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came. In such a test as I propose, aboriginal statements that a certain tribe originated in the very spot in which it now lives must be considered exactly on the same plane as any other tradition. Similarly, all statements of a heavenly or underground origin are of equal importance, for our purpose, with any other migration legends. The fact that they are regarded as historical by the natives, is decisive as to their inclusion on equal terms in any such survey as I here suggest. Now, we know that very few of our Indians could have descended from the skies or climbed from an underground world within the period of tribal differentiation of the American race; and we also know that very few of them could have arisen in the territory they now occupy, or could have occupied it for very long periods. The Yuchi, for example, have no migration legend, and consider themselves the original inhabitants of eastern Georgia and South Carolina; * but we have recently been reminded that while the English colonists of 1670 refer to them as a very powerful nation, the earlier Spanish explorers between 1539 and 1567 mention no such tribe.* The assumption, consequently, is that they moved into their later habitat about the latter part of the sixteenth century. This case may be taken as typical. If events dating back three hundred years are no longer recollected, we must discount the evidence of such traditional lore, and cannot accept absence of migration storie$ as proof of longcontinued occupancy.

What, however, of the cases in which native traditions agree with objective results? The fact is simply this. The number of cardinal directions is four, or, if we include heaven and earth, six. The probability that a tribe will, in a purely mythical way, ascribe its origin to any particular one of these directions, is therefore one-fourth or one-sixth. Pending the statistical inquiries I have suggested, I wish to record emphatically the impression gained from years of experience with Indian mythology, that the proportion of historically correct statements will not be found to exceed that to be expected on the doctrine of chances.

My position, then, towards oral tradition, may be summarized as follows: It is not based, in the first instance, on a universal negative unjustifiably derived from a necessarily limited number of instances, but on the conviction that aboriginal history is only a part of that hodgepodge of aboriginal lore which embraces primitive theories of the universe generally, and that its a priori claims to greater respect on our part are nil. Such claims must be established empirically, if at all; but, so far as my experience extends, the empirical facts are diametrically opposed to such claims. The primitive tribes I know have no historical sense; and from.this point of view the question whether they retain the memory of actual events, while interesting in itself, is of no moment for our present problem. The point is, not whether they recollect happenings, but whether they recollect the happenings that are historically significant. Otherwise a perfectly true statement may be as dangerous as a wholly false one. If the correct description of an excursion to a northern hunting-ground by part of a tribe is interpreted as the account of a permanent northern migration by the entire population, the result is wholly destructive of history.

1 Speck, Ethnology of the Yuchi Indians (U Penn i [No. l] : 8).

'Swanton and Dixon, "Primitive American History" (American Anthropologist. N.S. 16 : 383).

This leads us from the field of academic discussion to that of practical work. The question that confronts the ethnological practitioner is not whether primitive history in general is trustworthy, but whether a particular aboriginal statement is correct or not. Now, what are the criteria by which its accuracy can be established? The only criterion that has ever been applied, to my knowledge, is that of physical possibility. But, as our Nez Perc6 illustration shows, this test is worthless: we simply shift, to use Tylor's expressive phrase, from untrue impossibilities to untrue possibilities. We know now that even trifling stories of war and quarrels are often not records of actual occurrences, but part and parcel of folk-lore, as their geographical distribution clearly shows.1 We know the force of the human tendency to mingle fancy with fact, to introduce rationalistic after-thoughts, to ignore the essential and apotheosize the trivial, not only from ethnological literature, but from a study of our civilization. Our own historical perspective is only a slowly and painfully acquired product of recent years. That like other sciences it developed ultimately from a prescientific interest in past events, that in this purely genetic sense our history is an outgrowth of primitive tradition, is beyond doubt; but, as we cannot substitute folk-etymology for philology, so we cannot substitute primitive tradition for scientific history. Our historical problems can be solved only by the objective methods of comparative ethnology, archaeology, linguistics, and physical anthropology.

American Museum Of Natural History,
New York.

1 Boas. The Eskimo of Baffin Land and Hudson Bay (BAM 15 : 362).





1. (a) Tar Baby 171

(6) In the Briar-Patch . . 171

2. Big Fraid and Little Fraid. 172

3. Playing Dead Twice in the

Road 172

4. Rabbit makes Fox his Rid

ing-Horse 173

5. The Race: Relay Trick . . 174

6. The Race: Slow but Steady 174

7. Above the Ground and

under the Ground

8. No Tracks Out . .

9. In the Chest. . . .

10. Pay Me Now . . .

11. Talks Too Much . .

12. Dividing the Souls .

13. The Insult Midstream

14. Watcher Tricked . . .

15. The Insult Midstream

Watcher Tricked; Mock

16. Brush-Heap A-fire . .

17. The Spitting Hant . .

18. Fiddling for the Devil

19. "Fixed"


175 175 175 176 176 177 177 178

178 179 179 180 180

20. Alligator's Tail; In

Briar-Patch ....

21. The Devil Marriage .

22. Blue-Beard

23. Tickling 'Possum. . .

24. The Frog

25. Woman up a Tree . .

26. Old Man on a Hunt .

27. Fishing on Sunday . .

28. The Little Girl and Her

Snake 185

180 181 I83 183 183 184 184 185


29. The Woman-Horse .... 186

30. Racing the Train 186

31. "Man Above" 186

32. The Three Little Pigs. . . 186

33. The Witch Spouse .... 187

34. Out of Her Skin 187

35. Mustard-Seed 188

36. Feasting on Dog 188

37. Keeping Pace 189

38. Buger 189

39. The Witches and the Dogs. 189

40. Fatal Imitation 190

41. The Pumpkin ...... 190

42. The Turnip 191

43. The Single Ball 191

44. As Big a Fool 191

45. Pleasing Everybody ... 192

46. (a) Playing Godfather . . 192 (b) Jumping over the Fire. 193

47. The Step-Mother 193

48. The Best Place 194

49. Woman on House-Top . . 194

50. The Talking Bones .... 194

51. The Haunted House . . . 195

52. The Black Cat 195

53. Self-Confidence 196

54. The Woman-Cat 196

55. The Murderous Mother . . 196

56. The Cat who wanted Shoes 197

57. Straw into Gold 198

58. Three-Eyes 198

59. The Frog who would fly. . 198

60. Brave Folks 199

61. The Adulteress 199

62. Anyhow. . . * 200

In the following collection we see the art of the folk-tale in its last stage of disintegration. The tale is cut down or badly told or half

forgotten. And the narrator explains, "Lor", my gran'daddy tol' me that tale, but I hasn' thought of it for thirty years. I'se been working too hard." The intrusion of the popular anecdote (see Nos. 30, 48) and of the story drawn directly or indirectly from a literary source (see Nos. 22, 32, 45, 53, 55, 57) is another evidence of the passing of the "ol'-timey story."

Some of the tales appear to be holding their own better than others. Nos. i, 9, 10, 25-28, 39, 49, 51, 52, 54, are very generally known. No. 21, a very interesting variant of the widespread tale of the Devil marriage, is obviously an exotic. The mere fact that the verses were sung (or, rather, chanted) proves that it was borrowed from a region where the "sing" is an important part of the tale. The elimination of the "sings" from the other tales, "sings" found in variants elsewhere, is another evidence of tale disintegration. For example: in the Bahama variants of Nos. 27, 33, 39, which I have collected, the "sings" are retained.

Between the Bahama Islands and the Carolinas there is an historical connection which may account in part for the number of tales they have, I find, in common. During the period of the Revolutionary War a number of Tories known as United Empire Loyalists migrated from the Carolinas to the Bahamas; and they took with them, of course, their household slaves. In connection with this migration, it was of interest to find that what is still current belief in the Bahamas serves as a tale in North Carolina. I refer to the magical beliefs embodied in Nos. 28, 34, 35.

Below is a list of the narrators of the tales.

1. Henry Smith. About 70. Born and bred in Ida County, North


2. Lulu Young. About 25.

3. Carter Young. About 70. Father of Lulu, Nancy, and Katherine

Young. Born in Guilford County; but he has lived in Alabama,
Georgia, Mississippi.

4. George Marshall. About 73. Born in Rockingham County.

5. Bill Cruse. About 68. Born and bred in Forsyth County.

6. Sam Cruse. About 30. Son of Bill Cruse. He has lived in Ohio.

7. Maude Stockton. About 30. Born and bred in Rockingham County.

8. Author, a school-girl of sixteen. Her mother dictated these tales to

her. Her mother is the daughter of Margaret Burke (see No. 9, below).

9. Margaret Burke. According to her "free papers," she is 87; but she

states that the papers, in order to guarantee her freedom, made her out 21 when she was only 10. Free-born of free parents. Used to live in Rockingham County. Her mother had lived in Robertson County.

10. Katherine Young. About 16. Sister of Lulu Young.

11. Lamy Tatum. About 80. Sister of Margaret Burke (No. 9).

12. Mary Dalton. About 50.

13. Mary Bunch. About 45.

14. A boy of 12 in Greensborough.

15. Nancy Young. About 15. Sister of Lulu Young (No. 2).

16. Rufus Warren. About 50.

17. John Marshall. About 40. Son of George Marshall (No. 4).

18. Jennie Tatum. About 25.


Since I am giving a full bibliography of both European and African parallels of many of the tales in the Bahama tales to be published as a memoir of the American Folk-Lore Society, I have limited the following bibliography, for the most part, to North American Negro parallels.

Bell, H. J. Obeah. London, 1889. Cited Bell.

Backus, E. M. Animal Tales from North Carolina (JAFL 9 : 290). 1898.

Cited JAFL 9 : 290. Chambers, R. Popular Rhymes of Scotland. London & Edinburgh, 1870. Dorsey, J. O. Two Biloxi Tales [Alabama Indians] (JAFL 6 : 48). 1893.

Cited JAFL 6 : 48. Edwards, C. L. Bahama Songs and Stories (MAFLS 3). 1895. Cited

MAFLS 3. Folklore. London, 1904, 1915. Cited FL 15, FL 26, respectively. Folk-song Society Journal. London, 1905-06. Cited FSSJ 2 : 297

299. Fortier, A. Louisiana Folk-Tales (MAFLS 2). 1895. Cited MAFLS 2. Harris, J. C. Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings. New York &

London, 1915. Cited Harris 1.

— Nights with Uncle Remus. Boston & New York, 1911. Cited Harris 2.

— Uncle Remus and his Friends. Boston & New York, 1892. Cited Harris 3.

Hoke, N. C. Folk-Custom and Folk-Belief in North Carolina (JAFL 5:

119). 1892. Cited JAFL 5 : 119. Jacobs. English Fairy Tales. Cited Jacobs. Jacottet, E. The Treasury of Ba-Suto Lore. Morija, Basutoland &

London, 1908. Cited Jacottet. Jekyll, W. Jamaica Song and Story (Pub. Folk-Lore Soc, 55). London,

1907. Cited Pub. Folk-Lore Soc. 55. Jones, C. C. Negro Myths from the Georgia Coast. Boston & New York,

1888. Cited Jones. Journal Of American Folk-lore. Cited JAFL. Memoirs Of The American Folk-lore Society. Cited MAFLS. Parsons, E. C. Folk-Tales of Andros Island, Bahamas. MS. Cited

Parsons. Smith, P. C. Annancy Stories. New York, 1899. Cited Smith. Udal, J. S. (FL 26 : 281). 1915. Werner, A. African Folk-Lore (The Contemporary Review, 70 : 383).

1896. Cited CR 70 : 383.

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