Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword or section
Like this
2Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Myths and Myth Makers

Myths and Myth Makers

Ratings: (0)|Views: 46|Likes:
Published by tazzir

More info:

Published by: tazzir on Mar 04, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

06/28/2012

pdf

text

original

 
MYTHS AND MYTH-MAKERS
OLD TALES AND SUPERSTITIONS INTERPRETEDBY COMPARATIVE MYTHOLOGY
 
BY JOHN FISKE
 La mythologie, cette science toute nouvelle, qui nous faitsuivre les croyances de nos peres, depuis le berceau du monde jusqu'aux superstitions de nos campagnes.--EDMOND SCHERERTO MY DEAR FRIEND, WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS,IN REMEMBRANCE OFPLEASANT AUTUMN EVENINGS SPENT AMONG WEREWOLVES ANDTROLLS AND NIXIES, I dedicate THIS RECORD OF OUR ADVENTURES.
PREFACE.
IN publishing this somewhat rambling and unsystematic seriesof papers, in which I have endeavoured to touch briefly upon agreat many of the most important points in the study ofmythology, I think it right to observe that, in order to avoidconfusing the reader with intricate discussions, I havesometimes cut the matter short, expressing myself withdogmatic definiteness where a sceptical vagueness mightperhaps have seemed more becoming. In treating of popularlegends and superstitions, the paths of inquiry are circuitousenough, and seldom can we reach a satisfactory conclusionuntil we have travelled all the way around Robin Hood's barnand back again. I am sure that the reader would not havethanked me for obstructing these crooked lanes with the thornsand brambles of philological and antiquarian discussion, tosuch an extent as perhaps to make him despair of ever reachingthe high road. I have not attempted to review, otherwise thanincidentally, the works of Grimm, Muller, Kuhn, Breal, Dasent,and Tylor; nor can I pretend to have added anything ofconsequence, save now and then some bit of explanatorycomment, to the results obtained by the labour of thesescholars; but it has rather been my aim to present theseresults in such a way as to awaken general interest in them.
 
And accordingly, in dealing with a subject which depends uponphilology almost as much as astronomy depends uponmathematics, I have omitted philological considerationswherever it has been possible to do so. Nevertheless, Ibelieve that nothing has been advanced as established which isnot now generally admitted by scholars, and that nothing hasbeen advanced as probable for which due evidence cannot beproduced. Yet among many points which are proved, and manyothers which are probable, there must always remain many otherfacts of which we cannot feel sure that our own explanation isthe true one; and the student who endeavours to fathom theprimitive thoughts of mankind, as enshrined in mythology, willdo well to bear in mind the modest words of Jacob Grimm,--himself the greatest scholar and thinker who has ever dealtwith this class of subjects,--"I shall indeed interpret allthat I can, but I cannot interpret all that I should like."PETERSHAM, September 6, 1872.
CONTENTS.
I. THE ORIGINS OF FOLK-LOREII. THE DESCENT OF FIREIII. WEREWOLVES AND SWAN-MAIDENSIV. LIGHT AND DARKNESSV. MYTHS OF THE BARBARIC WORLDVI. JUVENTUS MUNDIVII. THE PRIMEVAL GHOST-WORLDNOTE
MYTHS AND MYTH-MAKERS.
 
I. THE ORIGINS OF FOLK-LORE.
FEW mediaeval heroes are so widely known as William Tell. Hisexploits have been celebrated by one of the greatest poets andone of the most popular musicians of modern times. They aredoubtless familiar to many who have never heard of Stauffacheror Winkelried, who are quite ignorant of the prowess ofRoland, and to whom Arthur and Lancelot, nay, even Charlemagne,are but empty names.Nevertheless, in spite of his vast reputation, it is verylikely that no such person as William Tell ever existed, andit is certain that the story of his shooting the apple fromhis son's head has no historical value whatever. In spite ofthe wrath of unlearned but patriotic Swiss, especially ofthose of the cicerone class, this conclusion is forced upon usas soon as we begin to study the legend in accordance with thecanons of modern historical criticism. It is useless to pointto Tell's lime-tree, standing to-day in the centre of themarket-place at Altdorf, or to quote for our confusion hiscrossbow preserved in the arsenal at Zurich, as unimpeachablewitnesses to the truth of the story. It is in vain that we aretold, "The bricks are alive to this day to testify to it;therefore, deny it not." These proofs are not more valid thanthe handkerchief of St. Veronica, or the fragments of the truecross. For if relics are to be received as evidence, we mustneeds admit the truth of every miracle narrated by theBollandists.The earliest work which makes any allusion to the adventuresof William Tell is the chronicle of the younger Melchior Russ,written in 1482. As the shooting of the apple was supposed tohave taken place in 1296, this leaves an interval of onehundred and eighty-six years, during which neither a Tell, nora William, nor the apple, nor the cruelty of Gessler, receivedany mention. It may also be observed, parenthetically, thatthe charters of Kussenach, when examined, show that no man bythe name of Gessler ever ruled there. The chroniclers of thefifteenth century, Faber and Hammerlin, who minutely describethe tyrannical acts by which the Duke of Austria goaded theSwiss to rebellion, do not once mention Tell's name, or betraythe slightest acquaintance with his exploits or with hisexistence. In the Zurich chronicle of 1479 he is not alludedto. But we have still better negative evidence. John ofWinterthur, one of the best chroniclers of the Middle Ages,was living at the time of the battle of Morgarten (1315), at

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->