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Literary Aspects of Mythology Paul Radin

Literary Aspects of Mythology Paul Radin

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We will now turn our attention to the

specific examination

of Ehrenreich's

concept of a correct version.

Let us assume for the sake of

argument that only one correct

version of a myth exists and that the variants

represent devia-

tions from this correct version. Are we to consider any constant

element appearing in the

"original" version and the variants as

the essential nucleus of the

myth, or are only certain common

elements to be

regarded as

significant ?

If, for instance, we were

to find in a number of

places a

plot dealing with a warrior who

goes on a

warpath, is

captured, and informs his

captors that on

a certain

day, no matter how well he is

guarded, he will

escape

the

probability of such a plot developing in a number of North

American tribes

quite independently is considerable. The

plot, consequently, must be of a

specific nature. If, however,
we find in the same tribe two versions of a myth in which the

plots are identical but the

episodes quite distinct, which are we

to

regard as the

original ? Or again, we may find two tales in

which the

episodes are identical but the

plots different ; or, finally,

two versions in which both

plot and episodes are identical, but

where the

plot is

developed in

characteristically different

ways.

In other words, there are

conceivably three kinds of identities:

that of

plot, that of

episodes, and that of

plot elaboration.

What is the reason for this

differentiation, and have we a

right

LITERARY ASPECTS OF NORTH AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY.

7

to claim for

any one of these three identities a

special importance

in the development of the myth complex ? Can any of them be

used as criteria for

determining which one of a number of versions

of a myth is

primary ? These questions must be answered ten-

tatively, at least.

To me the reasons for the differences in the various versions

of the same myth are due mainly to certain

literary tendencies

at work. To demonstrate this contention I shall discuss at some

length the nature of the

plot and its

elaboration, the

episodes,

and the motifs, of a number of North American myths.

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