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The International Folk-Lore Congress of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, July, 1893/Comparative Afro-American Folk-Lore

ANNAH ROBINSON WATSON.

COMPARATIVE AFRO-AMERICAN FOLK-LORE.

BY ANNAH ROBINSON WATSON.

To adjust with scrupulous nicety the scale of values in any line of investigation one must train his eye, his heart, and his brain in the work of faithful comparisons. If this be true in the general literary, scientific or sociological departments of research, it is doubly so in the comparatively new field of thought presented by Folk-lore. One may unearth from lower strata of soil curios of unique and wonderful workmanship. What are they more than objects for pleasant speculation and admiration unless, by comparison with objects found elsewhere, and in many far separated localities, they go to support or establish certain theories of value in the general summing up of human knowledge?

It is to the unearthing of Folk-lore curios we must look for facts found in no so-called chronicles, for truths that have eluded the most faithful historians, for secrets that have escaped the scrutiny of closest observers along the usual lines of investigation. Through the researches of Folk-lore will be presented to us the everyday lives of a people, and at the same time there will be presented, as by the power of a spirit lens, a psychological picture, a representation of the thoughts and inner existence, the intellectual, moral, and social conditions of those to whom the research relates. It has been said in this connection that, "out of the ignorance of a people may be built their only monument of lasting fame." Posterity may have received from them no legacy save a testimony to certain truths borne by their customs and beliefs; but when these, through the typical legends of all primitive peoples are secured, brought together, and compared, we will have received the most valuable and incontestable evidence as to the origin and first principles of the species.

Whether the literal statements contained in the Mosaic account of creation be accepted, or the theory advanced by some that from separate divisions of the ape family the various races of man descend—this latter idea seeming to presuppose that the progenitor ape for the Caucasian will some day be discovered, a fossil—the fact remains that the wonderful analogies existing between such legends of different nations as are compared up to date, seem to affirm very strongly the original oneness of the human family, the original oneness of all sources of knowledge.

It is outside the limits of this paper to enter upon the discussion of comparative Folk-lore in its entirety. Comparative study as it bears upon the Afro-American demands our consideration. The Folk-lore of our Southern negro—what is it? to what forces does it owe its individualism? and what relationships does it discover?


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"How shall a man escape from his ancestors, or draw off from his veins the black drop which he drew from his father's or mother's veins?" This query was put by one of our giant intellects: the answer may be discerned in the outcome of the truth declared by Lemarck, "All that has been acquired, impressed, or altered in the organization of individuals during the course of their life is preserved by generation, and transmitted to the new individuals which spring from those who have experienced these changes." The query bears witness to the Nemesis we call heredity; the answer, to its antidote, the force of environment. The consideration involved is, in the language of Herbert Spencer, "The question which demands, beyond all others whatsoever, the attention of scientific men."

The American negro is many generations nearer the savage existence than any race—excepting the Indian—whose proximity invites practical study from our home student. His nearness to this primitive state accounts for his rich possession of legends, his dower of heredity accounts for the character of these legends.

The Southern negroes of the past were, under the most favorable conditions, in a large sense, children. "When our ancestors found them, a century or more ago, safely ensconced in our homes, the traits manifested for consideration were in certain families, docility, affection, and loyalty, associated with a certain measure of intelligence, in other families, brutality, dishonesty, indolence, and general worthlessness. A slave was spoken of as belonging to a good or bad family, reference being made to the traits of his blood. There were among them many instances of unusual shrewdness and discretion, and in many cases there were ties of warm affection binding the families of masters and slaves together.

In a condition of slavery which is accompanied by physical comfort there is present a certain phase of mental freedom. That is, freedom from care and responsibility,—the freedom "which taketh no thought for the morrow." This was the condition of the negro, and a condition it was which contained the most favorable elements for stimulating his imagination and encouraging the more romantic side of his nature.

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Our negroes of the past were, above everything else, superstitious; they were governed in a most surprising degree by their faith in charms, spells, witches, and conjuring in general. This superstition they unquestionably brought with them from the older country, and as the outgrowth of this superstition we have their legends.

To those who have not crossed seas and challenged for themselves the secrets of the Dark Continent, the superstitions of that region must be sought in the reports made by reliable travellers. From these it would appear that the superstitions transplanted from that country to this have only taken on the unavoidable coloring of new environment.

To the native African, "trees, stones, herbs, all contain imprisoned spirits, which if released may rend and destroy."

The Afro-American holds these same beliefs in a diluted form. The serpent worship does or did prevail in certain portions of Africa. To it may doubtless be traced the many curious beliefs of the Afro-American relating to the serpent and its supernatural powers. The superstitions in the mother country connected with birds and fowls, sprinkling meal or seed on the ground to propitiate deity, with the manner in which animals deport themselves, with the beliefs relating to witches and disembodied spirits, show a marked similarity to beliefs connected with the same by our Southern negroes. Among the latter, if one man has an enmity against another and wishes to accomplish his death, he takes a charmed nail and drives it, every day a little, into a tree. When it touches the heart of the tree the doomed individual falls dead.

This would seem to be a remnant of the ancient faith in the supernatural attributes of trees, or of tree worship.—The African chief is said to trace a line of ashes round his hut to protect it against evil spirits. The Afro-American sprinkles mustard seed before his stable door to keep out the witch, claiming that she cannot enter until every seed has been picked up, and so the dawn will come before her work is accomplished. To the African the hooting of an owl means that the Angel of Death is stealing silently through the cluster of huts to select a victim, our Africans consider it always the forerunner of death or some other great evil.

As a charm against an enemy's spear, the Africans tie around the waist a thin fibre, cover it with a cloth, put a nut in the mouth and knife in the left hand. This is quite suggestive of the directions given a little later for using the Devil's shoestring. This Devil's shoestring also recalls a medicine used by the Africans to render themselves invincible. Our Negroes and the Africans have almost identical beliefs regarding the passing of the souls of the dead into the bodies of lower animals.

Old Uncle Simon Hollowfield told me very gravely of several different rabbits into whose bodies had passed "de sperits" of certain individuals who were dead, one of these rabbits contained the spirit of his old mistress and guarded her grave. It has been proven that the same legends and superstitions obtain all over the South; though the stories may have many variants, the divergencies are unimportant and do not detract from their weight as testimony establishing the fact that they all came over in the slave ships from the old to the new country.

Mr. Joel Chandler Harris found a legend current among Georgia negroes to be identical with one told by a descendant of a Guinea negro living in South America, and it is probable that many such instances exist. Our Africans are a race of prolific proverb makers, and doubtless much of their homely wisdom and many of their legends yet await the writer who shall secure and give them permanent form.

It will easily be seen that specimens of Folk-ore, to be of value, must be given in dialect. The speech of the people is inseparable from their thought. So long as they think in dialect and talk in dialect, the form of speech will remain an important factor in all representations of them which are in any sense faithful.

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Under the head of Curative Lore, or, as the old negroes would say, "Cunger means," may be classed many of their curious remedies for various ills and the charms used to accomplish special ends. One of my colored friends, old Uncle Willis, who seems greatly to enjoy coming to talk to me "a spell," as he terms it, was speaking of tricks, medicines, and "cunger means," he said; "Now dars supp'n w'uts oncom'n pow'rfu' fer ter rub wid w'en yet got de mizries. You mus' git some butter en put "t in er jar. Den git er toad frog en put dat in de jar 'long wid de butter. Nex' you mus' shet up de jar tight en clost so no ar' won' git in no ways. Arf'er dis you jes set 't up er w'ile by 't se'f. Bimeby dat frog 'll tuhn ter butter he-se'f en mek de berry bes' sort o' lin'men' fer ter rub wid w'en yer been tuk wid de pains."

"Now hyears er rem'dy fer er nudder trouble. Ef anytime yers in er house en kyarnt pay de ren' yer mus' sweep de flo' en git up eb'ry bit er dus', den wrop 't in er piece er red flan^ en put 't in de stove. "W'en 't comes ter ashes jes tek 't en sprinkle 't bout de house w'en de ownder's gwine cum fer ter git de ren'. He won' say er dis'gree'ble word en he won' bother yer neider, not ef yer stays in dat house forty year. You see mum, w'en yer sprinkle dese means wid er wush hit refrecs on de pusson w'ut come in. Now dis look like fool'shness, but so 'tis.

"In de woods dars er vey'y impo't'nt root w'ut yer kin git. Hits w'ut goes by de name o' de Devil's shoestrin'. Now yer know y'rse'f dars fo' co'nders ter de yearf, Eas', Wes', No'f en den de Sou'f. Yer mus' be pertic'ler in hunt'n ter git de tap root, de one w'ut don tuhn in none dem d'rections but jes goes right straight down inter de yearf. We'n yer fine 't pull 't up 'dout axin' no questions, yer kyarnt break't no ways. Now dis yer mus' steep in er point er fine bran'y. Dis is fer er man's biz'ess en yer mus' wauk 't in dis way. Arf rn 't steep er w'ile jes tek de root 'n wrop't roun' de muscle uv bof e er man's a'ms en he k'n by dis means jum' right inter de street w'uts full uv men en he k'n whup ev'ry one ut 'm, he kin, er fight'n right 'n lef. He kin overcome es many es he's mine t'r cep'n dey hes weepins ter fight wid, dis means 'll overcome any 'mount er muscle. Ef er man puts dis bran'y on he face he k'n go any w'eres en wid any peoples en meet 'm all in peace, hit deman's peace en dar won' nobody say nothin ter 'm but w'ut's peac'ble."

"Den dars er mon'sus cu'ous sump'in but hits ter do wid de ways uv ebilniss en I' se fear'd ter vencher sich, hits heap too barb'rous fer me, I ain' meddle long sich es dat do I knows 't ter be de troof.

"You teks er black cat w'ut ain' got er single w'ite har on 'im en' puts 'im inter er kittle w'uts full o' bilin' water, mindin' dat he mus' go in erlive. Yer better put er powerf u' heavy led on 'cause he's gwine rar' mightily. "Well yer cooks 'm twell he's done so de meat'l drap ofl'n de bones, den yer gits er lookin' glass en yer stan's er look'n right inter 't dout mov'n ner bat 'n yer eye, yer jes' stan's er lookin' in de glass er pick'n er de bones out'n de pot en er pass'n em all froo yer mouf . Yer goes on er pick'n en er pick'n en er th'ow'n uv de bones and de meat 'way twell yer comes 't er little roun' bone bout de size uv er buckshot. Well suz, w'en yer comes ter dat pertic'ler bone, eb'ry thin' roun' yer'l be jes es black en dark es midnight en yer kyarnt see nothin' tall, hit'l be plum dark, but dat bone's w'ut yer bin er wukin' fer. De nex thin' arf er yer fine 't yer mus' wnsh in de name o' de Laud en put dat bone in one jaw wid er little loadstone in de udder. Well, mum, now yer's got ergret mixtry, bout yer, yer kin go any w'ars en wid any peoples, ter be sho, dey kin hyear yer, dey'll hyear er ve'y peculy noise, sorter like er rat mebbe, but dey kyarnt see yer no ways.

"Black cats mighty impo'tan' fer passons w'uts got de hea't ter wuk wid 'm—ain' yer never hyear dat?

"Now I'se er fool ter 'r wise man, but I kin do anythin' I wan's ter im wid sicli means, en I tell yer ef deys been wuk'd on y'r self, don' ch'r tek no physical rem'dies fer dey'l kill yer sho, jes git er cnnger doct'r quick, he's got mixtries w'ut'l git yer all right, sho en sartin, hit teks pizin ter tuhn pizin."

When the old man imparted this last information regarding the cat, his voice sank to a hoarse whisper and he constantly glanced about on all sides in an anxious furtive manner to see if any eavesdroppers were near. He stands in great fear of what his fellows might do or say should they know that he had spoken with me upon such a subject as the black cat mystery.

There can be no doubt that in their Curative Lore there are some germs of valuable knowledge. Their teacher has been Nature; her laboratory, their place for experiments. The most notable instance bearing upon this point in my own personal experience is so remarkable that it borders almost upon the miraculous.

A young mother bent above her baby, her only one, who was desperately, hopelessly ill. For weeks she had watched the little sufferer; now, broken in heart and spirit, she watched for the end. A negro woman, a stranger, came upon some errand, she entered the room, gazed upon the mother, then turned her eyes upon the child—in a moment she was gone. A short while and she returned, entered the room softly, and touching the mother who still bent above the little form where only a slight uncertain breathing told that the spark of life was not quite extinguished, she said in a husky voice, "Put dis round de baby's neck, it done save two o' my chilluns."

A necklace of tiny roots it was she placed in the mother's hand, tiny roots of irregular shape, strung on a thread and emitting a strong aromatic odor. The dark face was full of sympathy, from the eyes shone the compassion of a mother's heart; there was a common language which the souls of the two women, the African and the Caucasian understood.

Tremblingly the white fingers clasped the strange object, influenced by the idea, It can do neither good nor harm, the one who brought it shall not be wounded by the thought that its efficacy was not even tested. So the necklace was placed about the baby's throat and its donor immediately disappeared.

Another hour the mother bent hopeless above the little one—another—and suddenly, as she watched, there seemed a faint quiver about the eyelids—then there was a little sigh and next a slow, half-perceptible motion of the hands; a few movements more, and the weak little arms were lifted. A wild hope throbbed through the mother's heart, there had not been for many hours such signs of life.

Just at this moment the old family physician came to inquire for the little patient he had pronounced beyond earthly aid, and immediately directed certain measures of restoration. The mother told him of the necklace—he replied very gravely that its power could not be doubted, that there were many potent natural agents of which as yet we were ignorant.

The baby wore the necklace until quite well, and it was then placed in the mother's jewelry case, but one day it was gone—no one could tell where nor how.

Among their legends none are more curious than those which treat of witches. The one following was told me by old Uncle Simon Hollowfield:

"Witches! ye's s'm—I know's cunsid'ble 'bou' dem. Dey's humins, witchesis, dey's people w'ut sheds dey skins 'er night same's you sheds yer close. I'se sted'd 'bou' witchcraf myse'f . Yer see, dey puts yer in er ku'ous cundition dat yer don' know nothin' 'n kyarnt hep yerse'f no ways, den dey jes ties yer up. Arf'er dis dey easy 'nouf puts er bridle on yer by witch means. I know'd er cull'd man way long time 'go down in Gawgy w'ut said he mistis wuz er witch uhman. Well, dis man he gin ter fall off so en ter git so po', dat he marster ax 'im w'ut wuz de matter. Den de man he up en tole 'im de sho 'nough troof, dat is, dat de mistis were er witch en dat she rid 'im ebbry night same's he wuz er boss. De marster he uv cose mighty suspris'd, en he ain' say nothin' tall jes' at fust, den he spon' dat he'd fix 'er. Well, he sot off, he did, en he got 'im er bridle wid er silvuh bit. Silvuh! hit's got mo' pow'r den mose any udder thin' whar witches is cunsarned, hit's got strenf w'ut witches kyarnt withstan' frum. So de marster he give dis bridle ter his sarvan'. Dat night de witch put de bolster by de side her ole man same's she bin er doin' ebbry night en she slips out widout he know'n hit.

"Wen she got ter whar de sarvan' wuz she walk in en hang her close on he wall, nex' she shed huh skin en wuz in 'pearence jes er skinn'd humin. She hed de bridle in huh han' en she tried en she tried ter bridle dat man, but he wuz wuk'n de same time fer ter put de silvuh bit in huh mouf, en case she could'n complush noth'n 'ginst hit. So he kyard his pint en bridl'd huh arfer so long er time en den he jes tuk huh right ter de stable en hitch her ter de rack same's she wuz er boss, en in de mo'nin' dar she wuz.

"W'en de marster wake up dar wuz de bolster by he side en no wife, he w'en ter de stable en she wuz dar wid de silvuh bit in huh mouf en he Jes sont fer de neighbers en dey come en hab er big confab 'bout hit. De cons'quince wuz dey jes up en bun huh 'live.

"She had been er ridin' dat man fer de longis' ebbry night ter de place whar de witches met. Dey me't ter heve er frolic same's folkes, dey hed sumpin' like er trainin' school ter teach de young uns. Wen dey meet dey sings en frolics en don' know w'ut else dey mout er done, but hit's been provin' dat dey rides bosses en men—yes ma'am—

"Ef er witch ever come 'bout you, you jis git er needle wid er extra big eye en break hit inter two pieces, den tek der pint uv hit en stick't in de eye. Nex' yer mus' prepar supp'r en sot 't on de hyarf er layin' de needle down by 't. De witch'l sho come ter git some dat supper en de mo'nin', yer'll fine'r wid huh big toe er stickin' in'r eye. Dat needle done mek'r do't, she done fas'n huh own se'f. No doubt dat de eend er dat witch."

At this juncture the old man rocked himself back and forth laughing in the most delightful and infectious manner. I asked once, "Uncle Simon, have you ever seen a spirit?" "No 'm, I ain't seed 'm, but I'se hyeard 'm many er time. I'd er be gwine 'long er moonlight night thro' de woods en 'ud hyear er stick break, er whack! en den hyear one on 'em say, "Ain' I done tole yer so? Ain' I done tole yer so?"

He could not explain the meaning of the words or give the reason for the remark, but a few months since I was in the far South on the Louisiana line and talking with an old servant by the name of Cuffy. In response to a similar question, he said: "Dar's sperits w'ut ain' sat'sfied, w'ut's res'less, en dey wan'ers 'bout de yearf all de time. Wen yer goes long, not thinkin' bout nothin' en hes er warm winter strike yer face, en smells hit sort er tainty en dis'gree'ble, dats ghosties er passin' by. Dey kin see you, but you kyarnt see dem. At night dey goes roun' er many er time en dey will be er disputin' 'bout who 'tis er walkin by. One uv 'm w'ut knows me'l say, 'Dars goes Cuffy er passin by.' Den de udder'll 'spon' 'No tain' Cuffy t'all.' 'Dey 'll spute bout 't en den de one w'ut know'd me I break er stick ter mek er noise so's I'l tuhn 'roun ' en dey kin see my face en know me. 'Right den, if yer lissens hard, you'll hyear one uv 'm say, 'Didn' I tole yer so, didn' I tole yer so? '"

This old man Cuffy introduced to me a character in folk lore which I have neither heard of nor seen elsewhere. It is "Soo-loo." He said, —

"Now Soolo, he wuz er witch en de rabbit he's haf witch hese'f. Sooloo had natch'l har sames de rabbit en he 'n de rabbit dey wuz parnders. Onct pun er time dey buy some butter tergedder en dey put 't erway in de house en wen' on ter wuk in de patch. Bimeby de rabbit he wan' some dat butter mighty bad en he up en say, 'Hello,' same's ef he hyear somebody er callin'. Sooloo say, 'Wu'ts dat yer hollin' bout.' Rabbit 'spon,' 'Somebody er callin' me 't house.' Sooloo say, 'You better go see w'ut's de matter.'

"Den de rabbit he bre'k en run, he did, ter 't house en he hep hese'f ter de butter den wen' lopin back ter de patch ter wuk. Wen he got dar Sooloo, he say, 'Wut wuz de matter?' De rabbit he say, 'My wife got er little one,' en Sooloo say, 'Wut he name?' rabbit say, 'Skim Top.' 'Twan long fo de rabbit holler gin, 'Hello!' en Sooloo say, 'Wut de matter?' rabbit 'spon,' 'Don' yer hyear somebody er callin' me 't house?' Sooloo say, 'Yer better go see who 'tis.' De rabbit he go, stay little w'ile, den come back en Sooloo say, 'Wut de matter?' De rabbit say, 'My wife got little one.' 'Wuts he name?' say Sooloo. 'Midways,' say de rabbit.

"'Twan but nudder little w'ile fo de rabbit say 'gin, 'Hello!' en Sooloo say 'gin, 'Wuts de matter?' Somebody er callin' me 't house,' de rabbit spon' 'You better go see w'ut de matter.' Wen de rabbit come back dis time dar wan no mo' butter in de pail 't all but cose 'Sooloo didn' know de rabbit don clean de bottom. Dis time Sooloo say 'gin, 'W'ut waz de matter,' en de rabbit he say, 'My wife got er little one,' w'en Sooloo ax,'Wut he name?' de rabbit say, 'Cleanbottom.'

"Dat night w'en he en Sooloo come home dey fine dar ain' no butter 't all in de pail en dey wuz bofe dat sus-spr-i' -s' -d. Den dey cunsult'd tergedder es ter who could er bin dar ter do sech er outdacious ac'. De rabbit he up and say, 'Sholy 't wan' you, Sooloo, en I know 't wan' me, but dars er way ter prove hit, sez ee. We'll bull' er big fire en lay down clost ter 't en it'll skew de grease out'n de one w'ut done tek dat butter.'

"So dey collect'd some light wood en mek er fire en bofe uv'm stretched dey se'fs out befo't. Now Sooloo he wuz er fambly man en he wuk hard all de day long, but de rabbit he ain' sted'n bout wuk 't 'all, Sooloo wuz ti'de but rabbit wan' so Sooloo wen' sleep but de rabbit did'n. He jes lay dar think'n twell de fire done draw all de grease out'n 'im sho nough den he got up 'n rub hit all over Sooloo who wuz sleep en not spicionin' nothin'.

"Now all uv er sud'n he call Sooloo en dar he wuz all kiver'd wid de grease. Sooloo, cose he know'd he ain' eat dat butter so he up en run de rabbit twell he hop in er holler tree en dar Sooloo cotch 'm by de hine laig. Den de rabbit he holler, 'Oh, please Brer, Sooloo, doan kill me in de bri'r patch, do anythin' 't all but cep'n tho me in de bri'r patch.' Den dat de berry thin' dat Sooloo done, he heave 'm right in de bri'r patch sho nough. Wel-l-suz, dat rabbit he jes holler en laf-f 'Oh brer Sooloo, dis de berry place I wuz bon'd in, dis de berry place I wuz bon'd in.' Uv cose Sooloo couldn' ketch 'm no ways, de rabbit he's heap smart'r nor w'ut de udder beastis is."—Here old Cuffy laughed until the tears came into his eyes thinking of the rabbit's "butter scrape' as he called it.

This legend, as a whole, is unlike any of those I have seen. It has several features peculiarly its own, but the allusion to the briar patch is identical with the close of the famous Tar Baby story, and several other points will be found in other legends. This mixture seems to be a strong argument for one original source of them all.

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As a natural consequence of the present environment of the Afro-American, his legendary gifts are fast leaving him; with the present generation they will be quite lost to the world, and if any effort is to be made to secure them it must be done quickly and skilfully, for the generation of to-day scorns the old time legends and superstitions. Only the old-timers prize and cherish them, and these are not only rapidly passing away, but it is difi&cult to find the key to their hidden treasures. "When they have vanished, the curio-hunter in the realm of Afro-American folk-lore will realize that the mines he sought to open have disappeared like submerged lands, and that the generation most closely allied to the primitive state of man, and which yet was near enough to him for scientific investigation, has disappeared forever.

Having briefly compared some of the distinctive superstitions of the Afro-American and African proper,—having realized that the negroes in different parts of the South hold the same superstitions Just as they do national other peculiarities, attention must be directed to another division on the subject. Before turning to this reference, must be made to the very remarkable book recently published by Miss Owen; but since it deals with a separate and distinct class of folk-lore, that in which the Negroes and Indians unite as collaborators and equally share the percentage of the legends, it will not be discussed here.

The other division, and one which sustains an important relation to the subject of this paper, is to be discovered in the legends of the Indians of the Northwest which are yet to be unearthed by the student of ethnology. I have found among legends secured from the Indians themselves, and such as were located in distant portions of the country where it is not possible that Afro-American influence could have penetrated, some which contain identical incidents with those in legends current among our Southern negroes. How shall we account for this fact? It seems to confront us with a problem quite different from any other in connection with the study of folk-lore on this continent. Besides these close resemblances in the legends of the two races, there are ideas held by both which discover remarkable likenesses to the best authenticated folk-tales of the old world. In the Kalevala, the great Finnic epic, perhaps the richest find of folk-lore in the last fifty years, are embalmed the thoughts of men as they probably were thousands of years ago. We find here marvellous resemblances to the Chaldean invocations preserved on clay tablets, to the beliefs of the ancient Babylonians, and stranger still, to those of the American Indian—yet the Kalevala is self-dependent and original, and the idea of its being a copy or imitation is positively denied by scientific authorities.

We find in it a rune which deals in a serio-comic manner with Otso, the bear, in much the same way as our negroes do in their legends. We find another in which the hare is given the place of honor above the bear, the wolf, and the fox, for its superior sagacity and adroitness. If the Kalevala, together with the results of philological research should prove, as seems quite possible, that the American Indian is related to the Finns; and if identical legends, ideas, and linguistic peculiarities demonstrate that two of the most primitive races on this continent, the Afro-American and Indian, are distant cousins,—a new and very attractive thought will be presented to the patriotic American.

According to the general idea, at the time of the dispersion of the human family from its home in Central Asia, some of the tribes journeyed eastward and crossed, probably on dry ground, the present Behring Straits. When others went southward from Asia to the Dark Continent, and others again went westward to the country of the Lapps and the Finns and the Saxons and at last to our own shores, they must, have carried, stored away with their Lares and Penates, a chain of primitive legends. Is it chimerical to suggest that the two ends of this wondrous chain, with its curiously wrought links, are destined to meet in the land discovered by Columbus? Is it chimerical to suggest that we may realize that a chain of legends has at last girdled the globe with its romance as well as its testimony to great scientific facts? If this suggested theory, this idea tlaat east and west, during all the past ages, has the chain stretched, until now and here it has met, if this prove to be true;—then upon America, our native land, will be conferred the distinction of being the meeting-place of the two branches of the human family that started out from their common home centuries ago in opposite directions;—then to America, the land latest known, but best beloved of the gods, will belong the honor of gathering together the magicians, who with the ever-potent fire of knowledge, will weld together the long-sundered ends of that chain now circling our glorious sphere.