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The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 2/Philosophy of Punchkin

THE PHILOSOPHY OF PUNCHKIN.[1]

T
N the first rule of this Society its object is defined as the preservation and publication of popular traditions, superstitions, old customs, and other allied matters. To such objects the work of this and kindred societies is necessarily limited. They can do but little in the way of collecting materials; they can do much in giving collectors encouragement, in securing a permanent place for their results, and in supplying means of intercourse between isolated workers in a common field. For the material which it is desired to preserve needs delicate handling. It eludes the grasp of those who seek it in official garb and magnify their office. A Royal Commission may be empowered to record the whereabouts of ancient monuments and to protect them from the hand of the restorer and the ploughshare of the peasant, but the immaterial and ofttimes more venerable relics of bygone customs, traditions, and beliefs, are not to be thus secured. The illiterate who are their custodians will show their treasures only where some common base of sympathy is established; and whilst there remains a story to be taken down, a superstition or outlying custom to be noted, we shall continue dependent upon the curiosity, the circumspection, and the enthusiasm, unmixed with bias, of the individual. That the collectors of folk-lore have not always suspected the importance of the material which they gather with such zeal and patience is not without advantage. We are all too apt to see the thing for which we look; to find, like the Empress Helena in her search for the True Cross, that for which we seek. We may, with no intentional bias, pass the matter received through the prism of our preconceived notions or theories of mythology and history; so that when the collector is of the curious species only—without passion, without prejudice—the material reaches us unrefracted; unaffected by what the astronomer calls "personal equation."

In the publicity which its records secure to such results is the service of this Society best rendered. Now and again, working in the spirit of Old Mortality, it may recover some mildewed MS. or forgotten tome in which exist materials of priceless worth gathered from districts whence now the screech of the locomotive-whistle has driven the fairies; materials by the recovery of which some missing pages in the history of humanity's slow and toilsome upward career are replaced. Thus regained and classified in order, customs, phrases, "wise saws," fireside tales, and nursery songs familiar to those of us whose childhood was passed in the country, come back with added and newer meanings, and that which terrified or amused our childhood becomes the serious study and fruitful instructor of our manhood in tracing the zigzag course of human progress. That for which it was most prized in the days of our fathers is now of no account; that within it which they passed by we secure as of permanent worth.

But whilst the Folk-Lore Society must be primarily a publishing society, it does not exceed its province in now and then pausing in front of the mass of material already gathered and asking what it all means. Can that material be dealt with as the geologist, who, detaching a fragment here and there from various strata, learns the story of their structure and the conditions which placed them in their several layers? or who, dealing with the rocks en masse, classifies the several formations, determines their order and succession, and their leading characteristics? I think this twofold method is applicable to the material of folk-lore; it is ample enough for classification upon some broad general principles, whilst its component parts are clear enough in their structure to show what crude philosophy, science, and theology are crystallised or fossilised within them.

To continue the parallel: as with the crust of the earth so with folk-lore. The rocks, infinitely varied as they are, are compounded of but few elementary substances; the mass of folk-tales is reducible in essential details to a few incidents. They are what the chemist terms allotropic, as in the case of the diamond and charcoal, built up of the same substances, but in such varying molecular arrangement that whilst the one is a priceless gem the other is "trodden under foot of men." And in their identity of material a witness is brought to the like behaviour and attitude of the mind at corresponding planes of culture, to the like explanations of common phenomena which it then gives.

In this view we do well, I think, on occasions when the members assemble, to take stock, as it were, and inquire to what larger result the labours of the student of folk-lore tend—what generalisations may be deduced from the evidence which he has collected. An attitude like this is possible only when we regard our mission as a serious one; when we recognise that there is some larger meaning than lies on the surface of the material, some deeper thought at the heart of it. So long as the folk-tale was looked upon as the vagrant of fancy, sober treatment of it was not possible. But now that it, with its allied forms of legend and tradition, are seen to be necessary products of human imagination and speculation in their efforts towards certitude, the study and comparison of its varied, yet, at centre, related specimens, takes rank among the inquiries of our time to be prosecuted on strictly scientific lines.

Guided by this spirit I venture to ask you to consider with me what philosophy of man's in the past may possibly be extracted from a group of allied stories not unfamiliar to the student of folk-tales, and to which the name of Punchkin, as the title of one of the older specimens, may be generically given. It will be convenient to present an outline of the more prominent variants, and then, after indicating how widespread are the several members of the group, suggest those conclusions which it appears to me may legitimately be drawn from at least one incident common to the whole.

In the story of "Punchkin," given in Miss Frere's Old Deccan Days, a Rajah has seven daughters, and, his wife dying when they were quite children, he married the widow of his prime minister. The children had treated her harshly in her time of need, and to escape her revenge they ran off to a jungle, where seven neighbouring princes who were out hunting found them, and each took one of them to wife. After a time the husbands again went hunting, and did not return. So when the son of the youngest princess, who had also been enchanted away, grew up, he set out in search of his mother and father and uncles, and at last discovered that the seven princes had been turned into stone by the magician Punchkin, who had shut up the princess in a tower because she would not marry him. Recognising her son by a ring, she plotted with him to feign agreement to marry Punchkin if he would tell her where the secret of his life was hidden. Overjoyed at her yielding to his desire, the magician told her that it was true he was not as others. "Far, far away, hundreds of thousands of miles from this, there lies a desolate country covered with thick jungle. In the midst of the jungle grows a circle of palm-trees, and in the centre of the circle stands six chattees full of water, piled one above another; below the sixth chattee is a small cage, which contains a little green parrot; on the life of the parrot depends my life, and if the parrot is killed I must die." But, he added, this was not possible, because thousands of genii "surround the palm-trees, and kill all who approach the place." The princess told her son this, and he set forth on his journey to the jungle. On the way he rescued some young eagles from a serpent, and the grateful birds carried him until they reached the jungle, where, the genii being overcome with sleep by the heat, the eagles swooped down. "Down jumped the prince; in an instant he had overthrown the chattees full of water, and seized the parrot, which he rolled up in his cloak," then mounted again into the air, and was carried back to Punchkin's palace. Punchkin was dismayed to see the parrot in the prince's hands, and asked him to name any price he willed for it; whereupon the prince demanded the restoration of his father and uncles to life. This was done. Then he insisted on Punchkin doing the like to all whom he had thus imprisoned, when, at the raising of the magician's wand, the whole garden became suddenly alive.

"Give me my parrot!" cried Punchkin. Then the boy took hold of the bird and tore off one of its wings; and, as he did so, the magician's right arm fell off. He then pulled off the parrot's second wing, and Punchkin's left arm fell off: then he pulled off the legs, and down fell the magician's right leg and left leg. Nothing remained of him save the limbless body and the head; but still he rolled his eyes and cried "Give me my parrot!" "Take your parrot, then," cried the boy; and with that he wrung the bird's neck, and threw it at the magician, and, as he did so, Punchkin's head twisted round, and, with a fearful groan, he died. Of course all the other characters "lived very happily ever afterwards," as they do in the plays and the novels.

In the stories of "Chundun Rajah" and of "Sodewa Bai" (the latter corresponding to the Cinderella group), in the same collection, the dependence of life upon the retention or removal of a sacred necklace which holds the soul is a main incident. When the ranee, jealous of her husband's love for Sodewa Bai, asks her why she always wears the same golden beads, she replies,—"I was born with these beads round my neck, and the wise men told my father and mother that they contained my soul, and that if any one else wore them I should die." The ranee instructs her servant to steal the beads from the princess while she sleeps; whereupon she dies, but her body does not decay, and in the end she is restored to life by the recovery of her necklace.

A not unlike idea occurs in the story of "Truth's Triumph." The children of a village beauty, whom the rajah had married, are changed into mango-trees, to save them from the fury of the jealous ranee, until the time of danger was passed.

In Miss Stokes's collection of Indian Fairy Tales we have variants corresponding more closely to Punchkin. In "Brave Hírálálbásá," a rakshas (the common name for demon, or ogre, but sometimes used as a euphemism for protection) is induced by female wiles, not unfamiliar to the daughters of Eve, to reveal the secret of his life. "Sixteen miles away from this place is a tree; round the tree are tigers and bears, and scorpions and snakes; on the top of the tree is a very great flat snake; on his head is a little cage; in that cage is a bird, and my soul is in that bird." By enchantment Hírálálbásá reaches the tree and "took the little cage, and came down again. Though the rakshas was far off he knew at once that something had happened to his bird. Hírálál pulled off the bird's right leg, and the rakshas's right leg fell off, but on he hopped on one leg. Then the rajah's son pulled off the bird's left leg, and off fell the rakshas's left leg, but still he went on towards his house on his hands. Then Hírálál pulled off the bird's wings, and the rakshas's two arms fell off. And then, just as the rakshas reached the door of his house, Hírálál wrung the bird's neck, and the rakshas fell dead."

In the tale of "The Demon and the King's Son," also from Miss Stokes's collection, the prince falls in love with the monster's daughter, who is dead all day and alive all night through her father's magic power. The prince says to her,—"Suppose one day your father made you dead, as usual, and that he was killed before he had brought you to life, what would you do? You would always be dead then." "Listen," she said; "no one can kill my father." "Why not?" said the boy. "Listen," she answered. "On the other side of the sea there is a great tree; in that tree is a nest, in the nest is a mainá (or starling). If any one kills that mainá, then only will my father die. And if, when the mainá is killed, its blood falls to the ground, a hundred demons would be born from the blood. This is why my father cannot be killed." By the aid of a fakir the prince crossed the sea, climbed the tree and took down the nest. "The demon, who was far away, knew it at once, and said to himself, 'Some one has come to catch and kill me.'" He set out at once for the tree. The prince saw him coming, so he wrapped the mainá up in his handkerchief, that no blood should fall to the ground. Then he broke off one of its legs, and one of the demon's legs fell off. Still the demon came on. Then he broke off the other leg, but the demon walked on his hands. The boy saw him come nearer and nearer, so he wrung the bird's head off, and the demon fell dead.

In the Rev. Behari Day's recently issued Bengali Folk-Tales under the head of "Life's Secret," a rajah's favourite wife gives birth, miraculously, to a boy, whose soul is bound up in a necklace in the stomach of a boal-fish. In this instance, as in that of Sodewa Bai, the jewel is stolen, and while worn by the thief the prince is lifeless, but he returns to consciousness with the recovery of his necklace.

Before passing from India one felt curious to know whether tales at all corresponding to these exist in the Buddhist birth-stories. My friend Dr. Rhys Davids informs me that they do not, because the idea of a soul, whether in the body or dwelling in something outside it, is quite foreign to the philosophy which the Játákás teach. The nearest approach is when in one or two isolated cases the karma of a human being is spoken of as immediately transferred to an animal.

Turning to the Norseland tales, the one in most striking correspondence with the Punchkin group is that of "The Giant who had no heart in his body." This monster turns six princes and their wives into stone, whereupon the seventh and only surviving son, Boots, sets out to avenge their fate. On his journey he saves the lives of a raven, a salmon, and a wolf; and the wolf, having eaten his horse, compensates Boots by carrying him to the giant's castle, where the lovely princess who is to be his bride is confined. She promises to find out where the giant keeps his heart; and by blandishments and divers arts known to the fair sex both before and since the time of Delilah she worms out the secret. He tells her that "far, far away, in a lake lies an island, on that island stands a church, in that church is a well, in that well swims a duck, in that duck is an egg, and in that egg lies my heart, you darling!" Boots, taking fond farewell of the princess, rides on the wolf's back to the island. Then the raven he had befriended flies to the steeple and fetches the key of the church; the salmon, in like return for kindness, brings him the egg from the well where the duck had dropped it. Then the wolf told him to squeeze the egg, and as soon as ever he did so the giant screamed out. "Squeeze it again," said the wolf; and when the prince did so the giant screamed still more piteously, and begged and prayed so prettily to be spared, saying he would do all that the prince wished if he would only not squeeze his heart in two. "Tell him if he will restore to life again your six brothers and their brides you will spare his life," said the wolf. Yes, the giant was ready to do that, and he turned the six brothers into king's sons again and their brides into king's daughters. "Now squeeze the egg in two," said the wolf. With questionable morality, doing evil that good might come. Boots squeezed the egg to pieces, and the giant burst at once.

Asbjörnsen's "New Series" gives a variant in which a troll who has seized a princess tells her that he and all his companions will burst, as did the Heartless Giant, when there passes above them "the grain of sand that lies under the ninth tongue in the ninth head" of a certain dead dragon. The grain of sand is found and passed over them, when the troll and all his brood are destroyed.

In the Gaelic stories, for which we are indebted to the skill of an early worker in this field, Mr. J. F. Campbell, that of the young King of Easaidh Ruadh, locates the secret thus: "There is a great flagstone under the threshold. There is a wether under the flag. There is a duck in the wether's belly and an egg in the belly of the duck, and it is in the egg that my soul is." In "the Sea Maiden" there is a "great beast with three heads" which cannot be killed until an egg is broken which is in the mouth of a trout, which springs out of a crow, which flies out of a hind, which lives on an island in the middle of the loch.

In his valuable collection of Russian Folk-Tales, which is enriched by comparative notes, Mr. Ralston supplies some interesting variants of Punchkin. Koshchei, called "the immortal or deathless," is merely one of the many incarnations of the dark spirit which takes so many monstrous shapes in folk-tales. Sometimes his death—that is, the object with which his life is indissolubly connected—does exist within his body. In one story he carries off a queen, of whom her three sons go in search one after the other. The elder two did not return, so that the father was reluctant to part with Prince Ivan, the youngest, but at last gave him his blessing, and sent him on his sad errand. He at last discovers the house where his mother dwells, and at the approach of Koshchei the mother hid away her son. With the acute sense of smell characteristic of the race the monster sniffs "the blood of a" Russian, and cries out, "Who has been with you? Wasn't it your son?" "What are you talking about? God bless you! You've been flying through Russia and got the Russian air up your nostrils, that's why you fancy it's here," answered Prince Ivan's mother, and then she drew nigh to Koshchei, addressed him in terms of affection, asked him about one thing and another, and at last said: "Whereabouts is your death, O Koshchei?" "My death," he replied, "is in such and such a place. There stands an oak, and under the oak is a casket, and in the casket is a hare, and in the hare is a duck, and in the duck is an egg, and in the egg is my death." After sundry adventures Prince Ivan gets hold of the egg, loses it in the deep sea, recovers it, and takes it to his mother's. When he got there they greeted each other lovingly, and then she hid him again as before. Presently in flew Koshchei the deathless and said: "Phoo! phoo! No Russian bone can the ear hear or the eye see, but there's a smell of Russia here." "What are you talking about, Koshchei? There's no one with me," replied Prince Ivan's mother. A second time spake Koshchei and said, "I feel rather unwell." Then Prince Ivan began squeezing the egg, and therefore Koshchei the deathless bent double. At last Prince Ivan came out from his hiding-place, held up the egg and said, " There is your death, Koshchei the deathless!" Then Koshchei fell on his knees before him, saying, "Don't kill me, Prince Ivan, let's be friends; all the world will lie at our feet." But these words had no weight with Prince Ivan; he smashed the egg and Koshchei the deathless died.

In another story Koshchei is killed by a blow on the forehead, inflicted "by the mysterious egg, that last link in the magic chain by which his life is darkly bound." While upon this subject Mr. Ralston quotes a Transylvanian-Saxon story concerning a witch's life, which is a light burning in an egg inside a duck, which swims on a pond inside a mountain, and she dies when it is put out. In the Bohemian story of "The Sun-horse," a warlock's strength lies in an egg which is within the duck, which is within a stag, which is under a tree. A seer finds the egg and sucks it. Then the warlock becomes as weak as a child, "for all his strength had passed into the seer."

In Serbian folk-tales the strength of a baleful being who had stolen a princess lies in a bird, which is inside the heart of a fox; and, when the bird was taken out of the heart and set on fire, that moment the wife-stealer falls down dead, and the prince regains his bride.

From the same source we have the story of "The golden-haired Twins," with an incident akin to that occurring in Punchkin. When the stepmother of the king buries the two twins whom she had stolen from their cradle there spring from the spot where they lie living trees with golden leaves and golden blossoms. The king's admiration of them aroused her jealousy, and she had them cut down; but in the long run his golden-haired princes are restored to him.

Thus far my illustrations, which could be multiplied largely, have been drawn solely from the folk-tales of the wide-spread Indo-European races, and we may pause to note that the likeness running through these, as through other groups, is explicable on no theory of borrowing, and finds its sole and rational explanation in the possession of a common stock of folk-lore by the several ancestors of the Aryan race. After allowing for local colouring and for changes incident to the lapse of time, they are the variants of stories related to children in the Aryan fatherland at a period historically remote, and moreover are told in words which are phonetically akin.

Turning for a moment or two to non-Aryan sources, we have the Tatar story of the demon-giant who could not be slain, for he did not keep his soul in his body, but in a twelve-headed snake carried in a bag on his horse's back. The hero finds out the secret, kills the snake, and then the giant dies too. In one of the Samoyed tales a man had no heart in his body, and could recover it only on restoring to life the mother of him whom he had killed. Then the man said to his wife: "Go to the place where the dead lies; there you will find a purse, in that purse is her soul, shake the purse over her bones and she will come to life." The woman did as she was ordered, and the mother of the Samoyed revived; then he dashed the heart to the ground, and the man died.

More elaborate than these however are the stories from The Thousand and One Nights, as those of the Princess Parizade and of Seyf-el-Mulook and Bedua-el-Jemál. In this latter tale, when Seyf-el-Mulook would flee with Dolet-Khátoon, she replies, "By Allah! we cannot do that. If we fled to the distance of a year's journey this accursed wretch (speaking of Jinni) would bring us back immediately, and he would destroy us." So Seyf-el-Mulook said, "I will hide myself in a place, and when he passeth by me I will smite him with a sword and slay him." But she replied, "Thou canst not slay him unless thou kill his soul." "And in what place," said he, "is his soul?" She answered, "I asked him respecting it many times, but he would not confess to me its place. It happened however that I urged him one day, and he was enraged against me, and said to me, 'How often wilt thou ask me respecting my soul? What is the reason of thy question respecting my soul?' So I answered him, 'O Hálim, there remaineth to me no one but thee, except God, and I as long as I live would not cease to hold thy soul in my embrace; and if I do not take care of thy soul and put it in the midst of my eye how can I live after thee? If I knew thy soul I would take care of it, as of my right eye.' And thereupon he said to me, 'When I was born the astrologers declared that the destruction of my soul would be effected by the hand of one of the sons of the human kings. I therefore took my soul and put it into the crop of a sparrow, and I imprisoned the sparrow in a little box, and put this into another small box, and this I put within seven chests, and the chests I put into a copper of marble within the verge of this circumambient ocean; for this part is remote from the countries of mankind, and none of mankind can gain access to it. Now I have told thee, and tell not thou any one of this, for it is a secret between me and thee.'" By the aid of Suleyman's seal-ring Seyf-el-Mulook raised the coffer, and, taking forth the sparrow from the little box, strangles it and it dies, the body of the Jinni falling upon the ground a heap of black ashes. In some tales not included by Galland or Lane, which Mr. Kirby of the British Museum has translated and edited under the title of the New Arabian Nights, we have a variant of the above under the title of "Joadar of Cairo and Mahmood of Tunnis." Joadar is bent on the release of his enchanted betrothed, and this he achieves by also strangling a sparrow, the ogre of the story being simultaneously dissolved into a heap of ashes.

But the most venerable illustration of the leading idea in the Punchkin group is found, although in more subtle form, in the Egyptian tale of "The Two Brothers." This is contained in the papyrus known as the d'Orbiney, first described by the Vicomte de Rougé, and supposed to be of the fourteenth century B. C. Summaries of this are given by Mr. Goodwin in Cambridge Essays for 1858, and by Professor Mahaffy in his Prolegomena to Ancient History, pp. 331 ff. These summaries must, for the present purpose, be epitomised. There were two brothers, Anepou and Satou, joined as one in love and labour. One day Satou was sent to fetch seed-corn from Anepou's house, when he found his brother's wife adorning her hair. She urged him to stay with her, but he refused, promising however to keep her wicked invitation secret. When Anepon returned at even, she, being afraid, made herself to seem as a woman that had suffered violence, and told her husband exactly the reverse of what had happened. His wrath was thereby kindled against Satou and he went out to slay him, but Satou called on Phra to save him, and the god placed a river between the brothers, so that when day dawned Anepou might hear the truth. At sunrise Satou tells his story, and, mutilating himself, he says that he will leave Anepou and go to the valley of the cedar, in the cones of which he will deposit his heart, "so that if the tree be cut his heart would fall to the earth and he must die." He then tells Anepou how to find and revivify his heart after seven years, and departs. Anepou going home slays his wife and casts her to the dogs.

In the second part of the story Satou marries a woman given him by the gods, but her beauty causes the king to covet and possess her, and she tries to get rid of Satou in vain. The king cuts the cedar down and Satou dies, but Anepou finds his heart under a pod or cone and revivifies it. Satou then assumes the form of the Apis bull and gets the chance of speaking to his wife. She, terrified, has the bull slain, and from two drops of his blood spring two fine persea-trees on the great staircase of the palace. One day one of the trees addresses her, and she persuades the king to cut it down, when a chip of it flies down her throat and she becomes the mother of a child who is really Satou in a new form. "In due time the king flew up to heaven"; then Satou, as his successor, executes the queen and lives happily with Anepou.

What, let us now ask, is the philosophy of Punchkin? These folk-tales, however romantic,—however, in their details, the product of imagination that ran riot when feeling was dominant and the judgment scarce awakened, when the first impressions of phenomena were unchallenged by the intellect,—are not primary. 'Tis a far cry from the primitive man to the first story-teller. And at the back of the world's folk-tales lie the relics of barbaric notions concerning the nature of man and his relation to external things which first supplied the motif or raw material of the fiction. They are therefore the dramatic presentment of that early groping when man was, as his savage representatives extant are, in a state of "fog" concerning the nature and relation of what is in the mind to what is outside it; when he has nothing in his slender vocabulary corresponding to the terms "objective" and "subjective." Mr. Spencer aptly describes this low mental stage in his Principles of Sociology:—"He does not think about thought: neither his faculties nor his language suffice for this. During early stages he merely thinks without observing that he thinks; and therefore never asks how he thinks and what it is which thinks. His senses make him conversant only with things externally existing and with his own body; and he transcends his senses only far enough to draw concrete inferences respecting the actions of these things. An invisible, intangible entity, such as mind is inferred to be, is a high abstraction unthinkable by him, and inexpressible by his vocabulary." (P. 147.)

These tales thus embody that early system of thought, if system it can be called, which confuses ideas and objects, illusions and realities, substances and shadows; and which, often under the precarious life of the savage, induced by bodily ailment, indigestion born of gorging, or delirium born of starving, gives local habitation and a name to airy nothings, spectres of diseased or morbid imagination. Modern works on anthropology abound with illustrations of that confusion between things and their symbols which causes men at low levels of culture to regard the name as an integral part of oneself, so that it must not be told, lest it be stolen, or lest the adversary work evil charms through it. Still more noticeable is this confusion in the reluctance of barbarous folk to have their portraits taken, in the feeling that thereby part of a man's self has gone; the better the likeness the more has virtue gone out of him. Catlin relates that he caused great commotion among the Sioux by drawing one of their chiefs in profile. "Why was half his face left out?" they asked; "Mahtocheega was never ashamed to look a white man in the face." The chief himself did not take offence, but Shouka the Dog taunted him, saying,—"The Englishman knows that you are but half a man: he has painted but one-half of your face, and knows that the rest is good for nothing." This led to a quarrel, and in the end Mahtocheega was shot, the fatal bullet tearing away just that part of the face which Catlin had not drawn! He had to make his escape, and the matter was not settled till both Shouka and his brother had been killed in revenge for Mahtocheega's death.

Such general statements as the foregoing concerning the low intellectual stage of the savage may clear the way in showing how he will interpret phenomena of a more complex order, and why he can interpret them only in one way. The central idea of the Punchkin group of stories is the dwelling apart of the soul or heart, as the seat of life, from the body, in some secret place in some animate or inanimate thing, often an egg or a bird, sometimes a tree, flower, or necklace, the fate of the one involving the fate of the other. Now, stripped of all local additions and detail, this notion of the soul existing apart from the body and determining its fortunes is the survival of primitive belief in one or more entities in the body, yet not of it, which may leave that body at will during life, and which perchance leaves it finally, to return not, at death.

It is now generally admitted that this belief is referable to the interpretation of dreams by the barbaric mind as real events. They are of the precise character to excite and sustain that feeling of mystery which attends every endeavour of man to interpret the meaning of his surroundings. Whilst for us they fill an empty moment in the telling, albeit now and again nourishing such remains of superstition as cling to the majority of us, they are to the savage as solid as the experiences of his waking moments, true not only "while they last," but for ever afterwards. The limits of his language only accentuate the confusion within him when he tries to tell what he has seen, and heard, and felt, and where he has been, for the speech cannot transcend the thought, and therefore can represent neither to himself nor to others the difference between the illusions of the night and the realities of the day. The dead relations and friends who appear in dreams and live their old life, with whom he joins in the battle or the chase, with whom, the toils over, he sits down to feast, not like the Psalmist in the presence of his enemies, but on succulent slices of the enemies themselves; the foes with whom he struggles; the wild beasts from whom he flees, or in whose grip he feels himself; the long distances he travels to dream-lands beyond and above—are all real, and no "baseless fabric of a vision." The inference drawn therefrom is clear. Besides that waking self of which the savage is hazily conscious there must be another self, which, roaming the world while the body moves not, sees the things that are dreamed. Daily experience, if indeed it has not created the belief in this phantom-self, this ghost-soul, is ever confirming it. There are the suspensions of consciousness witnessed in swoon, apoplexy, catalepsy, and other forms of insensibility; there are the phenomena of shadows, of reflection, of echoes; whilst the analogies noticed between men and animals enlarge the belief in another-self to a world-wide doctrine of souls in the lower animals, indeed, of souls vegetal as well.

This is the philosophy which, I believe, lies at the heart of the Punchkin tales. The passage of the life-principle from princess or ogre to casket or to parrot is easy where imagination creates fellowship not only between man and brute but between man and lifeless things; while in the crediting of these with life, with power to change their form and nature, lies the germ of those more elaborate theories of transmigration and metempsychosis which have been developed among more or less civilised peoples.

Whether one be right or wrong in this interpretation of what seems the central idea crystallised in Punchkin and its variants, one cannot be at fault in claiming serious treatment for the folk-tales of the world. In so far as they aid us in determining what was the intellectual stage of man in the childhood of the race, and how far it finds correspondences in the intellectual stage of existing barbaric races, they are to be included in that study of myth which is neither more nor less than the study of the mental and spiritual history of mankind.

  1. A paper read before the Folk-Lore Society.