THE Rumanian animal tales, which appear here for the first time outside Rumania, are so weird, so different from any known to the folk-lore of the West, that they arrest our attention and invite close examination. They are, for the most part, not only beautiful in themselves, but by reason of a peculiar flight of fancy and a powerful imagination are so unlike anything known in other collections of folk-lore that they raise problems far reaching, and, I venture to think, of the highest importance to the study of popular literature. We are moving in a religious atmosphere. Many of the tales start, as it were, from the beginning of creation. God, the Apostles, the Evil One seem to take a hand in the work and to rejoice more or less in the labour of their hands. We have, besides, animal fables pure and simple, tales designed for enjoyment, tales of fancy in which the nimble and small creatures outwit the burly and heavy ones. We have also fairy tales like those known to us in the West and made familiar to us by numerous collections. A prominent characteristic is the childlike simplicity of all the stories, the absence of any dualistic element. No "moral" has been tacked on to these tales, and probably they were not even intended to teach one. The questions which the study of folk-lore has raised, whether anthropological, psychological, or historical will be raised with a renewed force. I shall endeavour, however briefly, to deal with some of the problems in the light which this collection of Rumanian tales is able to shed upon the study of folk-lore.
The anthropological, historical and psychological problems underlying our studies must be attacked--I venture to think--from a fresh point of view. The view I hold is that the European nations form one spiritual unit, and that within that unit the various degrees of development through which one or the other has passed are still preserved. I believe that we must study the manifestations of the human spirit from a geographical angle of vision, that this development has spread directly from one group of men to another, and that, before going to the extreme ends of the earth for doubtful clues, we must first try to find them, and perhaps we shall succeed in finding them more easily and satisfactorily, among some of the European nations whose folk-lore has not yet been sufficiently investigated. We can find in Europe various stages of "culture," and these we must trace by slow descent to the lowest rung of the ladder. At a certain stage of our descent we may strike the stratum of Asiatic folk-lore which may lead us further in our comparative study. Let me give some practical examples of my meaning. The relation between man and animal has been the subject of numerous highly speculative but none the less extremely interesting and acute investigations. We have had Totemism, we have had Animism and many other explanations, which by their number became simply bewildering. Students have gone to the Bushmen of Australia, and to the Red Indians of America for parallels and explanations, or for proofs of their highly ingenious theories. But are there no animal and bird stories in Europe which would show us how, to this day, the people understand the relations between man and other living creatures, what views they hold of birds and beasts and insects? Are the animals humanised--using the word in the sense of impersonating a human being? Do the people see any fundamental difference between the created things? In the fairy tale, at any rate, no such definite clear-cut distinction between man and animal can be discerned.
But at the root of many anthropological myths the animal is only a disguised human being. The worth of these Rumanian stories--culled as they are from the mouth of the people--is their ability to show how to this very day the people look upon the animal world. Perhaps another view will ultimately find its way among the students of folk-lore. What I am anxious to emphasise is the fact that there are, for the investigation of folk-lore students, mines of untold wealth that have hitherto not been sufficiently worked.
These tales represent one or more of the earlier stages of European folk-lore. The elements, not yet quite closely moulded together, allow us at times to lay bare the sources and thus trace the inner history of this part of folk-lore. The people are confronted by a world filled with weird and mysterious animals, birds, insects, each with their own peculiarities to invite question.
Almost everything that is not of daily occurrence excites the people's curiosity, and they ask for an explanation of it; where does this or that animal come from, and why has it this or that peculiarity in its habits, colours, form and other matters? They are very grateful for instruction. But it must be of a kind adapted to their understanding. It must be plausible, even if it puts some strain on their imagination. The more wonderful and weird that explanation, the more easily it is accepted by the people, and the more firmly is it believed. This question of "belief" has often been raised in connection with fairy tales. It is asked whether the people believe in the existence of fairies, monsters, marvellous and wonder-working animals, in short, in all the mechanism of the fairy tale.
To this an unhesitating answer can be given in so far as these Rumanian tales and legends are concerned. They are believed in implicitly. They form an integral part--I feel almost inclined to say they form an exclusive part--of the popular religious beliefs of the folk. The people are neither too squeamish, nor too sophistical in their faith, nor do they enquire too closely into the dogmatic character of such beliefs or into the sources from which they have come.
In the East too the people, as a rule, are good-natured, and a good story remains a good story, whether told by a believer or an infidel.
The study of these tales promises to exceed by far in interest the study of mere "fairy tales." We are moving in a spiritual world, which appears to be much more primitive in the animal tale than in the fairy tale. We are getting much nearer to the very soul of the people, to its power of imagination and abstraction. We can see more clearly the manner of its working.
The comparative study of fairy lore has led to the surprising recognition of the world-wide range of these tales. In spite of investigations carried on for close upon a century, no satisfactory solution has yet been found which would explain the appearance of one and the same fairy tale at such widely separate parts of the world as India and England. Various answers have been advanced in order to explain this surprising similarity. And the same problem arises here. This collection of tales, as already mentioned, contains two groups. The larger group consists of the legend or creation stories--in which, however, one section contains fairy tales though used also as creation stories--and the other group consists of fables pure and simple. It would be unscientific, I hold, to treat these groups on one plane as if they were all contemporary in their origin. They may represent various degrees either of local evolution, and if so, that may be found to be the best solution, or they may have come in various stages of transmission. The theory of migration has been applied hitherto to the fairy tale. I am not aware that the history of the popular fable has been attempted, still less that of the creation legends, which have remained almost unknown until quite recently. I will deal with each of these groups as far as possible separately, and the conclusions drawn from each group will afterwards be merged into one final conclusion established by the fact of their actual presence in Rumanian popular lore.
Migration, no doubt, offers the best solution of the riddle set by the fairy tale. No one, unless he solves the riddle of the heroine in the fairy tale, can win her. But still the opinion of scholars is divided. The mistake, I venture to think, has been that all the tales called by this title, and even culled from the mouth of the people, have been treated on one general principle, without recognising the possibility that there may be divers layers, some older, some of a more recent date. This probability seems to have been entirely overlooked. That which holds good for one cycle need not hold equally good for all the rest. But the question of the central origin of tales must not be confused with that of their transmission. Thus a tale may originate in India or Egypt, but once it has started on a journey of its own it will be carried, chiefly by word of mouth, from country to country. And as its structure is loose, a mere framework with a very simple plot, it will assimilate other elements and undergo those manifold changes, the investigation of which is the delight and despair of the folk-lorist.
We are now faced by a new set of stories, some of which are mere tales, while others are of a more legendary character. I class under the latter heading all those in which the religious element stands out prominently. They have assumed their actual form no doubt probably under the powerful sway of some religious influence. The peculiar shade of religious teaching which has moulded the actual form of these legendary stories, and which is of decisive importance in our investigation, will be discussed more fully later on, after we have been able to dispose of other solutions offered by the explanation of the origin of these tales. It will then be possible to approach the question of the fairy tales from the coign of vantage gained.
Within this class of tales there are some in which the legendary character is not so pronounced, where the tale is intended to explain certain peculiarities of animals. These seem to be of so primitive a character that the closest parallels can only be found among primitive nations. Here a new problem sets in--the problem of origins. For curiously enough a striking similarity cannot be denied to the Rumanian, Indian, African and possibly American tales. But the similarity is only in the aim. The other nations ask precisely the same questions about the animals with which they are familiar, and they endeavour to give an answer to their query. The parallelism is in the question. Are we, then, to treat these tales in the same manner as the "fairy tales" and account for that similarity in the same manner as that of fairy tales gathered from distant regions? Or, in other words, have we here another set of tales which have been carried chiefly by word of mouth from one country to another? Are these stories also new witnesses to the process of "migration"? And are we, then, to assume that this theory of migration should be applied to these animal tales, as it has been to the fairy tale? Or, are we to assume that the unity of the human soul works on parallel lines in divers countries among divers nations not otherwise connected with one another? If not, how is this similarity to be explained? True, the parallelism between Rumanian and Indian tales is not so close as it is between the "fairy tales." For the animals are often not the same. They are everywhere local beasts. This change in the animals chosen may be due to different circumstances and local assimilation. It is quite natural that for a tiger and jackal, a wolf and a fox might have been substituted when the animal tale reached Europe, for the tale had to be localised in order to preserve its interest in a new atmosphere. One need not go very far to find the same change taking place even in written literature. The jackals in the frame story of the Panchatantra become "foxes" in Kalila Wa Dimna in the European versions. Or, to take another example, in the famous parable of the "man in the pit" in the Barlaam Josaphat legend the furious elephant becomes a camel, however incongruous the substitution may appear. If such changes could take place in the written literature in which the incidents are fixed, how much more easily could it take place when a story is carried only by word of mouth? Then the substitution of a familiar animal for one unknown would be quite natural. The people want to know the reason for the peculiarities of those animals that they know. They are not likely to care much for unknown fauna. Unless those other animals are of a purely mythical and fantastical character, and as such appeal to the universal imagination, there is no room in the popular mythology for animals of foreign countries.
If, then, we admit that these animal fables have been brought to Europe in the same manner as the fairy tales, by means of oral transmission, then they have preserved their original character and their primitive form less modified than has happened in the case of the fairy tale, for reasons which would have to be explained. The only other suggestion is that these legends and animal tales are of a local origin, the product of the poetical imagination of the Rumanian peasant, and as such quite independent of any other source. If this is not acceptable we must admit a continuous stream of popular tradition, setting in at a time not yet determined and spreading from East to West or from South to North, the direction of the stream having been determined by the presumable centre of origin in Asia, before or contemporary with the spread of the real fairy tales.
But, it might be argued, as has been also done in the case of the fairy tales, that these stories are the product of individual efforts of local myth-makers and popular poets, that they are purely indigenous in origin. One cannot deny that the people could invent such stories. Some one must have invented them, and why could they not have been invented by the Rumanian peasant independently of the Indian story teller?
The cosmogonic setting invalidates this suggestion. Such a setting presupposes a definite set of ideas about the beginnings of things which are neither spontaneous nor indigenous. All that can be said is that, once the impulse had been given, the imagination of the people followed the lead and worked in its own way on the given lines. This is the general trend of real popular lore. Each nation mints in its own fashion the gold brought from elsewhere, and places its own imprint upon it.
This view I find myself unable to accept. It could be entertained only and solely if no parallels whatsoever could be found anywhere to some at least of the more important and characteristic creation tales, fairy tales and fables.
The question then remains, Where do these tales come from? Are they indeed the expression of the primitive mind, and if so, have we to recognise these specific Rumanian beast tales as so many indigenous products of the primitive Rumanian mind?
Tylor, in his Primitive Culture (i. 3 ed. 410 ff.), discusses at some length the beast tales found among primitive peoples, tales that as yet are not the excuse for a moral and have not been reduced to the background of an allegory. He takes his examples from the North Indians of America, from the Kamtchadals of Kamtchatka and from the inhabitants of Guinea. These stories are thus, as it were, the primitive expression of the myth-making imagination of peoples in which the animal stands in as close a relation as any human being. Be this as it may, the conclusions drawn by Tylor rest on this evidence gathered only from so-called dark ages. He is not aware of any such tales among the nations of Europe, who certainly cannot be classed among the primitive peoples. And on the other hand he is fully alive to the fact that a number of such beast tales have been worked up in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in the famous epic of Reynard the Fox.
The question arises, Whence came some of the incidents believed to be more ancient? They lead us straight to the supposition that such animal tales in a primitive form must have existed among the peoples of Europe, even as far west as Flanders and France. They were afterwards woven into one consecutive narrative, conceived in a spirit of satire on existing social and clerical conditions. A "moral" has thus been introduced into a set of more ancient tales. But of this anon. In view of these Rumanian tales we can no longer be content to leave the question of the compilation of Reynard where Tylor has left it. The new materials now at our disposal allow us to follow it much further and to arrive at conclusions differing from those of Tylor. From the moment that we find in Europe similar beast tales to those found among primitive peoples in other parts of the world, we are confronted by a new problem. We may recognise the same spiritual agency at work: we may see the same action of the mind, asking everywhere for an explanation of the phenomena from beast and bird, from sky and sea. Thus far the minds of all the nations run on parallel lines. The differentiation begins with the answer, and here, then, the problem sets in. How many nations give the same answer, and in so doing form, as it were, a group by themselves? How old is this or that answer or the tale that contains it? And what is the form in which it is given? Is it a fable or has it a religious colouring? In endeavouring to reply to these queries we find ourselves face to face with the problems of indigenous character, primitive origin, independent evolution and question of survival. We are thus brought face to face with yet another theory--the theory of survivals--the most important of all, which sways the trend of the study of modern folk-lore. I must deal with it here at some greater length. I mean, of course, the theory that sees in every manifestation of the popular spirit, in every story, in every ballad or song, a survival from hoary antiquity, a remnant of prehistoric times, to which the people have clung with a marvellous tenacity, although they have entirely forgotten its meaning. Out of an unconscious antiquarian weakness they are supposed to have preserved every fossil even if and when it had become burdensome to them. But it must not be forgotten that the people retain only those practices and beliefs by means of which they hope to obtain health, wealth and power, and they will take care not to jeopardise such benefits by any neglect. So long as these results are expected, the people will cling tenaciously to the beliefs which promise them the greater gifts. It is not impossible that such beliefs, being too deeply rooted, might survive local political changes.
But in order to survive, two conditions are essential, continuity of place and continuity of ethnical unity. The religious continuity is also an important condition, though not by any means so essential. The clash of two or more religious doctrines causes on the one hand the destruction of the official system of religious ceremonies and practices, and on the other drives to the bottom that mass of ceremonies from the observance of which benefits to health and wealth are expected. In the moment when the belief in their efficacy has gone they disappear without leaving a trace. Very little, if anything, survives. It is a fallacy to believe, as is now the fashion, that without such continuity any real survival can take place. This theory has been carried to extreme lengths, without the slightest justification. It all rests on finely spun hypotheses in which time and space have entirely disappeared.
No connecting link has been brought forward to bind the present to the past. However plausible some aspects of the "vegetation god" may appear, one must remember the essential fact, that there is now not a single nation in Europe living on the soil where such practices as the slaying of an annual king god has been practised, if, indeed, they have ever been practised, beyond a very strictly limited area in Asia Minor and possibly in Sicily or Italy. With whom could such practices survive, for example, in Bulgaria or even in Thrace? It is known that the population there has changed its character many times, even within the last eight hundred years. There is such a medley of races, some old, some new, that it would be impossible to expect survivals from the Pelasgian or Dacian past. Nor would they have anything in common. The Rumanians of Latin origin are certainly not the oldest inhabitants of Rumania. If, then, each of these ethnical unities had separate practices or, to come nearer to our subject, separate tales and stories marked with its own individuality, it might perhaps be argued that these stories and popular beliefs are survivals from prehistoric times, remnants of a past long forgotten, embodying a folk-lore and popular psychology which date back to remote antiquity. None of these nations, and, in fact, none of the modern nations of Europe, reach back to any extreme antiquity, nor are they homogeneous in their ethnical character nor the descendants of the autochthonous inhabitants. There may be a few rare strains of other blood in the modern admixture, but not of any decisive character, certainly it is not strong enough to have preserved any survivals.
True, many of the modern practices are no more of yesterday than these tales and stories are, but again, they are certainly not so old as a modern school of thought endeavours to make out. Comparatively modern nations, often alien to the soil which they inhabit, none of them of a pure unmixed origin, cannot have retained beliefs, tales, etc., of which their forefathers knew nothing. They could not have laid stress on things which had disappeared with the nations whom their successors or victors had destroyed. If, then, we find that these nations of diverse origins and of diverse times possess a certain stock of folk-lore in common, it follows naturally that they must have obtained it in common at a certain definite period, when in spite of their ethnical and possibly political differences they were all subjected together to one pervading influence. A great spiritual force moulded them at one and the same time, and this produced one common result, which, in spite of its genetic unity, would have allowed a certain latitude for individual development. If, as I assume, it was the all-pervading influence of religious sects which stretched from far East to extreme West and embraced all the cultured nations of Europe, impressing them with the same seal--a certain popularly modified Christianity embellished with legends and tales appealing to the imagination, containing a strong didactic and ethical strain, propounding a new solution of the world's problem suited to the understanding of the people, accounting satisfactorily for the evil in the world, warding off the effects of these spirits of evil--then it is small wonder that their teaching sunk deeper into the heart of the people and brought about that surprising spiritual unification in the religion of the masses which survives in folk-lore.
They would thus date from more or less the same period, when the whole of Europe felt the influence of teachings which lasted two to three centuries at least, quite long enough to leave indelible traces.
It is not to be denied that among these tales some may belong to an anterior period. The newer facts had in some cases been grafted on older ones. Some remnants of ancient myths had survived the first process of forcible Christianisation. But only there where ancient paganism can be shown to have flourished when this new wave of proselytism set in, only there might one be able to discover such traces. These are the local incidents, the local colouring, which give to each tale its own popular character without changing its substance. Such process of assimilation is akin to the other before mentioned, viz. the substitution of the European fauna for Asiatic or Indian animals. Though references to ancient Greek myths occur in these stories, yet in spite of that the Rumanian versions approximate more closely to the later Byzantine than the ancient classical forms. The transformation sets in practically where the Middle Ages part from antiquity. Here is yet another proof for the more recent phase of this popular literature.
A grave danger threatens the scientific character of folk-lore, if a wrong method of investigation be persisted in much longer. I refer to the system of haphazard comparisons arising out of the view that everything done and every rite kept by the folk must of necessity be a survival from extreme antiquity and belong to a period anterior to our modern civilization--a fossil from the age of man's childhood embedded in layers of more recent date. For proof of this theory parallels are sought and found among primitive nations, or those who we believe have not yet left the rude stage of primitive culture. If, then, something is found among them which resembles closely or remotely any of the customs, tales, and beliefs, in our own midst, we are convinced that these customs, tales or beliefs are really remnants of an older stage, through which the modern nations have passed before they reached the present stage of development, and which they have cherished and kept unchanged throughout the ages. The history of comparative philology offers the best analogy for the demonstration of the futility of such reasoning. Nothing contributed so much to make the study of comparative philology a laughing-stock as this endeavour to build up theories of the origin of the language on such arbitrary foundations.
How deceptive such haphazard similarities can be is best demonstrated by the endeavours to derive all the European languages from the Hebrew. This was believed to have been the original language which Adam spoke. Nothing more natural, then, than to trace all the languages back to the Hebrew, which moreover was a holy language. Much ingenuity and immense learning were spent--nay wasted--for centuries in this undertaking. The most trifling incident, the most superficial identity in sound or meaning was looked upon as complete evidence. It has taken close upon half a century to demolish this fabric of philological fallacy, and to place comparative philology on a sound basis. We know now that similarities in different languages may be the result of independent evolution.
The similarities are often quite superficial. No one would, for example, compare a modern English word with an old Latin or Greek stem or with any archaic dialect of these languages, without showing the gradual development of our modern word. He would take it back step by step, and then compare the oldest English form with a contemporary form. Most of the European languages, as we now see, are derived from one common stock, more archaic than any of them. No one would now trace a French word directly to that old Indo-European root, without going first to the Latin; and so with every other language belonging to the same group. Each nation has put the seal of its own individuality on its language, which it has moulded and shaped according to its own physiological and psychical faculties. The one will have retained more primitive forms; for example, local and historical as well as ethnical continuity have kept the Italian much closer to the Latin than Spanish or Portuguese. No one dreams to-day of reducing a French word to a Hebrew root, despite any similarity of form which they might have in common.
We can go now one step further and suggest a common origin for the Indo-European and Semitic groups of languages, a unity which lies beyond the time of their separation, and it is the dream and aim of comparative philology to attain this goal.
Returning now to our science of folk-lore, we have a perfect analogy in the study of comparative philology briefly sketched above. The analogy is so complete that it is almost unnecessary to elaborate it in detail. It is obvious that safety and scholarship lie in the following line of investigation. A European group of folk-lore must first be established, and the dependence on an earlier common stock demonstrated. But the historical connection stands foremost, and the fixing, more or less definitely, of the time of its appearance in the form in which it now exists. In adopting this line of investigation, it will then become unscientific to postulate early survivals for elements that may date from a comparatively recent period, and for which an explanation can be found by this historical and comparative study. And just as it has happened in the case of the study of comparative philology, so it will happen that we shall be in a much better position to separate and to appreciate the individual character of the folk-lore of each nation, the form which the common stock assumes under the psychical and cultural conditions which characterise its spiritual life. This method will give us also the key to the ethno-psychology, the ultimate aim and goal of folk-lore studies. No doubt some higher unity may possibly emerge out of this historical investigation, for which again the study of comparative philology offers us the best parallel. Separate groups may be formed of European and Asiatic folk-lore. The artificial geographical division need not form the separating barrier either in folk-lore, or, as has been proved, in the study of language. But to continue the method of haphazard parallelism and indiscriminate comparison between old and new will be indefensible. It will be found that even in the so-called immutable East continual changes have taken place which do not allow us to assume favourable conditions of continuity and "survivals." Still less is this the case with the peoples who concern us more directly, the inhabitants of the south-eastern part of Europe. One has only to cast a glance at the medley of nationalities inhabiting the Balkan Peninsula and the neighbourhood to realise the profound differences of faith, origin and language of Greeks and Albanians, Slavs and Rumanians, Hungarians and Saxons, and one is forced to the conclusion that whatever these may possess in common is not a survival from olden times, but must have come to them at a time when they were all living together in that part of Europe, subject to one common influence strong enough to leave an indelible impression on their imagination.
This result is unavoidable if we remember also the past history of these countries. They have been swept over by nations, one more barbarous than another, one more ruthless than another, and none remaining there long enough to become a decisive factor in the formation of the existing nationalities. Dacians and Pelasgians, Romans and Goths, Petchenegs and Cumans, Alans and Huns, Tartars and Hungarians, Bulgars, Slavs and Turks have succeeded one another with great rapidity, not to mention the numerous colonies of Armenians, Syrians and Gipsies planted in the heart of the Byzantine Empire by the foreign rulers on the throne of Byzantium. It would be a sheer miracle if anything of ancient times could have survived. Assuming even the theoretical possibility of such a miracle--and those who hold strongly to such a theory of unqualified survivals evidently do believe in such miracles--even then it will remain to be shown, with whom these ancient beliefs and tales originated and survived. The romantic legend may have, and practically has, been forgotten in its entirety. Out of one of the episodes have grown the popular Rumanian poems of the Wanderer.
If folk-lore is to become an exact science I venture to think that the problem of survivals will have to undergo a serious re-examination. We shall have to revise our views and try to define more precisely the method according to which we ought to label certain practices, customs and tales as survivals, and also to determine the period to which such survivals may be ascribed. A primary condition consists in establishing historical continuity and ethnical unity.
If nations of diverse origin and of different ages possess the same tales and practices, it follows that this common property cannot be a survival, but each must have received all these at a certain fixed date simultaneously, quite independent of their own ethnical or historical and local past. All of them must have been standing under one and the same levelling influence. This new influence may have brought with it some older elements belonging to different traditions and to a different past, and introduced them among these nations, as in the case of the Barlaam legend or that of the legend of St. George and the Dragon; but though locally accepted and assimilated they are not original constituent elements of the local folk-lore of these nations. These were only adopted and assimilated materials brought from elsewhere. They are not local survivals.
The analogy between the study of folk-lore and that of comparative philology can be pursued profitably much further. It may prove of decisive importance. It is not an indifferent question as to whether language and ethnic character are interchangeable terms. Russified Tartars, Magyarised Rumanians, Anglicised Hindoos will speak Russian, Hungarian or English as the case may be, but this will not change their ethnical character. They will remain what they were: Tartars, Rumanians or Hindoos. Thus also nothing can be proved for the specific origins of folk-lore if found among any one of these nations; it may be just as much Tartar as Russian, Rumanian or Hungarian, etc., for it can easily have been taken over with the language.
The fact that these tales are found in Rumania and are told by Rumanian peasants is in itself not yet sufficient proof of their indigenous origin. We are taken out of the region of hypothetical speculation into that of concrete facts by modern philology. In the first place, it is put on record, on the irrefutable evidence of the modern languages themselves, that there is no nation in Europe which speaks a language of its own so pure as to be free from admixture with foreign elements. All owe their very origin, in fact, to this clash of languages, which was the determining factor in their creation and form. English is typical in that respect in the west, and Rumanian in the east of Europe. Both languages have been born through the combined forces of at least two different languages. In England, through the violent Norman conquest, French was superimposed upon Anglo-Saxon. In Rumania, through peaceful penetration and religious influence, Slavonic became part of the Rumanian language.
If, then, we should examine each of the European languages to find the various elements of which they are composed, we should be able to trace the origin of much that is also the spiritual property of these nations. Every word borrowed from another language represents a new idea, a fresh notion taken from elsewhere and embodied. We can study the history of nations from their vocabulary. We can trace the migrations of the Gipsies by the foreign words now in their language. The proportion of these alien elements helps us to determine the period which elapsed since they went from one nation to another. The large number of Rumanian words in the Gipsy language shows that the Gipsies must have lived a long time peaceably among the Rumanians, and the Rumanian words in all the dialects of the Gipsy, from Spain to Siberia, are conclusive evidence for the fact that Rumania was a centre of diffusion for the European Gipsy. And yet step by step one can follow up a modification; small at the confines of the Balkans, it grows greater the further it is carried westwards.
The conclusion is obvious. In Rumanian, the language is preponderantly of a Latin origin, but other tongues come in to make up its present character. A comparatively large proportion of the popular language--which alone is of importance--is Slavonic; then follow in decreasing proportions Hungarian, modern Greek, Turkish and Albanian elements, but scarcely any trace of a more ancient local language. In the Hungarian language there is a large proportion of Slavonic, then of Rumanian and German elements. The other languages of the Balkans show a similar mixture of heterogeneous influences. So thorough has been this process of assimilation that the original Tartarian language of the Bulgars, who hailed from the Volga--hence their name--has entirely disappeared. The same has happened with the Cumans in Hungary. If there is anything tenacious it is undoubtedly the human language, the means of satisfying one's daily wants. And yet there is constant change and assimilation going on all the time, one nation borrows freely from its neighbour and enriches its own treasury with the possessions of the others. How easily, then, could a philologist of the eighteenth century, who wanted to compare these languages among themselves, by collecting similar words haphazard prove that Rumanian was Turkish, that Hungarian was Slavonic and that Bulgarian was Greek, or on finding some Albanian words in Rumanian and Bulgarian how easily could he declare these languages to be survivals of the ancient mythical Pelasgians with whom the Albanians were connected. Thanks to our modern comparative science these languages are placed on their proper basis, and the words and elements are sifted and separated from one another. Each one by the form in which it appears in the other languages yields to the scholar the secret of the time when it was adopted. Having got thus far, we may now apply these results to the question which is before us, viz. the origin of these tales and apologues.
It is obvious that where new words went, stories could also go, and very likely did go. It is clear that the presence of a large number of foreign elements in the language denotes a peaceful intercourse between these nations, long enough and intimate enough to make them borrow freely from one another and to become fixed into one spiritual unity.
If a language contains a large number of foreign elements, no one can deny the direct influence which the latter has exercised upon the former. Words, then, are not a mere combination of sounds, they are the outward expression of the mind. They are the materialised spirit of the nation, and whither they go that spirit also goes. Spirit communes thus with spirit. There is and there has always been such a give and take. And it is for us to follow up this constant barter, in which the richer unhesitatingly parted with their treasures to the poor, for the more they gave the more was left with them, as is meet in the charmed realm of folk-lore.
These nations learn from one another not only words, but the thoughts and ideas expressed in words. The proportion of these linguistic elements in the vocabulary connotes the proportion of influence upon the other people. It must not be forgotten that we are dealing with illiterate nations, and with "oral" literature. It takes less time and it requires less influence to disseminate a tale than to disseminate a language and cause it to be acquired. The difficulty of borrowing is thus obviously eliminated. We have the fact that even the language had been borrowed and thoroughly assimilated. No archaic linguistic element has been found in these languages. And it is therefore not possible to postulate for the tales and apologues survivals of such antiquity as is now so often assumed.
Two more points stand out clearly from this investigation into the history of the language: First, the existence of numerous layers in the modern languages, some elements being older, others of a more recent origin. There is no uniformity either in language or in literature, no contemporary unity of all the elements, but as far as can be seen none are very old, except a few stray elements of an older period which may have survived, always subject to the two fundamental conditions, ethnical and geographical continuity.
The second point is the principle of concentric investigation. If tales and apologues are borrowed, then those nearest the centre will preserve the original form less changed; and the further a tale travels--always by word of mouth--the more it will lose of its original character and the more it will become mixed up and contaminated with other tales which have undergone a similar emaciating and attenuating process.
Following up, then, this line of investigation, our first endeavour is to find out whether there are parallels to these Rumanian animal tales among the nations round about, and if so, how far they agree with the Rumanian, and how far they differ. The fact itself that parallels exist would be an additional proof that we are dealing here with matter introduced from elsewhere, matter that has been transmitted from nation to nation and possibly may have also reached the west of Europe, although very few traces have been preserved to this day. This is not yet a question of origin, but the next step towards the solution of the problem. For obviously, if these tales had been imported, their origin must be sought elsewhere. If we then compare Rumanian tales with those of the ancient Byzantine Empire and especially with those of the modern Greeks, then, in our case, it might be argued that the Greeks were the repositories of ancient folk-lore. The logical conclusion would be that these tales must be found most profusely and in a more archaic form in the folk-lore of modern Greece, and that the variants and parallels among the other nations must show a distinct falling away from the original types. Literary tradition or written folk-lore is, of course, excluded from this investigation, for once folk-lore becomes fixed by being written in a book it is no longer subject to any appreciable change.
We are dealing here exclusively with the oral folk-lore of illiterate peoples. The relation between written and oral folk-lore and the mutual influence of one upon another will be incidentally touched upon in connection with the tales themselves. But, curiously enough, a comparison of these stories with the known and published tales of modern Greece is thoroughly disappointing. Only very few bird tales--no insect or beast tales--seem to have been preserved, and these mostly in Macedonia, the population of which is overwhelmingly Slavonic, but scarcely any from among the Greeks proper inhabiting European Greece. On the other hand, those few tales, which have been mentioned by Abbott and Hahn, are very significant. They show the profound difference which separates these modern bird tales from the "Metamorphoses" known in ancient Greek mythology. A goodly number of changes into animals are recorded in ancient Greek literature.--The story of Philomela and Halcyon is sufficiently well known.--All these are, with perhaps a few exceptions, the results of the wrath of an offended god, rewards for acts of personal kindness or for steps taken to assuage physical pain. They are all strictly individual in character, and while none of them is intended to explain the origin of bird, beast or insect, still less are they of the "creation" type, in which each animal stands as the beginning of its species. And even in those few tales in which supernatural beings are mentioned, very little of the "Moirai" or goddesses of fate appears in the Greek form, though the belief in them is now very strong among modern Greeks. Even then these "Moirai" differ considerably from those of ancient Greek mythology. Their attributes differ and their appearance and shape have nothing in common with those of classical antiquity. The name also has assumed a peculiar significance, different from that of ancient times. This, then, is all which the modern Greeks have retained of the ancient goddesses of fate; none of the other neighbouring nations knows the "Moirai" by name. They have other goddesses of fate, Vilas or Zanas, etc. Charon, who is now the angel of death among modern Greeks, is remembered by them also as the boatman who carries the souls over the waters of forgetfulness. The boatman alone may still be found in one tale or another retaining something of the Greek local colour. But no other direct parallels are found among the animal tales of modern Greece. Much greater, on the contrary, is the approximation with the Slavonic nations south and north of Rumania.
Turning, then, from the Greek to the Slavonic tales, we shall find a much larger number of parallels between them and the Rumanian. In the collection of South Slavonic tales and fables published by Krauss only one or two real "creation" tales are found, and others are pure and simple animal tales of the type of the "Gnat and the Lion," "The Wedding Feast of Tom," etc., agreeing more or less with the Rumanian versions. They prove thereby the popular character of the Rumanian tales; yet they differ sufficiently from them--as is shown later on,--when they are quoted in connection with the above. One of the creation stories is that of the sheep which, according to the South Slavonic tale, was made by the Evil One, when he boasted that he could improve on God's creation.
Incidentally I may mention the collection of tales from the Saxon colony in Transylvania, collected by Haltrich. There is not one single "creation" tale among them. Only two of the Rumanian animal fables find their parallels in that collection. Turning to the Russian tales, notably the great collection of Afanasiev, we shall find a large number of animal tales, including also a number of "creation" tales. In the former the central figures are, as in the South Slavonic, Rumanian, Saxon, etc., the fox, the bear, the wolf, the hedgehog and sometimes domestic animals, the dog, the cock, the hen, the duck, etc. The same can be said also of tales collected from the Lithuanians, Letts and Ruthenians, and to a smaller degree of those from the Poles and Czechs. All, however, have retained definite traces of such animal tales and legends. The animal character has been thoroughly preserved. The fox is generally the "clever" animal, but is, as often as not, outwitted by smaller animals or by man. The general trend of these animal tales is to pit the cunning of the smaller and weaker against that of the more powerful animal and to secure the victory for the former. It is so natural for the people, who live under the despotism of the mighty and powerful, to rejoice in seeing the discomfiture of the great and stupid brought about by the wit and cunning of the small and despised, and answers so aptly to their feelings.
In these tales, which belong to the group of animal fables, we are in a different atmosphere, far removed from that of the creation legend. We are approaching that phase in the evolution in which the animal stands for a disguised human being, which, in spite of its appellation, speaks and acts entirely in accordance with human ways and notions. These have not yet been found among the Rumanians and those nations whose folk-lore shows close affinity with theirs.
Having thus far established that these animal tales, fables and creation legends are neither of a local nor an indigenous origin, nor survivals from a remote past, and also that the Rumanian tales do not stand isolated, but form part of a group of tales and legends common to most of the nations surrounding Rumania in a more or less complete degree, it behoves us to endeavour to trace these tales to their probable origin, and also to account for the shape which they have assumed, as shown in the course of this investigation. These tales among the Eastern nations of Europe are so much akin to one another that they must have reached these nations almost simultaneously. All must have stood under the same influence, which must have been powerful and lasting enough to leave such indelible traces in the belief and in the imagination of the people.
A great difficulty arises, when we attempt to define the influence which brought these stories and fables to the nations of the near East and thence to the West. Some have connected them with the invasion of the Mongols. If similar tales could be found among them, such a date might fit also the introduction of the animal tales into Eastern Europe, especially if they had originally a Buddhist background. Nothing, in fact, could apparently harmonise better with the Buddhist teaching of Metempsychosis and the principle of man's transformation into beast in order to expiate for sins committed than some of these tales.--Of course, Egyptian influences cannot be overlooked in this connection. I may refer to them later on.--The burden of the majority is indeed that the birds and insects are, in fact, nothing else than human beings transformed into ungainly shapes for some wrong which they have done.
Many theories have been put forward on the mediation, among them also the theory of transmission by the Gipsies. These came first to Thrace, and lived long enough among the nations of the Balkans, in Rumania and Russia, to have exercised a possible influence upon them. But this theory can be dismissed briefly. The Gipsies are not likely carriers of folk-tales. They came too late, and their march through Europe is nothing if not a long-drawn agony of suspicion, hatred, persecution.
Some occult practices may have been taken over by some adepts of the lower forms of magic, and possibly Playing Cards, originally an oracle of divining the future, may have been brought by the Gipsies to Europe, but popular tales, though they possess a good number, have certainly not been communicated to Europe by them. They never had the favourable occasion for meeting the people on a footing of equality, or of entering with them into any intimate intercourse.
The Gipsy of the Rumanian fairy tale is mostly a villain, and is merely the local substitute for the Arab or Negro of the Eastern parallels. In the Rumanian popular jests the Gipsy is always the fool. From such as these the people would have nothing to learn.
Next the Mongolian theory has long been put forward as a plausible explanation, for it has been believed that Russia formed one of the channels of transmission. This latter assumption, however, rests on a geographical misconception, and also on a want of historical knowledge. Up to comparatively modern times, the whole of the South of Russia was inhabited by Tartars, and the Mongolian influence upon Russia could not pass the border of the so-called White Russia. Nor can a temporary invasion of Europe by the Mongolians, who left ruin and desolation behind them, have been the means by which such tales could be introduced. They are told at the peaceful fireside or in the spinning-rooms, and are not carried by the wings of the arrow sped from the enemy's bow, nor are they accepted if presented on the point of the sword. They are frightened away by the din of battle. Years must pass ere the blood is staunched, the wounds healed, and only after peaceable concord and social harmony have been established, can a spiritual interchange take place; this was impossible between Russians or Mongols. We must look elsewhere, then, for a possible channel of transmission, always subject to the theory of "migration."
Besides, to Kieff, the centre of Russian inspiration, the place hallowed by the minstrels and poets, the Mongols never came. The only influence which prevailed there was that of Byzance, and to that we shall have to look as the channel of transmission and the centre of dissemination of these tales and legends. These had come from Asia, carried on the crest of the wave of that religious movement known as Manichaeism and Bogomilism, and from there they started their triumphant course throughout Europe. They came along with other religious legends, carried by the current of thought which also taught the doctrine of Dualism and Metempsychosis. This is the only possible source for most of the legends and tales found among the Rumanians and Slavs, and, as will be seen, it must have been the primary source for such tales in the West of Europe.
A dualistic heterodox teaching with such a background reached from the confines of India far into the South of France across central Europe. It was probably the same agency which transformed the life of Buddha into the legends of the saints Barlaam and Josaphat.
Nor is this the only legend invented, manipulated and circulated by the numerous Gnostic sects. Those who have studied the history of the apocryphal literature are fully aware of the apocryphal Gospels, Acts of the Apostles and of the rest of the apocryphal tales which were already put on the "Index," in the first centuries of the common era.
Some of the cosmogonic tales of the dualistic origin of the world, of the influence of the Evil Spirit, of the origin of the Bee, the Glow-worm, the Wolf and others show unmistakably such a Gnostic origin.
It is therefore not too much to assume that they have been brought to Europe and disseminated by the same agency. These sectaries alone came into direct contact with the masses of the people. They preached their doctrines to the lowly and the poor. They were known themselves as the pure (Cathars) and the poor (Pobres). They alone reached the heart of the people, and were able to influence them to a far higher degree than the murderous Mongols, or other nations that ravaged the country.
The dualistic tales connected with the story of the Creation are found also among other nations, especially among those in Russia and in the countries which belonged to the ancient Persian Empire. Dähnhardt, who has made the investigation of such legends and tales the object of special study (Natursagen, i.; Berlin 1907), comes to the same conclusion that they rest ultimately on the Iranian dualism of the Avesta. He believes that Zoroastrian teaching has penetrated far into the North and West, and has produced these peculiar dualistic cosmogonic legends.
The point to bear in mind in this investigation of the origin of the Rumanian tales and legends is not so much to trace the remote possible source of dualism, but the immediate influences which have been brought to bear upon the shape which these legends have taken. This is the salient problem. Dähnhardt, of course, discusses the further development of the dualistic conception, through Manichaeism and Bogomilism, and thus far is helpful in establishing the connection between Iran and Thrace, and in strengthening the argument that we must trace a number of these "creation" legends to the propaganda of these sects.
It must be remembered that these tales in the European versions have a thoroughly Christian aspect. They presuppose the existence of God and His saints; nay, they show a close acquaintance with apocryphal narratives, which have gathered round the canonical biblical stories and episodes. The Evil Spirit is a clearly-defined personality, and his antagonism to God is not of the pronounced acute controversial type as is the Angromainya who, in the teaching of the Avesta, is the direct opponent and almost negative of God.
A complete transformation had taken place ere these tales became the property of the Rumanian peasants, and for that, also, of the Russian and other North-Eastern peoples, who also have similar tales akin to certain of the cosmogonic legends--to which reference will be made at the proper place in the short notes to the stories themselves. It will not be disputed that some of them are imported, i.e. belong to the circulating stock of popular literature. Mongolian influence--as already remarked above--is entirely excluded, in spite of Dähnhardt. The Mongols never came in direct contact either with the Rumanians or with the nations of the Balkans, who also possess a number of similar tales, and must have derived them from another source, more direct and, as will be seen, more complete than the versions published by Dähnhardt from Russia, Lithuania, Finland and Esthonia, not to speak of Northern Asiatic nations. Of real animal tales there are only a few among those studied by Dähnhardt, such as a peculiar version of "the Bee and Creation," very much shorter than the Rumanian version; then a version of the creation of the Wolf and the Lamb, and of the Goat's knees. These are all taken by Dähnhardt from South-Slavonic and Albanian collections, again corroborating the view that we have to look to the Balkans as the immediate centre of this class of "creation" tales, and then further back to Asia Minor.
The appearance of the "Creation" legends in a compilation of the seventh or eighth century is not to be taken as the date of their origin. They may be very much older, and no doubt are, and may have formed part of a primitive Physiologus in which the origin as well as the peculiarities of the various birds and beasts were described. This is not the place to discuss the remarkable history of the Physiologus. The only point to be noted is that the symbolical and allegorical interpretation of the tales contained in the Physiologus is of a strictly religious Christian character.
The absence from the popular literature of such bird and beast tales as are found in the Physiologus--the Bestiaires of the West--is not surprising, for the Physiologus deals mostly with animals and birds which are of an outlandish character. Very few have any reference to the animals with which the people are familiar, and in which alone they take an interest.
Though the book was known also among the Rumanians, only a faint trace of it could be detected among the popular tales in the present collection. The oldest Fathers of the Church made use of this Physiologus in their homilies, and the other sects have no doubt done the same. Some of the creation legends may have found their way into the old legendary homiletical interpretation of the creation, like the Hexameron of Basil, and other kindred compilations. All these tales form part of a wider cycle of allegorised animal fables. In Jewish literature a collection of Fox fables is mentioned as early as the second or third century.
Indian literature is full of such animal tales, approximating often to some of the Rumanian fables. The collections of Frere, Temple, Steele, Skeat, and Parker abound in such animal tales, in which the more nimble and quick-witted, though small and weak, animal regularly gets the best of the bigger and stronger, yet duller and slower rival. No moral lesson is squeezed out of the tales, and the animal is not a thinly-disguised human being. Yet there can be no greater fallacy than, guided by this similarity, to assume a direct Indian origin for the Rumanian fables.
None of these animal tales finish with the usual "moral," known to us from Aesop onward. Nor do the people seem to be influenced by these artificial fables. In the literary European fable the animal is merely a disguised human being. The animals are performing acts which have nothing of the animal in them. The Indian and Oriental fable differs in this respect from the European, inasmuch as in a good number of them the animal character of the performing beasts is faithfully preserved. Exactly the same happens with the Rumanian animal fables. The cat does not play the rôle of the queen, and the fox is not a sly courtier. Cat is cat, and fox is fox. And yet they were not unaware of the fables of Aesop. I have found these fables in many old Rumanian manuscripts, and one of the first printed popular books of the country was the Collection of Aesop.
Unquestionably a good many proverbs are intimately connected with tales. The "moral" in Aesop has often dwindled down to a simple proverb, or has expanded out of it. These proverbs are, as it were, succinct conclusions drawn out by the people. Anton Pann (in the middle of the last century)--to whom the Rumanian popular literature will for ever remain indebted--therefore calls his Collection of Proverbs and Tales "Povestea vorbii," i.e. "The tale which hangs by the Proverb." One and all of the hundred tales found in the second and last edition of this book are mostly of a purely popular origin. The process throughout is not to invent a story for the moral, but the "moral," such as it is, is to flow naturally from the story.
This is not the place to discuss the origin of the animal fable in general. But one cannot overlook the fact that all the Indian fables--with the exception of some embodied in the Panchatantra--are found in modern collections. All that we know of them is that they live actually in the mouth of the modern people. They may be old, they may be of more recent date.
Against these modern collections must be set now the story of Ahikar, which carries us back at least to the fifth century B.C., and is thus far the oldest record of animal tales. It has become one of the popular stories which circulated in a written form, and became the source of many a quaint proverb, as probably also of some animal tales.
The recent discovery among the Papyri of Elephantine in Southern Egypt of the Story of Ahikar has carried back the knowledge of allegorical beast fables to at least the fifth century B.C. For not only do we find in that story the prototype of the life of Aesop, but also a number of maxims and saws, and not a few beast tales, which are mentioned by Ahikar in order to teach his ungrateful nephew Nadan. We find there, e.g. the prototype of "pious" wolf, who appears in the Ahikar story as an innocent student, but who cannot take in the lesson given to him, his mind wandering to the sheep. There are other wolf, fox, rat and bird fables in the Rumanian and, still more so, in the Oriental and other versions. Ahikar himself relates the beast tales, allowing Nadan to draw the lesson. By the manner in which these tales are referred to, it is obvious that they must have been well known tales current among the people.
The real importance of this discovery lies in the fact that we have here a number of cleverly-used popular animal tales, more than two thousand years old, whose home was in all probability Syria or Egypt, embedded in a collection which has deeply influenced the apocryphal Book of Tobit, and to a certain degree even the writers of the New Testament, as shown by Professors Rendel Harris and Conybeare in the Introduction to their edition of the Story of Ahikar (second edition). The claim for an Indian origin of these fables will have to be abandoned, unless someone could show older writings from India, and the possible road by which these fables could have reached the Western shore of Asia Minor and been taken up by the peoples of Syria and Egypt at such an early date. It is not at all unlikely that some of the fables, just as they travelled westwards, also travelled eastwards and found a home in India as they found a home in Rumania and Russia. If one remembers now that the fabulous "Life" of Aesop ascribed to Planudes is almost identical with part of that of Ahikar, as I have shown, as far back as 1883 in my History of the Rumanian Popular Literature (Bucharest 1883, p. 104 ff.), it will not be difficult to account for the West-Asiatic origin of the fables themselves.
From a Rumanian MS. of the eighteenth century, I have since published the fuller narrative of that version in an English translation (the Journal of the Royal As. Soc., 1900, pp. 301-319). The two tales contained therein have also been reprinted here at the end of the collection, especially as they vary somewhat from the other ancient and mediæval recensions of the Story of Ahikar. This story has become one of the Rumanian popular chap-books in the shortened version of Anton Pann. The practical application of the fable, the "moralisation," is a second stage, limited, as it seems, to the purely literary composition. The people put their own interpretations upon the fables and often dispensed with any such interpretations.
We are brought back again to the same centre, Syria and Byzance, for the dissemination of these fables. Such tales were then within the reach of the teaching of the various sects, such as Manichaeans, Bogomils, Cathars, etc., and travelled with them from East to West, where they met the other current of the Aesopian fables transmitted to the West through Latin and Arabic sources. According to this theory the religious sectarians made deft use also of animal tales, for the purpose of inculcating a moral, of drawing a lesson, of holding up the Church and State to the ridicule and contempt of the masses, and thus creating the animal satire, the best type of which is the cycle of Reynard the Fox. I am not oblivious of the fact that an allegorical use has been made of animal tales in the Arabic literature, such as the "Judgment of the Animals," under the title of Hai ben Yokdhan, written in Arabic by Ibn Tophail, translated into English by Simon Ockley in 1711, in which the lion holds a court, and animal after animal appears to accuse man; or the collection of Sahula (thirteenth cent.) in his ancient apologue Mashal ha-kadmoni. But there is no real connection between this cycle and that of Reynard the Fox.
Any reference to the epic of Reynard the Fox must be incidental. It can only be alluded to here, and not followed up in detail. A real Western origin for these tales, taking them separately or as "branches," as they appear in the old French versions, has not been found, nor any explanation for their sudden appearance in the eleventh or twelfth century.
There are two or three points in connection with this cycle which have to be kept steadily in view. In the first place its almost complete independence of the purely Aesopian fable with its polished form, with its thinly-disguised human attributes, and with its stilted and stiff "moral." Though modified somehow in Babrius, Avianus, even Marie de France and Berachya, this latter cycle belongs more to the literary class. The "clerks" could not take umbrage at them. Not so the tales in the Reynard cycle. They are thoroughly popular. The animals retain their natural attributes, they act as they are expected to do, and they are utilised in the same manner as "political broadsides" were in later times. The human beings represented in these "satirical sheets" are disguised as animals, and not the animals disguised as human beings. There lies the profound difference between these two sets of beast tales.
And because of their animal propensity, the human beings are ridiculed and lampooned in the form of animals and held up to the scorn and laughter of the reader. The bad man, as in the old story of Ahikar, is likened to the beast, and chastised accordingly. The popular origin and character of this kind of satire is self-evident. Courtiers and clerks would not attempt such persiflage of their superiors, and certainly not in so sustained a manner.
Of the men thus ridiculed none are so virulently assailed as the Clergy. People do not mind occasionally a slight skit on priests and other privileged classes, and there are abundant fabliaux which leave very little to be desired from the point of view of ridicule. But to have singled out the Clergy for such unmeasured vituperation shows a deliberate attempt to lower and destroy the influence and authority of the Church in general and of its ministers in particular. Only partisans of heterodox teaching could find pleasure and profit in applying the beast tales to break down the walls of the Church. Only men in contact with the masses could throw that leaven of critical examination into the hearts of the people and open their eyes by means of animal tales to the weaknesses and vices of their official clergy. Such outspoken criticism seldom comes from within. It is often imported wholesale from without, or at least comes from an opposing quarter. In their polemical propaganda these heterodox teachers brought and used also some of those fox tales for which, significantly enough, parallels are to be found mostly in Slavonic tales from Russia and the Balkans.
If such be the partial origin of these Reynard tales, one can easily understand why they appeared in the eleventh or twelfth century, and notably in the countries then the very centres of such heterodox teaching: South of France, Flanders and elsewhere. A very remarkable fact seems to corroborate this hypothesis. One of the presumed authors of a "branch" of the French Reynard cycle, Pierre Cloot, was burnt in Paris in 1208 for heresy. Here we have a man who paid with his life for his heretic faith, actually working on these tales. It may be a mere coincidence, still some connection between the Reynard poem and "heretics" cannot be denied.
With the victory of the Church, Reynard nearly disappeared, yet that satirical leaven has continued to work in those political animal broadsides, which stretch from the "Who killed Cock Robin?" in England to "Who killed the Cat?" in Russia among the Russian broadsides.
There remains now still one section of these Rumanian tales to be considered, that in which the origin of the animal is closely connected with what is commonly known as the fairy tale. It is just in this fact that the pre-eminence of these tales can be found. It is like a window through which the East is looking westwards. It is noteworthy that the "fairy tales" found here connected with the origin of the birds and beasts do not stand so isolated as the legends. To more than one of them parallels may be adduced from other than Eastern collections. In spite of similarity, they differ, however, in many points so profoundly that they lead to a very serious question. It cannot be passed over, though it cannot be treated here at such length as the problem raised would demand. To put it briefly, the difference between these fairy tales and those of the West, is that in these versions of the former a "moral" or perhaps a plausible reason is given to the fairy tale which is often missing in the general form of the fairy tales.
The question has been asked repeatedly, "What is the meaning of such and such a tale," e.g. the "Cinderella" tales or "Bluebeard"? To Miss Cox's indefatigable labour we owe a monumental investigation of the first-mentioned tale, and yet for all that the main question has remained unanswered. This is but one example out of many.
Every collection of fairy tales teems with them. Of course, the æsthetic pleasure of seeing innocence triumphant and virtue rewarded might be a sufficient motive, and no doubt often is. The people like to see, in the imaginary tale, a vindication of the justice which they often miss in real life. The adventurous hero will also appeal to the chivalrous instincts of the people, and especially to the young. Such tales as the epic romances of old require no further explanation. Still there are a good many fairy tales the reason and meaning of which are anything but clear. If it can now be shown that there is a cosmogonic background, or one which gives the clue to it, inasmuch as it tells the "origin" of certain creatures, such a tale is at once its own explanation and justification: if e.g. the final development of "Cinderella" is not that she becomes the wife of a prince, but that she becomes the "dove" or the "sparrow," then "Cinderella" assumes a definite meaning. Under other influences, when such heterodox teachings cannot be tolerated by the powers that be, obviously the creation tales, with this specific character, had to lose their "tail," as the stork does in the story, and hence the fairy tale became partly meaningless. Thus, if the "Bluebeard" could no longer be "a cannibal," as in the tale No. 83, such a person not being tolerated in a modern state, except as a wizard, lycanthropos, or werwolf, he had to be changed into what he is now. The modern "Bluebeard" is a mere pale reflex of the original monster. He does not even make the flesh creep sufficiently. This watering down may have taken place also in other tales which appear to us without any sense. They have lost that decisive part which gave point to the story.
I am fully aware of the objection which could be raised against this view of the original character of some of our fairy tales. It might be urged with some show of plausibility that the process might have been an inverse one, that the popular story-teller used a fairy tale to tack on his moral, that the question of the origin of the bird or insect was an "after-thought," and did not belong originally to the tale. Theoretically, such an objection could be urged, and it might even gain in force if applied to the fairy tales of the West. Andersen, not to speak of minor poets, would supply a proof of it. But we must bear in mind that we are dealing with the unsophisticated people, who would not use the folk-lore material in the manner of the literary artist. They have no preconceived idea to which a tale or legend is made artificially to fit. Moreover, these tales and legends are believed in implicitly. They bear the stamp of their primitiveness. They do not represent a later degree of development, such as the parallels from the West often show. The existence side by side with them of other creation tales of animals is an additional support of the view that the fairy tales have not been "edited" or adapted to cosmogonic purposes to explain the origin of beast and bird.
Fairy tales are, as a rule, taken out of the range of the survival theory. The similarity of fairy tales, so striking among a large number of nations, precludes the possibility of seeing in them local survivals, and yet it appears unscientific to separate one section of oral literature from the other. The line of demarcation between creation legend and creation fairy tale is so thin that it is often indistinguishable. Both spring from the same root, and the theory that endeavours to explain the origin of the one must also be applicable to the other.
In the theory of survivals, however, no attempt is made to deal at the same time with the question of origins. It has not yet been made clear, by any of the more prominent representatives of the theory of survivals, how the similarity in customs and ceremonies is to be explained, in tales and fables, between the most diverse nations living separated from one another. If these survivals represent local tradition, which has persisted throughout the ages, how, then, does it come to pass that they should resemble so closely other ceremonies and customs observed by different nations also as local traditions? Is it to be inferred that at some distant time, far back in the prehistoric ages, some such ceremonies were used, that, in spite of evolution and separation, they have survived everywhere almost unchanged, in spite of the profound modifications of the nations in their ethnical, political and religious status? Either they are local inventions, in which case they could not resemble any other, or they all go back to one common stock, and have survived in such a miraculous manner contrary to every law of human nature. The only explanation feasible and satisfactory is, I believe, the theory of transmission from nation to nation; those resembling one another closely in modern Europe are not of so early an age as has hitherto been assumed, but have come at a certain time from one definite centre, and were propagated among the nations, and disseminated by means of a great religious movement at a time when the political and national consolidation of the peoples of Europe had already assumed a definite shape.
To this conclusion we are forced by the examination of these Rumanian animal tales in their manifold aspect, "creation" tales, fables, fairy tales. They are all more or less of comparatively recent origin. They owe their actual shape to the dualistic teaching of the Manichaeans and Bogomils. They have come by these intermediaries of the religious sects from Syria and the Balkans. These tales stopped first among the nations in the Near East, and then by the same agency were carried to the extreme West. Only in such wise can we explain the appearance of these tales--whatever their archaic character may be--among nations of comparatively recent origin like those now under consideration, Rumanians, Bulgars, Russians and even Saxons and Hungarians. This is the only possible explanation of the very remarkable dualistic character, and of the peculiar teachings embodied in these tales. For, whatever these nations have in common, there cannot be any question of survivals, for the reasons advanced above. All the nations are comparatively modern. It is impossible to assume that what might be a Latin survival among the Rumanians could be so closely connected with what might be a Turanian survival among the Bulgars or a Pelasgian survival among the Albanians. There might be found among these tales traces of more ancient beliefs, myths and customs, just as it is possible to find similar traces among the folk-lore of the nations of the West. But what I contend is that these are not local survivals--that, whatever their primitive character may be, they need not originally belong to the nations among whom they are found now. They were brought by the same movement that brought the tales and legends, customs and ceremonies. The new and the old were carried along by the same stream of tradition and religious influence. An adjustment and readjustment of materials, the placing of layer upon layer, localisation and assimilation then took place. But these are rocks swept along by the stream and deposited far away from the place of origin, or, to take another simile, that of the insect and the amber. The amber has been carried from the North Sea many centuries ago, nay, thousands of years ago, along the trade routes from North to South, and has found its way also to ancient Egypt. Embedded in the amber we have here and there a North European insect which was caught at the time when the amber was still a liquid, and, imprisoned in it, became fossilised, and was carried a long distance. If found, then, among the beads in the tombs of the ancient Pharaohs, no one could say that that insect was of Egyptian origin, or that fly a remnant of the local fauna. It had come thither together with the amber that carried it, and may have remained there if the amber had decayed.
In the same manner ancient customs, ancient beliefs and ancient tradition have been caught in the liquid tales, apologues and legends, like the fly in the amber, and carried along with them from East to West. In this manner they may perhaps be termed survivals, but survivals of a different kind than has been assumed hitherto. They have survived only as long as they were tolerated in the lore of the people.
Hand in hand with dissemination go the assimilation and localisation of these diverse elements. It is impossible to do more within the compass of this introduction than merely touch the fringe of a far-reaching problem which arises from the examination of these peculiar beast and bird tales. One of the most instructive examples of this religious syncretism, of the manner in which it has influenced the people, and the form in which it has been preserved, localised, and assimilated, among them, is shown to advantage in the stories of the origin of the Glow-worm and in the stories of the Bee. Some of the cosmogonic legends of the Rumanians are also found among the Balkan people. They are a fragmentary reflex of a great conception of the world. If I may use the mystical and symbolical language of the legends, they are also sparks from a great light that had fallen down from heaven. The creation of man, the fall of the angels, are here curiously blended together. They represent part of the teaching that went under many names but, in essence, was one. That is, of course, the belief in the dualism of the creative powers, the good God and the wicked one, styled Satan.
From these tales and legends, which are derived from well-known apocryphal writings, we can see how deeply the latter have entered the life of nations which have not yet fallen under the unifying sway of strict dogmatism, and how unable the people are to grasp the higher spiritual interpretations of the dogmas and practices of the Church.
From a purely dogmatic point of view, all these tales are rank heresy; but who among the simple folk knows the distinction between orthodox and heretical teaching? The people are more easily disposed towards a simple philosophy which explains satisfactorily the phenomena of life. They listen with pleasure to tales of imagination. One of the fundamental theories of Gnosticism or, rather later, of dualism, is this peculiar conception of the creation. The world is divided between the power of light and the power of darkness. The latter is anxious to participate in the possession of light, and for that reason steals some, which it breaks up into sparks and covers over with thick matter so that it may not escape. These sparks are the human soul deeply embedded in human clay, anxious always to be reunited with the ancient glory.
In this Gnostic teaching we have the very source of the legend of these angelic sparks now relegated to glow-worms, originally placed in other "earthly worms"--the human race. We hear, moreover, the faint echo of the fall of the angels and of the angels of a lower rank inhabiting (and ruling) the planets and the stars. We even have the legend, found in the Book of Enoch, of the angels who fell in love with a woman and remain upon earth as evil spirits, whilst she is translated to heaven and becomes a star. The interest lies not only in the fact that these ancient religious conceptions have been so faithfully preserved among the people, but also in the manner of their preservation. They have been adapted to the understanding of the folk, and, from dogmatic teachings, they have become beautiful popular legends. But the inner meaning has been entirely lost. The old sparks have been embedded in very thick clay indeed, as can be seen in the treatment meted out to God, Christ, the Virgin, the Apostles and Saints. They are greeted with an apparent lack of reverence and respect that must disturb the equanimity of people of a Puritanic mind. The gods could not have been put on a footing of greater familiarity; it almost borders on the burlesque. Primitive nations show the same apparent want of respect to their gods, idols or fetishes, and we are inclined to put them on a lower scale of faith and reverence than the peoples of Europe.
A better knowledge of the life and religion of the peoples in the East and of the Eastern part of Europe would soon change such a view. In fact, I believe, that if we could descend to the lower depths of the masses of Western Europe, and especially of those in Catholic countries, and get a peep into their innermost soul, we should not find it very different from that of the Slav and the Rumanian. The Saints are not treated differently in Spain and in Italy on the one hand, or in Rumania and in Bulgaria, or even Russia, on the other. They have all the same essential conditions in common, viz. all have a Pantheon of Saints of various degrees and of both sexes. In Protestant countries the people have been impoverished. All the saints have been driven away; a cold abstract spirituality has taken their place, and yet depth of fervour and strength of belief cannot be denied to these Eastern peoples. There is, moreover, a sufficient fund of humour and innate rectitude to keep them at a certain level of morality and albeit free from the hypocrisy of the so-called higher civilization. So that, if the Rumanians take liberties with God and the Church and the Saints, and pay homage to the Devil by mocking and laughing at the jokes which God performs for his confusion, it is all done more in the spirit of good-natured banter, not in that of polemical or fanatical intolerance. Why should the poor Devil not also occasionally have a good time? He is always sure to be outwitted in the long run.
I am fully aware of the objection that may be raised against attributing so much influence to the activity and propaganda of the heretical sects. It may be argued, that their influence was not in any way commensurate with the results ascribed to them, that they did not carry the masses with them to such an extent as to leave indelible traces on their religious life and popular imagery. Some may go so far as to look upon their activity as similar to that of some of the mendicant friars during the Middle Ages. Yet the mendicant friars were able to exercise a tremendous influence upon the people and, helped by other political powers, they were able to create a movement which led up to the Crusades. It seized upon the masses of Europe with an irresistible force. In a minor, yet no less effective manner, the same agencies were able to arm the Kings of France against the Albigenses in Provence. Church history, however, shows very clearly that the power of the Manichaeans was so great that it has taken the Church many centuries to bring the fight to a satisfactory close.--The Cathars (pure) have given the name Ketzer to the German heretics, and every language in Europe shows traces of this heretic nomenclature.--The struggle was a terrible and a long one, and if it had not been for the secular arm which placed itself at the service of the Church for political reasons, who knows whether the Romish Church would have come out victorious in the struggle?
The question may be asked, How did it come about, that the teaching of an obscure sect could be propagated from the Black Sea to the Atlantic and could win the support of so many peoples? The answer lies in a fact which has hitherto been entirely ignored. The connection between Arianism and Manichaeism in Europe has to my mind not yet been even hinted at; yet there must have been a very close and intimate one. Arianism, in fact, prepared the ground for the new wave of heretical teaching which, a few centuries after the former's official extinction, followed in its wake. No one has, as yet, endeavoured to trace the effect which the Arian teaching has had in Europe when it became the national faith of the Goths. In them we have a nation which, from the third century to the end of the sixth, practically dominated central Europe. It established more than one kingdom between the Black Sea and the Atlantic, in Illyricum, in Northern Italy, one of might and strength in the South of France in Provence, with its headquarters in Toulouse. It had overflowed into Spain, and broke down only after the invasion of the Arabs. These Goths are described as rude barbarians, because they differed in their life, and probably in their original forms of faith, from the Greeks and the Romans. The modern idea is that their original home was somewhere in the North-West of Europe, that they came along the Vistula, and then migrated to the country between the Don and the Ural.
This is not the place to discuss the question of their original home, yet the whole history of the migration of the nations shows that the movement came also from the same direction as that of the other nations which followed upon one another from east to west, and that these migrations were prompted by tremendous political changes among the nations of Central Asia. It is therefore probable that the Goths migrated from the western shore of the Caspian Sea, somewhere near Lake Ascanius--hence the confusion--then to the countries between the Ural and Don, and thence by slow degrees southwards and westwards. This would explain many obscure points in the migration of the Goths. Be it as it may, we find them in the second century settled in those very countries in which we now find the Ruthenians and the Rumanians, and stretching further into Pannonia. The Goths are said to have adopted Christianity towards the end of the third century, as it is alleged, by priests and lay Christians brought as captives from Cappadocia and other parts of Asia Minor. As early as the Council of Nicæa, 325, a Gothic bishop is mentioned among the signatories to the decrees. An outstanding figure of the Gothic Christians was Ulfilas, who, owing to pressure from the non-converted section of the Goths, crossed the Danube and settled at the foot of Mount Haemus (the Balkans) in the middle of the fourth century. He had become converted to the Arian doctrine, and took part in the Council under the Emperor Valens, which was held in Constantinople in 358.
Theodosius, who became the Great after his recantation of Arianism, towards the end of the fourth century, promulgated decree after decree, one more drastic than the other, for the persecution and extirpation of this heresy; in fact, he was the very first to establish an inquisition of faith. The example set by Theodosius was followed afterwards by the Catholic Emperors and Kings of the West, even down to the Holy Office, as the Inquisition was afterwards called. But, in spite of this, Arianism spread among the Goths, and, whatever were their political vicissitudes, they kept staunch to this peculiar form of Christianity, the greatest and most powerful enemy of the orthodox and Catholic Church. They spread eastwards and westwards, partly as vassals of the Huns and partly acting quite independently under their own kings and rulers. They overran the Balkan peninsula, destroying every heathen temple, and not sparing Catholic churches. They then sacked Rome, entered Gaul, and occupied the South of France, with Toulouse as the capital. They spread into Burgundy and conquered Spain. It took many battles and many centuries to break the political power of the Goths. It was rather the subtle influences of the Catholic women than religious conviction that brought about the conversion to Catholicism of the Gothic rulers in Spain and Italy. The Catholic Church, in the year 507, armed the Frankish King Clovis--who adopted Catholicism--against the Gothic Arian King Alaric, and thus brought about the first "crusade" between Catholics and heretics in the country north of the Pyrenees. A crusade was to be renewed hereafter for a second time against the Albigenses in the very same country and against the very same cities. Unfortunately very little is known of the beliefs and practices of the half-heathen, half-Christian Goths. The fact, however, remains that they held on to their faith for many centuries in spite of the official conversion of the leaders. In Burgundy, Arianism persisted down to the sixth century, and among the Lombards (merely another tribal name for Goths) in Northern Italy, it persisted to the eighth century.
Meanwhile, other nations poured into the Balkans. Whether they entirely annihilated the Goths, or whether they assimilated with them, will remain a problem unsolved. Very few Gothic words can, however, be traced among the nations of the Balkans. The Slavs, probably coming from Pannonia, are first noticed in large numbers in the fifth and the sixth centuries. The Bulgars from the old haunts of the Goths near the Volga came in the seventh century. The last heathen king was Boris, who was converted to Christianity in the middle of the ninth century. No sooner has Christianity an official status among the Bulgars than we hear of the heresy of the Bogomils and Cathars spreading among them to such an extent that they almost overthrew the orthodox Church. The break between the eastern and western Churches--between Constantinople and Rome--at the end of the ninth century also contributed, in a way, to weaken the allegiance of the faithful to the orthodox Church, and the manner in which the Orthodox vilified the Catholics must have been quite sufficient to reconcile the people to heterodox doctrines. Manichaeans and Bogomils took advantage of the schism and the violence of the two parties to win the people over to their tenets. Bogomilism in a slightly varied form, as Cathars and Albigenses, etc., spread henceforth from east to west, following exactly the same course as that taken by the Goths in their migration from east to west. The ground had been prepared for them, the seed had been sown, and the work was made easy for them by the preceding Arians.
There is one feature in this schismatic movement, the importance of which cannot be appraised too highly. The Word of God was taught in the vernacular, the Bible and, along with it, uncanonical writings, were translated into the vernacular. While the Orthodox and Catholic Churches kept strictly to Greek and Latin as the language of Scripture and Service, the Arians no doubt, on the contrary, allowed the people to pray and to learn in their own language. It was the outstanding merit of Ulfilas that he translated the Bible into Gothic. This practice of translating the word of God into the vernacular remained a distinctive characteristic of the schismatic Arians and other sectaries. They were thus able to reach the heart of the people much more easily than the Catholic and Greek clergy, and to exercise a lasting influence upon the masses, far deeper than that of the representatives of a creed taught in a foreign tongue. This also continued to keep the Arian-Goths away from the Catholic Church for many centuries. The change, which came later on, was due to two causes--the conversion of the kings and rulers, and, to a far larger degree than has hitherto been recognised, the loss of the Teutonic language. The Goths slowly forgot their own language and adopted that of the nations in whose midst they lived as a minority.
This explains much more satisfactorily than has hitherto been attempted the mysterious disappearance of the Goths after the official conversion of Recared in Spain, and the overthrow of Alaric by Clovis in the beginning of the sixth century in the South of France. In Italy they kept to their Arianism under the name of Lombards, down to the eighth century. It must not, however, be assumed that with the public disappearance of Arianism and that of the Goths as a ruling nation, the Arian heresy and all that it brought to the people had also disappeared. That teaching could not easily be uprooted. It was merely driven underground. The Catholic Church was satisfied with having obtained an official public victory. Then followed a slow process of extirpation. The writings of the schismatics were hunted up and destroyed, and thus the wells of heresy were dried up. The people were weaned from their errors by the convincing power of sword and faggot. But so long as these sinners did not belong to the higher classes, the Church winked at their aberrations, especially when they kept quiet and were not aggressive in their action.
Thus the fire of heresy smouldered on under the ashes of the autos-da-fé until it was fanned again into a mighty blaze through the Cathars and Albigenses. The ground was prepared for their reception by the Arianism of the Goths, and by the Manichaean propaganda, which had penetrated into Europe from the West as early as the fourth century.
It is important in this connection to refer, however briefly, to the Priscillianites in Spain, who flourished from the middle of the fourth to the second half of the sixth century, close upon two hundred years. The founder was Priscillianus (d. 385) a man of noble birth and great achievement. He was a great scholar, and had become acquainted with Gnostic and Manichaean doctrines. He was accused of heresy, and was the first Christian who was executed by Christians for preaching a different form of creed. The accusations made against him and his followers were precisely the same which were raised centuries afterwards against the Cathars and Albigenses, and no doubt just as false. From them we learn, however, that he had apocryphal books and mystical oriental legends, which he used for his teaching, and which were believed by his followers. It took two, or close upon three centuries, before the public traces of Priscillianism disappeared from Spain and Gaul. The followers, probably, shared the fate of the Gothic Arians settled in these countries. Then the conquest of Spain by the Arabs or Moors prevented the Catholic Church from further sifting the chaff from the grain. No doubt a good number of so-called heretics, who could not enter the bosom of the Catholic Church, embraced Islam, just as a good number of prominent Cathars in Dalmatia and Bosnia preferred to become Mohammedans after the conquest of the country by the Turks rather than become united with the Orthodox Church. When the Cathars started their propaganda, they followed, as it were, in the track of the Goths. They occupy exactly the same tracts of land as those held for so many centuries by the former, and without a doubt they found there remnants of the old heresy, popular legends and beliefs, even tales and mystical as well as mythical songs, all so many welcome pegs on which to hang their own teaching. It may in a way have been a kind of revival, in which what had been preserved by the descendants from the Goths of old was blended with the new matter brought afresh from the East. Unfortunately--as already remarked--too little is known of the beliefs and practices of the Goths in their pagan state and afterwards as Arian Christians. That they, in spite of being "rude barbarians," had also some theological treatises is evident from Anathema No. 16 of the Council of Toledo (589), when Recared forswore his Arianism and became a fervent Catholic. The anathema runs against "the abominable treatises which we composed to seduce the provincials into the Arian heresy." Many such compositions, especially in the vernacular, must be meant here; they all fell under the ban.
The Cathars followed the same practice and were zealous propagators and translators of the Bible and Apocrypha into the vernacular. They knew the Bible so well that in disputations with the Catholic clergy the latter were easily beaten. Almost every one of the "forbidden" books, i.e. forbidden by the Orthodox and Catholic Church, was preserved in old Slavonian (and Rumanian) translations, and some are to be found this very day among the holy books of the Russian schismatics. Nay, even the oldest French translation of the Bible was the work of Albigenses. So much did this affect the Catholic Church that she excommunicated it, and forbade the people to read the Bible at the Council of Toulouse in 1229; the Bible in the vernacular having before been ordered to be burned publicly by the decree of the Church.
No wonder, therefore, at the popularity of these sectaries and the immense influence they wielded upon the popular mind and imagination. And if it be true that Arius set forth his religious views in doggerel rhymes to be sung to popular tunes by the sailors and labourers, then he initiated a movement which has continued ever since in religious minstrelsy, and is practised amongst others, by the Russian blind beggar-minstrels and other popular ballad singers on festive occasions among the Rumanians and southern Slavs. Nothing, in fact, could better serve the purpose of propaganda than such songs. They would appeal at once to the primitive, unlettered nations, specially amongst those who had such mythological epics of their own. The rude barbarians would be deeply impressed, and they would very easily adopt such songs and the teaching they contained. We can then easily understand a Volsunga Saga or a similar saga originating under such influences, or moulded in accordance with such new models. Neither the Orthodox nor the Catholic Church knows of such popular religious songs of an epic character, filled with the mysteries of the Holy Writ, much less of any filled with mysteries from the apocryphal and legendary writings. They have no more than Church hymns sung in the Church, only on special occasions, together with a certain psalmody chanted by the officiating clergy. And when these Greek (or Syriac) hymns were translated into Slavonic or Rumanian, they practically lost their tune and their inspiration, and they were recited with a peculiar monotonous cantilation. Quite otherwise were the popular carols, and the popular epic ballads with a distinctive religious background and full of wonderful incidents from the life of the saints. Unlike the former, they are not congregational litanies, but purely popular songs and ballads, devoid of any official or liturgical character. This may also explain the origin of the so-called Ambrosian chant as an attempt on the part of St. Ambrose of Milan to counteract the other popular chants by introducing, as it were, congregational singing into the Church. But there it remained, whilst the other spread and has retained its original popular character. Thus, through Gothic Arianism, a certain continuity of the dualistic and peculiar schismatic form of religious teaching has been established.
Moreover, an historic explanation has been found for the origin and spread of these doctrines, tales and fables. Put to the test, these beast tales yield a dogmatic system which approximates in many points to such heterodox teaching. The old Ebionite conception of Jesus, taken up by Arius and afterwards adopted by the Manichaeans, sees in him only a deified human being, and very little more can be found in these tales. Jesus is seldom mentioned, and even then is more like a deified all-powerful human being. God Himself is often treated as a simple human being, almost like the Ialdabaoth of the Gnostics or the inferior God of the Manichaean doctrine. With this, agrees also the notion of the dualism in the creation of the world, i.e. that the evil creatures, wolves, poisonous snakes, etc., are the work of the Evil One. This was also the view held by the Priscillianites. There seem to be, also, reminiscences of such myths as "the world tree," the wolf, etc., which are found in Teutonic mythology and which may also be of an Oriental origin. The Rumanian tales are almost a running commentary on Grimm's German Mythology (Germ. 4th ed. 1876, ch. xxiii. pp. 539-581), which ought to be read in conjunction with the present volume. The legend of the Cuckoo, the hoopoe referred to by Grimm, can be read here under No. 43.
It is significant that there is not a trace of Mariolatry in these tales and fables. If anything, St. Mary appears in a character far from loveable. She is easily offended, she does not spare her curses, she takes umbrage easily at the slightest mishap. She is altogether very disagreeable, just as in the apocryphal literature, where there is not much room for her. Her intercession is invoked only in some Rumanian charms and spells in a peculiar stereotyped form. But of real worship there is scarcely any trace. Quite different is the position which the Catholic Church assigned afterwards to St. Mary. She has become there second to none outside the Trinity.
More prominently almost than any of these points, stands out the fact that, underlying these creation and other tales, is the belief in the transmigration of the human soul into an animal body--the well-known belief in Metempsychosis, or change of human beings into animals, so important a feature of Manichaean teaching, in which all the heretical sects seem to have shared.
It is impossible now to follow this question further. I am satisfied to have indicated the rôle which the Goths may have played in the preparation for the dissemination of special myths and legends, branded as heretical, which other sectaries had brought from the East and propagated in the West of Europe.
As to possible ethnical and geographical continuity, it may be remarked that the places where these tales are found were also the homesteads of the Goths, in which they dwelt for at least two or three hundred years. They were then after a short interval almost supplanted by the Slavs. It is a moot point how long the Rumanians have dwelt there, and when they were converted to Christianity. Not a single old Teutonic word has hitherto been found in the Rumanian language. Any direct contact or convivium of any length of time is thus excluded. The tales may have been remnants carried along from Illyricum across the Danube by the new missionaries of the dualistic doctrine. The problem would be less intricate if we only knew anything definite about Gothic heathen and Christian mythology.
With the Cathars and Bogomils we are on more solid ground. This new stream of similar traditions was brought by a similar religious movement and was propagated by identical means--viz. writings and songs in the language of the people, legends and tales and a simple creed understood by all.
It may be asked, if this theory is correct, if these tales and legends were brought first into Thrace and then spread from that country to the other nations, how does it come to pass that so few traces of them can be found in Greek folk-lore? Paradoxical as it may sound, the absence of such creation and other legends and tales from the Greek folk-lore is, if anything, a further proof of the accuracy of the theory advanced. It must be remembered that there was no more ruthless persecution of ancient paganism, idolatry, ceremonies and legends than that carried out by the Greek Church against anything that reminded them of the Hellenic or pagan past. Nothing was spared, neither shrines nor books. The Greek's subtle mind devised the first thorough system of heresy-hunting and persecution. It ranged from polemical and harmless dialogues to the handing over of the so-called heretics to fire and sword. The secular power was there more than anywhere else the representative of the religious power, and justified its existence, as it were, only as the executor of the Church's mandate.
One has only to read about the innumerable decrees of councils and synods, to see the way in which Manichaeism, Arianism and Gnosticism in every shape and form were mercilessly uprooted, and to understand that this fight did not stop at Bogomilism. The polemics were carried out even down to the time of Eutemios Zygabenos and even the Emperors on the throne of Byzance did not consider it below their dignity to combat heretical teaching, the followers of which were given no pardon. There was also another factor which militated against the success of the Gnostic teaching--the literary past of the Greeks. To the circulation of apocryphal books and legendary tales, the Greeks were able to oppose a vast literary array. In Greece the Bogomils did not deal with simple-minded, illiterate folk at the beginning of whose literature they stood; on the contrary, they had to fight against an ancient influential literature, and against minds trained in the subtlest dialectics. They could not, therefore, succeed so easily, if at all.
Quite different were the conditions of the other nations with which they came in contact. None of these had yet more than the very beginnings of a literature. They were rude, simple-minded folk, and wherever the Greek Church or Greek Emperors did not wield any influence at all, as it happened in the Bulgaro-Vallachian kingdom established by Peter and Asan (1185 to 1257), the Bogomils had an easy task. For centuries, then, the Rumanians formed with the Bulgarians not only a religious, but also a political unity. The Bulgaro-Vallachian kingdom stretched from the Haemus to the Carpathians, and down to the end of the seventeenth century Slavonic was the official language of State and Church in Rumania. There could not have been a more close intimacy than between these two nations, despite the difference of the language which each of them spoke. They had their literature in common, and no doubt shared the same traditions. Bogomilism was just as rife in Vallachia as it was in Bulgaria. Even the written literature of Rumania shows how profound its influence has been: still more so does the oral literature of tales and legends, of fables and beliefs. Though the Bogomils did not bring Christianity to these peoples, for they were Christians, they brought at any rate a kind of religion to the mass of the folk. It was one of their own making and in their own image. It was clothed in beautiful tales, and answered the expectations of the rank and file, satisfied their curiosity, and gave them a glimpse of the moral beauty underlying the work of creation. In a way, it tended to purify the heart and to elevate the soul by allegories, parables and apologues, and thus it found ready acceptance, and struck deep root in the heart of the people, unaffected by decrees of Councils and by the fanatical intolerance of the established Church.
Not so successful, therefore, if successful at all, was the fight of the Greek Church against the heretical sects even in the Balkan Peninsula, where they were so numerous and so powerful. They persisted down to the time of the capture of Constantinople and the Turkish rule. A large number of the aristocracy in Bosnia and Dalmatia still adhered to the teaching of the Cathars, and when the Turks occupied the country in the sixteenth century, the majority of them embraced Islam, instead of entering either the Catholic or the Greek Church. A whole mass of apocryphal and spurious literature placed on the Index, has been preserved in Slavonic and Rumanian texts with outspoken dualistic views. Many of them have found their way into the Lucidaria, or "Questions and Answers," a kind of catechism, very popular among the nations of the Balkans, the Rumanians and the Russians. Similar Lucidaria were known in the West, but there they have been thoroughly expurgated, whilst, in the above-mentioned "questions," many an answer is found to which no orthodox Church would subscribe, but which form now a popular living belief among these nations. The political lethargy which settled upon most of these nations after the Turkish conquest created a happy brooding-place for such tales, and thus it can easily be understood why they have lived to this very day practically undisturbed and little changed.
To those who have followed the history of the religious development of the Russians, it will therefore not be surprising to find among their popular tales a number of variants closely allied to the Rumanian animal tales, and, what is of the utmost importance in this connection, not a few of the "creation" tales. No country perhaps has been so much torn by religious discussions and sects as Russia. The number of sects is legion. The most extraordinary notions, extreme views on dogma and practice, heterodox principles expressed in worship, belief and popular song or tale are all found in Russia: unadulterated Dualism, Bogomilism, Manichaean teaching are openly professed by a number of the sects persecuted and condemned by the Orthodox Church. Almost all the books condemned as heretical in the early Indices Expurgatoria put forth by Councils and Church Assemblies, have been preserved almost intact in the old Slavonic and Russian language, and the religious and epic songs of the "blind" minstrels of Russia are full of the legendary lore of those heterodox sects. This fact has been established beyond doubt by the researches of Russian scholars, and notably by Wesselofsky. Among the Russians, then, we find the nearest parallels to the Rumanian "creation" stories; a clear evidence of common origin, both drawing upon the same source of information; the religious in the form of apologues, legends and tales, so prominent a feature of heterodox propaganda.
The weapons used by the Catholic Church in its persecution of heretical sects are, almost every one of them, borrowed from the Greek armoury. One learns to know this fact more and more from a closer enquiry into the inner history of Byzance, its laws, decrees, administration and practice. And, precisely the same influence destroyed later the heretical teaching in the West as it destroyed it among the Greeks. The power of the Church and the secular arm were both used ruthlessly for exterminating any idea or any belief that ran counter to the doctrines taught by the established Church. The Cathars had also a much more difficult task in converting the East of Europe, inasmuch as they were also confronted there by some amount of literary tradition. Illiterate as were the masses, there were still among them and among their clerics, men of ability, men of learning, men trained in the scholastic schools, able, if not to refute, at any rate to confuse, the strange doctrine.
All these forces combined, produced in the East the same result as they have produced among the Greeks. We are thus on the track of one of the most important sources of Western European folk-lore, always remembering that the medium in which this propaganda flourished differed considerably in the West from that in the East. In the former such propaganda met with a more ancient layer of well-established literary tradition. The Catholic Church, as mentioned above, was first in possession. It was not a tabula rasa on which the new teaching could be written, but yet that which existed was profoundly modified and a new fund of highly poetic yet popular material was added to the small store of knowledge possessed by the common people. But in time the Church took up the challenge, and remorselessly hunted down the apostles of popular heterodox teaching, just as the Greeks had done, going even further. It punished with sword and fire the followers of unauthorised practices, and branded every deviation from the strait path as rank heresy. The books containing legends and tales were burnt, and their possessors were often treated in like fashion.
Inquisition, Church and other influences helped, as already mentioned, to destroy them. In the tragedy of heresy-hunting and burning of witches, the charge of devil worship was the basic principle, the chief head of accusation. It was clearly devised against the followers of the dualistic teaching. To tell a tale like any of these Rumanian "creation" tales, would have been inviting the heaviest punishment--to believe in it would have meant sure death. No wonder that they disappeared quickly, or were changed into harmless satires, as in the Reynard Cycle, or were even used for political cartoons, in broadsides, like the Cock Robin Cycle in the time of Charles II., which, when transplanted to Russia, became a political lampoon on Peter and his Court.
Heresy-hunting becomes a popular distraction only when the official clergy find it profitable to make it so, and when the people are made to trace their own ills and troubles, their losses in field and stable, to the evil machinations of these tools of the devil. So long as they are not suffering in body or purse, the folk are absolutely indifferent to dogmas, and they will eagerly accept anything that pleases them. It will therefore not come as a surprise, in view of what has been stated, if we find some weird conceptions among the Rumanian peasantry.
Studied from the point of view of heresiology or rather of popular psychology, some of these tales will appear to us as so many living records of the great spiritual movement, which for centuries dominated Europe, and which has since died out.
Too little attention has been given hitherto to the influence of those numerous sects, which stretched from Asia Minor to the south of France, and overflowed even into England. Their dualism, the strong belief in the Power of Evil, Satan and his host, the consequent duty of the faithful to banish him or to subdue him, thus developed into belief in sorcery and witchcraft, with the attending horrors of the Inquisition.
Then came a period of wider education still less tolerant of old women's superstition and nursery tales. What was left still standing has been, and is being, finally destroyed by our modern schools and schoolmasters. From this dire fate, the folk-lore of the nearer East has as yet been preserved. The importance of the study of folk-lore has happily been recognised in those countries, early enough to stop the blight which had set in and which threatened to destroy it more ruthlessly than even in the West. The modern "man of science" is a more relentless iconoclast than the religious fanatic. He starts from the mind in his attempt to destroy folk-lore, using to this end cold reasoning, logical conclusions, spiritual prepossession and intolerance. The religious fanatic starts from the heart, with overwhelming passion, fiery zeal, unreasoning hatred, from which there is a possible escape for mysticism and mythical lore, whilst from the former there is none. Happily, our science of folk-lore with its deep sympathy and profound appreciation of these manifestations of the popular psyche has come in the nick of time to rescue from total extinction what the schoolmaster and the heresy-hunter have not yet annihilated.
I turn now to another aspect of these bird and beast tales. If, as I believe, they show us what is at the back of the mind of the people, they are of invaluable service to the student of anthropology, above all to him who seeks enlightenment in the grave problems of education and civilization; and they are not without importance for the solution of political problems.
Attempts are made--well meant, no doubt--to foist that state of culture which the West calls "modern civilization," or "civilization" pure and simple, upon the reluctant people of the Near and Far East. We are forgetful of the fact that these nations have had a civilization of their own, and that something more important is included in this forcible change than the change of a dress.
As the outcome of a long-drawn battle between feudalism and modern society, as a result of political and economic evolutions, the civilization of the West, when introduced among nations that have not gone through the same experience, acts like the Juggernaut car, which crushes under its wheels the worshippers of this new god and destroys at the same time the foundations of the old order of things. Only students of folk-lore, those who try to reach the hidden depths, nay, to penetrate the inner soul of the people, are in a position to judge of the results of these civilizing attempts. They can compare the past with the present, and draw a proper balance between gain and loss. Are the people happier, more contented, more moral, and even more religious after the change, than they were before it? Surely not. And if not, why not? The answer is very simple: because in this violent change no tenderness is shown to those beliefs and practices which are dear to the people and which help to lighten the burden of life by innocent mirth and the wholesome play of fancy. Wire brooms may sweep well; but they may do it too well, and they can sweep everything away, leaving the home bare and the gardens stripped of every leaf and flower.
A few words concerning the order and grouping of these tales. They have been arranged in three main groups. The first comprises those tales which I have characterised as creation legends. In them the origin of birds, beasts and insects is explained as the result of some direct act of God, or the Saints, or the Devil. An attempt has been made to follow a certain chronological order. Those tales stand first in which God is acting at the beginning of the creation. Then, following the Biblical order, the legends connected with the persons of sacred history from Adam to the Apostles, including St. Mary and St. Anne. Mystical Christmas carols or rather epic ballads, in which similar subjects are treated, have been inserted between the legends. The second section comprises such legends as are more like fairy tales. The mythical personages are no longer those known through the Scriptures. On the contrary, there are in these tales reminiscences of ancient heathen gods and heroes, chief among them being Alexander the Great.
In the third section the animal fables are grouped together. It is the literature of the apologues without any framework or moral setting. The parallels, as far as could be found, are given briefly at the end of each legend, tale or fable. I have striven to be concise in my references to the best-known collections of tales, such as Grimm, Hahn, Cosquin, and Gonzenbach, where the student of fairy tales can easily find the whole comparative literature.
For the genuine and unadulterated popular origin of these tales I can vouch absolutely. Some I have heard in my early youth, but the majority have been culled from the works of S. Fl. Marian (Ornitologia poporana Româna, 2 vols., Cernauti 1883; and Insectele, Bucharest 1903), than whom a more painstaking trustworthy collector could not be imagined. Some have been taken from the Folk-lore reviews, Sezatoarea, ed. by A. Gorovei (i.-xii., Falticeni 1892 to 1912), and Ion Creanga, published by the Society of that name (i.-viii., Barlad 1908-1915). Anton Pann (Poveste si istoriaire, Bucharest 1836) has given us a few stories, as well as A. and A. Schott (Walachische Maehrchen, Stuttgart and Tübingen 1845). The Pilgrimage of the Soul is from S. Mangiuca, Calindariu, pe. 1882, Brasiovu 1881 and the Story of Man and his Years, No. 113, from M. Gaster, Chrestomatie Romana, vol. ii., Bucharest 1891. These tales have been collected from every country where Rumanians live, not only in the Kingdom of Rumania, but also from the Rumanians of Transylvania and Bukovina, as well as from the Kutzo-Vlachs of Macedonia.
I have added a few charms and also a few more mystical religious songs and carols, which throw light on some of the beliefs underlying the tales and legends, taken mostly from the great collection of G. Dem. Teodorescu (Poesii Popularare Romane, Bucharest 1885).
In some cases I have given also variants of the same tale.
I have endeavoured to render the stories as faithfully as the spirit of the Rumanian and English languages allows, and I fear that I have on sundry occasions forced the latter in my desire to preserve as far as possible the quaintness and the flavour of the Rumanian original.
There is one characteristic feature in the collection of animal tales and legends given here, upon which I should like to lay great stress, and that is the complete purity which pervades them all. There is no playing with moral principles. No double meaning is attached to any story: and this, to my mind, is the best proof of their popular origin. These tales are not sullied by a morbid imagination, nor contaminated by sexual problems. The people are pure at heart and in the stories their simplicity and purity appear most beautifully.
In these tales and legends we have syncretism in full swing. It is not a picture of the past which we have to piece laboriously together from half-forgotten records, from writing half obliterated by the action of time and by changes which have swept over those nations of the past, whose life and thought we are endeavouring to conjure up and to understand. In our midst, at our door, under our own eyes, this process of mixing and adjusting, of change and evolution, of differentiation, combination and assimilation is still going on. It is a wonderful picture for any one who is able to discover the forces that are at work, who can trace every strand of the webbing, every thread in the woof and warp, to its immediate and to its remoter source. We see the shuttle of human imagination, of human belief, flying busily through the loom, charged at one time with one thread, at another with a different one. Many of the ways of the human mind meet here, cross one another, and new roads are thus created by busy wayfarers. And thus paganism sustains a busy and robust life. The old Pantheon is still peopled with the old gods, or, shall we better say, the Pandaemonium in its highest and best sense is displaying itself with unexpected vigour. The heathen gods, the Christian saints, God and the devil legends, fairy tales, oriental imagery, mystical traditions and astrological lore are all inextricably blended together. The line of demarcation between man and animal has not been clearly drawn, or it has not yet been attempted. These multifarious elements have not yet been combined into one homogeneous structure. The problem arises whether other nations have also passed through a similar mental and psychical process; whether they have had a similar Pandaemonic mixture, out of which their more colourless folk-lore had been distilled in the crucible of "civilization."
Primitive people can often hear the footfall of men by putting the ear to the ground. We may, by putting an ear to the ground, hear the footfalls of the Past, and listen to the echo before it dies away into eternity.