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Boas, Franz. Race, Language and Culture – T47


Mythology and Folk-Tales of the North
American Indians 11

I. Material

During the last twenty years a very considerable body of tales of
the North American Indians has been collected. Before their publication,
almost the only important collections available for scientific
research were the Eskimo tales published by H. Rink, — material recorded
in part by natives during the earlier part of the nineteenth
century, and printed also in the native language in Greenland; the
traditions collected by E. Petitot among the Athapascan tribes of northwestern
Canada; the Ponca tales collected by J. O. Dorsey; a few
Siouan tales recorded by Stephen R. Riggs; and the Klamath traditions
collected by Albert S. Gatschet. The material published in Daniel G.
Brinton's “Library of Aboriginal American Literature” also deserves
notice. In all of these the attempt was made to give a faithful rendering
of the native tales; and in this they differ fundamentally from the
literary efforts of Schoolcraft, Kohl, and other writers. Owing to their
scope, they are also much more valuable than the older records found
in the accounts of missionaries and in books of travel and exploration.

Since those times, somewhat systematic collections have been made
among a large number of tribes; and, although the continent is not
by any means covered by the existing material, much has been gained
to give us a better knowledge of the subject.

Two types of collection may be distinguished. The one includes tales
taken down in English or in other European tongues directly from
natives, or indirectly with the help of interpreters. Among American
institutions, the Bureau of American Ethnology, the American Museum
of Natural History, the Field Museum of Natural History (Field Columbian
Museum) in Chicago, for a few years the Carnegie Institution of
Washington, have worked in this field. Much material is also found in
the “Journal of American Folk-Lore,” and in the earlier volumes of
the “American Anthropologist” and of the “American Antiquarian and
451Oriental Journal.” The other type of collection contains tales taken
down from dictation by natives, or recorded in the native language by
natives, and later on revised and edited. So far, the latter form the
smaller group.

With the increase of material, the demands for accuracy of record
have become more and more stringent. While in the earlier period of
collecting no great stress was laid upon the recording of variants and
their provenience, — as, for instance, in Rink's collection, in which we
have variants from different parts of the country combined into a single
story, — we now desire that each tale be obtained from several informants
and from several places, in order to enable us to gain an impression
of its importance in the tribal lore, and to insure the full record of its
contents and of its relations to other tales. Furthermore, the importance
of the record in the original language has become more and more
apparent. This is not only for the reason that the English translation
gives a very inadequate impression of the tales, but also because often
the interpreter's inadequate knowledge of English compels him to omit
or modify important parts. Even the best translation cannot give us
material for the study of literary form, — a subject that has received
hardly any attention, and the importance of which, as I hope to show in
the course of these remarks, cannot be overestimated.

It is doubtful whether all the records that have been collected in previous
years are well adapted to this study, because the difficulty of
taking down accurate rapid dictation from natives, and the difficulty
which the natives encounter in telling in the traditional manner sufficiently
slowly for the purpose of the recorder, almost always exert an
appreciable influence upon the form of the tale. Owing to the multiplicity
of American languages and to the exigencies of the situation in
which students find themselves, the recorder has only rarely a practical
command of the language; and for this reason the difficulty just mentioned
cannot be readily overcome. Up to the present time, the most
successful method has been to have the first record made by natives who
have been taught to write their own language. After they have acquired
sufficient ease in writing, the diction generally becomes satisfactory. A
certain one-sidedness will remain, however, as long as all the material
is written down by a single recorder. It has also been suggested that
phonographic records be used, which may be written out from re-dictation;
but so far, no extended series has been collected in this manner.

The experience of investigators in many regions suggests that the
452difficulty just mentioned is not as great as might be supposed. This is
indicated by the fact that good informants often break down completely
when requested to dictate descriptions of the events of everyday
life. They will then state that they are well able to tell stories that
have a fixed form, but that the slow dictation of descriptions to be made
up new is too difficult for them. It would seem, therefore, that the form
in which most of the tales are obtained must be fairly well fixed. Ordinarily
a poor rendering of a story can easily be recognized by the fragmentary
character of the contents, the briefness of sentences, by corrections
and unnecessary repetitions. We also have many tales in which
the same incident is repeated a number of times; and in those cases the
form of the repetitions shows, on the whole, whether the narrator has a
fairly good command of his subject. Furthermore, a great many native
tales contain, besides the connected narrative, stereotyped formulas,
which are always told in the same manner, and which are undoubtedly
always given in correct form.

It has been the habit of most collectors to endeavor to find the “right”
informant for tales, particularly when the stories refer to elaborate
sacred rituals, or when they are the property of social groups possessing
definite privileges. It may then be observed that certain tales are in
the keeping of individuals, and are only superficially or partially known
to the rest of the people. In these cases the recorder has often adopted
the attitude of the Indian who possesses the most elaborate variant
of the tale, and the fragmentary data given by the uninitiated are
rejected as misleading. This view is based on the assumption of a permanence
of form of tradition that is hardly justifiable, and does not take
into consideration the fact that the esoteric variant which is developed
by a small number of individuals is based on the exoteric variants afloat
among the whole tribe. We shall revert to this subject later on.

This static view of Indian folk-lore is also expressed by the preference
given throughout to the collection of purely Indian material unaffected
by European or African elements, and by the reluctance of investigators
to bestow as much care upon the gathering of the more recent
forms of folk-lore as is given to those forms that were current before
the advent of the Whites. For the study of the development of folktales
the modern material is of particular value, because it may enable
us to understand better the processes of assimilation and of adaptation,
which undoubtedly have been of great importance in the history of
folk tradition.453

II. Myth And Folk-Tale

In our American collections the two terms “myth” and “folk-tale”
have been used somewhat indefinitely. This is a necessary result of
the lack of a sharp line of demarcation between these two classes of
tales. No matter which of the current definitions of mythology we may
adopt, there will arise difficulties that cannot be settled without establishing
arbitrary distinctions. If we define myths as tales that explain
natural phenomena, and that may be considered in this sense as parts
of an interpretation of nature, we are confronted with the difficulty
that the same tale may be explanatory in one case, and a simple tale
without explanatory features in another. The strict adherence to this
principle of classification would therefore result in the separation of
tales that are genetically connected, one being classed with myths, the
other with folk-tales. It goes without saying that in this way unnecessary
difficulties are created.

If we make the personification of animals, plants, and natural phenomena
the standard of distinction, another difficulty arises, which is
based on the lack of a clear distinction between myths, on the one hand,
and tales relating to magical exploits that are considered as true and of
recent occurrence, on the other, and also on the similarities between
tales relating to the adventures of human beings and animals.

Of similar character are the obstacles that stand in the way of a
definition of myths as tales relating to ritualistic performances.

In all these cases the same tales will have to be considered, in one case
as myths, and in another as folk-tales, because they occur both in explanatory
and non-explanatory forms, relating to personified animals
or natural objects and to human beings, with ritualistic significance and
without it. If we do accept any one of these definitions, it will therefore
always be necessary to consider the two groups together, and to
investigate their historical and psychological development without
regard to the artificial limits implied in the definition. This difficulty
cannot be met by assuming that the folk-tale originated from a myth
and must be considered a degenerate myth, or by the hypothesis that
conversely the myth originated from a folk-tale; for, if we do this, a
theoretical point of view, that should be the end of the inquiry, is
injected into our consideration.

For our purposes it seems desirable to adhere to the definition of myth
given by the Indian himself. In the mind of the American native there
454exists almost always a clear distinction between two classes of tales. One
group relates incidents which happened at a time when the world had
not yet assumed its present form, and when mankind was not yet in possession
of all the arts and customs that belong to our period. The other
group contains tales of our modern period. In other words, tales of the
first group are considered as myths; those of the other, as history. The
tales of the former group are not by any means explanatory in character
throughout. They treat mostly of the achievements of animals and of
heroes. From our modern point of view, it might be doubtful sometimes
whether such a tale should be considered as mythical, or historical,
since, on account of the Indian's belief in the powers of animals, many
of the historical tales consist of a series of incidents that might as well
have happened in the mythological period; such as the appearance of
animals that become supernatural helpers and perform marvellous exploits,
or of those that initiate a person into a new ritual. It can be
shown that historical tales may in the course of time become mythical
tales by being transferred into the mythical period, and that historical
tales may originate which parallel in the character and sequence of
their incidents mythical tales. Nevertheless the psychological distinction
between the two classes of tales is perfectly clear in the mind of the
Indian. It is related, in a way, to the ancient concepts of the different
ages as described by Hesiod.

For our analytical study we must bear in mind that the psychological
distinction which the natives make between mythical and historical tales
is, from an historical point of view, not more definitely and sharply
drawn than the line of demarcation between myths and tales defined
in other ways. The point of view, however, has the advantage that the
myths correspond to concepts that are perfectly clear in the native mind.
Although folk-tales and myths as defined in this manner must therefore
still be studied as a unit, we have avoided the introduction of an arbitrary
distinction through our modern cultural point of view, and retained
instead the one that is present in the minds of the myth-telling

The mythical tales belong to a period that is long past, and cannot
be repeated in our world, although the expectation may exist of a renewal
of mythical conditions in the dim future. Only when we ourselves
are transferred into the realm of mythical beings, that continue to exist
somewhere in unknown parts of our world, may myths again become
happenings. The mythological beings may thus become actors in historical
455folk-tales or in localized tradition, although they appear at the
same time as actors in true myths. The Indian who disappears and is
taken to the village of the Buffaloes is, in the mind of the Indian, the
hero of an historical tale, although the Buffalo men are at the same
time mythical personages. The novice initiated by the spirits of a secret
society is taken away by them bodily; and when he re-appears among
his tribesmen, he tells them his story, which deals with the gifts of
mythical beings. The person who revives from a death-like trance has
been in communion with the mythical world of the ghosts, although he
has been allowed to return to our world and to follow his usual

It is therefore clear that in the mind of the Indian the appearance
of mythical characters is not the criterion of what constitutes a mythIt
is rather its distance in space or time that gives it its characteristic tone.

It appears from these remarks that in the study of the historical origin
of myths and folk-tales of modern times, the widest latitude must be
given to our researches. The types and distribution of the whole body
of folk-tales and myths must form the subject of our inquiry. The
reconstruction of their history will furnish the material which may help
us to uncover the psychological processes involved.

I cannot agree with Bastian and Wundt, 12 who consider the discovery
of the actual origin of tales as comparatively insignificant, because
both, independently created and disseminated material are subject to
the same psychological processes which may therefore be studied by
an analytical treatment of the tales as they now exist. I do not see
how this can be done without interpreting as an historical sequence a
classification based entirely on psychological or other considerations, —
a method that can never lead to satisfactory results, on account of the
arbitrary, non-historical premises on which it is founded. If there is
more than one classification of this type possible, the reconstructed psychological
processes will differ accordingly; and we must still demand
that the change from one type to another be demonstrated by actual
historical evidence when available, by inferences based on distribution
or similar data when no other method can be utilized. Here, as in all
other ethnological problems, the principle must be recognized that phenomena
apparently alike may develop in multitudinous ways. A
geometrical design may be developed from a conventionalized realistic
456form, or it may develop directly through a play with elementary technical
motives; a semi-realistic form may be a copy of nature, and may
have been read into a pre-existing geometrical design; or both may have
been borrowed and developed on new lines. A ritual may be a dramatic
presentation of a myth, it may be an ancient rite to which a myth has
become attached, or it may be a copy of foreign patterns. There is no
a priori reason that tells us which has been the starting-point of a local
development, for the modern forms may have grown up in any of these
ways or by their joint action. At the same time, the psychological processes
that come into play in one case or the other are distinct. For this
reason we insist on the necessity of an inductive study of the sequence
of events as the basis for all our work.

The results of these inquiries, however, do not touch upon another
problem upon which much thought has been bestowed. The beings
that appear as actors in mythological tales are creatures of the imagination,
and differ in the most curious ways from the beings which are
known in our every-day world. Animals that are at the same time men,
human beings that consist of parts of a body or are covered with warts
and blotches, beings that may at will increase or decrease in size, bodies
that may be cut up and will readily re-unite and come to life, beings that
are swallowed by animals or monsters and pass through them unharmed,
are the ordinary inventory of folk-tales as well as of myths. Whatever
is nowhere seen and whatever has never happened are here common
every-day events.

The imagination of man knows no limits, and we must expect great
varieties of form in mythical beings and happenings. While such
diversity is found, there still exist certain features that occur with surprising
frequency, — in fact, so often that their presence cannot be due to
accident. The attention of many investigators has been directed to
these similarities, which have led to the inference that those traits that
are common to the myths and folk-tales of diverse peoples and races are
the fundamental elements of mythology, and that our real problem is
the discovery of the origin of those most widely spread.

It would seem that much of the conflict of current opinion is due to
our failure to keep distinctly apart the two lines of inquiry here characterized, —
the one, the investigation into the history of tales; the other,
the investigation of the origin of traditions or ideas common to many or
all mythologies.457

III. Dissemination of Folk-Tales

Our first problem deals with the development of modern folk-tales.
During the last twenty years the tendency of American investigators has
been to disregard the problem of the earliest history of American myths
and tales, and to gain an insight into their recent growth. The first step
in an inductive study of the development of folk-tales must be an investigation
of the processes that may be observed at the present time, and
these should form the basis of inquiries into earlier history. Therefore
stress has been laid upon the accumulation of many variants of the
same tale from different parts of the country, and these have been made
the basis of a few theoretical studies.

Not more than twenty-five years ago Daniel G. Brinton asserted that
the similarity of Iroquois and Algonquian mythologies was due to the
sameness of the action of the human mind, not to transmission. Since
that time such a vast amount of material has been accumulated, proving
definite lines of transmission, that there is probably no investigator now
who would be willing to defend Brinton's position. A detailed study of
transmission among the tribes of the North Pacific coast, and a brief
summary of the similarities between Navaho and Northwest American
folk-tales, were followed by many annotated collections containing
parallels from many parts of America. The importance of dissemination
was brought out incidentally in Dr. Lowie's investigation on the test-theme
in American mythology and by Dr. Waterman's study of the
explanatory element in American folk-tales.

Two rules have been laid down as necessary for cautious progress. 13

First, the tale or formula the distribution of which is investigated, and
is to be explained as due to historical contact, must be so complex, that
an independent origin of the sequence of non-related elements seems to
be improbable. An example of such a tale is the Magic Flight, in which
we find a combination of the following elements: flight from an ogre;
objects thrown over the shoulder forming obstacles, — first a stone, which
becomes a mountain; then a comb, which becomes a thicket; lastly a
bottle of oil, which becomes a body of water. It is hardly conceivable
that such a group of unrelated incidents should arise independently in
regions far apart.458

The second rule is, that for a satisfactory proof of dissemination, continuous
distribution is required. The simpler the tale, the greater must
be our insistence on this condition. It must of course be admitted that
simple tales may be disseminated over wide areas. It must also be admitted
that in all probability tales known at one time have been forgotten,
so that intermediate links in an area of geographically continuous
distribution may have been lost. This, however, does not touch upon
our methodological point of view. We desire to find uncontestable evidence
of transmission, not alone the possibility or plausibility of transmission;
and for this purpose our safeguards must be insisted on.

The study of the distribution of themes requires a ready means for
their identification, and this necessitates a brief terminology: hence the
attempts to establish a series of catch-words by means of which tales
and incidents may readily be recognized. Frobenius, Ehrenreich, Lowie,
and Kroeber 14 have contributed to this undertaking; but an elaboration
of a satisfactory system of catch-words requires more penetrating study
of the tales than those that have hitherto been made. Certain results,
however, have been obtained from the study of the distribution of
themes. The material that has been collected suggests that, as inquiry
progresses, we may be able to discern various areas of distribution of
themes. Some of these are known over large portions of the continent.
For instance, the story of the Bungling Host — of a person who is fed
by the magic powers of his host, who tries to imitate him and fails
ignominiously — occurs from New Mexico on, all over the eastern part
of North America, and is lacking only, as it seems, in California and on
the Arctic coast. Similar to this is the distribution of the story of the
Rolling Rock, which pursues an offending person, and pins him down
until he is finally freed by animals that break the rock. Perhaps this does
not extend quite so far north and south as the former story. While the
Bungling-Host tale is known on the coast of British Columbia, the
Rolling-Rock story does not reach the Pacific coast, although related
tales are found in parts of California. Still other tales are essentially
confined to the Great Plains, but have followed the trade-routes that
lead to the Pacific Ocean, and are found in isolated spots from British
459Columbia southward to California. To this group belongs the story of
the Dancing Birds, which are told by a trickster to dance with closed
eyes, and then are killed by him, a few only escaping. Another story of
this group is the characteristic Deluge story, which tells of the creation
of a new earth by diving animals. During the Flood the animals save
themselves on a raft. One after another dives, until finally the muskrat
brings up some mud, of which the new earth is created. This story is
known in a very wide area around the Great Lakes, and occurs in recognizable
form on a few points along the Pacific coast. To this same
group belongs the tale of the Star Husbands. Two girls sleep out of
doors, see two stars, and each wishes one of these for her husband.
When they awake the following morning, their wish is fulfilled. One
of the stars is a beautiful man, the other is ugly. Eventually the girls
return to earth. This tale is known from Nova Scotia, across the whole
width of the continent, to the Western plateaus, Vancouver Island, and
Alaska. Still other stories of the same area are those of the Blood-Clot
Boy, who originates from some blood that has been thrown away, and
who becomes a hero; the story of Thrown-Away, the name for a boy
who is cast out, brought up in a magic way, and who becomes a hero;
the Snaring of the Sun; and many others.

The second group has a decided Western distribution, and is found
extensively on the Plateaus and on the Pacific coast; although some of
the stories have also crossed the mountains, and are found on the Eastern
Plains. To this group belongs the story of the Eye-Juggler; that is,
of an animal that plays ball with his eyes, and finally loses them; of the
ascent to the sky by means of a ladder of arrows; and the story of the
contest between Beaver and Porcupine, Beaver inviting Porcupine to
swim, while Porcupine invites Beaver to climb. 15

A third area of distribution may be recognized in the peculiar migration
legends of the Southwest and of the Mississippi basin, which have
no analogues in the northern part of the continent.

The distribution of themes becomes the more interesting, the more
carefully the tales are considered. Thus the widely spread story of the
Bungling Host may be divided into a number of types, according to the
tricks performed by the host. On the North Pacific coast occurs the
trick of knocking the ankle, out of which salmon-eggs flow; on the
Plateaus, the piercing of some part of the body with a sharp instrument
and pulling out food; on the Plains, the transformation of bark into
460food; and almost everywhere, the diving for fish from a perch. 16 There
is little doubt that as collection proceeds, and the distribution of themes
can be studied in greater detail, the areas of dissemination will stand
out more clearly than now. The greatest difficulty at present lies in the
absence of satisfactory material from the Southeast and from the Pueblo

Ehrenreich 27 has attempted to extend these comparisons to South
America and to the Old World; but many of his cases do not conform to
the methodological conditions previously outlined, and are therefore
not quite convincing, although I readily admit the probability of dissemination
between the southern and northern half of the continent. I
am even more doubtful in regard to the examples given by Dähnhardt 38
and Frobenius. 49 If Dähnhardt finds, for instance, that we have in North
America a group of tales relating how Raven liberated the sun, which
was enclosed in a seamless round receptacle, that the Chukchee tell of
Raven holding the sun under his tongue, that the Magyar tell a similar
incident of one of the heroes of their fairy-tales, it does not follow that
these are the same tales. The Chukchee and Magyar tales are alike, and
I should be inclined to search for intermediate links. Among the Chukchee
the story has been inserted in the Raven cycle, and it seems probable
that the prominence of the raven in their folk-lore is due to Northwest-coast
influences, or that it developed at the same time in northeastern
Asia and northwestern America. However, I do not think that
the two tales are sufficiently alike to allow us to claim that they have the
same origin.

Still more is this true of the alleged relations between Melanesian and
American tales. Frobenius, who makes much of these similarities, calls
attention, for instance, to the motive of the arrow-ladder, which occurs
in Melanesia and in Northwest America. It seems to me that the idea
of a chain of arrows reaching from the earth to the sky is not so complicated
as to allow us to assume necessarily a single origin. Furthermore,
the distance between the two countries in which the element occurs is
so great, and there is apparently such a complete absence of intermediate
links, that I am not convinced of the sameness of the elements. Even
461the apparently complicated story of the Invisible Fish-Hook, which was
recorded by Codrington, and which is common to Melanesia and Northwest
America, does not convince me. The fisherman's hook is taken
away by a shark; the fisherman loses his way, reaches the shark's village,
where a person lies sick and cannot be cured by the shamans. The fisherman
sees his hook in the sick person's mouth, takes it out, and thus
cures him. In this formula we have the widely-spread idea that the
weapons of spirits are invisible to mortals, and vice versa; and the story
seems to develop without difficulty wherever this idea prevails. The
markedly close psychological connection of the incidents of the tale sets
it off clearly from the Magic Flight referred to before, in which the
single elements are quite without inner connection. Therefore the
sameness of the formula, connected with the lack of intermediate
geographical links, makes the evidence for historical connection inconclusive.

I repeat, the question at issue is not whether these tales may be related,
but whether their historical connection has been proved.

Transmission between the Old World and the New has been proved
by the occurrence of a set of complex stories in both. The most notable
among these are the Magic Flight (or obstacle myth), the story of the
Island of Women (or of the toothed vagina), and that of the killing of
the ogre whose head is infested with frogs instead of lice. The area of
well-established Old-World influence upon the New World is confined
to that part of North America limited in the southeast by a line running
approximately from California to Labrador. Southeast of this line, only
weak indications of this influence are noticeable. Owing to the restriction
of the tales to a small part of America, and to their wide distribution
in the Old World, we must infer that the direction of dissemination was
from the west to the east, and not conversely. Every step forward from
this well-established basis should be taken with the greatest caution.

A certain number of folk-tales are common to a more restricted area
around the coasts of Bering Sea and the adjoining parts of Asia and
America. Many of these may have had their origin in America. An
extension of this inquiry is needed for clearing up the whole interrelation
between the New World and the Old. The suggestion of analogies
made by Ehrenreich, Dähnhardt, Frobenius, and others, is worthy of
being followed up; but the proofs they have so far given are not convincing
to me. The theft of the sun and the bringing-up of the earth,
to both of which I referred before; the story of the Swan Maidens who
462put off their clothing on the shore of a lake, assume human form, and
are compelled to marry the hero who takes away their clothing, — are
common property of America, Asia, and Europe. The variations of
these tales are considerable; and their complexity is not so great, nor
their geographical distribution so continuous, as to claim that proof
of their identity has been established.

We should also mention the possibility of contact between America
and the Old World across the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Roland B.
Dixon 110 has recently collected data that suggest possible contact along
this line; and Von Hornbostel 211 has tried to show similarity on the basis
of musical systems that in his opinion can be explained with difficulty
only, unless there has been old historical contact. No convincing material,
however, is found in the domain of folk-tales.

I have not considered in the preceding remarks the recent influx of
foreign themes from Europe and Africa. A fairly large amount of
European folk-lore material has been introduced into the United States
and Canada. Among those Indian tribes, however, that still retain fresh
in their memory the aboriginal mode of life, these tales are sharply set
off from the older folk-tales. They are recognizable by distinctiveness
of character, although their foreign origin is not always known to the
natives. They belong largely to the fairy-tales of Europe, and most of
them were probably carried to America by the French voyageurs. It is
only in recent times that a more extensive amount of material of this
kind has been accumulated. 312 Favorite stories of this group are “John
the Bear,” “Seven-Heads,” and a few others of similar type.

In Nova Scotia and Quebec, where contact between the European
settlers and the Indians has continued for a long period, the number
of European elements in aboriginal folk-lore is much larger. They may
have been derived in part from Scotch and Irish sources. Still the distinction
between the types of aboriginal and foreign tales is fairly clear,
even to the minds of the narrators.

In the Southern States, where a large Negro population has come into
contact with the Indians, we find introduced into the aboriginal folklore,
in addition to the fairy tales, animal tales foreign to America.
463Since many of these are quite similar in type to aboriginal American
folk-tales, the line of demarcation between the two groups has tended
to become lost. Some of the foreign details have been incorporated in
the folk-lore of the Southeastern Indians, and their distinct origin has
been forgotten by them. A similar assimilation of the animal tale has
been observed in isolated cases in other districts, as that of a La Fontaine
fable among the Shuswap of British Columbia, and perhaps of a
European folk-tale among the Zuñi. For this reason we may conclude
that the complete amalgamation is due to their identity of type.

The conditions are quite different in Latin America, where, with the
exception of the most isolated areas, native folk-tales have almost given
way to European material. The bulk of the tales collected in Mexico
and South America is of the same character as the folk-tales of the
American Negroes, and belongs to the same cycle to which they belong.
Since Negro influence cannot readily be shown over this whole district,
and since much of the correlated material is clearly European, the origin
of these tales is plausibly referred to Spanish and Portuguese sources.
They were probably carried to America at the time of the Conquest,
taken to Africa by the Portuguese, and later on imported into the United
States by Negroes who had previously adopted them in Africa. The
definite solution of this problem would require careful collections in
Spain. The published Portuguese material is not unfavorable to this
theory, which is also supported by the occurrence of the same tales in
the Philippine Islands, that have been so long under Spanish influence.
It is true that some tales of this group that are found in southern Asia
may be due to East-Indian influences, but the form of those hitherto
published is rather in favor of the theory of a late Spanish origin. It
seems likely that along with these tales the Negroes brought some
African stories of similar character into North America.

Among the elements that have been introduced into our continent in
this way, I mention the Magic Flight, which has thus been carried in
two currents into the New World, — an ancient one, coming from
Siberia by way of Bering Strait; a recent one, arising in Spain, and
passing into Latin America, and gradually extending northward until
the two meet in northern California.

It is not easy to say when this superposition of the ancient American
lore by new European material in Latin America was accomplished.
There are, however, indications favoring the assumption that some of
it has had time to influence American tribes that did not come directly
464into intimate contact with Spanish cultural elements. Thus the tale
of the race between Turtle and Rabbit — in which Turtle places his
brothers, who look just like him, all along various points of the racetrack,
and thus makes Rabbit believe that he has won — has entered
northward into Oregon and British Columbia; and a number of incidents
that occur in Vancouver Island and in the interior of British
Columbia may have to be explained in the same way. The general
question of the influence of European lore upon our aboriginal tradition
deserves much more careful attention than it has hitherto received.

IV. Characteristics of Mythological Areas

We return to the discussion of the aboriginal lore as it is found in
our times, disregarding those elements that can be proved to be of
modern introduction. The material collected in different parts of the
continent presents marked differences in type. These are due to several
causes. In some cases the themes contained in the tales are distinct;
in others the actors are different; the point of the stories shows certain
local peculiarities; or the formal structure possesses local characteristics.
Among these features, attention has been directed particularly to the
first three, although no systematic attempts have been made to cover
the whole field.

In the preceding chapter I have discussed the dissemination of tales,
and at the same time pointed out that they are not evenly distributed
over the whole continent. It does not seem possible to give a definite
characterization of those themes that form the constituent elements of
the folk-tales of these larger areas.

The actors that appear as the heroes of our tales differ greatly in
various parts of the continent. While in Alaska and northern British
Columbia the Raven is the hero of a large cycle of tales, we find that
farther to the south, first the Mink, then the Bluejay, takes his place.
On the Western Plateaus Coyote is the hero, and in many parts of the
Plains the Rabbit is an important figure. In other regions, heroes of
human form appear. These occur sporadically along the Pacific coast,
but in much more pronounced form on the Great Plains and in the
Mackenzie area, without, however, superseding entirely the animal
heroes. Owing to this difference in the form of the actors, we find the
same tales told of Rabbit, Coyote, Raven, Mink, and Bluejay, but also of
such beings as culture-heroes or human tricksters among the Algonquin,
Sioux, Ponca, and Blackfeet. There is almost no limit to these transfers
465from one actor to another. The story of the Bungling Host is, for instance,
told of all these beings, and other themes are transferred from
one to another with equal ease. Analogous transfers occur frequently
in the case of other figures that are less prominent in the folk-tales. The
sun is snared by Mouse, Rabbit, or beings in human form. Gull and a
person appear as owners of the sun. Kingfisher, Water-Ouzel, or other
birds, play the role of hosts. Chicken-Hawk, Gopher, Deer, or Eagle
steal the fire. Fox, Opossum, or Rabbit dupe Coyote. In part, the animals
that appear in tales are determined by the particular fauna of each
habitat; but, even aside from this, numerous transfers occur. In how
far these changes may be characteristic, aside from the changes of the
main figure, has not yet been determined.

The third point in regard to which the materials of various areas show
characteristic differences is their formal composition; for the impression
that certain types of stories are characteristic of definite areas is not due
mainly to the selection of themes that they contain, and of the actors,
but to the fundamental ideas underlying the plots, and to their general
composition — if I may use the term, to their literary style.

Here a remark should be made in regard to the manner in which the
accumulated material has been utilized for the purpose of theoretical
discussion. When it is merely a question of discussing themes and actors,
it may be justifiable to remain satisfied with data collected without
particular precautions. On the whole, I do not think that the study of
the distribution of tales has been seriously vitiated by the use of unsatisfactory
records, although even here a certain amount of caution must
be demanded. When Dähnhardt makes use of a collection like Phillips's
“Totem Tales,” he vitiates his statements, because neither is the provenience
of the tales given correctly — Alaskan tales, for instance, being told
as collected in Puget Sound — nor are the contents sufficiently reliable to
serve as a basis for conclusions. The tales are throughout changed and
modified so as to satisfy the literary taste of the author. Too little attention
has been paid by students to the necessity of a critical examination
of their material. Such criticism becomes imperative when the formal
composition is to be made the subject of serious study. It is necessary
to know exactly what is native, and what may be due to the literary
taste of the recorder; what may be due to the individual informant,
and what may be tribal characteristic. It is here that the importance of
unadulterated text-material becomes particularly apparent. The neglect
of all critical precautions, which is so characteristic of the manner
in which ethnological material is habitually used, has vitiated the results
466of students, not only in the field of mythology and folk-lore, but perhaps
even more in the study of customs and beliefs; and the time has come
when the indiscriminate use of unsifted material must end.

In a way we may speak of certain negative features that are common
to the tales of the whole American continent. The moralizing fable,
which is so widely spread in Europe, Asia, and Africa, seems to be
entirely absent in America. Professor Van Gennep has claimed that
all primitive folk-tales must be moral. 113 This is true in so far as the plots
of all primitive folk-tales find a happy solution, and must therefore
conform to those standards that are accepted by the narrators. 214 This,
however, is not the same as the moralizing point of the story, that is the
peculiar character of the fable of the Old World. Although the American
tale may be and has been applied by Indians for inculcating moral
truths, this tendency is nowhere part and parcel of the tale. Examples
of the moral application of a tale have been given by Swanton 315 from
Alaska, and by Miss Fletcher 416 from the Pawnee. In the none of these,
however, has the tale itself the moral for its point. It is rather a more
or less far-fetched application of the tale made by the narrator. The
tale can therefore not be classed with the African, Asiatic, and European
animal tales, the whole point of which is the moral that is expressed at
the end. It seems to me very likely that the almost complete absence of
proverbs among the American natives is connected with the absence of
the moralizing literary form, which among the Indians seems to be
confined to the art of the orator who sometimes conveys morals in the
form of metaphoric expression.

The attempt has been made to characterize one or two areas according
to peculiarities of literary form. It is perhaps easiest thus to describe
the folk-tales of the Eskimo, which differ from other American tales in
that the fanciful animal tale with its transformation elements does not
predominate. 517

In other cases, however, the formal elements can be given clear expression
467only when the tales are grouped in a number of classes. Most important
among these are the serious origin tales, the trickster tales, and
tales the incidents of which develop entirely or essentially in human
society. As soon as this division is made, it is found possible to distinguish
a certain number of well-defined types.

We shall take up first of all the origin myths. It is a common trait
of most American origin myths that they deal with the transition from
a mythological period to the modern age, brought about by a number
of disconnected incidents, sometimes centering pre-eminently around
the acts of one particular figure, sometimes by incidents distributed over
a mass of tales that have not even the actions of one being as their connecting
link. On the whole, the mythical world, earth, water, fire,
sun and moon, summer and winter, animals and plants, are assumed
as existing, although they may not possess their present forms, or be
kept and jealously guarded in some part of the world inaccessible to
the human race. We are dealing, therefore, essentially with tales of
expeditions in which, through cunning or force, the phenomena of
nature are obtained for the use of all living beings; and with tales of
transformation in which animals, land and water, obtain their present
forms. We do not find in North America the genealogical sequence of
worlds, one generated by another, that is so characteristic of Polynesia.
The idea of creation, in the sense of a projection into objective existence
of a world that pre-existed in the mind of a creator, is also almost entirely
foreign to the American race. The thought that our world had a
previous existence only as an idea in the mind of a superior being, and
became objective reality by a will, is not the form in which the Indian
conceives his mythology. There was no unorganized chaos preceding
the origin of the world. Everything has always been in existence in
objective form somewhere. This is even true of ceremonials and inventions,
which were obtained by instruction given by beings of another
world. There is, however, one notable exception to this general rule,
for many California tribes possess origin tales which are expressions of
the will of a powerful being who by his thoughts established the present
order. When this type of tale became first known to us through the
collections of Jeremiah Curtin, it appeared so strange, that the thought
suggested itself that we might have here the expression of an individual
mind rather than of tribal concepts, resulting either from the recorder's
attitude or from that of an informant affected by foreign thought.
Further collections, however, have corroborated the impression; and it
468now seems certain that in northern California there exists a group of
true creation tales.

The statement here made needs some further restriction, inasmuch
as we have quite a number of tales explaining the origin of animals and
of mankind as the results of activities of superior beings. Thus we have
stories which tell how men or food-animals were fashioned by the Creator
out of wood, stone, clay, or grass; that they were given life, and
thus became the beings that we see now. It is important to note that
in these cases it is not a mere action of a creative will, but always the
transformation of a material object, which forms the essential feature
of the tale. Furthermore, I believe it can be shown that many of these
tales do not refer to a general creation of the whole species, but that
they rather supply a local or temporary want. For instance, the Creator
carves salmon out of wood, but they are not fit to serve his purpose.
This does not imply that no salmon were in existence before that time,
for we hear later on in the same cycle that the real salmon were obtained
by a party that captured the fish in the mythical salmon country. The
Creator, therefore, had to make artificially an object resembling the real
salmon that existed somewhere else, but his unsuccessful attempt resulted
in the origin of a new species. In another way this point may be
brought out in the story of the origin of death, which appears as part
of the Raven cycle of the North Pacific coast. Here Raven tries to create
man first from stone, then from leaves. Since his attempts to give life
to stones were unsuccessful, and man originated from leaves, man dies
like leaves. The men thus created were, however, not the only ones in
existence. Raven tried to create them only in order to obtain helpers in
a particular kind of work in which he was engaged. Nevertheless the
generalized explanation of death is attached to this story.

There are also marked differences not only in the manner in which
origins are accounted for, but also in the extent to which these elements
enter into tales. While in a large collection of Eskimo stories only
from thirty-five to fifty phenomena are explained, the number is infinitely
greater on the Western Plateaus. In the essay quoted before,
Waterman states that ninety-eight Eskimo tales contain thirty-four explanations,
while in a hundred and eighty-seven Plateau tales, two
hundred and twenty-five explanations are found. This quite agrees with
the impression that we receive by the perusal of tales. In some cases almost
every tale is an origin tale, in others these are few and far between.
For the determination of this element as characteristic of various areas,
469we require, of course, extensive collections, such as are available from
a few tribes only. It is particularly necessary that the tales should not be
gathered from a one-sided standpoint, — as, for instance, for a study of
celestial myths or of animal tales, — because this might give an entirely
erroneous impression. That typical differences exist can be determined
even now. It is particularly striking that in some regions, as on the
Western Plateaus, the explanatory element appears often as the basis
of the plot; while other tribes, like the Eskimo, have a number of very
trifling origin stories almost resembling animal fables. If these are excluded
from the whole mass of explanatory tales, the contrast between
various groups in regard to the importance of the explanatory element
becomes particularly striking.

Marked differences occur also in the selection of the phenomena that
are explained. Among the southern Caddoan tribes the explanation of
stars preponderates. Among the Plateau tribes the largest number of
tales refer to characteristics of animals. Among the Blackfeet and
Kwakiutl the mass of tales relate to ceremonials. Among the Southern
tribes a great number are cosmogonic tales.

Related to this is also the more or less systematic grouping of the tales
in larger cycles. It is but natural that in all those cases in which traits
of animals form the subject of explanatory tales, the tales must be anecdotal
in character and disconnected, even if one person should form the
center of the cycle. It is only when the origin tales are brought together
in such a way that the mythological concepts develop into a systematic
whole, that the origin stories assume the form of a more complex cosmogony.
This point may be illustrated by the long record of the origin
legend of Alaska collected by Swanton, 118 in which obviously a thoughtful
informant has tried to assemble the whole mass of explanatory tales
in the form of a connected myth. Critical study shows not only the
entire lack of cohesion of the parts, but also the arbitrary character of
the arrangement, which is contradicted by all other versions from the
same region. Unifying elements are completely missing, since there is
no elaboration of a cosmogonic concept that forms the background of
the tale.

The same is no less true of the Kwakiutl, among whom the disconnected
character of the origin tales is perhaps even more pronounced,
since they refer in different ways to various aspects of the world; the
origin of animals being treated in one way, the rise of social differences
470of the people in another way, and the supernatural basis of their religious
ceremonials in still another manner. The contrast in form brought
about by the systematization of mythical concepts may be seen clearly
in the case of the Bella Coola, who have developed more definite notions
of the organization of the world, and among whom, for this reason, the
single stories, while still disconnected, are referred clearly to a background
of systematized mythical concepts. The contrast between the
disconnected origin tales and the elaborate cycles is most striking when
we compare the disjointed tales of the Northwest with the long connected
origin myths of the East as we find them among the Iroquois and
Algonquin, and even more when we place them side by side with the
complex myths from the Southwest.

On the whole, these features are characteristic of definite geographical
areas. On the Western Plateaus it is almost entirely the grouping of
the tales around one single hero that makes them into a loosely connected
cycle. So far as we can discover, the single adventures are disconnected,
and only exceptionally a definite sequence of incidents
occurs. The same is largely true of the origin tales of the East and of
the Upper Mississippi region, excepting their complicated introductory
parts. In other districts — as on the Pacific coast between Vancouver
Island and central California — a somewhat more definite order is introduced
by the localization of the tales. A transformer travels over the
country and performs a series of actions, which are told in a definite
order as his journeyings take him from place to place. Thus we have a
definite order, but no inner connection between the incidents. Quite
distinct in type are the origin tales in which the people themselves are
brought to their present home by long-continued migration. It is characteristic
of the northern part of the continent that there is no migration
legend to speak of, that the people consider themselves as autochthonous.
In the Southwest and in Mexico, on the other hand, particular
stress is laid upon the emergence of the tribe from a lower world and
upon its migrations, with which are connected many of the origin stories.
This type, which in its whole setting is quite distinct from that of the
North, occurs wherever Southern influences can be traced, as among
the Arikara, a Caddoan tribe that migrated from the south northward
to the Missouri River.

We may also recognize local characteristics in the details of the methods
by which the present order of things is established. In the Plateau
area, among the Eskimo, and in part at least in eastern North America,
471something happens that. accidentally determines the future. When
Grizzly-Bear, in a tussle, scratches Chipmunk's back, this gives rise to
his stripes. If an animal jumps out of a canoe and breaks off his tail
on the gunwale, this is the reason why it has a short tail. Since an
animal wears down the hair of its bushy tail, it has a hairless tail now.
Because the frog leaped on the moon's face, it stays there. In this
area incidents in which transformations are the result of an intentional
activity are quite rare, although the idea is not quite absent. In the East
the concept of intentional transformation appears particularly in the
tales treating of the origin of the earth and of ceremonies; on the
Plateau it appears from time to time either in the form of councils held
by the animals in order to decide how the world is to be arranged, or
in contests between two antagonistic animals which desire different conditions.
Thus we find in the Plateaus the story of Chipmunk and Bear,
to which I referred before, essentially a contest which is to determine
whether it shall always be day or always night; and in the Coyote cycle
a contest which is to decide whether man shall be immortal.

On this basis a number of types of origins may be distinguished, —
first, origins due to accidental, unintentional occurrences; second, the
formation of the present order according to the decisions of a council
of animals; third, development due to the actions of two antagonistic
beings, the one benevolent and wishing to make everything easy for
man, the other one counteracting these intentions and creating the difficulties
and hardships of life; as a fourth type we may distinguish the
culture-hero tales, the narrative of the migration of men or deities who
wander about and set things right. At the present time it is hardly possible
to group the origin stories quite definitely from these points of
view. In the extreme north the disorganized tale seems to prevail. On
the plateaus of the northern United States and in part of the plains, the
animal council plays an important role. California seems to be the
principal home of the antagonistic formula, although this idea is also
prominent among some Eastern tribes; and culture-hero tales appear
locally on the North Pacific coast, but more prominently in the

We shall next turn to a consideration of the trickster tales. In a sense
these have been referred to in the previous group, because many of the
trickster tales are at the same time origin tales. If, for instance, Coyote
tricks the birds by letting them dance near the fire, and their red eyes
are accounted for in this way, we have here an origin story and a
472trickster tale. At present we are not concerned with this feature, but
rather with the consideration of the question whether certain features can
be found that are characteristic of the whole cycle as developed in various
regions. First of all, it seems of interest to note the degree to which the
whole group of tales is developed. It is absent among the Eskimo, moderately
developed in California, probably not very prominent in the
aboriginal myths of the Southwest, but most prolific on the Northwest
coast, the Northern Plateaus, and in the East. Whether it is a marked
feature of the Athapascan area cannot be decided at present. Some
of the heroes of the trickster cycle have been noted before. Raven,
Mink, Bluejay, on the Northwest coast; Coyote on the Plateaus; Old
Man among the Blackfeet; Ishtiniki among the Ponca; Inktumni
among the Assiniboin; Manabosho, Wishahka, and Glooscap among
various Algonquin tribes, — are some of the prominent figures. Although
a complete list of all the trickster incidents has not been made, it is fairly
clear that a certain number are found practically wherever a trickster
cycle occurs. I have already stated that one group of these tales is confined
to the Western Plateaus, another one to the northern half of the
continent. At present it is more important to note, that, besides these
widely distributed elements, there seem to be in each area a number of
local tales that have no such wide distribution. The characteristics of
the tales appear most clearly when the whole mass of trickster tales in
each region is studied. A comparison of the Raven, Mink, and Bluejay
cycles is instructive. The background of the Raven stories is everywhere
the greedy hunger of Raven. Most of the Raven tales treat of Raven's
endeavors to get plenty of food without effort; and the adventures relate
to his attempts to cheat people out of their provisions and to the punishment
doled out to him by those who have suffered from his tricks. Quite
different in type are the Mink stories. Here we find almost throughout
an erotic background. Mink tries to get possession of girls and of the
wives of his friends. Occasionally only a trick based on his fondness for
sea-eggs is introduced. The Bluejay adventures may be characterized
in still another way. Generally it is his ambition to outdo his betters in
games, on the hunt or in war, that brings him into trouble or induces
him to win by trickery. He has neither a pronounced erotic nor a
notably greedy character. The tricks of the Plateau cycles are not so
easy to characterize, because the deeds of Coyote partake of all the
characteristics just mentioned. Coyote attempts to get food, and his
erotic adventures are fairly numerous; but on the whole these two
473groups are considerably outnumbered by tricks in which he tries to
outdo his rivals.

The identification of trickster and transformer is a feature which
deserves special notice. I have called attention to the fact — borne out
by most of the mythologies in which trickster and culture-hero appear
as one person — that the benefactions bestowed by the culture-hero are
not given in an altruistic spirit, but that they are means by which he
supplies his own needs. 119 Even in his heroic achievements he remains a
trickster bent upon the satisfaction of his own desires. This feature may
be observed distinctly in the Raven cycle of the Northwest coast. He
liberates the sun, not because he pities mankind, but because he desires
it; and the first use he tries to make of it is to compel fishermen to give
him part of their catch. He gets the fresh water because he is thirsty,
and unwillingly spills it all over the world while he is making his escape.
He liberates the fish because he is hungry, and gets the tides in order to
be able to gather shellfish. Similar observations may be made in other
mythological personages that embody the qualities of trickster and
culture-hero. Wherever the desire to benefit mankind is a more marked
trait of the cycle, there are generally two distinct persons, — one the
trickster, the other the culture-hero. Thus the culture-hero of the Pacific
coast gives man his arts, and is called “the one who sets things right.”
He is not a trickster, but all his actions have a distinct bearing upon the
establishment of the modern order. Perhaps the most characteristic feature
of these culture-hero tales is their lack of detail. Many are bare
statements of the fact that something was different from the way it is
now. The hero performs some very simple act, and ordains that these
conditions shall be changed. It is only when the culture-hero concept
rises to greater heights, as it does in the South, that these tales acquire
greater complexity.

Here may also be mentioned the animal tales that belong neither to
the trickster cycle nor to the origin tales. It is hardly possible to give a
general characterization of these, and to distinguish local types, except
in so far as the importance of the tale is concerned. In the Arctic and
the adjoining parts of the continent, we find a considerable number of
trifling animal stories that have hardly any plot. They are in part merely
incidents descriptive of some characteristic of the animal. Some of these
474trifling stories are given the form of origin tales by making the incidents
the cause from which arise certain bodily characteristics of the animals,
but this is not often the case. In the more complex tales which occur
all over the continent, the animals act according to their characteristic
modes of life. Kingfisher dives, Fox is a swift runner, Beaver a good
swimmer who lives in ponds, etc. Their character corresponds to their
apparent behavior. Grizzly-Bear is overbearing and ill-tempered, Bluejay
and Coyote are tricky. A sharp individual characterization, however,
is not common.

We shall now turn to the third group of tales, those dealing with
human society. These can only in part be characterized in the manner
adopted heretofore. Some of their local color is due to the peculiar distribution
of incidents which has been discussed before. On the whole,
however, it is rather the plot as a whole that is characteristic. This may
be exemplified by the incident of the faithless wife, which occurs all
over the continent. The special form of the plot of the woman who has
an animal or supernatural being or some object for a lover, whose
actions are discovered by her husband who disguises himself in her
garments and who deceives and kills the paramour and later on his
wife, is most characteristic of the Northern area, reaching from northeastern
Siberia and the Eskimo district southward to the Mississippi

Individualization of form may also be illustrated by the widely distributed
incident of the deserted child who rescues his people when they
are in distress. The special form of the plot — in which the child makes
his parents and uncles ashamed, is deserted and then helped by animals
that send him larger and larger game until many houses are filled with
provisions, and in which the people offer him their daughters as wives
— is characteristic only of the North Pacific coast. On the Plains the
deserted boy escapes by the help of his protector, and becomes a powerful
hunter. The analysis of the plots has not been carried through in
such detail as to allow us to do more than point out the existence of
characteristic types in definite areas.

Much more striking in this group of tales is their cultural setting,
that reflects the principal occupation and interests of the people. I
have attempted to give a reconstruction of the life of the Tsimshian,
basing my data solely on the recorded mythology. As might perhaps
be expected, all the essential features of their life — the village, its houses,
the sea and land hunt, social relations — appear distinctly mirrored in
475this picture. It is, however, an incomplete picture. Certain aspects of
life do not appeal to the imagination of the story-tellers, and are therefore
not specifically expressed, not even implied in the setting of the
story. It is very striking how little the animal tale — in the instance in
question, the Raven cycle — contributes to this picture. It is also of
interest to note that among the Tsimshian the secret societies — which,
as we conclude from other evidence, have been introduced only lately
— occupy a very unimportant part in the tales, while the potlatch and
the use of crests are two of their most notable features. How accurately
the cultural background of the life of the people is reflected by the form
of its tales, appears in the diversity of form in which the life of various
tribes of the North Pacific coast is mirrored in their traditional lore.
Although the general form is much the same in all, the reconstructions
based on the evidence of their tales exhibit sharp individualization, and
emphasize the differences in social organization, in social customs, in
the importance of the secret societies, and in the great diversity in the
use of crests and other supernatural gifts. A perusal of the available
collections makes it quite clear that in this sense the expression of the
cultural life of the people contained in their tales gives to them a marked
individuality, no matter what the incidents constituting the tales may be.

The reflection of the tribal life, which is characteristic of the tale,
is also expressed in the mass of supernatural concepts that enter into
it and form in part the scenic background on which the story develops,
in part the machinery by means of which the action progresses.

Wundt 120 and Waterman have called attention to the importance of
distinctions between mythical concepts and tales. The cosmological
background does not enter with equal intensity into the folk-tales of
various groups. The Eskimo, who have clearly defined notions regarding
the universe, do not introduce them to any great extent into their
tales; while the various classes of fabulous tribes and beings, shamanism
and witchcraft, occupy a prominent place. On the North Pacific coast
the notions regarding the universe are on the whole vague and contradictory;
nevertheless visits to the sky play an important role in the
tales. The ideas regarding a ladder leading to heaven, and journeys
across the ocean to fabulous countries, also enter into the make-up of
the Northwest-coast traditions. In the South, on the other hand, the
notions in regard to the center of the world, the lower world, and the
four points of the compass, are of importance.476

The groups of fabulous beings that appear in each area exhibit also
sharp characteristics; as the ice giants of the Iroquois and eastern Algonquin,
the stupid giants of the Shoshoni and Kutenai, or the watermonsters
of the South, the horned serpents of eastern America, the
double-headed serpent of the coast of British Columbia, the giant
thunder-bird of Vancouver Island, and the various forms of thunderers
that are found among the different tribes of the continent.

Skinner 121 has recently called attention to the magical machinery that
appears in the tales of human adventure among the Central Algonquin
tribes. These features also characterize the tales of different areas. This
subject has not been analyzed in sufficient detail to allow a definite
grouping, but enough is known to indicate that a natural arrangement
will result which will largely conform to cultural divisions.

This feature is still further emphasized when we direct our attention
to the main plot of the story. I have shown that among the Kwakiutl the
plot of most stories is the authentication of the privileges of a social division
or of a secret society. Wissler has brought out a similar point in his
discussion of Blackfoot tales, 222 many of which seem to explain ritualistic
origins, the rituals themselves being in part dramatic interpretations of
the narratives. The Pawnee and Pueblo stories reflect in the same way
the ritualistic interests of the people. In this sense we may perhaps say
without exaggeration that the folk-tales of each tribe are markedly set
off from those of all other tribes, because they give a faithful picture of
the mode of life and of the chief interests that have prevailed among
the people during the last few generations. These features appear most
clearly in the study of their hero-tales. It is therefore particularly in
this group that an analogy between the folk-tale and the modern novel
is found. The tales dealing with the feats of men are more plastic than
those relating to the exploits of animals, although the animal world, to
the mind of the Indian, was not so very different from our own.

The events occurring among the animals are less individualized so far
as the tribal mode of life is concerned. At best we may infer from them
whether we deal with buffalo-hunters of the Plains, fishermen of the
Western coast, people of the Arctic or of the Southern desert. The more
complex activities of the tribe appear rarely pictured in them, and then
only incidentally.477

In the human tale the narrator gives us a certain amount of characterization
of individuals, of their emotions, — like pity and love, —
of their courage and cowardice, on which rests the plot of the story.
The development of individual character does not proceed beyond this
point. We do not find more than schematic types, which are, however,
forms that occur in the every-day life of the people. On the contrary,
the origin and trickster cycles deal with types that are either so impersonal
that they do not represent any individual, or are merely the personification
of greed, amorousness, or silly ambition. Wherever there is
individuality of character, it is rather the expression of the apparent
nature of the personified animal, not the character that fits particularly
well into human society.

Considering the characteristic of the human tale as a whole, we may
say that in all probability future study will show that its principal characteristics
may be well defined by the cultural areas of the continent.
How close this correspondence may be remains to be seen. The problem
is an interesting and important one, because it is obvious that the tales,
while readily adaptable, do not follow all the aspects of tribal life with
equal ease, and a certain lack of adjustment may become apparent.
This will serve as a valuable clue in the further study of the development
of tribal customs and of the history of the distribution of tales. I
have pointed out the probability of such incomplete adjustment in the
case of the Kwakiutl, and Wissler has made a similar point in regard to
the Blackfeet.

While much remains to be done in the study of the local characteristics
of folk-tales in regard to the points referred to, a still wider field
of work is open in all that concerns their purely formal character, and
I can do no more than point out the necessity of study of this subject.
On the basis of the material hitherto collected, we are hardly in a position
to speak of the literary form of the tales. I am inclined to count
among their formal traits the typical repetition of the same incident
that is found among many tribes; or the misfortunes that befall a number
of brothers, until the last one is successful in his undertaking. These
have the purpose of exciting the interest and leading the hearer to anticipate
with increased eagerness the climax. Quite different from this is
a device used by the Tsimshian, who lead up to a climax by letting an
unfortunate person be helped in a very insignificant way. The help
extended to him becomes more and more potent, until the climax is
478reached, in which the sufferer becomes the fortunate possessor of power
and wealth.

Another artistic device that is used by many tribes to assist in the
characterization of the actors is the use of artificial changes in speech.
Thus among the Kwakiutl the Mink cannot pronounce the sound ts,
among the Kutenai Coyote cannot pronounce s, among the Chinook
the animals speak different dialects. Dr. Sapir 123 has called attention to
the development of this feature among the Shoshoni and Nootka.

The literary style is most readily recognized in the poetic parts of
tales; but, since these fall, mostly outside of the purely narrative part
of the stories, I do not enter into this subject. We may contrast the
simplicity of style of the Northwest coast — where poems consist sometimes
of the introduction of a single word into a musical line, the music
being carried on by a burden, sometimes of a purely formal enumeration
of the powers of supernatural beings — with the metaphoric expression
and fine feeling for beauty that pervade the poetry of the Southwestern
Indians. Equally distinct are the rhythmic structures that are
used by the Indians of various areas. 224 We must be satisfied here with
a mere hint at the significance of these data. The desire may be expressed,
however, that greater care should be taken in the collection of
the material to make possible a thorough study of this aspect of our

V. Regent History of American Folk-Tales

Our considerations allow us to draw a number of inferences in regard
to the history of American folk-tales. We have seen that there is no
tribe in North America whose tales can be considered as purely local
products uninfluenced by foreign elements. We have found that some
tales are distributed over almost the whole continent, others over more
or less extended parts of the country. We have seen, furthermore, that
the tales of each particular area have developed a peculiar literary style,
which is an expression of the mode of life and of the form of thought of
the people; that the actors who appear in the various tales are quite
distinct in different parts of the country; and that the associated explanatory
479elements depend entirely upon the different styles of thought.
In one case the tales are used to explain features of the heavenly bodies;
in others, forms of the land, of animals or of rituals, according to the
chief interests of the people. It is fully borne out by the facts brought
forward, that actors, explanatory tendencies, cultural setting, and literary
form, of all modern American tales, have undergone constant and
fundamental changes. If we admit this, it follows that the explanations
that are found in modern tales must be considered almost entirely as
recent adaptations of the story, not as its integral parts; and neither
they nor the names of the actors reveal to us what the story may have
been in its original form — if we may speak of such a form. Everything
appears rather in flux. For this reason the attempt to interpret the history
of the modern tale as a reflection of the observation of nature is
obviously not justifiable. The data of American folk-lore do not furnish
us with a single example that would prove that this process has contributed
to the modern development of folk-tales. It would almost seem
safer to say that the creative power that has manifested itself in modern
times is very weak, and that the bulk of our tales consist of combinations
and recombinations of old themes. At the same time the marked differentiation
in the style of composition shows that the mainspring in
the formation of the modern tale must have been an artistic one. We
observe in them not only the result of the play of imagination with
favorite themes, but also the determination of the form of imaginative
processes by antecedent types, which is the characteristic trait of artistic
production of all times and of all races and peoples. I am therefore
inclined to consider the folk-tale primarily and fundamentally as a work
of primitive art. The explanatory element would then appear, not as
an expression of native philosophy, but rather as an artistic finishing
touch required for the tale wherever the art of story-telling demands it.
Instead of being the mainspring of the story, it becomes in one case a
stylistic embellishment, while in another it is required to give an impressive
setting. In either case the occurrence of the explanation cannot
be reduced to a rationalizing activity of primitive man.

In a sense these results of our studies of American folk-lore are unsatisfactory,
because they lead us only to recognize a constant play with
old themes, variations in explanatory elements attached to them, and
the tendency to develop various types of artistic style. They do not
bring us any nearer to an understanding of the origin of the themes,
explanations, and styles. If we want to carry on our investigation into
480a remoter past, it may be well to ask, first of all, how long the present
development of mosaics of different style may have continued; whether
there is any proof that some tribes have been the originators from whom
others derived much of their lore; and whether we have any evidence
of spontaneous invention that may have influenced large territories.

Since historical data are not available, we are confined to the application
of an inductive method of inquiry. We may ask how large a portion
of the folk-tales of a tribe are its sole property, and how many they
share with other tribes. If a comparison of this kind should show a
large number of elements that are the sole property of one tribe, while
others have only little that is their exclusive property, it would perhaps
seem justifiable to consider the former as originators, the latter as recipients
; and we may conclude either that their own older folk-tales have
disappeared or that they possessed very few only. It is not easy to form
a fair judgment of the originality of the folk-tales of each tribe in the
manner here suggested, because the collections are unequally complete,
and because collectors or narrators are liable to give preference to one
particular kind of tale to the exclusion of others. It is always difficult
to base inferences on the apparent absence of certain features that may
be discovered, after all, to exist; and this seems particularly difficult in
our case. Still it might be possible to compare at least certain definite
cycles that have been collected fairly fully, and that occur with equal
exuberance in various areas; as, for instance, the trickster cycles of the
Plains. On the whole, I gain the impression that not a single tribe appears
as possessing considerably more originality than another.

One interesting point appears with great clearness; namely, the
number of tales of certain types to become a prolific source of tales of
similar import, provided the original tales are of social importance in
the life of the people. Thus the Kwakiutl have apparently a considerable
originality among their neighbors on the North Pacific coast, because
all the numerous social divisions and secret societies of the tribe
possess origin tales of the same type; so that a complete list would probably
include hundreds of stories more or less strictly built on the same
pattern. The ritualistic tales of the Blackfeet form another group of
this kind; and the same may be true of the tales of the Mackenzie area
dealing with the marriages between human beings and animals. It-,
these cases we deal with one particular style of story, that has gained
great popularity, and therefore appears in an endless number of variants.

Another condition that may lead to a strong individuality in a certain
481group develops when the tales are placed in the keeping of a small class
of priests or chiefs, as the case may be. The more important the tale
becomes on account of its association with the privileges and rituals of
certain sections of the tribe, and the greater the emotional and social
values of the customs with which it is associated, the more have the
keepers of the ritual brooded over it in all its aspects; and with this we
find a systematic development of both tale and ritual. This accounts
for the relation between the occurrence of complex rituals in charge
of a priestly class or of chiefs, and of long myths which have an esoteric
significance. The parallelism of distribution of religious or social groups
led by single individuals and of complex mythologies is so striking, that
there can be little doubt in regard to their psychological connection.
The Mexicans, the Pueblo tribes, the Pawnee, the Bella Coola, the
Maidu, 125 may be given as examples. The contrast between a disorganized
mass of folk-tales and the more systematic mythologies seems to
lie, therefore, in the introduction of an element of individual creativeness
in the latter. The priest or chief as a poet or thinker takes hold of the
folk-traditions and of isolated rituals and elaborates them in dramatic
and poetic form. Their systematization is brought about by the centralization
of thought in one mind. Under the social conditions in
which the Indians live, the keeper transfers his sacred knowledge in an
impressive manner to his successor. The forms in which the sacred
teachings appear at the present time are therefore the cumulative effect
of systematic elaboration by individuals, that has progressed through

This origin of the complex of myth and ritual makes it also intelligible
why among some tribes the myths of sub-groups should be contradictory.
An instance of this are the Bella Coola, among whom the
tradition is in the keeping of the chief of the village community, and
among whom each community has its own concept in regard to its
origins. These contradictory traditions are the result of individual
thought in each community, and do not come into conflict, because
the audience identifies itself with the reciting chief, and the truth of
one poetic creation does not destroy the truth of another one.

For a correct interpretation of these art-productions we must also
482bear in mind that the materials for the systematic composition are the
disconnected folk-tales and lesser rites of the tribe, which have been
welded into a whole. From a psychological point of view, it is therefore
not justifiable to consider the exoteric tales, as is so often done, degenerate
fragments of esoteric teaching. It is true that they themselves undergo
changes due to the influence of the priestly doctrine, but there is
a constant giving and taking; and nowhere in America has the individual
artist freed himself of the fetters of the type of thought expressed
in the disjointed folk-tales. The proof for this contention is found in
the sameness of the elements that enter into the tales of tribes with systematic
mythology and of those without it.

The only alternative explanation of the observed phenomenon would
be the assumption that all this material had its origin in more highly
developed and systematized mythologies. It might be claimed that the
remains of the Ohio mounds, the highly-developed artistic industries of
the ancient inhabitants of the Lower Mississippi, and of the cliff-dwellings,
prove that a high type of culture must have existed in many parts
of the country, where at a later period only less complex cultural forms
were found. The elaborateness of religious ceremonial of these times is
proved by the characteristics of archaeological finds. It is quite true
that in the border area of Mexico, including under this term the whole
region just mentioned, many fluctuations in cultural development must
have occurred; but this does not prove their existence over the whole
continent. Furthermore, the individuality of each folk-loristic area is
such, that we must count the imaginative productiveness of each tribe
as an important element in the development of the present situation.
From this point of view, inquiries into the independence of each area,
rather than investigations of the effect of diffusion, will be of the greatest
value. The theory of degeneration is not supported by any facts; and I
fail entirely to see how the peculiar form of American systematic mythology
can be explained, except as the result of an artistic elaboration
of the disconnected folk-tales, and how its character, which parallels
primitive concepts, can be interpreted, except as the result of priestly
speculation based on the themes found in folk-tales.

VI. Mythological Concepts in Folk-Tales

Our consideration of American folk-tales has so far dealt with their
later history. The result of this inquiry will help us in the treatment of
the question, What may have been the origin of these tales? It is obvious
483that in an historical inquiry for which no literary record of ancient
mythology is available, we must try first of all to establish the processes
that are active at the present time. There is no reason for assuming
that similar processes should not have been active in earlier times, at
least as long as the types of human culture were approximately on the
same level as they are now. The art-productions of the Magdalenian
period show how far back the beginning of these conditions may be
placed; and so far we have no evidence that indicates that the American
race as such has ever passed through a time in which its mental
characteristics were different from those of modern man. The antiquity
of cultural achievement in Mexico, the finds made in ancient shell-heaps,
prove that for thousands of years man in America has been in
possession of a type of cultural development not inferior to that of the
modern, more primitive tribes. It may therefore be inferred that the
processes that are going on now have been going on for a very long
period. Constant diffusion of the elements of stories, and elaboration
of new local types of composition, must have been the essential characteristic
of the history of folk-tales. On the whole, invention of new
themes must have been rare; and where it occurred, it was determined
by the prevailing type of composition.

Disregarding the actors who appear in the stories, their contents deal
almost throughout with events that may occur in human society, sometimes
with plausible events, more often with fantastic adventures that
cannot have their origin in actual human experiences. From these
facts two problems develop that have given rise to endless speculation
and discussion, — the first, Why are these human tales told of animals,
of the heavenly bodies, and of personified natural phenomena? the
other, Why is it that certain fantastic elements have a world-wide

The transfer of human experience to animals and personified objects
has given rise to the view that all tales of this type are nature myths
or an expression of the naive primitive conception of nature. It has
been clearly recognized that the themes are taken from human life,
and used to express the observation of nature. The first question to
be answered is therefore, How does it happen that the tales are so often
removed from the domain of human society? Wundt has discussed
this question in his comprehensive work on mythology, 126 in so far as
the personification of nature is concerned. This discussion refers to
484mythological concepts, not to the tales as such. It is obvious, however,
that once the human character of animals and objects is given, the tales
become applicable to them.

Another element may have helped in the development of animal
tales, once the personification was established. In folk-tales every human
being is considered as a distinct individual, and the mere name of a
person does not characterize the individual. Moreover, named individuals
are not very common in American folk-tales. The animal, on the
other hand, is immortal. From the bones of the killed game arises the
same individual hale and sound, and thus continues its existence indefinitely.
Therefore the species, particularly in the mythological period
is conceived as one individual, or at most as a family group. This may
also have helped to create the normative character of the tales. If an
animal rubbed the hair off its tail, then all animals that are its descendants
have the same kind of a tail. If all the thunder-birds were killed
except one, their loss of power becomes permanent. I presume the
identification of species and of individuals which is inherent in the
personification of nature was an important element contributing to the
development of this concept. It goes without saying that the result was
not obtained by conscious reasoning. The substitution of individual for
species merely favored the explanatory features of animal tales. The
tendency to substitute for these transformations others in which events
were due to the decision of a council, or where they were ordained by
a culture-hero, may be due to a feeling of dissatisfaction with the simple
type of transformation and the condensation of the whole species into
one individual.

In all these tales the explanatory element must be considered as an
idea that arose in the mind of the narrator suddenly by an associative
process. I differ from Wundt in the importance that I ascribe to the
looseness of connection between explanatory elements and the tale, a
phenomenon to which he also refers. 127 It is not simply the apperceptive
process, in which the subjective emotions are transferred to the object,
that gives rise to the explanatory element in the tales; but the elements
of mythological concepts are thoughts suggested first of all by the
appropriateness of the pre-existing tale, and therefore depend in the
first instance upon its literary form. For this reason the great difference
in the character of folk-tales of America and those of Africa does not
appear to me as a difference in the stages of their development. The
485moralizing tendency of the African tale is an art-form that has been
typical for the Negro, but foreign to the American; and I can see no
genetic connection between the explanatory and the moralizing tale.

While these considerations make the animal tale intelligible, they are
not by any means a satisfactory explanation of the great importance of
animal and nature tales in the folk-lore of all the peoples of the world;
and it would seem that at present we have to accept this as one of the
fundamental facts of mythology, without being able to give an adequate
reason for its development.

The last question that we have to discuss is the significance of those
traits of folk-lore that are of world-wide occurrence. Particularly in
reference to this fact the claim is made that the wide distribution of
the same elements can be explained only when we assume that they are
derived from a direct observation of nature, and that for this reason
they appear to primitive man as obvious facts. This subject has been
treated fully by Ehrenreich 128 and other representatives of that mythological
school which derives the origin of myths from the impressions
that man received from nature, particularly from the heavenly

So far as I can see, all that has been done by these investigations is
to show that when we start with the hypothesis that myths are derived
from the impressions conveyed by the heavenly bodies, we can fit the
incidents of myths into this hypothesis by interpreting their features
accordingly. Lessmann 229 even goes so far as to state definitely that
whatever cannot be derived from characteristics of the moon is not
mythology. This, of course, ends all possible discussion of the relation
between folk-tales and myths. In the passage referred to, Ehrenreich
says that the phases of the moon produce certain types of myths. The
new moon is represented in the supernatural birth through the side of
the mother, and in the incident of a new-born hero lying in a manger
or shell. The full moon is the hero in the fulness of his power and
after his victories over dark demons. The waning of the moon is the
cutting-up or the slow swallowing of the hero's body. The new moon
is represented in decapitations with a sword, in test by fire, or in the
cutting of sinews. In this enumeration of interpretations I cannot see
486any proof of his thesis, since he does not show that the same ideas may
not have developed in some other way. 130

Ehrenreich and other adherents of the modern cosmogonic school
make the fundamental assumption that myths must represent phenomena
actually seen, — a theory that seems to me based on a misconception
of the imaginative process. The productions of imagination
are not by any means the images of sense-experiences, although they
are dependent upon them; but in their creation the emotional life plays
an important role. When we are filled with an ardent desire, imagination
lets us see the desire fulfilled. As a phenomenon strikes us with
wonder, its normal features will be weakened and the wonderful element
will be emphasized. When we are threatened by danger, the cause of
our fear will impress us as endowed with extraordinary powers. It is
a common characteristic of all these situations that the actual sense-experience
may either be exaggerated or turned into its opposite, and
that the impossible fulfilment of a wish is realized. After the death of
a dear relative, neither we nor primitive man speculate as to what may
have become of his soul; but we feel a burning wish to undo what has
happened, and in the free play of fancy we see the dead come back to
life. The slain leader in battle whose dismembered body is found, is
seen restored to full vigor. The warrior surrounded by enemies, when
all means of retreat are cut off, will wish to pass unseen through the
ranks of the foes, and in a strong imagination the wish will become
a reality. Many of the ideas that are common to all mythologies may
thus be readily understood, and there is no need to think of the waning
and waxing moon when we hear of the cutting-up or flaying of a
person, and of his revival. These are ideas that are readily suggested
by the very fact that the ordinary processes of imagination must call
them forth.

No less is this true of the forms of demons which can easily be understood
as fanciful distortions of experiences. Laistner's theory of the
importance of the nightmare 231 as giving rise to many of these forms is
suggestive; perhaps not in the sense in which he formulates it, —
because the form of the nightmare will in all probability depend upon
the ideas that are current in the belief of the people, — but because
dreams are simply one form in which the creations of imagination
487appear, and because they indicate what unexpected forms the fear-inspiring
apparition may take. Still other mythic forms may be
explained by the aesthetic transformations produced by the power of
imagination. It is not only that the beauty of form is exaggerated, but
the comic or tragic elements lead equally to transformations of sense-experience.
I think it is quite possible to explain in this way the beautiful
shining persons with bright hair, and also the cripples with distorted
bodies, covered with warts and other disfigurements.

In short, there is hardly a single trait of all the mythologies that does
not reflect naturally, by exaggeration or by contrast, the ordinary sense-experiences
of man. It is only when we deny that these processes are
characteristic of the imagination that we are confronted with any difficulty,
and that we have to look for the origin of these forms outside of
human society. As compared to this very simple view of the origin of
the elementary forms of myths, the attempt to seek their prototypes
in the sky seems to my mind far-fetched. It may also be said in favor
of this view, that the combination of features that are demanded as
characteristic of the sun, the moon, or other personified beings, appear
only seldom combined in one and the same mythical figure. This has
been clearly demonstrated by Lowie. 132

These considerations show also that psychological conditions may
bring about similarity of ideas without an underlying historical connection,
and that the emphasis laid on the historical side must be
supported by careful inquiry into those features in the life of man that
may be readily explained by similarities in the reactions of the mind.
Methodologically the proof of such independent origin of similar phenomena
offers much more serious difficulties than a satisfactory proof
of historical connection. The safeguards that must be demanded here
are analogous to those previously described. 233 As we demanded before,
as criteria of historical connection, actual evidence of transmission, or
at least clear proof of the existence of lines of transmission and of the
identity of subject-matter, so we must now call for proof of the lack
of historical connection or of the lack of identity of phenomena. Obviously
these proofs are much more difficult to give. If we were to confine
ourselves to the evidence contained in folk-tales, it might be an impossible
task to prove in a convincing manner the independent origin of
488tales, because the possibility of the transmission of a single idea always
exists. It is only on the basis of our knowledge of the limitations of
areas over which inventions, art-forms, and other cultural achievements,
have spread, that we can give a basis for safer conclusions. On account
of the sharp contrast between America and the Old World in the material
basis of civilization, and the restriction of imported material to
the northwestern part of the continent, to which we have already referred,
we are safe in assuming that similar cultural traits that occurred
in pre-Columbian time in the southern parts of the two continental
areas are of independent origin. In more restricted areas it is all but
impossible to give satisfactory proof of the absence of contact.

More satisfactory are our means for determining the lack of identity
of apparently analogous phenomena. Historical inquiry shows that
similar ideas do not always arise from the same preceding conditions;
that either their suggested identity does not exist or the similarity of
form is due to an assimilation of phenomena that are distinct in origin,
but develop under similar social stress. When a proof of this type can
be given, and the psychological processes involved are clearly intelligible,
there is good reason for assuming an independent origin of the ideas.

A case in point is presented by the so-called “sacred” numbers. 134
I am not inclined to look at these primarily as something of transcendental
mystic value; it seems to me more plausible that the concept
developed from the aesthetic values of rhythmic repetition. Its emotional
effect is obviously inherent in the human mind; and the artistic
use of repetition may be observed wherever the sacred number exists,
and where it is not only used in reference to distinct objects, but also in
rhythmic repetitions of tunes, words, elements of literary composition
and of actions. Thus the difference in favorite rhythms may
account for the occurrence of different sacred numbers; and since the
preference for a definite number is a general psychological phenomenon,
their occurrence is not necessarily due to historical transmission, but
may be considered as based on general psychological factors. The differences
between the sacred numbers would then appear as different
manifestations of this mental reaction. In the same way the idea of
revival of the dead, or of the power to escape unseen, is a simple reaction
of the imagination, and is not due, wherever it occurs, to a common
historical source. These ideas develop naturally into similar incidents
in stories that occur in regions widely apart, and must be interpreted
489as the effect of psychological processes that bring about a convergent
development in certain aspects of the tales. An instructive example is
presented by the tales of the origin of death. The idea of the origin of
death is readily accounted for by the desire to see the dead alive again,
which often must have been formulated as the wish that there should
be no death. The behavior of man in all societies proves the truth of
this statement. Thus the imaginative processes are set in motion which
construct a deathless world, and from this initial point develop the
stories of the introduction of death in accordance with the literary types
of transformation stories. The mere occurrence of stories of the origin
of death — in one place due to the miscarriage of a message conveyed
by an animal, in others by a bet or a quarrel between two beings — is
not a proof of common origin. This proof requires identity of the stories.
We can even understand how, under these conditions, stories of similar
literary type may become almost identical in form without having a
common origin. Where the line is to be drawn between these two
types of development cannot be definitely decided. In extreme cases
it will be possible to determine this with a high degree of probability;
but a wide range of material will always remain, in which no decision
can be made.

The limitation of the application of the historical method described
here defines also our attitude towards the Pan-Aryan, and Pan-Babylonian
theories. The identification of the elements of different folk-tales
made by the adherents of these theories are not acceptable from our
methodological standpoint. The proofs of dissemination are not of the
character demanded by us. The psychological basis for the assumption
of an imaginative unproductiveness of all the races of man, with the
exception of one or two, cannot be proved; and the origin of the myth
in the manner demanded by the theories does not seem plausible.

The essential problem regarding the ultimate origin of mythologies
remains — why human tales are preferably attached to animals, celestial
bodies, and other personified phenomena of nature. It is clear enough
that personification makes the transfer possible, and that the distinctness
and individualization of species of animals and of personified phenomena
set them off more clearly as characters of a tale than the
undifferentiated members of mankind. It seems to me, however, that
the reason for their preponderance in the tales of most tribes of the
world has not been adequately given.490

11 Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. 27 (1914), pp. 374-410.

21 Wilhelm Wundt, Völkerpsychologie, vol. 2, part 3, Leipzig (1909), p. 62.

31 See Boas, “Dissemination of Tales Among the Natives of North America,”
Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. 4 (1891), pp. 13-20, pp. 437-445 of this volume;
W. Wundt, Völkerpsychologie, vol. 2, part 3, p. 62; Van Gennep, La formation des
(1910), p. 49.

41 Leo Frobenius, Im Zeitalter des Sonnengotts; Paul Ehrenreich, Die Mythen und
Legenden der Südamerikanischen Urvölker
, pp. 34-59; Robert H. Lowie, “The Test-Theme
in North American Mythology,” Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. 21
(1908), p. 101; A. L. Kroeber, “Catchwords in American Mythology,” ibid., vol. 21
(1908), p. 222; see also T. T. Waterman, “The Explanatory Element in the Folk-Tales
of the North American Indians,” ibid., vol. 27 (1914), pp. 1-54.

51 See T. T. Waterman, op. cit., pp. 1-54.

61 Franz Boas, “Tsimshian Mythology,” 31st Annual Report of the Bureau of
American Ethnology
(1916), pp. 694 et seq.

72 P. Ehrenreich, Die Mythen und Legenden der sudamerikanischen Urvölker und
ihre Beziehungen zu denen Nordamerikas und der Alien Welt

83 O. Dähnhardt, Natursagen, vols. i-iv. References are given in the index to
these volumes (Leipzig, 1907-1912).

94 Leo Frobenius, Die Weltanschauung der Naturvölker (Weimar, 1898).

101 Roland B. Dixon, “The Independence of the Culture of the American Indian,”
Science, 1912, pp. 46-55.

112 O. von Hornbostel, “Über ein akustisches Kriterium für Kulturzusammenhänge,”
(Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, vol. 43, 1911, pp. 601-615).

123 Most of this material has been published in the Journal of American Folk-Lore,
vols. 25-27 (1912-14); see also Rand, Legends of the Micmacs (New York, 1894).

131 La formation des légendes (1910, 1912), p. 16.

142 Friedrich Panzer, Märchen, Sage und Dichtung (Munich, 1905), p. 14.

153 John R. Swanton, “Tlingit Myths and Texts,” Bureau of American Ethnology,
Bulletin 39 (1909).

164 Alice C. Fletcher, “The Hako,” 22d Annual Report of the Bureau of American
, part 2 (1904).

175 Dr. Paul Radin states that the tales from Smith Sound published by Knud
Rasmussen show that in Eskimo folk-lore the animal tale is as marked as among the
Indians. This view does not seem to me warranted by the facts. The type of trifling
animal tales recorded in Smith Sound has long been known, and differs fundamentally
from animal tales common to the rest of the continent (article “Eskimo,” in
Hastings' Cyclopedia of Religions),

181 John R. Swanton, Tlingit Myths and Texts, op. cit., pp. 80 et seq.

191 Introduction to James Teit, “Traditions of the Thompson River Indians of British
Columbia,” Memoirs of the American Folk-lore Society, vol. 7 (1898); see pp.
407 et seq. of this volume.

201 Wilhelm Wundt, Völkerpsychologie, vol. 2, part 3 (Leipzig, 1909), p. 19.

211 A. Skinner, Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. 27 (1914), pp. 97-100.

222 Clark Wissler and D. C. Duvall, “Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians” (Anthropological
Papers, American Museum of Natural History
, vol. 2, p. 12).

231 E. Sapir, “Song Recitative in Paiute Mythology” (The Journal of American
, vol. 23 (1910), pp. 456-457).

242 See, for instance, Alice G. Fletcher, “The Hako” (22d Annual Report of the
Bureau of American Ethnology
, part 2, pp. 282-368).

251 Roland B. Dixon, who has pointed out the systematic character of their mythology,
finds some difficulty in accounting for it, considering the simple economic
and artistic life of the people. His own descriptions, however, show the great importance
of personal leadership in all religious affairs of the tribe (Bull. Am. Mus. Nat.
, vol. 17).

261 Völkerpsychologie, vol. 2, part 1 (1905), pp. 577 et seq.

271 Ibid. Part 3, p. 183.

281 P. Ehrenreich, Die allgemeine Mythologie und ihre ethnologischen Grundlagen
(Leipzig, 1910), pp. 100 et seq.

292 H. Lessmann, “Aufgaben und Ziele der vergleichenden Mythenforschung”
(Mythologische Bibliothek (Leipzig, 1908), I4, pp. 31 et seq.).

301 See also the criticism by A. van Gennep, in his Réligions, mœurs et légendes,
pp. 111 et seq.

312 Ludwig Laistner, Das Rätsel der Sphinx, Berlin, 1889.

321 Robert H. Lowie, “The Test-Theme,” etc. (Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol.
21, 1908, p. 101).

333 See p. 458 of this volume.

341 See also p. 478 of this volume.