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POPULAR TALES OF HINDOSTAN AND
[Edinburgh Review, October, 1868.]
some have asserted, the story of Achilles as told in the Iliad is only another form of the legend which relates the career of the Ithakan chief in the Odyssey; if it be granted that this tale reappears in the Saga of the Volsunga and the Nibelungen Lied, in the epical cycles of Arthur and of Charlemagne, in the lay of Beowulf and the Shah-nameh of Firdusi, and if further it be conceded that all these streams of popular poetry can be traced back in a common source in mythical phrases which described the phenomena of the outward world: the resemblances thus traced are nevertheless not so astonishing as the likeness which runs through a vast number of the popular tales of Germany and Scandinavia, of Greece and Rome, of Persia and Hindostan. The wonder becomes greater when from the necessary outgrowth of certain conditions of thought and speech we turn to popular stories which, so far as we have the means of judging, cannot
* Old Deccan Days; or Hindoo Fairy Legends current in Southern India. Collected from oral tradition by M. FRERE. London: 1868. English Essays III.
be brought within this class of epical legends, and yet exhibit, in spite of all differences of detail and of local colouring, a closeness of resemblance which sufficiently establishes their substantial identity. If among the stories which Hindoo, Persian, Greek, or Teutonic mothers recounted to their children we find tales which turn on the same incidents, and in their most delicate touches betray the influence of precisely the same feelings, we must conclude either that these legends were passed from the one tribe or clan to the other, or that before these tribes separated from their common home, they not only possessed the germs of the future epics of Europe and Asia, but had framed a number of stories which cannot be accounted for on any hypothesis of conscious borrowing by one distinct people from another. How far such an hypothesis may be fairly urged Professor Max Müller has endeavoured to determine in his remarks on Dr. Dasent's Norse Tales ;* but if the story of the Master Thief may have found its way into Northern Europe from the Indian tale as told in the Kalila and Dimna, the idea of any such lateral transmission becomes inadmissible when we deal with stories found in writers of different nations who never could have possessed any means of communication. The Hindoo and the Teuton assuredly lost sight of each other from the day when they parted, the one to journey to the land of the five streams, the other to find his way beyond the Caspian and the Ural to the forests and marshes of the Elbe and the Rhine.
If then any such stories are still preserved, we are apparently forced to the conclusion that before the
* Chips from a German Workshop, vol. ii. p. 220, &c.