:
"My father, my grandfather, all of them lived a long time ago all over the country; they had no fire. Two black-fellows came, they slept at the foot of a hill,—a hill in my own country. On the summit of a hill they were seen by my fathers, my countrymen, on the top of the hill they were seen standing: they threw fire like a star,—it fell amongst the blackmen, my countrymen. They were frightened,—they fled away, all of them; after a while they returned, they hastened and made a fire,—a fire with wood; no more was fire lost in our land. The two black-fellows are in the clouds; in the clear night you see them like two stars. These are they who brought fire to my fathers. The two blackmen stayed awhile in the land of my fathers.
Two women were bathing; it was near a rocky shore, where mussels were plentiful. The women were sulky, they were sad; their husbands were faithless, they had gone with two girls. The women were lonely; they were swimming in the water, they were diving for cray-fish. A sting-ray lay concealed in the hollow of a rock,—a large sting-ray! The sting-ray was large, he had a very long spear; from his hole he spied the women, he saw them dive: he pierced them with his spear,—he killed them, he carried them away. Awhile they were gone out of sight. The sting-ray returned, he came close to the shore, he lay in still water, near the sandy beach; with him were the women, they were fast on his spear,—they were dead!
The two blackmen fought the sting-ray; they slew him with their spears; they lolled him;—the women were dead! The two blackmen made a fire,—a fire of wood. On either side they laid a woman,—the fire was between: the women were dead!
The blackmen sought some ants, some large blue ants; they placed them on the bosoms of the women. Severely, intensely were they bitten. The women revived,—they lived once more.
Soon there came a fog, a fog dark as night. The two black- men' went away, the women disappeared: they passed through the fog, the thick dark fog! Their place is in the clouds. Two stars you see in the clear cold night; the two blackmen are there,—the women are with them : they are stars above."
It is not needful to accumulate great masses of such tales as these, in order to show that the myth-making faculty belongs to mankind in general, and manifests itself in the most distant regions, where its unity of principle developes itself in endless variety of form. There may indeed be a remote historical connexion at the root of some of the analogies in myths from far distant regions, which have just been mentioned; but when resemblances in Mythology are brought forward as proofs of such historical connexion, they must be closer and deeper than these. Mythological evidence, to be used for such a purpose, requires a systematic agreement in the putting together of a number of events or ideas, which agreement must be so close as to make it in a high degree improbable that two such combinations should have occurred separately, or at least the tales or ideas found alike in distant regions must be of so quaint and fantastic a character as to make it, on the very face of the matter, unlikely that they should have been invented twice. But it is both easier and safer to appeal to the effects of known intercourse between different peoples in spreading beliefs and popular tales, as evidence of the way in which historical connexion really docs record itself in Mythology, than to lay down à priori rules as to what the effects of such connexion ought to be.
When we consider how short the time is since the Indians of North America have been acquainted with guns, the fact that there has been recorded, as one of their native beliefs, the notion that there are men who have charmed lives, and can only be killed with a silver bullet, may prepare us for the way in which savages can take up foreign mythology into their own. Again, it might be naturally expected that Bible stories learnt from missionaries, settlers, and travellers, should pass in a more or less altered shape into the folk-lore of savage races. Moffat gives a good instance which happened to himself. He had never succeeded in finding a deluge-tradition in South Africa, but making inquiries in a Namaqua village, he came upon a somewhat intelligent native who had one to tell, so he began with great satisfaction to take it down in writing. By the time it was finished, however, he began to suspect, for it bore the impress of the Bible, though the Hottentot declared that he had received it from his forefathers, and had never seen or heard of a missionary. Mr. Moffat was puzzled, and suspended his judgment till, a little while afterwards, the mystery was unravelled by the appearance of the very missionary from whom the native story-teller had received his teaching. As another case of the same kind, may he quoted the following servile version of the story of Joseph and his brethren, found in Hawaii as the story of Waikelenuiaiku. His father had ten sons and one daughter; he was beloved by his father, and hated by his brethren, and they threw him into a pit, but his eldest brother felt more compassion for him than the rest. He escaped out of the pit, into the country of King Kamohoalii, and there he was confined in a dungeon with the prisoners. He bade his companions dream, and interpreted the dreams of four of them. One had seen a ripe banana, and his spirit ate it, the next dreamt of a banana, and the next of a hog, in the same way, but the fourth dreamt that he saw awa, that he pressed out the juice, and his spirit drank it. The three first dreams the foreigner interpreted for evil, and the dreamers were put to death in course of time, but to the fourth he prophesied deliverance and life, and he was saved, and told the King, who set Waikelenuiaiku at liberty, and made him a principal chief in the kingdom.
There is sometimes a crudeness about these tales adopted from foreign sources, which gives us the means of positively condemning them. But the power which myths have of taking root the moment they are transplanted into a new country, often makes it impossible to tell whether they are of old date and historical value, or mere modern intruders. There is reason to believe that a story carried into a distant place by civilized men may spread and accommodate itself to the circumstances of the country, so that in a very few years' time it may be quite honestly collected as a genuine native tale, even by the very people who originally introduced it, like the farmer's hack that he sold in the morning, and bought back in the afternoon with a fresh mane and tail as a new horse. Of course this is the same kind of diffusion of myths which has been going on from remote ages among mankind, one of the very processes which have preserved to Ethnology aids of such high importance for the reconstruction of early history. It is only unfortunate that its results in modern times, by confounding the evidence of early and late intercourse between different peoples, have done so much to impair its historical value.
Among the stories found in circulation among outlying races, there are many, beside those relating to a Deluge, which appear to be really united by ancient and deep-lying bonds of connexion with Biblical episodes, and the extreme difficulty, or impossibility, of separating a great part of these ancient stories from those which have grown up in modern times under Christian influences, is a very serious loss to early history. Still it is better to submit to this, than to base Ethnological arguments on evidence that will not bear the test of criticism. It is not only to Scriptural stories that this objection lies. Episodes from the classics and other European sources may be carried into distant lands by colonists and missionaries, and it may be laid down as a general rule, that stories which may have been transplanted in this way in modern times, must be rejected as independent evidence of remote intercourse between distant races among whom they are found. It is when a connexion between two peoples has been already made probable by evidence not liable to be thus impeached, that these stories can be taken into consideration as secondary evidence, which, once proved to be safe, may be of extraordinary interest and value.
Before proceeding to the comparison of a number of American myths with their analogues in the Old World, it is to be premised that the view of a connexion between the inhabitants of America and Asia by no means rests on one of those vague and misty theories, which have too often been allowed to pass current as solid Ethnological arguments. The researches of Alexander von Humboldt brought into view, half a century ago, evidence which goes with great force to prove that the civilization of Mexico and that of Asia have, in part at least, a common origin, and that therefore the population of these regions are united, if not by the tie of common descent and relationship by blood, at least by intercourse, direct or indirect, in past times. Of this evidence, the similarity of the chrochronological calendars is perhaps the strongest point. Not only are series of names like our signs of the zodiac used to record periods of time, but such series are combined together, or with numbers, in both countries, in a complex, perverse, and practically purposeless manner, which, whatever its origin, can hardly by any stretch of probability be supposed to have come up independently in the minds of two different peoples. The theory of the successive destructions and renovations of the world, at the end of long cycles of years, was pointed out by Humboldt as another bond of connexion between Mexico and the Old World. If these agreements between North America and Asia are to be read as indications of a deep-rooted connexion, this ought to have left many other traces. Of customs, the occurrence of which in America as well as in the Old World would be well explained by such a view, something has already been said. Of the North or South American myths which closely resemble tales current in Asia, Polynesia, and elsewhere in the world, eight are discussed here, the World-Tortoise, the Man swallowed by the Fish, the Sun-Catcher, the Ascent to Heaven by the Tree, the Bridge of the Dead, the Fountain of Youth, the Tail-Fisher, and the Diable Boiteux.
In the Old World, the Tortoise Myth belongs especially to India, and the idea is developed there in a variety of forms. The Tortoise that upholds the earth is called in Sanskrit Kúrmarâdja, "King of the Tortoises," and the Hindus believe to this day that the world rests upon its back. Sometimes the snake Sesha bears the world on its head, or an elephant carries it upon its back, and both snake and elephant are themselves supported by the great tortoise. The earth, rescued from the deluge which destroys mankind, is set up with the snake that bears it resting on the floating tortoise, and a deluge is again to pour over the face of the earth when the world-tortoise, sinking under its load, goes down into the great waters. When the Daityas and Dânavas churned the Sea of Milk to make the amrita, the drink of immortality, they took the mountain Mandara for the churning-stick, and the serpent Vâsuki was the thong that was wound round it, and pulled back and forwards to drive the churn. In the midst of the milky sea, Vishnu himhimself, in the form of a tortoise, served as a pivot for the mountain as it was whirled around.
The notion of the earth being itself a great tortoise swimming in the midst of the ocean, is thus described by Reinaud:—"According to Varâha-Mihira, the Indians represented to themselves the inhabited part of the world under the form of a tortoise floating upon the water; it is in this sense that they call the World Kaurma-chakra, that is to say, 'the wheel of the tortoise.'" And lastly, the ancient Vedic Books of India, which so often supply the means of tracing the most florid developments of mythology back to mere simple child-like views of nature, present, as really existing in very early times, the original idea out of which the whole series of myths of the World-Tortoise seems to have grown. To man in the lower levels of science, the earth is a flat plain over which the sky is placed like a dome, as the arched upper shell of the tortoise stands upon the flat plate below, and this is why the tortoise is the symbol and representative of the world. The analogy of other conceptions of heaven and earth, as formed by the two halves of the shell of Brahma's Egg, or by the two calabashes shut together in the mythology of the Yorubas of Africa, is indeed sufficient to lead us to the opinion that this was the original meaning of the World-Tortoise, but the following passage from Weber will enable us to substitute fact for inference. "The earth is conceived in the Catapatha Brâhmana as the under shell (adharam kapâlam) of the Tortoise Kûrma, which represents the Triple World. The upper shell is the sky, the body lying between the two shells is the atmosphere (nabhas, antari-ksham) which connects them."
There is a curious group of myths, of which an ancient example is preserved in the Zend-Avesta. The hero, Kereçaspa, cooks his food in a cauldron on the back of the serpent Cruvara, on which the green poison flowed of the thickness of a thumb; the burnt monster dashes away, and returns to the hurrying waters. It is related in the first voyage of Sindbad, that he and his companions came, as they sailed along, to an island like one of the gardens of Paradise, and there they anchored the ship, and went ashore, and lighted fires to cook food. But the island was a great fish, on whose back sand had accumulated, and trees had grown from times of old, and when it felt the fire on its back, it moved and went down to the bottom of the sea. This story, which may be also found in Jewish and mediæval European literature, seems to have become combined with the tortoise-myth. In El-Kazwini's account of the animals of the water, there is a version of the story, which describes the creature as a huge tortoise; "The Tortoise," he says, "is a sea and land animal. As to the sea-tortoise, it is very enormous, so that the people of the ship imagine that it is an island. One of the merchants hath related, saying, 'We found in the sea an island elevated above the water, having upon it green plants; and we went forth to it, and dug [holes for fire] to cook; whereupon the island moved, and the sailors said, Come ye to your place; for it is a tortoise, and the heat of the fire hath hurt it; lest it carry you away!—By reason of the enormity of its body,' saith he (i.e. the narrator above mentioned), 'it was as though it were an island; and earth collected upon its back in the length of time, so that it became like land, and produced plants.'" It is remarkable that a similar story, of a monstrous river-tortoise, has been found among the Zulus.
The striking analogy between the Tortoise-myths of North America and India is by no means a matter of new observation; it was indeed remarked upon by Father Lafitau nearly a century and a half ago. Three great features of the Asiatic stories are found among the North American Indians, in the fullest and clearest development. The earth is supported on the back of a huge floating Tortoise, the Tortoise sinks under water and causes a deluge, and the Tortoise is conceived as being itself the Earth floating upon the face of the deep.
In the last century, Loskiel, the Moravian missionary, remarked of the North American Indians, that "Some imagine, that the earth swims in the sea, or that an enormous tortoise carries the world on its back." Schoolcraft, an unrivalled authority on Indian mythology within his own district, remarks that the turtle is "an object held in great respect, in all Indian reminiscence. It is believed to be, in all cases, a symbol of the earth, and is addressed as a mother." In the Iroquois mythology, there was a woman of heaven who was called Atahentsic, and one of the six men of heaven became enamoured of her. When it was discovered, she was cast down to earth, and received on the back of a great turtle lying on the waters, and there she Was delivered of twins. One was "The Good Mind," the other was "the Bad Mind," and thus the two great powers of the Indian dualism, the Good and Evil Principle, came into the world, and the tortoise expanded and became the earth, or, as it is elsewhere related, the otter and the fishes disturbed the mud at the bottom of the ocean, and drawing it up round the tortoise, formed a small island, which, gradually increasing, became the earth. Father Charlevoix gives two different versions of the story. In one place it is Taronyawagon, the King of Heaven, who gave his wife so mighty a kick that she flew out of the sky and down to earth, and fell upon the back of a tortoise, which, cleaving the waters of the deluge with its feet, at last uncovered the earth, and carried the woman to the foot of a tree, where she was delivered of two sons, and the elder, who was called Tawiskaron, killed his younger brother. In another place the story is like Schoolcraft's. Among the Mandans, Catlin found a legend which brings in the same notion of the World-tortoise, but shows by the difference of the accessory circumstances that it was not in America a mere part of a particular story, but a mythological conception which might be worked into an unlimited variety of myths. The tale that the Mandan doctor told Catlin, was that the earth was a large tortoise, that it carried dirt upon its back, and that a tribe of people who are now dead, and whose faces were white, used to dig down very deep in this ground to catch badgers. One day they stuck a knife through the shell of the tortoise, and it sank and sank till the water ran over its back, and they were all drowned but one man. The North American idea that it is the movement of the earth-tortoise which causes earthquakes, adds the last touch to the realism of the whole conception.
The Myth of the World-Tortoise is one of those which have this great value in the comparison of Asiatic and American Mythology, that it leaves not the least opening for the supposition of its having been carried by modern Europeans from the Old to the New World. But it is to be seen, even from the tales which have just been quoted, that it is mixed up in America with incidents and ideas more familiar to the European mind; and the stories told only with reference to the World- Tortoise may serve to give a glimpse into the vast ethnological field which lies in the Red Indian traditions, ready to be worked. The Deluge, Cain and Abel, Ahriman and Ormuzd, Romulus and Remus, all have their analogies among the legends of these wild hunters. In the story which Charlevoix tells just before that which I have quoted, there is Noah's raven and Pandora's casket.
To proceed now to the story of the Man swallowed by the Fish. It is related in the Chippewa tale of the Little Monedo, that there was once a little boy, of tiny stature, and growing no bigger with years, but of monstrous strength. He had done before various wondrous feats, and one day he waded into the lake, and called "You of the red fins, come and swallow me." Immediately that monstrous fish came and swallowed him, and he, seeing his sister standing in despair on the shore, called out to her, and she tied an old mocassin to a string, and fastened it to a tree near the water's edge. The fish said to the boy-man under water, "What is that floating?" The boy-man said to the fish, "Go take hold of it, and swallow it as fast as you can." The fish darted towards the old shoe, and swallowed it; the boy-man laughed to himself, but said nothing till the fish was fairly caught, and then he took hold of the line and hauled himself to shore. When the sister began to cut the fish open she heard her brother's voice from inside the fish, calling to her to let him out, so she made a hole, and he crept through, and told her to cut up the fish and dry it, for it would last them a long while for food.
In the Old World, the Hindoo story of Saktideva tells that there was once a king's daughter who would marry no one but the man who had seen the Golden City, and Saktideva was in love with her; so he went travelling about the world seeking some one who could tell him where this Golden City was. In the course of his journeys he embarked on board a ship bound for the island of Utsthala, where lived the King of the Fishermen, who, Saktideva hoped, would set him on his way. On the voyage there arose a great storm and the ship went to pieces, but a great fish swallowed Saktideva whole. Then driven by the force of fate, the fish went to the island of Utsthala, and there the servants of the King of the Fishermen caught it, and the King wondering at its size had it cut open, and Saktideva came out unhurt, to pass through other adventures, and at last to see the Golden City, and to marry, not the Princess only, but her three sisters beside.
The analogy of these curious tales with the leading episode of the Book of Jonah is of course evident, and it might at first appear as though this very ancient story were possibly the direct origin of one or both of them; as regards dates, the American story has been but recently taken down, and even the Hindoo tale only comes out of a mediæval Sanskrit collection. But both agree in differing from the history of Jonah, in the fish being cut open to let the man out. Something very like this occurs in the myth of the Polynesian Sun-god Maui. He was born on the sea-shore, and his mother flung him into the foam of the surf; then the seaweed wrapped its long tangles round him, and the soft jelly-fish rolled themselves about him to protect him as he was drifted on shore again, and his great ancestor the Sky, Tama-nui-ki-te-Rangi, saw the flies and the birds collected in clusters and flocks, and ran and stripped the encircling jellyfish off, and behold there lay within a human being; so the old man took the child and carried it home. As the Polynesian Maui is among the clearest and completest personifications of the Sun, there is some force in Schirren's argument that this story means the Sun being set free by the Sky at dawn, from the Earth which covers him at night; for it must be remembered here that one of the most prominent ideas of the Polynesian Mythology is that the Earth is a huge fish, which Maui draws up with his line from the bottom of the sea, and that Maui's death, the sunset, is told in the story of his creeping into the mouth of his great ancestress, Hine-nui-te-po, whom you may see flashing, and, as it were, opening and shutting, where the horizon meets the sky; there Maui crept in, and perished. And not only would such an explanation of the tale of the Red Indian 'Tom Thumb' be a fitting one, in that he, like so many personifications of the Sun in other countries, is a slayer of Giants, but he will appear a few pages further on as the Sun-Catcher in a plain, open Solar myth. In any full discussion of the group of tales, it would be necessary to investigate their correspondence with the European stories of Tom Thumb, who was swallowed by the cow and came out unhurt, and of Little Red Riding-Hood, who was swallowed whole by the wolf, and came out alive when the hunter cut him open.
In the next myth, that of the Sun-Catcher, the Polynesian Sun-god Maui again makes his appearance. He began to think that it was too soon after the rising of the sun that it became night again, and that the sun again sank down below the horizon, every day, every day; so at last he said to his brothers, "Let us now catch the sun in a noose, so that we may compel him to move more slowly, in order that mankind may have long days to labour in to procure subsistence for themselves." Then they began to spin and twist ropes to make a noose to catch the sun in, and thus the art of rope-making was discovered. And Maui took his enchanted weapon, which, like Samson's, was a jaw-bone, the jaw-bone of his ancestress Muri-ranga-whenua, and he and his brothers travelled off through the desert, till they came very far, very far, to the eastward, to the very edge of the place out of which the sun rises. There they set the noose, and at last the sun came up and put his head and fore-paws through it; then the brothers pulled the ropes tight and held him fast, and Maui rushed at him with his magic weapon. Alas! the sun screams aloud, he roars; Maui strikes him fiercely with many blows; they hold him for a long time, at last they let him go, and then, weak from wounds, the sun crept slowly along its course. Another version of the story was taken down in the Samoan Islands. There was once a man who, like the white people, though it was years before pipes, muskets, or priests were heard of, never could be contented with what he had; pudding was not good enough for him, and he worried his family out of all heart with his new ways and ideas. At last he set to build himself a house of great stones, to last for ever; so he rose early and toiled late, but the stones were so heavy and so far off, and the sun went round so quickly, that he could get on but very slowly. One evening he lay awake, and thought and thought, and it struck him that as the sun had but one road to come by, he might stop him and keep him till the work was done. So he rose before the dawn, and pulling out in his canoe as the sun rose, he threw a rope round his neck; but no, the sun marched on and went his course unchecked. He put nets over the place where the sun rose, he used up all his mats to stop him, but in vain; the sun went on, and laughed in hot winds at all his efforts. Meanwhile the house stood still, and the builder fairly despaired. At last the great Itu, who generally lies on his mats, and cares not at all for those he has made, turned round and heard his cry, and, because he was a good warrior, sent him help. He made the facehere creeper grow, and again the poor man sprang up from the ground near his house, where he had lain down in despair. He took his canoe and made a noose of the creeper. It was the bad season, when the sun is dull and heavy; so up he came, half asleep and tired, nor looked about him, but put his head into the noose. He pulled and jerked, but Itu had made it too strong. The man built his house—the sun cried and cried, till the island of Savai was nearly drowned; but not till the last stone was laid, was he suffered to resume his career. None can break the facehere. It is the Itu's cord.
Other versions of this episode in the great Maui-myth have been taken down in the Pacific Islands, and a like variety is found in the corresponding tales from North America. Among the Ojibwas, the Sun-Catcher is evidently the same personage as the Boy swallowed by the Fish in the last group of stories. At the time when the animals reigned in the earth, they had killed all but a girl and her little brother, and these two were living in fear and seclusion. The boy never grew bigger than a little child, and his sister used to take him out with her when she went to get food for the lodge-fire, for he was too little to leave alone; a big bird might have flown away with him. One day she made him a bow and arrows, and told him to hide where she had been chopping, and when the snow-birds came to pick the worms out of the wood, he was to shoot one. That day he tried in vain to kill one, but the next, toward nightfall, she heard his little footsteps on the snow; he brought in a bird, and told his sister she was to take off the skin and to put half the bird at a time into the pottage, for till then men had not begun to eat animal food, but had lived on vegetables alone. At last the boy had killed ten birds, and his sister made him a little coat of the skins. "Sister," said he one day, "are we all alone in the world? Is there nobody else living?" Then she told him that those they feared, and who had destroyed their relatives, lived in a certain part, and he must by no means go that way; but this only made him eager to go, and he took his bow and arrows and started. When he had walked a long while, he lay down on a knoll, where the sun had melted the snow, and fell fast asleep; but while he was sleeping the sun beat so hot upon him, that his bird-skin coat was all singed and shrunk. When he awoke and found his coat spoilt, he vowed vengeance against the sun, and bade his sister make him a snare. She made him one of deer's sinew, and then one of her own hair, but they would not do. At last she brought him one that was right; he pulled it between his lips, and, as he pulled, it became a red metal cord. With this he set out a little after midnight, and fixed his snare on a spot just where the sun would strike the land, as it rose above the earth's disc, and sure enough he caught the sun, so that it was held fast in the cord and did not rise. The animals who ruled the earth were immediately put into a great commotion. They had no light. They called a council to debate upon the matter, and to appoint some one to go and cut the cord, for this was a very hazardous enterprise, as the rays of the sun would burn whoever came so near. At last the dormouse undertook it, for at this time the dormouse was the largest animal in the world. When it stood up it looked like a mountain. When it got to the place where the sun was snared, its back began to smoke and burn with the intensity of the heat, and the top of its carcass was reduced to enormous heaps of ashes. It succeeded, however, in cutting the cord with its teeth, and freeing the sun; but it was reduced to a very small size, and has remained so ever since.
In this North American tale we have the Sun-Catcher of the South Sea Islands, combined with part of our own Jack and the Beanstalk. As Jack, in spite of his mother's prayers, goes up the ladder that is to take him to the dwelling of the Giant who killed his father, so the boy of the American tale will not heed his sister's persuasion, but goes to seek the enemies who had slain his kindred. In the next two versions also from North America, the incident of the going up a tree to the country in the sky, as Jack goes up his beanstalk, makes its appearance. And in all three, the loosing of the imprisoned sun is told in a story of which the European fable of the Lion and the Mouse might he a mere moralized remnant.
In the story found among the Wyandots, in the seventeenth century, by the missionary Paul le Jeune, it is related that there was a child whose father was killed and eaten by a bear, and his mother by the Great Hare; a woman came and found the child, and adopted him as her little brother, calling him Chakabech. He did not grow bigger than a baby, but he was so strong that the trees served as arrows for his bow. When he had killed the destroyers of his parents, he wished to go up to heaven, and climbed up a tree; then he blew upon it, and it grew up and up till he came up to heaven, and there he found a beautiful country. So he went down to fetch his sister, building huts as he went down to lodge her in; brought her up the tree into heaven, and then broke off the tree low down: so no one can go up to heaven that way. Then Chakabech went out and set his snares for game, but when he got up at night to look at them, he found everything on fire, and went back to his sister to tell her. Then she told him he must have caught the Sun, going along by night he must have got in unawares, and when Chakabech went to see, so it was; but he dared not go near enough to let him out. But by chance he found a little Mouse, and blew upon her till she grew so big that she could set the Sun free, and he went again on his way; but while he was held in the snare, day failed down here on earth.
The first and second American versions of the Sun-Catcher come from near the great lakes, but the third is found among the Dog-Rib Indians, far in the north-west, close upon the Esquimaux who fringe the northern coast. When Chapewee, after the deluge, formed the earth, and landed the animals upon it from his canoe, he "stuck up a piece of wood, which became a fir-tree, and grew with amazing rapidity, until its top reached the skies. A squirrel ran up this tree, and was pursued by Chapewee, who endeavoured to knock it down, but could not overtake it. He continued the chase, however, until he reached the stars, where he found a fine plain, and a beaten road. In this road he set a snare, made of his sister's hair, and then re- turned to the earth. The sun appeared as usual in the heavens in the morning, hut at noon it was caught by the snare which Chapewee had set for the squirrel, and the sky was instantly darkened. Chapewee's family on this said to him, 'You must have done something wrong when you were aloft, for we no longer enjoy the light of day.' 'I have,' replied he, 'but it was unintentionally.' Chapewee then endeavoured to repair the fault he had committed, and sent a number of animals up the tree to release the sun by cutting the snare, but the intense heat of that luminary reduced them all to ashes. The efforts of the more active animals being thus frustrated, a ground mole, though such a grovelling and awkward beast, succeeded by burrowing under the road in the sky until it reached and cut asunder the snare which bound the sun. It lost its eyes, however, the instant it thrust its head into the light, and its nose and teeth have ever since been brown, as if burnt."
In former editions of this work it was remarked that the origin of the story of the Sun-Catcher is not yet clear, but probably some piece of unequivocal evidence will be found to explain it. There has since been published by the Rev. W. W. Gill a version of the Maui-myth from the Hervey Islands, which looks as though it might be this expected key. Maui plaited six great cocoa-nut fibre ropes to make his royal nooses to catch the sun- god, Rā; the first noose he set at the opening where the sun climbs up from Avaiki, the under-world, and the other five one after another further on in the sun's path; as Rā came up in the morning, Maui pulled the first slip-knot, which held him by the feet, the next by the knees, and so on, till the last noose closed round his neck, and Maui made him fast to a point of rock; then Rā, nearly strangled, confessed himself conquered, and promised henceforth to go more slowly through the heavens, that men might have time to got easily through their work. "The sun-god Rā was now allowed to proceed on his way; but Maui wisely declined to take on these ropes, wishing to keep Rā in constant fear. These ropes may still be seen hanging from the sun at dawn, and when he descends into the ocean at night. By the assistance of these ropes he is gently let down into Avaiki, and in the morning is raised up out of the shades. Of course this extravagant myth refers to what English children call 'the sun drawing up water;' or, as these islanders still say 'Tena te taura a Māui!' 'Behold the ropes of Māui!'"
In connexion with this set of tales, it may be noticed that there are to be found in the Old World ideas of the sun being bound with a cord to hold it in check. In North Germany the townsmen of Bösum sit up in their church tower and hold the sun by a cable all day; taking care of it at night, and letting it up again in the morning. In Reynard the Fox, the day is bound with a rope, and its bonds only let it come slowly on. In a Hungarian tale midnight and dawn are bound, so that they can get no farther towards men. This notion is curiously like the Peruvian story of the Inca who denied the pretension of the Sun to be the doer of all things, for if he were free, he would go and visit other parts of the heavens where he had never been. He is, said the Inca, like a tied beast who goes ever round and round in the same track. The idea is renewed by Wordsworth, that "modern ancient," as Max Müller so truly calls him:—
"Well does thine aspect usher in this Day;
As aptly suits therewith that modest pace
Submitted to the chains
That bind thee to the path which God ordains
That thou shouldst trace,
Till, with the heavens and earth, thou pass away!"
The legend of the Ascent to Heaven by the Tree has just been brought forward in two of its American versions, taken down at periods two centuries apart, and among tribes not only separated by long distance but speaking languages of two distinct families, and yet in both cases embodying also the story of the Sun-Catcher. A further examination of the story of Jack and the Bean-Stalk, and the analogous tales which are spread through the Malay and Polynesian districts and North America, will bring into view the vast ramifications of a mythic episode flourishing far and wide in these distant regions, though so scantily represented in the folk-lore of Europe.
Once upon a time there was a poor widow, and she had one son, and his name was Jack. One day she sent him to sell the cow, but when he saw some pretty-coloured beans that the butcher had, he was so delighted that he gave the cow for them and brought his prize home in triumph. When the poor mother saw the beans that Jack had brought home she flung them away, and they grew and grew till next morning they had grown right up into the sky. So Jack climbed up sorely against his mother's will, and saw the fairy, and went to the house of the giant who had killed his father, and stole the hen that laid the golden eggs, and did various other wonderful things, till at last the Giant came running after him and followed him down the bean-stalk, but Jack was just in time to cut the ladder through, and the wicked Giant tumbled down head first into the well, and there he was drowned.
So runs the good old nursery tale of Jack and the Bean-Stalk. That it is found in England and yet is not general in the folk- lore of the rest of our race in Europe is remarkable. Mr. Campbell says it is not known in the Highlands of Scotland, while in Germany Wilhelm Grimm only compares it with two poor, dull little stories, one a version distinctly connected with our English tale, the other perhaps so, but neither worth repeating here.
In another American tradition, found current among the Mandans, the ascent is not from the earth to the sky, but from the regions underground to the surface. It is thus related in the account of Lewis and Clarke's expedition. "Their belief in a future state is connected with this tradition of their origin: the whole nation resided in one large village underground near a subterraneous lake: a grape-vine extended its roots down to their habitation and gave them a view of the light: some of the most adventurous climbed up the vine and were delighted with the sight of the earth, which they found covered with buffalo and rich with every kind of fruits: returning with the grapes they had gathered, their countrymen were so pleased with the taste of them that the whole nation resolved to leave their dull residence for the charms of the upper region; men, women, and children ascended by means of the vine; but when about half the nation had reached the surface of the earth, a corpulent woman who was clambering up the vine broke it with her weight, and closed upon herself and the rest of the nation the light of the sun. Those who were left on earth made a village below where we saw the nine villages; and when the Mandans die they expect to return to the original seats of their forefathers; the good reaching the ancient village by means of the lake, which the burden of the sins of the wicked will not enable them to cross."
The set of Malayo-Polynesian stories which tell of the climbing from earth to heaven by a tree or vine-like plant is, besides, a good illustration of the unity of the Island Mythology from Borneo to New Zealand. The Dayak tale of the man who went up to heaven and brought down rice has been already cited. It is thus told by Mr. St. John:—"Once upon a time, when mankind had nothing to eat but a species of edible fungus that grows upon rotting trees, and there were no cereals to gladden and strengthen man's heart, a party of Dayaks, among whom was a man named Si Jura, whose descendants live to this day in the Dayak village of Simpok, went forth to sea. They sailed on for some time, until they came to a place at which they heard the distant roar of a large whirlpool, and, to their amazement, saw before them a huge fruit-tree rooted in the sky, and thence hanging down with its branches touching the waves. At the request of his companions, Si Jura climbed among its boughs to collect the fruit which was in abundance, and when he was there he found himself tempted to ascend the trunk and find out how the tree grew in that position. He did so, and at length got so high that his companions in the boat lost sight of him, and after waiting a certain time coolly sailed away loaded with fruit. Looking down from his lofty position, Si Jura saw his friends making off, so he had no other resource but to go on climbing in hopes of reaching some resting-place. He therefore persevered climbing higher and higher, till he reached the roots of the tree, and there he found himself in a new country—that of the Pleiades. There he met a being in form of a man, named Si Kira, who took him to his home and hospitably entertained him. The food offered was a mess of soft white grains—boiled rice. 'Eat,' said Si Kira. 'What, those little maggots?' replied Si Jura. 'They are not maggots, but boiled rice;' and Si Kira forthwith explained the process of planting, weeding, and reaping, and of pounding and boiling rice. . . . So Si Jura made a hearty meal, and after eating, Si Kira gave him seed of three kinds of rice, instructed him how to cut down the forest, burn, plant, weed, and reap, take omens from birds, and celebrate harvest feasts; and then, by a long rope, let him down to earth again near his father's house."
In the Malay island of Celebes, the episode of the heaven-plant occurs in a story no doubt derived from an Arabic source, its theme being that of the tale of Hassan of Bassora in the Arabian Nights. Seven heavenly nymphs came down from the sky to bathe, and they were seen by Kasimbaha, who thought first that they were white doves, but in the bath he saw that they were women. Then he stole one of the thin robes that gave the nymphs their power of flying, and so he caught Utahagi, the one whose robe he had stolen, and took her for his wife, and she bore him a son. Now she was called Utahagi from a single white hair she had, which was endowed with magic power, and this hair her husband pulled out. As soon as he had done it, there arose a great storm, and Utahagi went up into heaven. The child cried for its mother, and Kasimbaha was in great grief, and cast about how he should follow Utahagi up into the sky. Then a rat gnawed the thorns off the rattans, and he clambered up by them with his son upon his back till he came to heaven. There a little bird showed him the house of Utahagi, and after various adventures he took up his abode among the gods.
From Celebes to New Zealand the distance is some four thousand miles, but among the Maoris a tale is found which is beyond doubt connected with this. There was once a great chief called Tawhaki, and a girl of the heavenly race, whose name was Tango-tango, heard of his valour and his beauty and came down to earth to be his wife, and she bore a daughter to him. But when Tawhaki took the little girl to a spring and had washed it, he held it out at arm's length and said, "Faugh, how badly the little thing smells." When Tango-tango heard this, she was bitterly offended and began to sob and weep, and at last she took the child and flew up to heaven with it. Tawhaki tried to stop her and besought her to stay, but in vain, and as she paused for a minute with one foot resting on the carved figure at the end of the ridge-pole of the house, above the door, he called to her to leave him some remembrance of her. Then she told him he was not to lay hold of the loose root of the creeper, which dropping from aloft sways to and fro in the air, but rather to lay fast hold on that which hanging down from on high has again struck its fibres into the earth. So she floated up into the air and vanished, and Tawhaki remained mourning: at the end of a month he could bear it no longer, so he took his younger brother with him, and two slaves, and started to look for his wife and child. At last the brothers came to the spot where the ends of the tendrils which hung down from heaven reached the earth, and there they found an old ancestress of theirs whose name was Matakerepo. She was appointed to take care of the tendrils, and she sat at the place where they touched the earth, and held the ends of one of them in her hands. So next day the younger brother, Karihi, started to climb up, and the old woman warned him not to look down when he was midway between heaven and earth, lest he should turn giddy and fall, and also to take care not to catch hold of a loose tendril. But just at that very moment he made a spring at the tendrils, and by mistake caught hold of a loose one, and away he swung to the very edge of the horizon, but a blast of wind blew forth from thence and drove him back to the other side of the skies, and then another gust swept him heavenwards, and again he was blown down. Just as he reached the ground this time Tawhaki shouted to him to let go, and lo, he stood upon the earth once more, and the two brothers wept over his narrow escape from destruction. Then Tawhaki began to climb, and he went up and up, repeating a powerful incantation as he climbed, till at last he reached the heavens, and there he found his wife and their daughter, and they took her to the water, and baptised her in proper New Zealand fashion. Lightning flashed from Tawhaki's armpits, and he still dwells up there in heaven, and when he walks, his footsteps make the thunder and lightning that are heard and seen on earth.
There are other mythological ways besides the Heaven-tree, by which, in different parts of the world, it is possible to go up and down between the surface of the ground and the sky or the regions below; the rank spear-grass, a rope or thong, a spider's web, a ladder of iron or gold, a column of smoke, or the rainbow. It must be remembered in discussing such tales, that the idea of climbing, for instance, from earth to heaven by a tree, fantastic as it may seem to a civilized man of modern times, is in a different grade of culture quite a simple and natural idea, and too much stress must not be laid on bare coincidences to this effect in proving a common origin for the stories which contain them, unless closer evidence is forthcoming. Such tales belong to a rude and primitive state of the knowledge of the earth's surface, and what lies above and below it. The earth is a flat plain surrounded by the sea, and the sky forms a roof on which the sun, moon, and stars travel. The Polynesians, who thought, like so many other peoples, ancient and modern, that the sky descended at the horizon and enclosed the earth, still call foreigners papalangi, or " heaven-bursters," as having broken in from another world outside. The sky is to most savages what it is called in a South American language, mumeseke, that is, the "earth on high;" and we can quite understand the thought of the Mbocobis of Paraguay, that at death their souls would go up to heaven by the tree Llagdigua, which joins earth and sky. There are holes or windows through the sky-roof or firmament, where the rain comes through, and if you climb high enough you can get through and visit the dwellers above, who look, and talk, and live very much in the same way as the people upon earth. As above the flat earth, so below it, there are regions inhabited by men or man-like creatures, who sometimes come up to the surface, and sometimes are visited by the inhabitants of the upper earth. We live as it were upon the ground floor of a great house, with upper storeys rising one over another above us, and cellars down below.
The Bridge of the Dead is one of the well-marked myths of the Old World. The Zarathustrian religion recognizes the bridge Chinvat, made by Ahura-Mazda, whither souls of the dead on their way to give account of their deeds in life must come, the good to pass over, the wicked to fall into the abyss; to this day the Parsi declares in solemn confession of his faith, that he is wholly without doubt in the stepping over the bridge Chinvat. Perhaps it was from this Persian source that the myth found its way into Rabbinical literature, and into the accepted belief of Islam. Over the midst of the Moslem Hell stretches the bridge Es-Sirat, finer than a hair, and sharper than the edge of a sword. There all souls of the dead must pass along, but while the good reach the other side in safety, the wicked fall off into the abyss.
In Scandinavian mythology, the bridge on the Hell-way, where the pale unsubstantial dead ride over the river Gjöll, is part and parcel of the myth of Baldur in the Prose Edda. But it seems rather from the Oriental group just described, that the ideas of the bridge in Christian Europe had their source. The "Brig of Dread, na brader than a thread," sung of in the grand old Lyke-Wake Dirge of our North Country, was a recognized part of the architecture of Purgatory and Hell, to be seen and even passed over by the ecstatic explorers whose visions of the future state were a staple commodity of pious literature in the middle ages. It is thus described when Owayne Miles, one of King Stephen's Knights, descends into St. Patrick's Purgatory:—
"Over the water a brygge there was,
Forsothe kenere than ony glasse:
Hit was narowe and hit was hyge,
Onethe that other end he syge.
The mydylle was hyg, the ende was lowe,
Hit ferde as hit hadde ben a bent bo we.
The develle sayde, 'Knyghte, here may thu se
Into helle the rygte entré:
Over thys brygge thu meste wende, Wynde and rayne we shulle the sende:
We shulle the sende wynde full goode,
That shall the caste ynto the floode.'"
But Owayne with prayer passed safely over and reached the Earthly Paradise on the other side. The adaptation of the myth in Paradise Lost is too familiar to be quoted.
Looking to the far East, we find in the Hinduized and Islamized mythology of Java the bridge which leads across the abyss to the single opening in the stone wall round Suralaya, the dwelling of the gods; off this bridge the evildoers fall into the depths below. Other myths from this region have more special and seemingly more local character. The conception of a bridge being needed for the passage of souls is well shown among the Karens of Birmah, who at this day tie strings across the rivers for the ghosts of the dead to pass over to their graves; among these people the Heaven-bridge is a sword, those who cross it become men, those who dare not, women. And among the Idaan of Borneo, the passage for men into paradise is across a long tree, which to those who have not killed a man is scarcely practicable.
In America, the bridge over the abyss is distinct in native mythology. The Greenland angekok, when he has passed through the land of souls, has to cross an awful gulf over a stretched rope, his guardian spirit holding him by the hand, till he reaches the abode of the great female Evil Spirit below the sea. Among the North American Indians the Ojibwa soul has to cross the river of death on the great snake which serves as a bridge, while the Minnetarees, in their way to the mansions of their ancestors after death, have to cross a narrow footing over a rapid river, where the good warriors and hunters pass, but the worthless ones fall in. Catlin's account of the Choctaw belief is as follows:—"Our people all believe that the spirit lives in a future state; that it has a great distance to travel after death towards the west—that it has to cross a dreadful deep and rapid stream, which is hemmed in on both sides by high and rugged hills—over this stream, from hill to hill, there lies a long and slippery pine-log, with the bark peeled off, over which the dead have to pass to the delightful-hunting grounds. On the other side of the stream there are six persons of the good hunting-grounds with rocks in their hands, which they throw at them all when they are on the middle of the log. The good walk on safely to the good hunting-grounds . . . The wicked see the stones coming, and try to dodge, by which they fall down from the log, and go thousands of feet to the water, which is dashing over the rocks." In the interior of South America the idea appears again among the Manacicas. Among these people, the Maponos or priests performed a kind of baptism of the dead, and were then supposed to mount into the air, and carry the soul to the Land of the Departed. After a weary journey of many days over hills and vales, through forests, and across rivers and swamps and lakes, they came to a place where many roads met, near a deep and wide river, where the god Tatusiso stood night and day upon a wooden bridge to inspect all such travellers. If he did not consider the sprinkling after death a sufficient purgation of the sins of the departed, he would stop the priest, that the soul he carried might be further cleansed, and if resistance were made, would sometimes seize the unhappy soul and throw him into the river, and when this happened some calamity would follow among the Manacicas at home.
The Bridge of the Dead may possibly have its origin in the rainbow. Among the Northmen the rainbow is to be seen in the bridge Bifrost of the three colours, over which the Æsir make their daily journey, and the red in it is fire, for were it easy to pass over, the Frost-giants and the Mountain-giants would get across it into heaven. In a remark, evidently belonging to the North American story of the Sun-Catcher, the rainbow replaces the tree up which the mouse climbs and gnaws loose a captive in the sky. The rainbow is a ladder by which New Zealand chiefs climb to heaven, and by it the souls of the Philippine islanders who died violent deaths were carried to the happy state. The Milky Way, which among the North American Indians is the road of souls to the other world, has also a claim to be considered. As in the Old World, so in the New, the Bridge of the Dead is but an incident, sometimes, but not always or even mostly, introduced into a wider belief that after death the soul of man comes to a great gulf or stream, which it has to pass to reach the country that lies beyond the grave. The Mythology of Polynesia, though it wants the Bridge, develops the idea of the gulf which the souls have to pass, in canoes or by swimming, into a long series of myths. It is not needful to enter here into details of so well-known a feature of the Mythology of the Old World, where the Vedic Yama, King of the Dead, crossed the rapid waters and showed the way to our Aryan fathers; where the modern Hindu hopes by grasping the cow's tail at death to be safely ferried over the dreadful river Vaitaranî; where Charon and his boat, the procession of the dead by water to their long home in modern Brittany as in ancient Egypt, the setting afloat of the Scandinavian heroes in burning ships or burying them in boats on shore, are all instances of its prevalence. In barbaric districts, myths of the river of death may be instanced alike among the Finns and the Guinea negroes, among the Khonds of Orissa and the Dayaks of Borneo. In North America we hear sometimes of the bridge, but sometimes the water must be passed in canoes. The souls come to a great lake where there is a beautiful island, towards which they have to paddle in a canoe of white shining stone. On the way there arises a storm, and the wicked souls are wrecked, and the heaps of their bones are to be seen under water, but the good reach the happy island. So Charlevoix speaks of the souls that are shipwrecked in crossing the river which they have to pass on their long journey toward the west, and with this belief the canoe-burial of the North- West and of Patagonia hangs together. How the souls of the Ojibwas cross the deep and rapid water to reach the land of bliss, and the souls of the Mandans travel on the lake by which the good reach their ancient village, while the wicked cannot get across for the burden of their sins, I do not know; but, like the Heaven-Bridge, the Heaven-Gulf which has to be passed on the way to the Land of Spirits, has a claim to careful discussion in the general argument for the proof of historical connexion from Analogy of Myths.
The Fountain of Youth is known to the Mythology of India. The Açvinas let the husband of Sukanyâ go into the lake, whence the bather comes forth as old or as young as he may choose; and elsewhere the "ageless river," vijarâ nadî, makes the old young again by only seeing it, or perhaps by bathing in its waters. Perhaps it is this fountain that Sir John Mauudevile tells of early in the fourteenth century somewhere about India. "Also toward the heed of that Forest is the Cytee of Polombe. And above the Cytee is a grete Mountayne, that also is clept Polombe; and of that Mount the Cytee hathe his name. And at the Foot of that Mount, is a fayr Welle and a gret, that hathe odour and savour of alle Spices; and at every hour of the day, he chaungethe his odour and his savour dyversely. And whoso drynkethe 3 tymes fasting of that Watre of that Welle, he is hool of alle maner sykenesse, that he hathe. And thei that dwellen there and drynken often of that Welle, thei nevere han Sekenesse, and thei semen alle ways ȝonge. I have dronken there of 3 or 4 sithes; and ȝit, methinkethe, I fare the better. Sum men clepen it the Welle of ȝouthe: for thei that often drynken there of, semen alle weys ȝongly, and lyven with outen Sykenesse. And men seyn, that that Welle cometh out of Paradys: and therfore it is so vertuous."
When Cambyses sent the Fish-Eaters to spy out the condition of the long-lived Ethiopians, and the messengers wondered to hear that they lived a hundred and twenty years or more, the Ethiopians took them to a fountain, where, when they had bathed, their bodies shone as if they had been oiled, and smelt like the scent of violets. In Europe, too, stories of miraculously healing fountains have long been current. The Moslem geographer Ibn-el-Wardi places the Fountain of Life in the dark south-western regions of the earth. El-Khidr drank of it, and will live till the day of judgment; and Ilyas or Elias, whom popular belief mixes not only with El-Khidr, but also with St. George, the Dragon-slayer, has drunk of it likewise. Farther east, the idea is to be found in the Malay islands. Batara Guru drinks from a poisonous spring, but saves himself and the rest of the gods by finding a well of life; and again, Nurtjaja compels the pandit Kabib, the guardian of the caverns below the earth, where flows the spring of immortality, to let him drink of its waters, and even to take some for his descendants. In the Hawaiian legend, Kamapiikai, "the child who runs over the sea," goes with forty companions to Tahiti (Kahiki, that is to say, to the land far away), and brings back wondrous tales of Haupokane, "the belly of Kane," and of the wai ora, waiola, "water of life," wai ora roa, "water of enduring life," which removes all sickness, deformity, and decrepitude from those who plunge beneath its waters. It is perhaps to this story of the Sandwich Islands that Turner refers, when he says that some South Sea islanders have traditions of a river in the spirit-world called "Water of Life," which makes the old young again, and they return to earth to live another life.
One easy explanation of the Fountain of Youth suggests itself at the first glance. Every islander who can see the sun go down old, faint, and weary into the western sea, to rise young and fresh from the waters, has the Fountain of Youth before him; and this explanation of several, at least, of the stories is strengthened by their details, as when the fountain is described as flowing in the regions below, or in the belly of Kane, where the boy who climbs over the sea goes to it; or when, like the dying and reviving sun, Batara Guru is poisoned, but finds the reviving water, and is cured; or when the Moslem associates the drinking from the fountain with Elijah of the chariot of fire and horses of fire, or with St. George, the favourite mediæval bearer of the great Sun-myth. Without further discussing the origin of these myths, it may suffice to point out their occurrence in the New World. The Aleutian islanders had their legend that in the early times men were immortal, and when they grew old had but to spring from a high mountain into a lake whence they came forth in renewed youth. In the West Indies, early in the sixteenth century, Gomara relates that Juan Ponce de Leon, having his government taken from him, and thus finding himself rich and without charge, fitted out two caravels, and went to seek for the island of Boyuca, where the Indians said there was the fountain that turned old men back into youths (a perennial spring, says Peter Martyr, so noble that the drinking of its waters made old men young again). For six months he went lost and famishing among many islands, but of such a fountain he found no trace. Then he came to Bimini, and discovered Florida on Pascua Florida (Easter Sunday), wherefrom he gave the country its name.
To proceed now to the story of the Tail-Fisher. Dr. Dasent, who, in his admirable Introduction to the Norse Tales, has taken the lead in the extension of the argument from Comparative Mythology beyond the limited range within which it is aided by History and Language, has brought the popular tales of Africa and Europe into close connexion by adducing, among others, the unmistakeable common origin of the Norse Tale of the Bear who, at the instigation of the Fox, fishes with his tail through a hole in the ice till it is frozen in, and then pulls at it till it comes off, and the story from Bornu of the Hyaena who puts his tail into the hole, that the Weasel may fasten the meat to it, but the Weasel fastens a stick to it instead, and the Hyæna pulls till his tail breaks; both stories accounting in a similar way, but with a proper difference of local colouring, for the fact that bears and hyænas are stumpy-tailed.
A similar story is told in Reynard the Fox, less appositely, of the Wolf instead of the Bear, and in the Celtic story recently published by Mr. Campbell, it is again the Wolf who loses his tail. In this latter story, by that kaleidoscopic arrangement of incidents which is so striking a feature of Mythology, the losing of the tail is combined with the episode of taking the reflection of the moon for a cheese, which occurs in another connexion in Reynard, and is apparently the origin of our popular saying about the moon being made of green cheese.
"He made an instrument to know
If the moon shine at full or no;
That would, as soon as e'er she shone, straight
Whether 'twere day or night demonstrate;
Tell what her d'ameter to an inch is.
And prove that she's not made of green cheese."
Here, of course, "green cheese" means, like τυρὸς χλωρός, fresh, white cheese. In the Highland tale the Fox shows the Wolf the moon on the ice, and tells him it is a cheese, and he must cover it with his tail to hide it, till the Fox goes to see that the farmer is asleep. When the tail is frozen tight the Fox alarms the farmer, and the Wolf leaves his tail behind him.
"The tailless condition both of the bear and the hyaena," Dr. Dasent remarks, " could scarcely fail to attract attention in a race of hunters, and we might expect that popular tradition would attempt to account for both." The reasonableness of this conjecture is well shown in the case of two other short-tailed beasts, in a mythical episode from Central America, which bears no appearance of being historically connected with the rest, but looks as though it had been devised independently to account for the facts. When the two princes Hunahpu and Xbalanqué set themselves one day to till the ground, the axe cut down the trees and the mattock cleared away the underwood, while the masters amused themselves with shooting. But next day, when they came back, they found the trees and creepers and brambles hack in their places. So they cleared the ground again, and hid themselves to watch, and at midnight all the beasts came, small and great, saying in their language, "Trees, arise; creepers, arise!" and they came close to the two princes. First came the Lion and the Tiger, and the princes tried to catch them, but could not. Then came the Stag and the Rabbit, and them they caught by their tails, but the tails came off, and so the Stag and the Rabbit have still but "scarce a stump" left them to this day. But the Fox and the Jackal and the Boar and the Porcupine and the other beasts passed by, and they could not catch one till the Rat came leaping along; he was the last and they got in his way and caught him in a cloth. They pinched his head and tried to choke him, and burnt his tail over the fire, and since then the rat has had a hairless tail, and his eyes are as if they had been squeezed out of his head. But he begged to be heard, and told them it was not their business to till the ground, for the rings and gloves and the india-rubber ball, the instruments of the princely game, were hidden in their grandmother's house, and so forth.
The curious mythic art of Tail-fishing only forms a part of the stories how the Bear, the Wolf, and the Hyæna came to lose their tails in Europe and Africa. But this particular idea, taken by itself, has a wide geographical range both in the Old and New Worlds. A story current in India, apparently among the Tamil population of the South, is told by the Rev. J. Roberts, who says, speaking of the jackal, "this animal is very much like the fox of England in his habits and appearance. I have been told, that they often catch the crab by putting their tail into its hole, which the creature immediately seizes, in hope of food: the jackal then drags it out and devours it."
In North America, the bearer of the story is the racoon. "Lawson relates, that those which formerly lived on the salt waters in Carolina, fed on oysters, which they nimbly snatched when the shell opened; but that sometimes the paw was caught, and held till the return of the tide, in which the animal, though it swims well, was sometimes drowned. His art in catching crabs is still more extraordinary. Standing on the borders of the waters where this shell-fish abounds, he keeps the end of his tail floating on the surface, which the crab seizes, and he then leaps forward with his prey, and destroys it in a very artful manner." In South America, the art is given to two other very cunning creatures, the monkey and the jaguar. I have been informed by one of the English explorers in British Guiana, that it is a current story there, that the monkey catches fish by letting them take hold of the end of his tail. Southey, quoting from a manuscript description of the district flooded by the River Paraguay, called the Lago Xarayes, says "when the floods are out the fish leave the river to feed upon certain fruits: as soon as they hear or feel the fruit strike the water, they leap to catch it as it rises to the surface, and in their eagerness spring into the air. From this habit the Ounce has learnt a curious stratagem; he gets upon a projecting bough, and from time to time strikes the water with his tail, thus imitating the sound which the fruit makes as it drops, and as the fish spring towards it, he catches them with his paw." More recently, the story has been told again by Mr. Wallace: "The jaguar, say the Indians, is the most cunning animal in the forest: he can imitate the voice of almost every bird and animal so exactly, as to draw them towards him: he fishes in the rivers, lashing the water with his tail to imitate falling fruit, and when the fish approach, hooks them up with his claws." It may be objected against the use of the tail-fishing story as mythological evidence, that there may possibly be some foundation for it in actual fact; and it is indeed hardly more astonishing, for instance, than the jaguar's turning a number of river-turtles on their backs to be eaten at his leisure, a story which Humboldt accepts as true. But the way in which the tail-fishing is attributed in different countries to one animal after another, the bear, the wolf, the hyæna, the jackal, the racoon, the monkey, and the jaguar, authorizes the opinion that, in most cases at least, it is one of those floating ideas which are taken up as part of the story-teller's stock in trade, and used where it suits him, but with no particular subordination to fact.
Lastly, another Old World story which has a remarkable analogue in South America is that of the Diable Boiteux. This, however, in the state in which it is known to modern Europe, is a conception a good deal modified under Christian influences. In the old mythology of our race, it is the Fire-god who is lame. The unsteady flickering of the flames may perhaps be figured in the crooked legs and hobbling gait of Hephæstus, and Zeus casts him down from heaven to earth like his crooked lightnings; while the stones which correspond with the Vulcan-myth on German ground tell of the laming of Wieland, our Wayland Smith, the representative of Hephæstus. The transfer of the lameness of the Fire-god to the Devil seems to belong to the mixture of the Scriptural Satan with the ideas of heathen gods, elves, giants, and demons, which go to form that strange compound, the Devil of popular mediæval belief.
There is something very quaint in the notion of a lame god or devil, but it is quite a familiar one in South Africa. The deity of the Namaquas and other tribes is Tsui'kuap, whose principal attributes seem to be the causing of pain and death. This being received a wound in his knee in a great fight, and "Wounded- knee" appears to be the meaning of his name. Moffat's account, which is indeed not very clear, fits with a late remark made by Livingstone among another people of South Africa, the Bakwains. He observes that near the village of Sechele there is a cave called Lepelole, which no one dared to enter, for it was the common belief that it was the habitation of the Deity, and that no one who went in ever came out again. "It is curious," he says, "that in all their pretended dreams or visions of their god he has always a crooked leg, like the Egyptian Thau." Even in Australia something similar is to be found. The Biam is held to be like a black, but deformed in his lower extremities; the natives say they got many of the songs sung at their dances from him, but he also causes diseases, especially one which marks the face like small-pox.
The Diable Boiteux of South America is thus described by Pöppig, in his account of the life of the forest Indians of Mainas. "A ghostly being, the Uchuclla-chaqui or Lame-foot, alone troubles the source of his best pleasure and his livelihood. Where the forest is darkest, where only the light-avoiding amphibia and. the nocturnal birds dwell, lives this dangerous creature, and endeavours, by putting on some friendly shape, to lure the Indian to his destruction. As the sociable hunters do, it gives the well understood signs, and, never reached itself, entices the deluded victim deeper and deeper into the solitude, disappearing with a shout of mocking laughter when the path home is lost, and the terrors of the wilderness are increasing with the growing shadows of night. Sometimes it separates companions who have gone hunting together, by appearing first in one place, then in another in an altered form; but it never can deceive the wary hunter who in distrust examines the footsteps of his enemy. Hardly has he caught sight of the quite unequal size of the impressions of the feet, when he hastens back, and for long after no one dares to make an expedition into the wilderness, for the visits of the fiend are only for a time." In South America, as in Africa, this is not a mere local tale, but a widely spread belief.
In conclusion, the analogies between the Mythology of America and of the rest of the world which have been here enumerated, when taken together with the many more which come into view in studying a wider range of native American traditions, and after full allowance has been made for independent coincidences, seem to me to warrant some expectation that the American Mythology may have to be treated as embodying materials common to other districts of the world, mixed no doubt with purely native matter. Such a view would bring the early history of America into definite connexion with that of other regions, over a larger geographical range than that included in Humboldt's argument, and would bear with some force, though of course but indirectly, on the problem of the diffusion of mankind.
- Schirren, 'Die Wandersagen der Neuseeländer und der Mauimythos;' Riga, 1856.
- Ellis, Polyn. Res., vol. i. p. 531.
- Grimm, D. M., pp. 679–83. Wilson, 'Indian Tribes,' in Tr. Eth. Soc. vol. iv. p. 304. Turner, 'Polynesia,' p. 247. See Mariner, vol. ii. p. 127.
- Hayes, 'Arctic Boat Journey,' p. 253. Different versions in Cranz, p. 295, Tr. Eth. Soc. vol. iv. p. 147.
- Castor and Pollux.
- Milligan, Papers, etc., of R. Soc. of Tasmania, vol. iii. part ii. 1859, p. 274.
- Moffat, 'Missionary Labours, etc., in S. Africa;' London, 1842, p. 126.
- Hopkins, 'Hawaii;' London, 1862, p. 67.
- Boehtlingk & Roth, s. v. Kûrma. Wilson, s. v. Kûrmarâja. Coleman, p. 12. Vans Kennedy, 'Researches;' London, 1831, pp. 216, 243. Holwell, 'Historical Events,' etc.; London, 1766 7, part ii. p. 109. Falconer, in Proc. Zool. Soc., 1844, p. 86. See Sir W. Jones, in As. Res. vol. ii. p. 119. Baldæus, in Churchill's Voyages, vol. iii. p. 848. Wilson, 'Vishnu Purana;' London, 1840, p. 75. W. v. Humboldt (Kawi-Spr., vol. i. p. 240) says with reference to the Naga Padoha, the great snake on whose three horns the world rests,—"It seems to me not unlikely, that the idea of a world-bearing elephant lies at the bottom of the whole saga [of the snake, that is] and that the double meaning of Sanskrit nâga, elephant and snake, has brought confusion into the story."
- Reinaud, 'Mémoire sur l'Inde;' Paris, 1849, p. 116.
- Pott, 'Anti-Kaulen;' Lemgo, 1863, p. 68.
- Weber, 'Indische Studien;' Berlin, 1850, etc.; vol. i. p. 187. See also p. 81. I may mention having set down this conception as the probable basis of the Tortoise-myths before meeting with this direct evidence from ancient India. The coincidence defends such an interpretation of the myths from the charge of being far-fetched and fanciful.
- Avesta (tr. by Spiegel & Bleeck) Yaçna, ix. 34. Lane, 'Thousand and One Nights,' vol. iii. pp. 6, 79, see vol. i. p. 21. Eisenmenger, 'Entdecktes Judenthum,' Königsberg, 1711, part i. p. 399. St. Brandan, ed. T. Wright, London, 1844. Petri Siculi Hist. Manichæorum, recog. Gieseler, Göttingen, 1846, p. 34. Callaway, 'Zulu Nursery Tales,' vol. i. pp. 2, 341.
- Lafitan, vol. i. p. 99.
- Loskiel, part i. p. 30.
- Schoolcraft, part i. pp. 390, 316.
- Coleman, p. 15.
- Charlevoix, vol. vi. pp. 146, 65.
- Catlin, vol. i. p. 181.
- J. G. Müller, 'Amerikanische Urreligionen,' pp. 61, 122.
- This subject has since been more fully treated by the author in 'Primitive Culture,' chap. ix.
- Schoolcraft, part iii. pp. 318–20.
- Somadeva Bhatta, vol. ii. pp. 118–184.
- Grey, 'Polynesian Mythology,' pp. 18, 31.
- Schirren, pp. 143–44, 29. But the legend is very erroneously given.
- J. & W. Grimm, 'Märchen,' vol. i. pp. 142, 198, 28.
- Grey, 'Polynesian Mythology,' pp. 35–8.
- Walpole, 'Four Years in the Pacific,' vol. ii. p. 375.
- Turner, 'Polynesia.' pp. 245, 248. Tyerman & Bennet, vol. ii. p. 40; and see vol. i. p. 433. Ellis, Polyn. Res., vol. ii. p. 415.
- Schoolcraft, Onéota;' New York and London, 1845, p 75. See ante, p. 319.
- Le Jeune (1637) in 'Relations des Jésuites Jans la Nouvelle-France;' Quebec, 1858, vol. i. p. 54. Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 320. See also page 344, in the present Chapter.
- Richardson, Narr. of Franklin's Second Exp.; London, 1828, p. 291.
- Rev. W. W. Gill, 'Myths and Songs from the South Pacific,' London, 1876, p. 62; another version, p. 70, mentions Mam's ropes breaking, till a noose was made of his sister's hair, as in the American story. [Note to 3rd Edition.]
- Bastian, vol. ii. p. 58. Grimm, D. M., p 706. See Steinthal, 'Die Sage von Simson,' in Lazarus & Steinthal's ' Zeitschrift;' Berlin, 1862, vol. ii. p. 141.
- Garcilaso de la Vega, part i. viii. 8. See also Acosta, Hist. del Nuevo Orbe, chap. v.
- See also Schoolcraft, part. iii. p. 547; part i. plate 52, p. 378.
- J. & W. Grimm, 'Märchen,' vol. ii. p. 133; vol. iii. pp. 193, 321.
- Lewis & Clarke, p. 139. Catlin, vol. i. p. 178. See Loskiel, p. 31.
- St John, vol. i. p. 202.
- Lane, 'Thousand and One Nights;' vol. iii. ch. 25. The early occurrence of this, which may be called the story of the Swan-coat, in the folk-lore of Northern Europe, is interesting. Among a number of instances, in the Völundarqvitha, three women sit on the shore with their swan-coats beside them, ready to turn into swans and fly away. Or three doves fly down to a fountain and become maidens when they touch the earth. Wielant takes their clothes and will not give them back till one be his wife, etc., etc. Grimm, D. M., pp. 398–402.
- Schirren, p. 126. Compare Bornean story, Bp. of Labuan in Tr. Eth. Soc. 1863, p. 27.
- Grey, 'Polynesian Mythology,' p. 66, etc. Several incidents are here omitted. In another version Tawhaki goes up not by the creeper but upon a spider's web. (Thomson, N. Z., vol. i. p. 111. Yate, p. 144.) Other stories connected with this series are to be found in the Samoan group. The taro, like the rice in Borneo, is brought down from heaven; there was a heaven-tree, where people went up and down, and when it fell it stretched some sixty miles; two young men went up to the moon, one by a tree, the other on the smoke of a fire as it towered into the sky (Turner, p. 246). In the Caroline Islands, another of these καπνοβάται goes up to heaven on a column of smoke to visit his celestial father (J. R. Forster, Obs. p. 606). In the Tonga Islands, Maui makes the toa grow up to heaven, so that the god Etumatubua can come down by it (Schirren, p. 76).
- Humboldt & Bonpland, vol. ii. p. 276. D'Orbigny, 'L'Homme Américain;' vol. ii. p. 102. A closely related version of the heaven-tree among the Guarayos, Martius, 'Ethnog. Amer.,' vol. i. p. 218. The following are to be added to the group of myths. The Waraus of the Essequibo district lived in heaven till Okonorote went after a shot arrow which had fallen through a hole in the sky; seeing the earth he made a rope ladder by which his people descended, till a fat one stuck in the hole and made return impossible, Bastian, 'Rechtsverhältnisse,' p. 291. The Ahts of Vancouver's Island know of an ascent by a rope to a region above the earth, Sproat. 'Scenes of Savage Life,' London, 1868, p. 176. In the White Nile district, the Kych and Bari say God made all men good, and they lived with him in heaven, but as some of them turned bad he let them down by a rope to the earth; the good could climb up again by this rope to the sky, where there was dancing and beer and all was joyous, but the rope broke (or a bird bit it through) so there is no going up to heaven now; it is closed to men. A. Kaufmann, 'Gebiet des Weissen Flusses,' Brixen, 1861, p. 125. [Note to 3rd Edition.]
- Avesta, tr. by Spiegel & Bleeck, vol. i. p. 141, vol. ii. p. 14, vol. iiL p. 163; Alger, 'Doctrine of a Future Life;' New York, 1866, p. 136.
- Eisenmenger, 'Entd. Judenthum;' part ii. p. 258.
- Lane, Mod. Eg., vol. i. p. 95.
- Prose Edda: Gylfaginning, 49. Grimm, D. M., p. 794.
- Brand, Pop. Ant., vol. ii. p. 275.
- T. Wright, 'St. Patrick's Purgatory;' London, 1844, p. 74, and elsewhere.
- Schirren, pp. 122, 125. For China, see Doolittle, 'Social Life of the Chinese;' vol. i. p. 173.
- Mrs. Mason, p. 73; Mason in Journ. As. Soc. Bengal, 1865, part ii. p. 197.
- Journ. Ind. Archip. vol. iii. p. 557.
- Cranz, Grönland, p. 264.
- Keating, vol. ii. p. 154.
- Long's Exp., voi. i. p. 280.
- Catlin, vol. ii. p. 127. See J. G. Müller, Amer. Urrelig. pp. 87, 286.
- Southey, 'Brazil,' vol. iii. p. 186.
- Schoolcraft in Pott, 'Ungleichheit der Menschlichen Rassen;' Lemgo, 1856, p. 267.
- Polack. N. Z., vol. i. p. 273. Meiners, vol. i. p. 362.
- Le Jeune (1634), p. 63.
- Williams, 'Fiji,' voL i. pp. 244, 205. Schirren, pp. 93, 110, etc.
- Castrén, p. 129, etc. Bosman, Guinea, in Pinkerton, vol. xvi. p. 401. Macpherson, p. 92. Journ. Ind. Archip., vol. i. p. 31.
- Schoolcraft, part i. p. 321. Mackenzie, p. cxix.
- Charlevoix, vol. vi. p. 76.
- Schoolcraft, part ii. p. 135.
- Lewis & Clarke, p. 139.
- For further remarks on these subjects, see Tylor, 'Primitive Culture,' chaps. xii.-xiv. [Note to 3rd Edition.]
- Kuhn, pp. 128, 12.
- 'The Voiage and Travaile of Sir John Maundevile, Kt,;' London, 1725, p. 204.
- Herod, iii. c. 23.
- Grimm, D. M., p. 554. Perty, p. 149.
- Lane, 'Thousand and One Nights,' vol. i. p. 20. See Bastian, vol. ii. pp. 158, 371.
- Schirren, p. 124.
- Schirren, p. 80. Ellis, Polyn. Res. vol. ii. p. 47. Ellis, 'Hawaii;' London, 1827, p. 399.
- Turner, p. 353.
- For etym. etc. of Batara Guru, see W. v. Humboldt, Kawi-Spr., vol. i. p. 100; Schirren, p. 116; also Crawfurd, Introd., p. cxviii. and s. vv. batara, guru.
- Gomara, Hist. Gen. de las Indias; Medina del Campo. 1553, part i, fol. xxiii. Petri Martyri De Orbe Novo (1516), ed. Hakluyt; Paris, 1587, dec. ii. c. 10. Galvano, p. 123.
- Dasent, 'Popular Tales from the Norse;' (2nd ed.) Edinburgh, 1859, pp. 1, 197.
- Grimm, 'Reinhart Fuchs,' pp. civ. cxxii. 51.
- Grimm, 'Reinhart Fuchs,' p. cxxvii.
- 'Hudibras,' part ii. canto iii.
- Campbell, 'Popular Tales of the West Highlands;' Edinburgh, 1860, vol. i. p. 272.
- Brasseur, Popul-Vuh,' pp. 113–25.
- Roberts, 'Oriental Illustrations,' p. 172.
- D. B. Warden, Account of U. S.; Edinburgh, 1819, vol. i. p. 199.
- Southey, vol. i. p. 142.
- Wallace, p. 455.
- Welcker, 'Griechische Götterlehre;' Göttingen, 1857, etc., vol. i. pp. 661–5. Grimm, D. M., pp. 221, 351, 937–8, 944, 963. See Schirren, p. 101.
- Moffat, pp. 257–9.
- Livingstone, p. 124. He means, I presume, Pthah, or rather Pthah-Sokari Osiris.
- Eyre, vol. ii. p. 362.
- Pöppig, 'Reise in Chile,' etc.; Leipzig, 1835, vol. ii. p. 358. Klemm, G. G., vol. i. p. 276.