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Custom and Myth

Page: 39

Siati wept, but the god’s daughter had the house built by the evening. The other adventures were to fight a fierce dog, and to find a ring lost at sea. Just as the Scotch giant’s daughter cut off her fingers to help her lover, so the Samoan god’s daughter bade Siati cut her body into pieces and cast her into the sea. There she became a fish, and recovered the ring. They set off to the god’s house, but met him pursuing them, with the help of his other daughter. ‘Puapae and Siati threw down the comb, and it became a bush of thorns in the way to intercept the god and Puanli,’ the other daughter. Next they threw down a bottle of earth which became a mountain; ‘and then followed their bottle of water, and that became a sea, and drowned the god and Puanli.’ {99b}

This old Samoan song contains nearly the closest savage parallel to the various household tales which find their heroic and artistic shape in the Jason saga. Still more surprising in its resemblances is the Malagasy version of the narrative. In the Malagasy story, the conclusion is almost identical with the winding up of the Scotch fairy tale. The girl hides in a tree; her face, seen reflected in a well, is mistaken by women for their own faces, and the recognition follows in due course. {99c}

Like most Red Indian versions of popular tales, the Algonquin form of the Jason saga is strongly marked with the peculiarities of the race. The story is recognisable, and that is all.

The opening, as usual, differs from other openings. Two children are deserted in the wilderness, and grow up to manhood. One of them loses an arrow in the water; the elder brother, Panigwun, wades after it. A magical canoe flies past: an old magician, who is alone in the canoe, seizes Panigwun and carries him off. The canoe fleets along, like the barques of the Phæacians, at the will of the magician, and reaches the isle where, like the Samoan god of song, he dwells with his two daughters. ‘Here, my daughter,’ said he, ‘is a young man for your husband.’ But the daughter knew that the proposed husband was but another victim of the old man’s magic arts. By the daughter’s advice, Panigwun escaped in the magic barque, consoled his brother, and returned to the island. Next day the magician, Mishosha, set the young man to hard tasks and perilous adventures. He was to gather gulls’ eggs; but the gulls attacked him in dense crowds. By an incantation he subdued the birds, and made them carry him home to the island. Next day he was sent to gather pebbles, that he might be attacked and eaten by the king of the fishes. Once more the young man, like the Finnish Ilmarinen in Pohjola, subdued the mighty fish, and went back triumphant. The third adventure, as in ‘Nicht Nought Nothing,’ was to climb a tree of extraordinary height in search of a bird’s nest. Here, again, the youth succeeded, and finally conspired with the daughters to slay the old magician. Lastly the boy turned the magician into a sycamore tree, and won his daughter. The other daughter was given to the brother who had no share in the perils. {101} Here we miss the incident of the flight; and the magician’s daughter, though in love with the hero, does not aid him to perform the feats. Perhaps an Algonquin brave would scorn the assistance of a girl. In the ‘Kalevala,’ the old hero, Wäinämöinen, and his friend Ilmarinen, set off to the mysterious and hostile land of Pohjola to win a bride. The maiden of Pohjola loses her heart to Ilmarinen, and, by her aid, he bridles the wolf and bear, ploughs a field of adders with a plough of gold, and conquers the gigantic pike that swims in the Styx of Finnish mythology. After this point the story is interrupted by a long sequel of popular bridal songs, and, in the wandering course of the rather aimless epic, the flight and its incidents have been forgotten, or are neglected. These incidents recur, however, in the thread of somewhat different plots. We have seen that they are found in Japan, among the Eskimo, among the Bushmen, the Samoyeds, and the Zulus, as well as in Hungarian, Magyar, Celtic, and other European household tales.


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