Once upon a time there lived a king and a queen, who had three beautiful daughters. The youngest of them, who was called Psyche, was the loveliest; she was so very beautiful that she was thought to be a second Aphrodite, the Goddess of Beauty and Love, and all who saw her worshipped her as if she were the goddess; so that the temples of Aphrodite were deserted and her worship neglected, and Psyche was preferred to her; and as she passed along the streets, or came into the temples, the people crowded round her, and scattered flowers under her feet, and offered garlands to her. Now, when Aphrodite knew this she grew very angry, and resolved to punish Psyche, so as to make her a wonder and a shame for ever. So Aphrodite sent for her son Eros, the God of Love, and took him to the city where Psyche lived, and showed the maiden to him, and bade him afflict her with love for a man who should be the most wicked and most miserable of mankind, an outcast, a beggar, one who had done some great wrong, and had fallen so low that no man in the whole world could be so wretched. Eros agreed that he would do what his mother wished; but this was only a pretence, for when he saw Psyche he fell in love with her himself, and made up his mind that she should be his own wife. The first thing to do was to get the maiden into his own care and to hide her from the vengeance of Aphrodite. So he put it into the mind of her father to go to the shrine of Phœbus, at Miletus, and ask the god what should be done with Psyche. The king did so, and he was bidden by an oracle to dress Psyche as a bride, to take her to the brow of a high mountain, and to leave her there, and that after a time a great monster would come and take her away and make her his wife. So Psyche was decked in bridal garments, was taken to a rock on the top of a mountain, and was left there as a sacrifice to turn away the wrath of Aphrodite. But Eros took care that she came to no harm. He went to Zephyrus, the God of the West Wind, and told him to carry Psyche gently down into a beautiful valley, and to lay her softly on the turf, amidst lovely flowers. So Zephyrus lulled Psyche to sleep, and then carried her safely down, and laid her in the place where Eros had bidden him. When Psyche awoke from sleep she saw a thick grove, with a crystal fountain in it, and close to the fountain there was a stately palace, fit for the dwelling of a king or a god. She went into the palace, and found it very wonderful. The walls and ceilings were made of cedar and ivory, there were golden columns holding up the roof, the floors were laid with precious stones, so put together as to make pictures, and on the walls were carvings in gold and silver of birds, and beasts, and flowers, and all kinds of strange and beautiful things. And there were also great treasure places full of gold, and silver, and gems, in such great measure that it seemed as if all the riches of the world were gathered there. But nowhere was there any living creature to be seen; all the palace was empty, and Psyche was there alone. And while she went trembling and fearing through the rooms, and wondering whose all this might be, she heard voices, as of invisible maidens, which told her that the palace was for her, and that they who spoke, but whom she might not see, were her servants. And the voices bade her go first to the bath, and then to a royal banquet which was prepared for her. So Psyche, still wondering, went to the bath, and then to a great and noble room, where there was a royal seat, and upon this she placed herself, and then unseen attendants put before her all kinds of delicate food and wine; and while she ate and drank there was a sound as of a great number of people singing the most charming music, and of one playing upon the lyre; but none of them could she see. Then night came on, and all the beautiful palace grew dark, and Psyche laid herself down upon a couch to sleep. Then a great terror fell upon her, for she heard footsteps, which came nearer and nearer, and she thought it was the monster whose bride the oracle of Phoebus had destined her to be. And the footsteps drew closer to her, and then an unseen being came to her couch and lay down beside her, and made her his wife; and he lay there until just before the break of day, and then he departed, and it was still so dark that Psyche could not see his form; nor did he speak, so that she could not guess from his voice what kind of creature it was to whom the Fates had wedded her. So Psyche lived for a long while, wandering about her palace in the daytime, tended by her unseen guardians, and every night her husband came to her and stayed until daybreak. Then she began to long to hear about her father and mother, and to see her sisters, and she begged leave of her husband that these might come to her for a time. To this Eros agreed, and gave her leave to give her sisters rich gifts, but warned her that she must answer no questions they might ask about him, and that she must not listen to any advice they might give her to find out who he was, or else a great misfortune would happen to her. Then Zephyrus brought the sisters of Psyche to her, and they stayed with her for a little while, and were very curious to know who her husband was, and what he was like. But Psyche, mindful of the commands of Eros, put them off, first with one story and then with another, and at last sent them away, loaded with jewels. Now Psyche's sisters were envious of her, because such good fortune had not happened to themselves, to have such a grand palace, and such store of wealth, and they plotted between themselves to make her discover her husband, hoping to get some good for themselves out of it, and not caring what happened to her. And it so fell out that they had their way, for Psyche again getting tired of solitude, again begged of her husband that her sisters might come to see her once more, to which, with much sorrow, he consented, but warned her again that if she spoke of him, or sought to see him, all her happiness would vanish, and that she would have to bear a life of misery. But it was fated that Psyche should disobey her husband; and it fell out in this way. When her sisters came to her again they questioned her about her husband, and persuaded her that she was married to a monster too terrible to be looked at, and they told her that this was the reason why he never came in the daytime, and refused to let himself be seen at night. Then they also persuaded her that she ought to put an end to the enchantment by killing the monster; and for this purpose they gave her a sharp knife, and they gave her also a lamp, so that while he was asleep she might look at him, so as to know where to strike. Then, being left alone, poor Psyche's mind was full of terror, and she resolved to follow the advice of her sisters. So when her husband was asleep, she went and fetched the lamp, and looked at him by its light; and then she saw that, instead of a deadly monster, it was Eros himself, the God of Love, to whom she was married. But while she was filled with awe and delight at this discovery, the misfortune happened which Eros had foretold. A drop of oil from the lamp fell upon the shoulder of the god, and he sprang up from the couch, reproached Psyche for her fatal curiosity, and vanished from her sight; and then the beautiful palace vanished also, and Psyche found herself lying on the bare cold earth, weeping, deserted, and alone.
Then poor Psyche began a long and weary journey, to try to find the husband she had lost, but she could not, for he had gone to his mother Aphrodite, to be cured of his wound; and Aphrodite, finding out that Eros had fallen in love with Psyche, determined to punish her, and to prevent her from finding Eros. First Psyche went to the god Pan, but he could not help her; then she went to the goddess Demeter, the Earth-Mother, but she warned her against the vengeance of Aphrodite, and sent her away. And the great goddess Hera did the same; and at last, abandoned by every one, Psyche went to Aphrodite herself, and the goddess, who had caused great search to be made for her, now ordered her to be beaten and tormented, and then ridiculed her sorrows, and taunted her with the loss of Eros, and set her to work at many tasks that seemed impossible to be done. First the goddess took a great heap of seeds of wheat, barley, millet, poppy, lentils, and beans, and mixed them all together, and then bade Psyche separate them into their different kinds by nightfall. Now there were so many of them that this was impossible; but Eros, who pitied Psyche, though she had lost him, sent a great many ants, who parted the seeds from each other and arranged them in their proper heaps, so that by evening all that Aphrodite had commanded was done. Then the goddess was very angry, and fed Psyche on bread and water, and next day she set Psyche another task. This was to collect a quantity of golden wool from the sheep of the goddess, creatures so fierce and wild that no mortal could venture near them and escape with life. Then Psyche thought herself lost; but Pan came to her help and bade her wait until evening, when the golden sheep would be at rest, and then she might from the trees and shrubs collect all the wool she needed. So Psyche fulfilled this task also. But Aphrodite was still unsatisfied. She now demanded a crystal urn, filled with icy waters from the fountain of Oblivion. The fountain was placed on the summit of a great mountain; it issued from a fissure in a lofty rock, too steep for any one to ascend, and from thence it fell into a narrow channel, deep, winding, and rugged, and guarded on each side by terrible dragons, which never slept. And the rush of the waters, as they rolled along, resembled a human voice, always crying out to the adventurous explorer—"Beware! fly! or you perish!" Here Psyche thought her sufferings at an end; sooner than face the dragons and climb the rugged rocks she must die. But again Eros helped her, for he sent the eagle of Zeus, the All-Father, and the eagle took the crystal urn in his claws, flew past the dragons, settled on the rock, and drew the water of the black fountain, and gave it safely to Psyche, who carried it back and presented it to the angry Aphrodite. But the goddess, still determined that Psyche should perish, set her another task, the hardest and most dangerous of all. "Take this box," she said, "go with it into the infernal regions to Persephone, and ask her for a portion of her beauty, that I may adorn myself with it for the supper of the gods." Now on hearing this, poor Psyche knew that the goddess meant to destroy her; so she went up to a lofty tower, meaning to throw herself down headlong so that she might be killed, and thus pass into the realm of Hades, never to return. But the tower was an enchanted place, and a voice from it spoke to her and bade her be of good cheer, and told her what to do. She was to go to a city of Achaia and find near it a mountain, and in the mountain she would see a gap, from which a narrow road led straight into the infernal regions. But the voice warned her of many things which must be done on the journey, and of others which must be avoided. She was to take in each hand a piece of barley bread, soaked in honey, and in her mouth she was to put two pieces of money. On entering the dreary path she would meet an old man driving a lame ass, laden with wood, and the old man would ask her for help, but she was to pass him by in silence. Then she would come to the bank of the black river, over which the boatman Charon ferries the souls of the dead; and from her mouth Charon must take one piece of money, she saying not a word. In crossing the river a dead hand would stretch itself up to her, and a dead face, like that of her father, would appear, and a voice would issue from the dead man's mouth, begging for the other piece of money, that he might pay for his passage, and get released from the doom of floating for ever in the grim flood of Styx. But still she was to keep silence, and to let the dead man cry out in vain; for all these, the voice told her, were snares prepared by Aphrodite, to make her let go the money, and to let fall the pieces of bread. Then, at the gate of the palace of Persephone she would meet the great three-headed dog, Kerberos, who keeps watch there for ever, and to him, to quiet his terrible barking, she must give one piece of the bread, and pass on, still never speaking. So Kerberos would allow her to pass; but still another danger would await her. Persephone would greet her kindly, and ask her to sit upon soft cushions, and to eat of a fine banquet. But she must refuse both offers—sitting only on the ground, and eating only of the bread of mortals, or else she must remain for ever in the gloomy regions below the earth. Psyche listened to this counsel, and obeyed it. Everything happened as the voice had foretold. She saw the old man with the overladen ass, she permitted Charon to take the piece of money from her lips, she stopped her ears against the cry of the dead man floating in the black river, she gave the honey bread to Kerberos, and she refused the soft cushions and the banquet offered to her by the queen of the infernal regions. Then Persephone gave her the precious beauty demanded by Aphrodite, and shut it up in the box, and Psyche came safely back into the light of day, giving to Kerberos, the three-headed dog, the remaining piece of honey bread, and to Charon the remaining piece of money. But now she fell into a great danger. The voice in the tower had warned her not to look into the box; but she was tempted by a strong desire, and so she opened it, that she might see and use for herself the beauty of the gods. But when she opened the box it was empty, save of a vapour of sleep, which seized upon Psyche, and made her as if she were dead. In this unhappy state, brought upon her by the vengeance of Aphrodite, she would have been lost for ever, but Eros, healed of the wound caused by the burning oil, came himself to her help, roused her from the death-like sleep, and put her in a place of safety. Then Eros flew up into the abode of the gods, and besought Zeus to protect Psyche against his mother Aphrodite; and Zeus, calling an assembly of the gods, sent Hermes to bring Psyche thither, and then he declared her immortal, and she and Eros were wedded to each other; and there was a great feast in Olympus. And the sisters of Psyche, who had striven to ruin her, were punished for their crimes, for Eros appeared to them one after the other in a dream, and promised to make each of them his wife, in place of Psyche, and bade each throw herself from the great rock whence Psyche was carried into the beautiful valley by Zephyrus; and both the sisters did as the dream told them, and they were dashed to pieces, and perished miserably.
Now this is the story of Eros and Psyche, as it is told by Apuleius, in his book of Metamorphoses, written nearly two thousand years ago. But the story was told ages before Apuleius by people other than the Greeks, and in a language which existed long before theirs. It is the tale of Urvasî and Purûravas, which is to be found in one of the oldest of the Vedas, or Sanskrit sacred books, which contain the legends of the Aryan race before it broke up and went in great fragments southward into India, and westward into Persia and Europe. A translation of the story of Urvasî and Purûravas is given by Mr. Max-Müller,1 who also tells what the story means, and this helps us to see the meaning of the tale of Eros and Psyche, and of many other myths which occur among all the branches of the Aryan family; among the Teutons, the Scandinavians, and the Slavs, as well as among the Greeks. Urvasî, then, was an immortal being, a kind of fairy, who fell in love with Purûravas, a hero and a king; and she married him, and lived with him, on this condition—that she should never see him unless he was dressed in his royal robes. Now there was a ewe, with two lambs, tied to the couch of Urvasî and Purûravas; and the fairies—or Gandharvas, as the kinsfolk of Urvasî were called—wished to get her back amongst them; and so they stole one of the lambs. Then Urvasî reproached her husband, and said, "They take away my darling, as if I lived in a land where there is no hero and no man." The fairies stole the other lamb, and Urvasî reproached her husband again, saying, "How can that be a land without heroes or men where I am?" Then Purûravas hastened to bring back the pet lamb; so eager was he that he stayed not to clothe himself, and so sprang up naked. Then the Gandharvas sent a flash of lightning, and Urvasî saw her husband naked as if by daylight; and then she cried out to her kinsfolk, "I come back," and she vanished. And Purûravas, made wretched by the loss of his love, sought her everywhere, and once he was permitted to see her, and when he saw her, he said he should die if she did not come back to him. But Urvasî could not return; but she gave him leave to come to her, on the last night of the year, to the golden seats; and he stayed with her for that night. And Urvasî said to him, "The Gandharvas will to-morrow grant thee a wish; choose." He said; "Choose thou for me." She replied, "Say to them, Let me be one of you." And he said this, and they taught him how to make the sacred fire, and he became one of them, and dwelt with Urvasî for ever.
Now this, we see, is like the story of Eros and Psyche; and Mr. Max-Müller teaches us what it means. It is the story of the Sun and the Dawn. Urvasî is the Dawn, which must vanish or die when it beholds the risen Sum; and Purûravas is the Sun; and they are united again at sunset, when the Sun dies away into night. So, in the Greek myth, Eros is the dawning Sun, and when Psyche, the Dawn, sees him, he flies from her, and it is only at nightfall that they can be again united. In the same paper Mr. Max-Müller shows how this root idea of the Aryan race is found again in another of the most beautiful of Greek myths or stories—that of Orpheus and Eurydike. In the Greek legends the Dawn has many names; one of them is Eurydike. The name of her husband, Orpheus, comes straight from the Sanskrit: it is the same as Ribhu or Arbhu, which is a name of Indra, or the Sun, or which may be used for the rays of the Sun. The old story, then, says our teacher, was this: "Eurydike (the Dawn) is bitten by a serpent (the Night); she dies, and descends into the lower regions. Orpheus follows her, and obtains from the gods that his wife should follow him, if he promised not to look back. Orpheus promises—ascends from the dark world below; Eurydike is behind him as he rises, but, drawn by doubt or by love, he looks round; the first ray of the Sun glances at the Dawn; and the Dawn fades away."
We have now seen that the Greek myth is like a much older myth existing amongst the Aryan race before it passed westward. We have but to look to other collections of Aryan folk-lore to find that in some of its features the legend is common to all branches of the Aryan family. In our own familiar story of "Beauty and the Beast," for instance, we have the same idea. There are the three sisters, one of whom is chosen as the bride of an enchanted monster, who dwells in a beautiful palace. By the arts of her sisters she is kept away from him, and he is at the point of death through his grief. Then she returns, and he revives, and becomes changed into a handsome Prince, and they live happy ever after. One feature of these legends is that beings closely united to each other—as closely, that is, as the Sun and the Dawn—may not look upon each other without misfortune. This is illustrated in the charming Scandinavian story of "The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon," which is told in various forms; the best of them being in Mr. Morris's beautiful poem in "The Earthly Paradise," and in Dr. Dasent's Norse Tales.2 We shall abridge Dr. Dasent's version, telling the story in our own way:
There was a poor peasant who had a large family whom he could scarcely keep; and there were several daughters amongst them. The loveliest was the youngest daughter; who was very beautiful indeed. One evening in autumn, in bad weather, the family sat round the fire; and there came three taps at the window. The father went out to see who it was, and he found only a great White Bear. And the White Bear said, "If you will give me your youngest daughter, I will make you rich." So the peasant went in and asked his daughter if she would be the wife of the White Bear; and the daughter said "No." So the White Bear went away, but said he would come back in a few days to see if the maiden had changed her mind. Now her father and mother talked to her so much about it, and seemed so anxious to be well off, that the maiden agreed to be the wife of the White Bear: and when he came again, she said "Yes," and the White Bear told her to sit upon his back, and hold by his shaggy coat, and away they went together. After the maiden had ridden for a long way, they came to a great hill, and the White Bear gave a knock on the hill with his paw, and the hill opened, and they went in. Now inside the hill there was a palace with fine rooms, ornamented with gold and silver, and all lighted up; and there was a table ready laid; and the White Bear gave the maiden a silver bell, and told her to ring it when she wanted anything. And when the maiden had eaten and drank, she went to bed, in a beautiful bed with silk pillows and curtains, and gold fringe to them. Then, in the dark, a man came and lay down beside her. This was the White Bear, who was an Enchanted Prince, and who was able to put off the shape of a beast at night, and to become a man again; but before daylight, he went away and turned once more into a White Bear, so that his wife could never see him in the human form. Well, this went on for some time, and the wife of the White Bear was very happy with her kind husband, in the beautiful palace he had made for her. Then she grew dull and miserable for want of company, and she asked leave to go home for a little while to see her father and mother, and her brothers and sisters. So the White Bear took her home again, but he told her that there was one thing she must not do; she must not go into a room with her mother alone, to talk to her, or a great misfortune would happen. When the wife of the White Bear got home, she found that her family lived in a grand house, and they were all very glad to see her; and then her mother took her into a room by themselves, and asked about her husband. And the wife of the White Bear forgot the warning, and told her mother that every night a man came and lay down with her, and went away before daylight, and that she had never seen him, and wanted to see him, very much. Then the mother said it might be a Troll she slept with; and that she ought to see what it was; and she gave her daughter a piece of candle, and said, "Light this while he is asleep, and look at him, but take care you don't drop the tallow upon him." So then the White Bear came to fetch his wife, and they went back to the palace in the hill, and that night she lit the candle, while her husband was asleep, and then she saw that he was a handsome Prince, and she felt quite in love with him, and gave him a soft kiss. But just as she kissed him she let three drops of tallow fall upon his shirt, and he woke up. Then the White Bear was very sorrowful, and said that he was enchanted by a wicked fairy, and that if his wife had only waited for a year before looking at him, the enchantment would be broken, and he would be a man again always. But now that she had given way to curiosity, he must go to a dreary castle East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and marry a witch Princess, with a nose three ells long. And then he vanished, and so did his palace, and his poor wife found herself lying in the middle of a gloomy wood, and she was dressed in rags, and was very wretched. But she did not stop to cry about her hard fate, for she was a brave girl, and made up her mind to go at once in search of her husband. So she walked for days, and then she met an old woman sitting on a hillside, and playing with a golden apple; and she asked the old woman the way to the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon. And the old woman listened to her story, and then she said, "I don't know where it is; but you can go on and ask my next neighbour. Ride there on my horse, and when you have done with him, give him a pat under the left ear and say, 'Go home again;' and take this golden apple with you, it may be useful." So she rode on for a long way, and then came to another old woman, who was playing with a golden carding comb; and she asked her the way to the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon? But this old woman couldn't tell her, and bade her go on to another old woman, a long way off. And she gave her the golden carding comb, and lent her a horse just like the first one. And the third old woman was playing with a golden spinning wheel; and she gave this to the wife of the White Bear, and lent her another horse, and told her to ride on to the East Wind, and ask him the way to the enchanted land. Now after a weary journey she got to the home of the East Wind, and he said he had heard of the Enchanted Prince, and of the country East of the Sun and West of the Moon, but he did not know where it was, for he had never been so far. But, he said, "Get on my back, and we will go to my brother the West Wind; perhaps he knows." So they sailed off to the West Wind, and told him the story, and he took it quite kindly, but said he didn't know the way. But perhaps his brother the South Wind might know; and they would go to him. So the White Bear's wife got on the back of the West Wind, and he blew straight away to the dwelling-place of the South Wind, and asked him where to find the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon. But the South Wind said that although he had blown pretty nearly everywhere, he had never blown there; but he would take her to his brother the North Wind, the oldest, and strongest, and wisest Wind of all; and he would be sure to know. Now the North Wind was very cross at being disturbed, and he used bad language, and was quite rude and unpleasant. But he was a kind Wind after all, and when his brother the West Wind told him the story, he became quite fatherly, and said he would do what he could, for he knew the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon very well. But, he said, "It is a long way off; so far off that once in my life I blew an aspen leaf there, and was so tired with it that I couldn't blow or puff for ever so many days after." So they rested that night, and next morning the North Wind puffed himself out, and got stout, and big, and strong, ready for the journey; and the maiden got upon his back, and away they went to the country East of the Sun and West of the Moon. It was a terrible journey, high up in the air, in a great storm, and over the mountains and the sea, and before they got to the end of it the North Wind grew very tired, and drooped, and nearly fell into the sea, and got so low down that the crests of the waves washed over him. But he blew as hard as he could, and at last he put the maiden down on the shore, just in front of the Enchanted Castle that stood in the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon; and there he had to stop and rest many days before he became strong enough to blow home again.
Now the wife of the White Bear sat down before the castle, and began to play with the golden apple. And then the wicked Princess with the nose three ells long opened a window, and asked if she would sell the apple?" But she said "No;" she would give the golden apple for leave to spend the night in the bed-chamber of the Prince who lived there. So the Princess with the long nose said "Yes," and the wife of the White Bear was allowed to pass the night in her husband's chamber. But a sleeping draught had been given to the Prince, and she could not wake him, though she wept greatly, and spent the whole night in crying out to him; and in the morning before he woke she was driven away by the wicked Princess. Well, next day she sat and played with the golden carding comb, and the Princess wanted that too; and the same bargain was made; but again a sleeping draught was given to the Prince, and he slept all night, and nothing could waken him; and at the first peep of daylight the wicked Princess drove the poor wife out again. Now it was the third day, and the wife of the White Bear had only the golden spinning-wheel left. So she sat and played with it, and the Princess bought it on the same terms as before. But some kind folk who slept in the next room to the Prince told him that for two nights a woman had been in his chamber, weeping bitterly, and crying out to him to wake and see her. So, being warned, the Prince only pretended to drink the sleeping draught, and so when his wife came into the room that night he was wide awake, and was rejoiced to see her; and they spent the whole night in loving talk. Now the next day was to be the Prince's wedding day; but now that his lost wife had found him, he hit upon a plan to escape marrying the Princess with the long nose. So when morning came, he said he should like to see what his bride was fit for? "Certainly," said the Witch-mother and the Princess, both together. Then the Prince said he had a fine shirt, with three drops of tallow upon it; and he would marry only the woman who could wash them out, for no other would be worth having. So they laughed at this, for they thought it would be easily done. And the Princess began, but the more she rubbed, the worse the tallow stuck to the shirt. And the old Witch-mother tried; but it got deeper and blacker than ever. And all the Trolls in the enchanted castle tried; but none of them could wash the shirt clean. Then said the Prince, "Call in the lassie who sits outside, and let her try." And she came in, and took the shirt, and washed it quite clean and white, all in a minute. Then the old Witch-mother put herself into such a rage that she burst into pieces, and so did the Princess with the long nose, and so did all the Trolls in the castle; and the Prince took his wife away with him, and all the silver and gold, and a number of Christian people who had been enchanted by the witch; and away they went for ever from the dreary Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
In the story of "The Soaring Lark," in the collection of German popular tales made by the brothers Grimm, we have another version of the same idea; and here, as in Eros and Psyche, and in the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon, it is the woman to whose fault the misfortunes are laid, and upon whom falls the long and weary task of search. The story told in brief, is this. A merchant went on a journey, and promised to bring back for his three daughters whatever they wished. The eldest asked for diamonds, the second for pearls, and the youngest, who was her father's favourite, for a singing, soaring lark. As the merchant came home, he passed through a great forest, and on the top bough of a tall tree he found a lark, and tried to take it. Then a Lion sprang from behind the tree, and said the lark was his, and that he would eat up the merchant for trying to steal it. The merchant told the Lion why he wanted the bird, and then the Lion said that he would give him the lark, and let him go, on one condition, namely, that he should give to the Lion the first thing or person that met him on his return. Now the first person who met the merchant when he got home was his youngest daughter, and the poor merchant told her the story, and wept very much, and said that she should not go into the forest. But the daughter said, "What you have promised you must do;" and so she went into the forest, to find the Lion. The Lion was an Enchanted Prince, and all his servants were also turned into lions; and so they remained all day; but at night they all changed back again into men. Now when the Lion Prince saw the merchant's daughter, he fell in love with her, and took her to a fine castle, and at night, when he became a man, they were married, and lived very happily, and in great splendour. One day the Prince said to his wife, "To-morrow your eldest sister is to be married; if you would like to be there, my lions shall go with you." So she went, and the lions with her, and there were great rejoicings in her father's house, because they were afraid that she had been torn to pieces in the forest; and after staying some time, she went back to her husband. After a while, the Prince said to his wife, "To-morrow your second sister is going to be married," and she replied, "This time I will not go alone, for you shall go with me." Then he told her how dangerous that would be, for if a single ray from a burning light fell upon him, he would be changed into a Dove, and in that form would have to fly about for seven years. But the Princess very much wanted him to go, and in order to protect him from the light, she had a room built with thick walls, so that no light could get through, and there he was to sit while the bridal candles were burning. But by some accident, the door of the room was made of new wood, which split, and made a little chink, and through this chink one ray of light from the torches of the bridal procession fell like a hair upon the Prince, and he was instantly changed in form; and when his wife came to tell him that all danger was over, she found only a White Dove, who said very sadly to her—
"For seven years I must fly about in the world, but at every seventh mile I will let fall a white feather and a drop of red blood, which will show you the way, and if you follow it, you may save me."
Then the White Dove flew out of the door, and the Princess followed it, and at every seventh mile the Dove let fall a white feather and a drop of red blood; and so, guided by the feathers and the drops of blood, she followed the Dove, until the seven years had almost passed, and she began to hope that the Prince's enchantment would be at an end. But one day there was no white feather to be seen, nor any drop of red blood, and the Dove had flown quite away. Then the poor Princess thought, "No man can help me now;" and so she mounted up to the Sun, and said, "Thou shinest into every chasm and over every peak; hast thou seen a White Dove on the wing?"
"No," answered the Sun. "I have not seen one; but take this casket, and open it when you are in need of help."
She took the casket, and thanked the Sun. When evening came, she asked the Moon—
"Hast thou seen a White Dove? for thou shinest all night long over every field and through every wood."
"No," said the Moon, "I have not seen a White Dove; but here is an egg—break it when you are in great trouble."
She thanked the Moon, and took the egg; and then the North Wind came by; and she said to the North Wind:
"Hast thou not seen a White Dove? for thou passest through all the boughs, and shakest every leaf under heaven."
"No," said the North Wind, "I have not seen one; but I will ask my brothers, the East Wind, and the West Wind, and the South Wind."
So he asked them all three; and the East Wind and the West Wind said, "No, they had not seen the White Dove;" but the South Wind said—
"I have seen the White Dove; he has flown to the Red Sea, and has again been changed into a Lion, for the seven years are up; and the Lion stands there in combat with an Enchanted Princess, who is in the form of a great Caterpillar."
Then the North Wind knew what to do; and he said to the Princess—
"Go to the Red Sea; on the right-hand shore there are great reeds, count them, and cut off the eleventh reed, and beat the Caterpillar with it. Then the Caterpillar and the Lion will take their human forms. Then look for the Griffin which sits on the Red Sea, and leap upon its back with the Prince, and the Griffin will carry you safely home. Here is a nut; let it fall when you are in the midst of the sea, and a large nut-tree will grow out of the water, and the Griffin will rest upon it."
So the Princess went to the Red Sea, and counted the reeds, and cut off the eleventh reed, and beat the Caterpillar with it, and then the Lion conquered in the fight, and both of them took their human forms again. But the Enchanted Princess was too quick for the poor wife, for she instantly seized the Prince and sprang upon the back of the Griffin, and away they flew, quite out of sight. Now the poor deserted wife sat down on the desolate shore, and cried bitterly; and then she said, "So far as the wind blows, and so long as the cock crows, will I search for my husband, till I find him;" and so she travelled on and on, until one day she came to the palace whither the Enchanted Princess had carried the Prince; and there was great feasting going on, and they told her that the Prince and Princess were about to be married. Then she remembered what the Sun had said, and took out the casket and opened it, and there was the most beautiful dress in all the world; as brilliant as the Sun himself. So she put it on, and went into the palace, and everybody admired the dress, and the Enchanted Princess asked if she would sell it?
"Not for gold or silver," she said, "but for flesh and blood."
"What do you mean?" the Princess asked.
"Let me sleep for one night in the bridegroom's chamber," the wife said. So the Enchanted Princess agreed, but she gave the Prince a sleeping draught, so that he could not hear his wife's cries; and in the morning she was driven out, without a word from him, for he slept so soundly that all she said seemed to him only like the rushing of the wind through the fir-trees.
Then the poor wife sat down and wept again, until she thought of the egg the Moon had given her; and when she took the egg and broke it, there came out of it a hen with twelve chickens, all of gold, and the chickens pecked quite prettily, and then ran under the wings of the hen for shelter. Presently, the Enchanted Princess looked out of the window, and saw the hen and the chickens, and asked if they were for sale. "Not for gold or silver, but for flesh and blood," was the answer she got; and then the wife made the same bargain as before—that she should spend the night in the bridegroom's chamber. Now this night the Prince was warned by his servant, and so he poured away the sleeping draught instead of drinking it; and when his wife came, and told her sorrowful story, he knew her, and said, "Now I am saved; "and then they both went as quickly as possible, and set themselves upon the Griffin, who carried them over the Red Sea; and when they got to the middle of the sea, the Princess let fall the nut which the North Wind had given to her, and a great nut-tree grew up at once, on which the Griffin rested; and then it went straight to their home, where they lived happy ever after.
One more story of the same kind must be told, for three reasons: because it is very good reading, because it brings together various legends, and because it shows that these were common to Celtic as well as to Hindu, Greek, Teutonic, and Scandinavian peoples. It is called "The Battle of the Birds," and is given at full length, and in several different versions, in Campbell's "Popular Tales of the West Highlands."3 To bring it within our space we must tell it in our own way.
Once upon a time every bird and other creature gathered to battle. The son of the King of Tethertoun went to see the battle, but it was over before he got there, all but one fight, between a great Raven and a Snake; and the Snake was getting the victory. The King's son helped the Raven, and cut off the Snake's head. The Raven thanked him for his kindness and said, "Now I will give thee a sight; come up on my wings;" and then the Raven flew with him over seven mountains, and seven glens, and seven moors, and that night the King's son lodged in the house of the Raven's sisters; and promised to meet the Raven next morning in the same place. This went on for three nights and days, and on the third morning, instead of a raven, there met him a handsome lad, who gave him a bundle, and told him not to look into it, until he was in the place where he would most wish to dwell. But the King's son did look into the bundle, and then he found himself in a great castle with fine grounds about it, and he was very sorry, because he wished the castle had been near his father's house, but he could not put it back into the bundle again. Then a great Giant met him, and offered to put the castle back into a bundle for a reward, and this was to be the Prince's son, when the son was seven years old. So the Prince promised, and the Giant put everything back into the bundle, and the Prince went home with it to his father's house. When he got there he opened the bundle, and out came the castle and all the rest, just as before, and at the castle door stood a beautiful maiden who asked him to marry her, and they were married, and had a son. When the seven years were up, the Giant came to ask for the boy, and then the King's son (who had now become a king himself) told his wife about his promise. "Leave that to me and the Giant," said the Queen. So she dressed the cook's son (who was the right age) in fine clothes, and gave him to the Giant; but the Giant gave the boy a rod, and asked him, "If thy father had that rod, what would he do with it?" "He would beat the dogs if they went near the King's meat," said the boy. Then Said the Giant, "Thou art the cook's son," and he killed him. Then the Giant went back, very angry, and the Queen gave him the butler's son; and the Giant gave him the rod, and asked him the same question, "My father would beat the dogs if they came near the King's glasses," said the boy. "Thou art the butler's son," said the Giant; and he killed him. Now the Giant went back the third time, and made a dreadful noise. "Out here thy son," he said, "or the stone that is highest in thy dwelling shall be the lowest." So they gave him the King's son, and the Giant took him to his own house, and he stayed there a long while. One day the youth heard sweet music at the top of the Giant's house, and he saw a sweet face. It was the Giant's youngest daughter; and she said to him, "My father wants you to marry one of my sisters, and he wants me to marry the King of the Green City, but I will not. So when he asks, say thou wilt take me." Next day the Giant gave the King's son choice of his two eldest daughters; but the Prince said, "Give me this pretty little one?" and then the Giant was angry, and said that before he had her he must do three things. The first of these was to clean out a byre or cattle place, where there was the dung of a hundred cattle, and it had not been cleaned for seven years. He tried to do it, and worked till noon, but the filth was as bad as ever. Then the Giant's youngest daughter came, and bid him sleep, and she cleaned out the stable, so that a golden apple would run from end to end of it. Next day the Giant set him to thatch the byre with birds' down, and he had to go out on the moors to catch the birds; but at midday, he had caught only two blackbirds, and then the Giant's youngest daughter came again, and bid him sleep, and then she caught the birds, and thatched the byre with the feathers before sundown. The third day the Giant set him another task. In the forest there was a fir-tree, and at the top was a magpie's nest, and in the nest were five eggs, and he was to bring these five eggs to the Giant without breaking one of them. Now the tree was very tall; from the ground to the first branch it was five hundred feet, so that the King's son could not climb up it. Then the Giant's youngest daughter came again, and she put her fingers one after the other into the tree, and made a ladder for the King's son to climb up by. When he was at the nest at the very top, she said, "Make haste now with the eggs, for my father's breath is burning my back;" and she was in such a hurry that she left her little finger sticking in the top of the tree. Then she told the King's son that the Giant would make all his daughters look alike, and dress them alike, and that when the choosing time came he was to look at their hands, and take the one that had not a little finger on one hand. So it happened, and the King's son chose the youngest daughter, because she put out her hand to guide him.
Then they were married, and there was a great feast, and they went to their chamber. The Giant's daughter said to her husband, "Sleep not, or thou diest; we must fly quick, or my father will kill thee." So first she cut an apple into nine pieces, and put two pieces at the head of the bed, and two at the foot, and two at the door of the kitchen, and two at the great door, and one outside the house. And then she and her husband went to the stable, and mounted the fine grey filly, and rode off as fast as they could. Presently the Giant called out, "Are you asleep yet?" and the apple at the head of the bed said, "We are not asleep." Then he called again, and the apple at the foot of the bed said the same thing; and then he asked again and again, until the apple outside the house door answered; and then he knew that a trick had been played on him, and ran to the bedroom and found it empty. And then he pursued the runaways as fast as possible. Now at day-break—"at the mouth of day," the story-teller says—the Giant's daughter said to her husband, "My father's breath is burning my back; put thy hand into the ear of the grey filly, and whatever thou findest, throw it behind thee." "There is a twig of sloe-tree," he said. "Throw it behind thee," said she; and he did so, and twenty miles of black-thorn wood grew out of it, so thick that a weasel could not get through. But the Giant cut through it with his big axe and his wood-knife, and went after them again. At the heat of day the Giant's daughter said again, "My father's breath is burning my back;" and then her husband put his finger in the filly's ear, and took out a piece of grey stone, and threw it behind him, and there grew up directly a great rock twenty miles broad and twenty miles high. Then the Giant got his mattock and his lever, and made a way through the rocks, and came after them again. Now it was near sunset, and once more the Giant's daughter felt her father's breath burning her back. So, for the third time, her husband put his hand into the filly's ear, and took out a bladder of water, and he threw it behind him, and there was a fresh-water loch, twenty miles long and twenty miles broad; and the Giant came on so fast that he ran into the middle of the loch and was drowned.
Here is clearly a Sun-myth, which is like those of ancient Hindu and Greek legend: the blue-grey Filly is the Dawn, on which the new day, the maiden and her lover, speed away. The great Giant, whose breath burns the maiden's back, is the morning Sun, whose progress is stopped by the thick shade of the trees. Then he rises higher, and at midday he breaks through the forest, and soars above the rocky mountains. At evening, still powerful in speed and heat, he comes to the great lake, plunges into it, and sets, and those whom he pursues escape. This ending is repeated in one of the oldest Hindu mythical stories, that of Bheki, the Frog Princess, who lives with her husband on condition that he never shows her a drop of water. One day he forgets, and she disappears: that is, the sun sets or dies on the water—a fanciful idea which takes us straight as an arrow to Aryan myths.
Now, however, we must complete the Gaelic story, which here becomes like the Soaring Lark, and the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and other Teutonic and Scandinavian tales.
After the Giant's daughter and her husband had got free from the Giant, she bade him go to his father's house, and tell them about her; but he was not to suffer anything to kiss him, or he would forget her altogether. So he told everybody they were not to kiss him, but an old greyhound leapt up at him, and touched his mouth, and then he forgot all about the Giant's daughter, just as if she had never lived. Now when the King's son left her, the poor forgotten wife sat beside a well, and when night came she climbed into an oak-tree, and slept amongst the branches. There was a shoemaker who lived near the well, and next day he sent his wife to fetch water, and as she drew it she saw what she fancied to be her own reflection in the water, but it was really the likeness of the maiden in the tree above it. The shoemaker's wife, however, thinking it was her own, imagined herself to be very handsome, and so she went back and told the shoemaker that she was too beautiful to be his thrall, or slave, any longer, and so she went off. The same thing happened to the shoemaker's daughter; and she went off too. Then the man himself went to the well, and saw the maiden in the tree, and understood it all, and asked her to come down and stay at his house, and to be his daughter. So she went with him. After a while there came three gentlemen from the King's Court, and each of them wanted to marry her; and she agreed with each of them privately, on condition that each should give a sum of money for a wedding gift. Well, they agreed to this, each unknown to the other; and she married one of them, but when he came and had paid the money, she gave him a cup of water to hold, and there he had to stand, all night long, unable to move or to let go the cup of water, and in the morning he went away ashamed, but said nothing to his friends. Next night it was the turn of the second; and she told him to see that the door-latch was fastened; and when he touched the latch he could not let it go, and had to stand there all night holding it; and so he went away, and said nothing. The next night the third came, and when he stepped upon the floor, one foot stuck so fast that he could not draw it out until morning; and then he did the same as the others—went off quite cast down. And then the maiden gave all the money to the shoemaker for his kindness to her. This is like the story of "The Master Maid," in Dr. Dasent's collection of "Tales from the Norse." But there is the end of it to come. The shoemaker had to finish some shoes because the young King was going to be married; and the maiden said she should like to see the King before he married. So the shoemaker took her to the King's castle; and then she went into the wedding-room, and because of her beauty they filled a vessel of wine for her. When she was going to drink it, there came a flame out of the glass, and out of the flame there came a silver pigeon and a golden pigeon; and just then three grains of barley fell upon the floor, and the silver pigeon ate them up. Then the golden one said, "If thou hadst mind when I cleaned the byre, thou wouldst not eat that without giving me a share." Then three more grains fell, and the silver pigeon ate them also. Then said the golden pigeon, "If thou hadst mind when I thatched the byre, thou wouldst not eat that without giving me a share." Then three other grains fell, and the silver pigeon ate them up. And the golden pigeon said, "If thou hadst mind when I harried the magpie's nest, thou wouldst not eat that without giving me my share. I lost my little finger bringing it down, and I want it still." Then, suddenly, the King's son remembered, and knew who it was, and sprang to her and kissed her from hand to mouth; and the priest came, and they were married.
These stories will be enough to show how the same idea repeats itself in different ways among various peoples who have come from the same stock: for the ancient Hindu legend of Urvasî and Purûravas, the Greek fable of Eros and Psyche, the Norse story of the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon, the Teutonic story of the Soaring Lark, and the Celtic story of the Battle of the Birds, are all one and the same in their general character, their origin, and their meaning; and in all these respects they resemble the story which we know so well in English—that of Beauty and the Beast. The same kind of likeness has already been shown in the story of Cinderella, and in those which resemble it in the older Aryan legends and in the later stories of the Greeks. If space allowed, such comparisons might be carried much further; indeed, there is no famous fairy tale known to children in our day which has not proceeded from our Aryan forefathers, thousands of years ago, and which is not repeated in Hindu, Persian, Greek, Teutonic, Scandinavian, and Celtic folk-lore; the stories being always the same in their leading idea, and yet always so different in their details as to show that the story-tellers have not copied from each other, but that they are repeating, in their own way, legends and fancies which existed thousands of years ago, before the Aryan people broke up from their old homes, and went southward and westward, and spread themselves over India and throughout Europe.
Now there is a curious little German story, called "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids," which is told in Grimm's collection, and which shows at once the connection between Teutonic folk-lore, and Greek mythology, and Aryan legend. There was an old Goat who had seven young ones, and when she went into the forest for wood, she warned them against the Wolf; if he came, they were not to open the door to him on any account. Presently the Wolf came, and knocked, and asked to be let in; but the little Kids said, "No, you have a gruff voice; you are a wolf." So the Wolf went and bought a large piece of chalk, and ate it up, and by this means he made his voice smooth; and then he came back to the cottage, and knocked, and again asked to be let in. The little Kids, however, saw his black paws, and they said, "No, your feet are black; you are a wolf." Then the Wolf went to a baker, and got him to powder his feet with flour; and when the little Kids saw his white feet, they thought it was their mother, and let him in. Then the little Kids were very much frightened, and ran and hid themselves. The first got under the table, the second into the bed, the third into the cupboard, the fourth into the kitchen, the fifth into the oven, the sixth into the wash-tub, and the seventh into the clock-case. The wicked Wolf, however, found all of them out, and ate them up, excepting the one in the clock-case, where he did not think of looking. And when the greedy monster had finished his meal, he went into the meadow, and lay down and slept. Just at this time the old Goat came home, and began crying for her children; but the only one who answered was the youngest, who said, "Here I am, dear mother, in the clock-case;" and then he came out and told her all about it. Presently the Goat went out into the meadow, and there lay the Wolf, snoring quite loud; and she thought she saw something stirring in his body. So she ran back, and fetched a pair of scissors and a needle and thread, and then she cut open the monster's hairy coat, and out jumped first one little kid, and then another, until all the six stood round her, for the greedy Wolf was in such a hurry that he had swallowed them whole. Then the Goat and the little Kids brought a number of stones, and put them into the Wolf's stomach, and sewed up the place again. When the Wolf woke up, he felt very thirsty, and ran off to the brook. to drink, and the heavy stones overbalanced him, so that he fell into the brook, and was drowned. And then the seven little Kids danced round their mother, singing joyfully, "The wolf is dead! the wolf is dead!" Now this story is nothing but another version of an old Greek legend which tells how Kronos (Time), an ancient god, devoured his children while they were quite young; and Kronos was the son of Ouranos, which means the heavens; and Ouranos is a name which comes from that of Varuna, a god of the sky in the old sacred books, or Vedas, of the Hindus; and the meaning of the legend is that Night swallows up or devours the days of the week, all but the youngest, which still exists, because, like the little kid in the German tale, it is in the clock-case.
Again, in the Vedas we have many accounts of the fights of Indra, the sun-god, with dragons and monsters, which mean the dark-clouds, the tempest thunder-bearing clouds, which were supposed to have stolen the heavenly cows, or the light, pleasant, rain-bearing clouds, and to have shut them up in gloomy caverns. From this source we have an infinite number of Greek and Teutonic, and Scandinavian, and other legends. One of these is the story of Polyphemos, the great one-eyed giant, or Kyklops, whom Odysseus blinded. Polyphemos is the storm-cloud, and Odysseus stands for the sun. The storm-cloud threatens the mariners; the lightnings dart from the spot which seems like an eye in the darkness; he hides the blue heavens and the soft white clouds—the cows of the sky, or the white-fleeced flocks of heaven. Then comes Odysseus, the sun-god, the hero, and smites him blind, and chases him away, and disperses the threatening and the danger, and brings light, and peace, and calm again.
Now this legend of Polyphemos is to be found everywhere; in the oldest Hindu books, in Teutonic, and Norse, and Slav stories; and everywhere also the great giant, stormy, angry, and one-eyed, is always very stupid, and is always overthrown or outwitted by the hero, Odysseus, when he is shut up in the cavern of Polyphemos, cheats the monster by tying himself under the belly of the largest and oldest ram, and so passes out while the blind giant feels the fleece, and thinks that all is safe. Almost exactly the same trick is told in an old Gaelic story, that of Conall Cra Bhuidhe.4 A great Giant with only one eye seized upon Conall, who was hunting on the Giant's lands. Conall himself is made to tell the story:
"I hear a great clattering coming, and what was there but a great Giant and his dozen of goats with him, and a buck at their head. And when the Giant had tied the goats, he came up, and he said to me, 'Hao O! Conall, it's long since my knife is rusting in my pouch waiting for thy tender flesh.' 'Och!' said I, 'it's not much thou wilt be bettered by me, though thou shouldst tear me asunder; I will make but one meal for thee. But I see that thou art one-eyed. I am a good leech, and I will give thee the sight of the other eye.' The Giant went and he drew the great caldron on the site of the fire. I was telling him how he should heat the water, so that I should give its sight to the other eye. I got leather and I made a rubber of it, and I set him upright in the caldron. I began at the eye that was well, till I left them as bad as each other. When he saw that he could not see a glimpse, and when I myself said to him that I would get out in spite of him, he gave that spring out of the water, and he stood in the mouth of the cave, and he said that he would have revenge for the sight of his eye. I had but to stay there crouched the length of the night, holding in my breath in such a way that he might not feel where I was. When he felt the birds calling in the morning, and knew that the day was, he said, 'Art thou sleeping? Awake, and let out my lot of goats!' I killed the buck. He cried, 'I will not believe that thou art not killing my buck.' 'I am not,' I said, 'but the ropes are so tight that I take long to loose them.' I let out one of the goats, and he was caressing her, and he said to her, 'There thou art, thou shaggy hairy white goat; and thou seest me, but I see thee not.' I was letting them out, by way of one by one, as I flayed the buck, and before the last one was out I had him flayed, bag-wise. Then I went and put my legs in the place of his legs, and my hands in the place of his fore-legs, and my head in the place of his head, and the horns on top of my head, so that the brute might think it was the buck. I went out. When I was going out the Giant laid his hand on me, and said, 'There thou art, thou pretty buck; thou seest me, but I see thee not.' When I myself got out, and I saw the world about me, surely joy was on me. When I was out and had shaken the skin off me, I said to the brute, 'I am out now, in spite of thee!'"
It was a blind fiddler, in Islay, who told the story of Conall, as it had been handed down by tradition from generation to generation; just as thousands of years before the story of Odysseus and Polyphemos was told by Greek bards to wondering villagers.
Here we must stop; for volumes would not
contain all that might be said of the likeness of
legend to legend in all the branches of the
Aryan family, or of the meaning of these stories,
and of the lessons they teach—lessons of history,
and religious belief, and customs, and morals
and ways of thought, and poetic fancies, and of
well-nigh all things, heavenly and human—stretching
back to the very spring and cradle of
our race, older than the oldest writings, and yet
so ever fresh and new that while great scholars
ponder over them for their deep meaning, little
children in the nursery or by the fire-side in
winter listen to them with delight for their
wonder and their beauty. Else, if there were
time and space we might tell the story of Jason,
and show how it springs from the changes of
day and night, and how the hero, in his good
ship Argo, our mother Earth, searches for and
bears away in triumph the Golden Fleece, the
beams of the radiant sun. Or we might fly
with Perseus on his weary, endless journey—the
light pursuing and scattering the darkness; the
glittering hero, borne by the mystic sandals of
Hermes, bearing the sword of the sunlight,
piercing the twilight or gloaming in the land of
the mystic Graiæ; slaying Medusa, the solemn
star-lit night; destroying the dark dragon, and
setting free Andromeda the dawn-maiden; and
doing many wonders more. Or in Hermes we
might trace out the Master Thief of Teutonic,
and Scandinavian, and Hindu legends; or in
Herakles, the type of the heroes who are god-like
in their strength, yet who do the bidding of
others, and who suffer toil and wrong, and die
glorious deaths, and leave great names for men
to wonder at: heroes such as Odysseus, and
Theseus, and Phœbus, and Achilles, and Sigurd,
and Arthur, and all of whom represent, in one
form or another, the great mystery of Nature,
and the conflict of light and darkness; and so,
if we look to their deeper meaning, the constant
triumph of good over evil, and of right over
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