the small bottle which her mother pointed out to her and,

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In the second place, along with a common fund of moral and religious ideas and of legal and ceremonial observances, we find these kindred peoples possessed of a common fund of myths, superstitions, proverbs, popular poetry, and household legends. The Hindu mother amuses her child with fairy-tales which often correspond, even in minor incidents, with stories in Scottish or Scandinavian nurseries; and she tells them in words which are phonetically akin to words in Swedish and Gaelic. No doubt many of these stories might have been devised in a dozen different places independently of each other; and no doubt many of them have been transmitted laterally from one people to another; but a careful examination shows that such cannot have been the case with the great majority of legends and beliefs. The agreement between two such stories, for instance, as those of Faithful John and Rama and Luxman is so close as to make it incredible that they should have been independently fabricated, while the points of difference are so important as to make it extremely improbable that the one was ever copied from the other. Besides which, the essential identity of such myths as those of Sigurd and Theseus, or of Helena and Sarama, carries us back historically to a time when the scattered Indo-European tribes had not yet begun to hold commercial and intellectual intercourse with each other, and consequently could not have interchanged their epic materials or their household stories. We are therefore driven to the conclusion--which, startling as it may seem, is after all the most natural and plausible one that can be stated--that the Aryan nations, which have inherited from a common ancestral stock their languages and their customs, have inherited also from the same common original their fireside legends. They have preserved Cinderella and Punchkin just as they have preserved the words for father and mother, ten and twenty; and the former case, though more imposing to the imagination, is scientifically no less intelligible than the latter.

the small bottle which her mother pointed out to her and,

Thirdly, it has been shown that these venerable tales may be grouped in a few pretty well defined classes; and that the archetypal myth of each class--the primitive story in conformity to which countless subsequent tales have been generated--was originally a mere description of physical phenomena, couched in the poetic diction of an age when everything was personified, because all natural phenomena were supposed to be due to the direct workings of a volition like that of which men were conscious within themselves. Thus we are led to the striking conclusion that mythology has had a common root, both with science and with religious philosophy. The myth of Indra conquering Vritra was one of the theorems of primitive Aryan science; it was a provisional explanation of the thunder-storm, satisfactory enough until extended observation and reflection supplied a better one. It also contained the germs of a theology; for the life-giving solar light furnished an important part of the primeval conception of deity. And finally, it became the fruitful parent of countless myths, whether embodied in the stately epics of Homer and the bards of the Nibelungenlied, or in the humbler legends of St. George and William Tell and the ubiquitous Boots.

the small bottle which her mother pointed out to her and,

Such is the theory which was suggested half a century ago by the researches of Jacob Grimm, and which, so far as concerns the mythology of the Aryan race, is now victorious along the whole line. It remains for us to test the universality of the general principles upon which it is founded, by a brief analysis of sundry legends and superstitions of the barbaric world. Since the fetichistic habit of explaining the outward phenomena of nature after the analogy of the inward phenomena of conscious intelligence is not a habit peculiar to our Aryan ancestors, but is, as psychology shows, the inevitable result of the conditions under which uncivilized thinking proceeds, we may expect to find the barbaric mind personifying the powers of nature and making myths about their operations the whole world over. And we need not be surprised if we find in the resulting mythologic structures a strong resemblance to the familiar creations of the Aryan intelligence. In point of fact, we shall often be called upon to note such resemblance; and it accordingly behooves us at the outset to inquire how far a similarity between mythical tales shall be taken as evidence of a common traditional origin, and how far it may be interpreted as due merely to the similar workings of the untrained intelligence in all ages and countries.

the small bottle which her mother pointed out to her and,

Analogies drawn from the comparison of languages will here be of service to us, if used discreetly; otherwise they are likely to bewilder far more than to enlighten us. A theorem which Max Muller has laid down for our guidance in this kind of investigation furnishes us with an excellent example of the tricks which a superficial analogy may play even with the trained scholar, when temporarily off his guard. Actuated by a praiseworthy desire to raise the study of myths to something like the high level of scientific accuracy already attained by the study of words, Max Muller endeavours to introduce one of the most useful canons of philology into a department of inquiry where its introduction could only work the most hopeless confusion. One of the earliest lessons to be learned by the scientific student of linguistics is the uselessness of comparing together directly the words contained in derivative languages. For example, you might set the English twelve side by side with the Latin duodecim, and then stare at the two words to all eternity without any hope of reaching a conclusion, good or bad, about either of them: least of all would you suspect that they are descended from the same radical. But if you take each word by itself and trace it back to its primitive shape, explaining every change of every letter as you go, you will at last reach the old Aryan dvadakan, which is the parent of both these strangely metamorphosed words.[130] Nor will it do, on the other hand, to trust to verbal similarity without a historical inquiry into the origin of such similarity. Even in the same language two words of quite different origin may get their corners rubbed off till they look as like one another as two pebbles. The French words souris, a "mouse," and souris, a "smile," are spelled exactly alike; but the one comes from Latin sorex and the other from Latin subridere.

[130] For the analysis of twelve, see my essay on "The Genesis of Language," North American Review, October 1869, p. 320.

Now Max Muller tells us that this principle, which is indispensable in the study of words, is equally indispensable in the study of myths.[131] That is, you must not rashly pronounce the Norse story of the Heartless Giant identical with the Hindu story of Punchkin, although the two correspond in every essential incident. In both legends a magician turns several members of the same family into stone; the youngest member of the family comes to the rescue, and on the way saves the lives of sundry grateful beasts; arrived at the magician's castle, he finds a captive princess ready to accept his love and to play the part of Delilah to the enchanter. In both stories the enchanter's life depends on the integrity of something which is elaborately hidden in a far-distant island, but which the fortunate youth, instructed by the artful princess and assisted by his menagerie of grateful beasts, succeeds in obtaining. In both stories the youth uses his advantage to free all his friends from their enchantment, and then proceeds to destroy the villain who wrought all this wickedness. Yet, in spite of this agreement, Max Muller, if I understand him aright, would not have us infer the identity of the two stories until we have taken each one separately and ascertained its primitive mythical significance. Otherwise, for aught we can tell, the resemblance may be purely accidental, like that of the French words for "mouse" and "smile."

[131] Chips from a German Workshop, Vol. II. p. 246.

A little reflection, however, will relieve us from this perplexity, and assure us that the alleged analogy between the comparison of words and the comparison of stories is utterly superficial. The transformations of words--which are often astounding enough--depend upon a few well-established physiological principles of utterance; and since philology has learned to rely upon these principles, it has become nearly as sure in its methods and results as one of the so-called "exact sciences." Folly enough is doubtless committed within its precincts by writers who venture there without the laborious preparation which this science, more than almost any other, demands. But the proceedings of the trained philologist are no more arbitrary than those of the trained astronomer. And though the former may seem to be straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel when he coolly tells you that violin and fiddle are the same word, while English care and Latin cura have nothing to do with each other, he is nevertheless no more indulging in guess-work than the astronomer who confesses his ignorance as to the habitability of Venus while asserting his knowledge of the existence of hydrogen in the atmosphere of Sirius. To cite one example out of a hundred, every philologist knows that s may become r, and that the broad a-sound may dwindle into the closer o-sound; but when you adduce some plausible etymology based on the assumption that r has changed into s, or o into a, apart from the demonstrable influence of some adjacent letter, the philologist will shake his head.

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