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The Folktale
Stith Thompson

Motif A2233

Animal characteristics: punishment for laziness. S. Am. Indian (Toba): Métraux MAFLS 79.

Part Two

The Folktale from Ireland to India

III – The Simple Tale

2. Animal tales

C. Other Literary Relations

In addition to the fable collections and the medieval animal cycle, several other important groups of literary works have told animal tales that are also known in popular tradition. The collection of Buddhist tales known as the Jātaka, [347] the long series of books of exempla or illustrative stories told by the medieval priests, [348] and the extensive work of the composers of new fables in the Renaissance [349] are the three most important of these. [p. 225]

Mention has already been made of the fact that the story of the fox who succeeds in stealing the young magpies appears originally in the Panchatantra. It later received literary treatment in the Reynard cycle and in Hans Sachs. Alongside this purely artistic tale, and doubtless influenced by it, there developed a folktale well known in northern and eastern Europe. In this story (Type 56A) the fox threatens to push down the tree in which the magpie has its young. The crow gives good advice to the magpies and saves them. The fox avenges himself, plays dead, and catches the crow. The action in the latter part of the tale is the reverse of that in the literary fable.

Rather popular from Germany eastward is the story of the old dog as the rescuer of the child (Type 101), a story appearing in Steinhöwel's fifteenth century collection of fables. A farmer makes plans for killing a faithful old dog. The wolf has made friends with the dog, and works out a plan whereby the dog can be saved. The latter is to rescue the farmer's child from the wolf. When the wolf has permitted the plan to succeed, he wants to be allowed to steal the farmer's sheep. But the dog objects, and loses the wolf's friendship.

The medieval collections of exempla did not usually contain many animal tales except those already made familiar by fable books. One animal story, however, which seems from its distribution and general history to be essentially an oral tradition (Type 120), has found a place in Pauli's Schimpf und Ernst of the early sixteenth century. This tells of a wager between the fox and the hog as to which of them shall see the sunrise first. The fox places himself on a hill facing the east; the hog in a lower place facing the high trees to the west. The sun shines on the top of the trees, and the hog wins. This tale is known from Ireland to central Siberia, and has an interesting analogue in Japan.

Appearing first in the Jātaka and then spreading prodigiously as an oral tale is the story of the Tarbaby (Type 175). The essential point of the anecdote is that the trickster (most often the rabbit) is caught by a tarbaby (or some kind of sticky image). In a large number of cases the rabbit's enemies debate as to how he shall be punished. He agrees to various kinds of punishment, anything they suggest, but begs not to be thrown into the brier patch. Thinking to do him most injury, they throw him into the briers and he escapes (Type 1310). [350] This tale of the tarbaby has been studied very thoroughly by A. M. Espinosa, on the basis of more than 150 versions, which he has later supplemented by the addition of 115. [351] From India it seems clear that this story has reached the Negroes and Indians of America by several paths. It came from India to Africa, where it is a favorite and where it received some characteristic modifications before being [p. 226] taken by slaves to America. Another path was through Europe to the Hispanic peninsula and thence to American colonies. The third, but apparently very unimportant route, was directly across Europe.

In his second folktale monograph Kaarle Krohn discusses stories involving a man and a fox. [352] One of them is a definitely literary fable, The Ungrateful Serpent Returned to Captivity (Type 155). The main part of his study, however, is concerned with the tale of Bear Food (Type 154), the history of which is much more difficult to clarify, As will be seen, the story really consists of three separate episodes. A man in his anger at their laziness scolds his horses and calls them "bear food." The bear overhears and comes and demands the horses. A fox approaches and agrees to help the man from his predicament, but demands from the man geese or chickens in return for the service. The fox goes into the woods and imitates the barking of dogs, so that the bear is frightened and killed. The man now goes for the geese, but instead brings back in his bag dogs which attack the fox and chase him to his hole. Here the fox holds a conversation with his feet, his eyes, his ears, and his tail, and asks each of them how they could have helped him in his flight. The tail admits that it did not help. Thereupon the foolish fox sticks out his tail, which is seized upon by the dogs. The three parts of this story, (1) the "bear food" episode, (2) the deceptive payment given the fox, and (3) the fox's conversation with his bodily members, have not always been handled together. The first part would seem to have a more definitely literary relation than the last two. It is missing in the versions of the tale from Germany and the Romance countries, but Krohn feels that its presence in the Roman de Renart and in exemplum literature bespeaks its earlier presence in western Europe. He feels that the whole story is so well known over all of Europe that it is essentially a part of European folklore, though he admits the possibility that more adequate collections from India and the Orient might change his conclusions.

Almost all of the animal anecdotes thus far discussed have shown some kind of literary relationship. [353] But for animal tales there has also been a vigorous oral tradition not dependent upon literary works either as origin or as modes of dissemination. A thorough account of these purely folk stories, even in the European and Asiatic areas, would be extremely tedious, since almost every country has developed a large number of them which have not been taken over into other lands. A cursory examination of The Types of the Folk-Tale (especially pages 22 to 43 and 214 to 220) and of the various folktale surveys [354] will show these local tales for a number of different countries. They are particularly frequent in the Baltic states and in Russia. [p. 227]

Besides these stories of very limited distribution, there remain a number of traditional oral tales which have gained currency over a larger area.

The story told in Grimm of The She-fox's Suitors (Type 65) in which the widowed she-fox proves her faithfulness by rejecting suitors who do not resemble her deceased husband has a wide circulation in Germany and is known in Scandinavia. There are reasonably, close parallels from the Gypsies and analogues apparently unrelated in various parts of Africa. A much more definite tradition appears in a story which finds its greatest concentration in Finland and Lithuania, but is also known in Hungary and among Cape Verde Islanders in Massachusetts. It tells of the dog who acts as the wolf's shoemaker (Type 102). He keeps demanding material for the shoes, so that he eventually eats up the cow, the hog, etc. which are furnished him.

Two fable-like oral tales have their greatest popularity in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries. The Norwegians are especially fond of telling how the mouse, in order to placate the cat, tells her a story. The cat answers, "Even so, I eat you up" (Type 111). In some way this story has traveled to Indonesia, where it has been reported in three versions. The anecdote in which the rat persuades the cat to wash her face before eating and thus escapes (Type 122B) has traveled from the Baltic countries in another direction: it is known in at least four different areas of Africa.

Tales of the way in which a small and weak animal overcomes a very large one occur in many parts of the world. There is probably no connection between the numerous African anecdotes of this kind and the story of The Titmouse and the Bear (Type 228) which seems to be confined to Finland and Estonia, though very popular there. In this tale the titmouse ruffles up her feathers but does not succeed in fooling her own children. In her own form, however, she flies into the bear's ear and kills him.

Mention may also be made at this place of a story obviously related to the cumulative tales soon to be discussed. In this story of The Lying Goat (Type 212) a father sends his sons, one after the other, to pasture the goat. Nevertheless, the goat always declares that he has had nothing to eat. The father angrily sends his sons from home and learns, when he himself tries to pasture the goat, that he has been deceived. This tale is popular in most parts of Europe, but has not been reported from outside.

Some of the most interesting of animal tales are sometimes not told as simple stories but may have attached to them some explanation accounting for the form or present habits of the animal. If the main purpose of such tales is this explanation, we usually consider them as origin tales, of which, as we shall see, [355] there are a large number in every country. But in some of the stories the explanatory element seems to be quite secondary to the interest of the tale itself. Such is the account of the animals as road-builders (Type 55). [p. 228]

The fox acts as overseer and punishes the lazy animals. The various kinds of punishment which he gives them accounts for some feature in the present day descendant of that animal. This tale is very popular in Finland and is also widely known in Africa, and has been reported from the American Indians of the southeastern United States. [356]

Animals sometimes obtain another's characteristics by failing to return things which they have borrowed. Thus the nightingale and the blindworm used each to have one eye. The nightingale borrowed the blindworm's and refused to return it, so that she now has two and the blindworm none. The latter is always on a tree where the nightingale has her nest and in revenge bores holes in the nightingale's eggs (Type 234). This tale has been reported mainly from Germany and France, but the similar story of the way in which the jay borrows the cuckoo's skin and fails to return it (Type 235) is primarily Baltic, though analogues are known in Indonesia.

Two other tales of birds are apparently confined to Scandinavia and the Baltic countries. In the first (Type 236), the thrush teaches the dove to build small nests, so that ever afterward she has kept on doing so. In the other (Type 240), the dove and the magpie exchange their eggs, the seven dove's eggs for the two of the magpie. This accounts for the fact that the dove always lays two eggs.

Generally speaking, fish have not interested taletellers very much, though the wonder tale contains magic fishes, and the Munchausen [357] cycle has large exaggerations about great catches of fish. One origin tale (Type 252) concerning fish has acquired some popularity in Finland and Lapland. The pike races the snake to the land. The winner is to remain on land, but since the pike loses his race, he remains in the water.

When one considers all the kinds of animal tales current in the folklore of Europe and Asia, he will be impressed by the great variety of anecdotes which have been attached to animal heroes. This variety proceeds not only from the interest in the nature and qualities of actual animals, but also from the inveterate habit of making up animal tales which is common to the story-tellers of all lands. Animal stories look for their origin, therefore, not only to continuing invention stimulated by animal life, but to artistic activity extending in range from the skillful taletellers of primitive tribes to the cultivated composers of the Hindu, the classical, and the medieval fables. [p. 229]

[347] These tales are said to consist of adventures in the former lives of the Buddha. The best introduction is to be found in Cowell's The Jātaka; the corresponding Chinese collection of Jātaka tales is found in Chavannes' 500 contes.

[348] The best general introduction to exemplum literature is Welter, L'Exemplum. See also Gesta Romanorum and Crane, Jacques de Vitry.

[349] The most important of the Renaissance fabulists was Steinhöwel, who brought together a great mass of fables from all sources; see H. Steinhöwel, Aesop (ed. H. Oesterley, Tubingen, 1873). Some fables are also included in Johannes Pauli's Schimpf und Ernst of the early sixteenth century.

[350] This tale is frequently told of the turtle or crayfish who begs not to be drowned (K581.1).

[351] Journal of American Folklore, XLIII, 129-209 and LVI, 31ff.

[352] Mann und Fuchs.

[353] Of the tales discussed in Krohn's Bär (Wolf) und Fuchs (see pp. 219ff., above) the following types apparently do not have literary relationships: Types 3, 5, 7, 8, 21, 37, 43, 47A.

[354] For a list of these surveys, see p. 419, below.

[355] For a discussion of these origin tales, see pp. 303ff., 310ff., below.

[356] For a detailed analysis of this tale, see motif A2233 and subdivisions.

[357] For the magic fish, see B175; for the great catch of fish, see p. 214, above.


3, 5, 7, 8, 21, 37, 43, 47A, 55, 56A, 65, 101, 102, 111, 120, 122B, 154, 155, 175, 212, 228, 234, 235, 236, 240, 252, 1310


A2233, B175, K581.1

Part Two

The Folktale from Ireland to India

III – The Simple Tale

4. Legends and traditions

A. Mythological Legends

The student of popular legend and tradition cannot fail to be impressed with the fertility of imagination with which man has viewed the world around him. The simple taleteller of today, receiving much of his legendary material from an even more unlettered past, finds ready for his use a wealth of accounts, not only of the marvels of the present world and remarkable happenings of historic times, but also even of the very beginnings of the earth and the establishment of the present order of animals and men.

For all those peoples whose religious background is Christian, Mohammedan, or Jewish the legends concerning creation are normally based upon the Old Testament account. [364] But there has been no feeling that this account is so sacred that it cannot be elaborated. A very considerable number of legends have grown up around such Biblical stories as the Garden of Eden and the Flood. [p. 236]

When working within this Biblical tradition, the story-teller has not usually gone back to primeval chaos and divine creation, but has been content to interest himself first of all in the Garden of Eden, in man's creation, and his loss of Paradise. Well known, of course, is the fact that man was made from clay (A1241) and that the first woman was made from his rib (A1275.1). But it is more unusual to hear that Adam's body was made of eight things: his trunk from earth, his bones from stone, his veins from roots, his blood from water, his hair from grass, his thoughts from wind, and his spirit from the clouds (A1291). And it must have been a primitive misogynist who started the rumor that Eve had really been created from a dog's tail (A1224.3).

Satan consistently opposes God in his creation, but he is always unsuccessful except in his adventure with Eve. He has seen God form various animals and then breathe life into them. He tries the same thing, but his animals always remain lifeless (A1217). Another story, apparently for getting that the devil cannot make the animals, divides the creation of all beasts between the two antagonists. The ill-disposition or unpleasantness of certain animals comes from the fact that they are the devil's creations (A1751).

The success of Satan in the Garden (A1331.1) seems to be familiar to all story-tellers, though quite generally the fruit eaten is not that of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was certainly an apple, as proved by the Adam's apple where it stuck in Adam's throat (A1319.1). The interest in Paradise Lost and in Adam and Eve generally ceases after they are expelled from the garden, but there have been preserved some traditions which give us a last glimpse of the first mother. She has so many children that she is ashamed when God pays her a visit. She hides some of them, and thus they fail to receive the blessing which God gives to all those who are in sight. This story is given as an explanation of superior and inferior classes of people, of downtrodden races (A1650.1), of the existence of monkeys (A1861.1), or of peoples of the underworld (F251.4).

Legends about floods appear in many parts of the world. [365] Many of these are independent growths, sometimes reminiscent of actual local catastrophes. But the most important of all flood legends is that which tells about Noah and his ark. Wherever Biblical tales have been learned, this one is sure to be popular because of its dramatic and picturesque details. Just as this legend afforded the medieval dramatist one of his best opportunities for a humorous treatment of a Biblical worthy, [366] it has given taletellers everywhere an opportunity to elaborate details afforded by the interesting situation. Perhaps most assiduous in the development of these flood legends [p. 237] have been the peoples of Siberia. In areas farther away from the original home of the Noah legend missionaries have made it familiar, and it often appears along with similar tales from the local folklore. This is particularly true of the North American Indians and of the inhabitants of the Pacific islands.

The escape from the deluge in the ark (A1021), the pairs of animals preserved so that they may escape destruction (A1021.1), and the bird scouts sent out from the ark (A1021.2)—these three elements are nearly always present. The lodging of the ark on the mountain is closely paralleled by many tales in which people escape from the flood by ascending a mountain (A1022), but it is not at all certain that the Bible story is the source of these. In addition to these canonical incidents, popular imagination has supplied a number of details. A few of these will illustrate the manner in which the flood legend has been used to explain the characteristics of some animal or some other present-day situation.

It appears, for example, that the devil was in a way to be drowned and wanted a place on the ark in spite of Noah's objection. One story tells how he forbids Noah's wife to enter the ark until Noah has also invited him in (K485; Type 825). Some say that Noah loses patience and calls out, "The devil! Come in!" The devil comes in and turns himself into a mouse (C12.5.1). After the devil is in the ark as a mouse, he gnaws a hole in the bottom of the ark. Thereupon Noah asks the help of the lion. The lion sneezes, and a cat comes from the lion's nostril and eats the mouse (A1811.2). Two animals are obstreperous and suffer the consequences. The griffin refuses to go on the ark and hence is drowned and is now extinct (A2232.4), and the unicorn is thrown from the ark and suffers the same fate (A2214.3).

Such are a few of the popular variations on the Noah and Adam legends. They will serve to show the way in which popular fancy has handled the sacred writings. Besides these two groups of Bible legends are found many more, such as the Tower of Babel (C771.1) and the confusion of tongues (A1333), and many incidents concerning the childhood of Jesus.

Popular imagination, even among those people who receive their creation legends from Genesis, has many things to say about the universe, and the earth and its inhabitants. Many of these explanations seem very old, and certainly go back to a time before the present religions fixed the thinking of these peoples.

It is clear that nineteenth century scholars exaggerated beyond all reason the importance of the stars in the thinking of our early story-tellers. [367] Nevertheless, such phenomena as the Milky Way (A778), the Pleiades (A773), and the Great Bear (A771) have produced a number of legends [p. 238] concerning their origin. The Milky Way is sometimes thought of as a pathway of souls, as a river, as a hunting party, or as a stitched seam in the sky; the Pleiades are nearly always imagined as seven sisters, and pretty stories are invented to tell how one of them has been lost.

Neither the sun nor the moon occupies a large place in actual legend. [368] Popular imagination has largely confined its interest in the sun to tales about how it is stolen (A721.1). Usually it is thought of as being in the possession of some monster who keeps it hidden in a box or a pot so that it is of no use to mankind. As to the moon, there are two points of interest: the figures on its surface and its monthly phases. One school of mythologists bases its theories upon the observation that the moon with these two characteristics appears to all mankind and furnishes a common object of interest everywhere. The "Man in the Moon" (A751) is not always a man, though he may well be thought of as one who has been sent there in punishment for his misdeeds. What is he doing? Some people imagine he is making a big fire, some that he is carrying buckets of water. Many others contend that we are looking at a rabbit or a frog; and the list could be greatly extended. For the phases of the moon (A755) a number of explanations are given. Most of them seem trivial, and no well recognized stories have attached themselves to this phenomenon. The sun, the moon, and the stars, vast as these are, do not furnish a sufficiently broad scope for the folk imagination. For, outside of the earth they trod on and the heavenly bodies which they could see, our story tellers have imagined many other realms. Some of these are a part of their regular religious conceptions: heaven, hell, and sometimes purgatory. The relation of popular conceptions of these lands of the dead to early folk thought on the one hand and to learned theological disputation on the other is a subject of much interest, but belongs essentially to the history of religions. [369]

But popular imagination has devised still other worlds. Sometimes these are thought of as above, sometimes below, and sometimes merely remote. There are frequent stories of journeys to earthly paradises on distant islands or across mystic rivers or on some inaccessible mountain (F111). The Irish have always been especially fond of stories of marvelous voyages, to the Land of Women (F112), it may be, or to the realm of youth (D1338.7), or to Avalon [370] (E481.4.1) where the dead are healed. But by no means all of the "otherworld" ideas in European folklore are Irish. Many of them [p. 239] are certainly Oriental [371] and others are so widespread as to make source hunting an impossible quest. The rainbow bridge to the land of the dead (F152.1.1) is not confined to Norse mythology, and the mysterious for bidding river which one must ford in order to pass over into the evil land (F141.1.1) was traversed by many heroes before Browning sent Child Roland on his quest for the Dark Tower. Some other interesting concepts concerning the other worlds make clear enough the fact that great distances have never been a part of these popular conceptions. The lower world can be reached by descending a rope (F96) or going down a stair (F94), and a descent from the upper world may be made in the same way, not only by the angels at Bethel, but also by human heroes and heroines. On the way from the sky the rope may be too short to afford safe return. [372]

A very common legend is that of the city below the sea, a kind of sub marine other-land (F133). Such legends may sometimes be based upon a real knowledge of sunken coasts, though this can be true for only a small number. Somewhat analogous to these ideas is that of the sunken continent, the Lost Atlantis (cf. Z692). But that speculation is certainly literary.

In contrast to the number of legends and traditions concerning the heavenly bodies and other worlds, the stories about the formation of the earth, its present conditions, and the establishment of its human and animal inhabitants appear in almost overwhelming numbers. Any realistic view of the available body of oral legend and tradition, whether among primitive peoples or among unlettered groups in our own culture, compels the conclusion that the taleteller's imagination has concerned itself primarily with things of this earth.

The main act of creation of the earth has not ordinarily entered into Western tradition, since that tradition has received as orthodox the explanations either of one of the great mythologies or of the Hebrew scriptures. On the other hand, there are many tales explaining the presence of particular features of landscape (A901). Certain mountains, for example, are said to be caused by stones which are dropped from a giant's clothes, or because God's sieve broke and let through large stones, or because giants hurled boulders back and forth (A965 and A966). Another large group of legends concerns indentions on rocks. These are explained as being the footprints left by some primitive man or animal, frequently by one of the gods (A972).

One of the most common legends, known in the Old World, but a particular [p. 240] favorite of the American Indians, is that of a cliff which has served as a point from which lovers have leapt to their tragic death (A985). Sometimes, of course, this legend is merely a local story and makes no pretense of explaining the presence of a cliff.

Such are a few of the groups of explanatory legends concerning the formation of the land. As to the sea, the most puzzling feature has been the saltness of its water, and various legends have attempted to account for this. The most familiar is the tale of the stolen salt mill which will stop grinding only at the command of its master. A ship captain takes it aboard his ship, and it continues to grind salt until the ship is sunk and the whole sea has been filled with it. [373]

Legends explanatory of the weather are much more common in primitive folklore than in that of the West. There is much resemblance in these legends in all parts of the world, though the ideas are so general that no actual historic relationship between them need be assumed. The tale of Aeolus, who confines the winds in a cave (A1122) and lets them out at will appears not only in classical mythology but also in places so widely separated as Siberia, New Zealand, and California. Similarly widespread is the story of the giant bird who causes the winds by the flapping of his wings (A1125). The bird flaps too hard, and the hero cuts his wings so as to make him more moderate. This latter tale was known not only in ancient Babylonia, but in Iceland as well, and it has been reported among the North American Indians of Nova Scotia [374] and the Negroes of Georgia.

Finally, among weather legends should be mentioned those accounting for the rain and snow. Not much originality is shown in these, the most usual explanation of rain being from tears (A1131.1), or snow from the feathers or clothes of a witch (A1135.1). The latter idea appears in several forms: sometimes she is said to be picking geese and letting the feathers fall.

In relating those legends based upon the Old Testament an account has already been given of the popular traditions concerning Creation and Paradise Lost, as well as the Flood. But there are several stories about the beginnings of human life and culture which are not based upon the Scriptures. Among these are the practically world-wide myths of the theft of light (A1411), and the theft of fire (A1415). The latter is told in especially rich detail in all parts of the world. Some of the correspondences between remote versions of this legend—for example, the preservation of the fire in a hollow reed not only in the Greek myth but in tales from [p. 241] Indians of California and of Bolivia—present an interesting problem of comparative folklore.

By far the largest number of explanatory legends everywhere are concerned with animals, their creation and the establishment of their special characteristics. The teller of folktales is no evolutionist. He has a tendency to explain all present-day animals in terms of the behavior of some mythical ancestor. Some act has brought about the creation of a species of animals or a change in their make-up or habits. We have already mentioned the creation of animals by God and the devil, [375] thus accounting for at least two large classes of creatures, the good and the bad. Three legends of the creation of animals (A1700 to A2199) will illustrate the whole group. The flea is created in order to give women work (A2032.2); various kinds of birds owe their origin to Pharaoh's drowned army (A1901); and the flounder with his flat side is a descendant of a fish only half eaten by the Virgin Mary (A2126).

It is with the special bodily characteristics or habits of animals that legend has mostly concerned itself. Usually, such legends assume that a change was made in an ancient animal and that this change has persisted in all its descendants. Thus in a tale we have already noted (Type 47A), the rabbit laughs at a funny sight and splits his lip so that forever after his descendants are marked by the hare-lip (A2211.2). The ant and the spider have a dispute in heaven. God decides the dispute in favor of the ant and throws the spider out. His great fall and injury account for the narrow waists of modern spiders (A2214.2). We have already learned how the bear lost his tail when his foolish ancestor fished through the ice at the fox's suggestion (Type 2). Many animals have their present colors because an ancestor got into the fire and was burned or singed (A2218), or because in some adventure he has colors spilled on him (A2219.1).

If an animal's characteristics are pleasant, or otherwise favorable, they are often ascribed to a reward given to the ancestral animal for some deed of kindness or piety. A whole series of animal characteristics are accounted for because of help given to Christ at his Crucifixion (A2221.2): the robin's red breast, the permission to flies to eat at the king's table, and the immunity of swallows' nests from destruction. On the contrary, some of the ancient animals were discourteous and were properly punished (A2231). Thus the horse, when the saint wishes to use him, always excuses himself on the ground that he is still eating. The saint curses him, "May you always be eating," and his descendants keep grazing to this day. The flounder also is punished for discourtesy. When God asks him where he is going he does not answer, but merely turns his head. Since that time all flounders have had crooked mouths.

Ancient animals were punished for various kinds of misdeeds. The Aesop [p. 242] fables have popularized the tales of those who make immoderate requests (A2232): the camel who asks for horns and as a punishment is given short ears, and the bees who pray for a sung but are punished by having their first sting fatal to themselves.

We have already noticed in another connection a group of tales in which animals are chastised for their refusal to help in some common task, usually the building of a road or the digging of a well (Type 55). Sometimes such tales are recounted as a part of the cycle of the fox and the wolf and the interest is in the tricks and deceptions practiced. But frequently these stories also explain the present-day characteristics of the animals concerned (A2233). Thus laziness on this occasion explains why the snake may not use the road, why the dog must remain out of doors, or why certain animals may not drink from a river or spring.

Besides rewards and punishments, many other reasons are assigned for the change from the ancient animal which is now seen in his descendants. Sometimes one animal borrows a member or quality from another and refuses to return it (A2241). [376] Sometimes a mere exchange of qualities accounts for some characteristics. [377] A considerable group of tales gives account of contests, usually races, in which the result determines the animal's form or habits. [378] Transformation of a person to an animal is sometimes cited as a reason for certain qualities which suggest human beings. Most famous of these stories is that of the shepherd who is transformed to a bird and still calls his sheep (A2261.1). This tale is used to account for various bird cries. Grimm told a pretty story of this kind about the hoopoe. In his collection is also found the explanation of the enmity existing between the cat and the dog. [379] The cat loses the dog's certificate of nobility and thus forfeits his friendship.

One remarkable thing about origin legends of this kind in countries dominated for millennia by the great historic religions is how few of them ascribe animal changes to the direct act of God. We have already seen in apocryphal accounts of creation how God and the devil both created animals, [380] and how this fact explains many present-day characteristics. It will not do to finish this account of origin legends without mention of the picturesque story of how the hog received his round snout. It seems that in the midst of the creation of the hog a great fire broke out, so that God had to leave the job half done (A2286.1.1).

Though many of these explanatory legends are told over wide areas, [p. 243] the relative number of them which are purely local is much greater than is true with the regular folktale. Such local legends have a great deal of interest for their own sake and for an understanding of the folklore to which they belong. But in a broad treatment of explanatory myths, it is, of course, impossible to do more than indicate the general nature of these legends in Western culture.

[364] For an excellent treatment of legends based upon the Old Testament and still current as oral tales, see Dähnhardt, Natursagen, vol. I.

[365] For bibliography of flood legends, see A1010.

[366] The Play of the Flood (in The Towneley Plays, Early English Text Society, extra series, LXXI).

[367] See p. 384, below.

[368] This, in spite of the fact that some writers on mythology find practically all folktales nothing more than broken down sun myths or moon myths. See pp. 371ff. and 384, below.

[369] For some of these concepts, see the following motif numbers: A671. Hell; A692. Islands of the Blest; A661. Heaven; E481.4. Beautiful land of the dead; and E755.3. Souls in Purgatory.

[370] See A. H. Krappe, "Avallon," Speculum, XVIII (1943). 303-322.

[371] For an excellent discussion of the whole otherworld concept, see H. R. Patch, "Some Elements in Mediaeval Descriptions of the Otherworld," Publications of the Modern Language Association, XXXIII, 601-643.

[372] The rope from the sky (F51) is very popular in primitive tales. The ladder to the upper world (F52) appears more frequently in a religious context, where the upper world is usually the Christian Heaven. One of the most famous medieval books of exempla was called Scala Celi.

[373] This motif appears as a part of a regular folktale, Type 565.

[374] My own investigation of the tales of the North American Indians began with just this point. In his Algonquin Legends of New England, Charles Godfrey Leland had called attention to the interesting parallel between this Indian tale and an Icelandic myth, and he was convinced of historic connections, probably by way of Greenland and the Eskimos. Such connection is, of course, not impossible.

[375] P. 236, above.

[376] For tales of this kind concerning the nightingale and the blindworm, and also the jay and the cuckoo, see Types 234 and 235.

[377] See The Dove's Egg-substitution, Type 240.

[378] See The Pike and the Snake Race to Land (Type 252) and The Ant Carries a Load as Large as Himself (Type 280).

[379] See The Dog's Certificate (Type 200).

[380] See A1751, p. 236, above.


2, 47A, 55, 200, 234, 235, 240, 252, 280, 565, 825


A661, A671, A692, A721.1, A771, A773, A751, A755, A778, A901, A965, A966, A972, A985, A1010, A1021, A1021.1, A1021.2, A1022, A1122, A1125, A1131.1, A1333, A1135.1, A1217, A1224.3, A1241, A1275.1, A1291, A1319.1, A1331.1, A1411, A1415, A1650.1, A1700-A2199, A1751, A1811.2, A1861.1, A1901, A2032.2, A2126, A2211.2, A2214.2, A2214.3, A2218, A2219.1, A2221.2, A2231, A2232, A2232.4, A2233, A2241, A2261.1, A2286.1.1, C12.5.1, C771.1, D1338.7, E481.4, E481.4.1, E755.3, F52, F94, F96, F111, F112, F133, F141.1.1, F152.1.1, F251.4, K485, Z692