Part 4 out of 12
Feuerbach, and there were food-philosophies long before his time. Among
primitive peoples, the food of the child often smacks of the Golden Age.
Tennyson, in _Eleanore_, sings:--
"Or, the yellow-banded bees,
Through half-open lattices
Coming in the scented breeze,
Fed thee, a child lying alone,
With white honey, in fairy gardens cull'd--
A glorious child dreaming alone,
In silk-soft folds, upon yielding down,
With the hum of swarming bees
Into dreamful slumber lull'd."
This recalls the story of Cretan Zeus, fed, when an infant, by the
nymphs in a cave on Mount Ida with the milk of the goat Amalthaa and
honey brought by the bees of the mountain.
In the sacred books of the ancient Hindus we read: "The father puts his
mouth to the right ear of the new-born babe, and murmurs three times,
'Speech! Speech!' Then he gives it a name. Then he mixes clotted milk,
honey, and butter, and feeds the babe with it out of pure gold"
(460.129). Among the ancient Frisians and some other Germanic tribes,
the father had the right to put to death or expose his child so long as
it had not taken food; but "so soon as the infant had drunk milk and
eaten honey he could not be put to death by his parents" (286. 69). The
custom of giving the new-born child honey to taste is referred to in
German counting-out rhymes, and the ancient Germans used to rub honey in
the mouth of the new-born child. The heathen Czechs used to drop honey
upon the child's lips, and in the Eastern Church it was formerly the
custom to give the baptized child milk and honey to taste (392. II. 35).
When the Jewish child, in the Middle Ages, first went to school, one of
the ceremonial observances was to have him lick a slate which had been
smeared with honey, and upon which the alphabet, two Bible verses, and
the words "The Tora shall be my calling" were written; this custom is
interestingly explanative of the passage in Ezekiel (iii. 3) where we
read "Then I did eat it [the roll of a book given the prophet by God];
and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness." There were also given to
the child sweet cakes upon which Bible verses were written. Among the
Jews of Galicia, before a babe is placed in the cradle for the first
time, it is customary to strew into the latter little pieces of
honey-comb. Among the Wotjaks we find the curious belief that those who,
in eating honey, do not smear their mouth and hands with it, will die.
With children of an older growth,--the second Golden Age,--honey and
cakes again appear. Magyar maidens at the new moon steal honey and
cakes, cook them, and mix a part in the food of the youth of their
desires; among the White Russians, the bridal couple are fed honey with
a spoon. Even with us "the first sweet month of matrimony," after the
"bless you, my children" has been spoken by parents, church, and state,
is called the "honey-moon," for our Teutonic ancestors were in the habit
of drinking honey-wine or mead for the space of thirty days after
marriage (392. IV. 118,211). In wedding-feasts the honey appears again,
and, as Westermarck observes, the meal partaken of by the bride and
bridegroom practically constitutes the marriage-ceremony among the
Navajos, Santal, Malays, Hovas, and other primitive peoples (166. 419).
In Iceland, in ancient times, "the food of sucklings was sweetened by
honey," and "in the mouths of weakly children a slice of meat was placed
at which they sucked." Among other interesting items from Scandinavia,
Ploss (326. II. 182) gives the following: "In Iceland, if the child has
been suckled eight (at most, fourteen) days, it is henceforth placed
upon the ground; near it is put a vessel with luke-warm whey, in which a
reed or a quill is stuck, and a little bread placed before it. If the
child should wake and show signs of hunger, he is turned towards the
vessel, and the reed is placed in his mouth. When the child is nine
months old, it must eat of the same food as its parents do."
In Shropshire, England, the first food given a child is a spoonful of
sugar and butter, and, in the Highlands of Scotland, "at the birth of an
infant the nurse takes a green stick of ash, one end of which she puts
into the fire, and, while it is burning, receives in a spoon the sap
that oozes from the other, which she administers to the child as its
first food." This recalls the sap of the sacred ash of Scandinavian
mythology. Solinus states that the ancient Irish mother "put the first
food of her newborn son on the sword of her husband, and, lightly
introducing it into his mouth, expressed a wish that he might never meet
death otherwise than in war and amid arms," and a like custom is said
"to have been kept up, prior to the union, in Annandale and other places
along the Scottish border" (460. 129, 131).
Among the Negritos of the Philippine Islands, when a child is born, one
of the other children immediately gives it to eat some salt on the point
of a knife (326. I. 258). The virtues of salt are recognized among many
peoples. In the Middle Ages, when mothers abandoned their infants, they
used to place beside them a little salt in token that they were
unbaptized (326. I. 284); in Scotland, where the new-born babe is
"bathed in salted water, and made to taste it three times, because the
water was strengthening and also obnoxious to a person with the evil
eye," the lady of the house first visited by the mother and child must,
with the recital of a charm, put some salt in the little one's mouth. In
Brabant, during the baptismal ceremony, the priest consecrates salt,
given him by the father, and then puts a grain into the child's mouth,
the rest being carefully kept by the father. The great importance of
salt in the ceremonies of the Zuni and related Indians of the Pueblos
has been pointed out by Mr. Gushing.
Salt appears also at modern European wedding-feasts and prenuptial
rites, as do also rice and meal, which are also among the first foods of
some primitive races. Among the Badagas of the Nilgiri Hills, when the
child is named (from twenty to thirty days after birth), the maternal
uncle places three small bits of rice in its mouth (326. I. 284).
Among the Tlingit Indians, of Alaska, the new-born infant "is not given
the breast until all the contents of its stomach (which are considered
the cause of disease) are removed by vomiting, which is promoted by
pressing the stomach" (403. 40), and among the Hare Indians, "the infant
is not allowed food until four days after birth, in order to accustom it
to fasting in the next world" (396. I. 121). The Songish Indians do not
give the child anything to eat on the first day (404. 20); the Kolosh
Indians, of Alaska, after ten to thirty months "accustom their children
to the taste of a sea-animal," and, among the Arctic Eskimo, Kane found
"children, who could not yet speak, devouring with horrible greediness,
great lumps of walrus fat and flesh." Klutschak tells us how, during a
famine, the Eskimo of Hudson's Bay melted and boiled for the children
the blood-soaked snow from the spot where a walrus had been killed and
cut up (326. II. 181).
In Culdaff, in the county of Donegal, Ireland, "an infant at its birth
is forced to swallow spirits, and is immediately afterwards [strange
anticipation of Dr. Robinson] suspended by the upper jaw on the nurse's
forefinger. Whiskey is here the representative of the Hindu soma, the
sacred juice of the ash, etc., and the administration of alcoholic
liquors to children of a tender age in sickness and disease so common
everywhere but a few years ago, founded itself perhaps more upon this
ancient belief than upon anything else" (401. 180).
The study of the food of sick children is an interesting one, and much
of value may be read of it in Zanetti (173), Black (401), and other
writers who have treated of folk-medicine. The decoctions of plants and
herbs, the preparations of insects, reptiles, the flesh, blood, and
ordure of all sorts of beasts (and of man), which the doctrines of
signatures and sympathies, the craze of _similia similibus_, forced
down the throat of the child, in the way of food and medicine, are
legion in number, and must be read in Folkard and the herbalists, in
Bourke (407), Strack, etc.
In some parts of the United States even snail-water and snail-soup are
not unknown; in New England, as Mrs. Earle informs us (221. 6), much was
once thought of "the admirable and most famous snail-water."
_Milk and Honey_.
As we have abundantly seen, the first food of the child is the "food of
the gods," for so were honey and milk esteemed among the ancient
Germans, Greeks, Slavs, Hindus, etc., and of the Paradise where dwelt
the Gods, and into which it was fabled children were born, we have some
recollection, as Ploss suggests, in the familiar "land flowing with milk
and honey," into the possession of which the children of Israel entered
after their long wandering in the wilderness (462. II. 696). Of the
ancient Hindu god Agni, Letourneau (100. 315) observes: "After being for
a long time fed upon melted butter and the alcoholic liquor from the
acid asclepias, the sacred Soma, he first became a glorious child, then
a metaphysical divinity, a mediator living in the fathers and living
again in the sons." It was the divine _Soma_ that, like the nectar
of the Greeks, the elixirs of the Scandinavians, conferred youth and
immortality upon those who drank it.
According to Moslem legend, after his birth, Abraham "remained concealed
in a cave during fifteen months, and his mother visited him sometimes to
nurse him. But he had no need of her food, for Allah commanded water to
flow from one of Abraham's fingers, milk from another, honey from the
third, the juice of dates from the fourth, and butter from the fifth"
In the _Gesta Romanorum_ (Cap. XI.) we read of the "Queen of the
North," who "nourished her daughter from the cradle upon a certain kind
of deadly poison; and when she grew up, she was considered so beautiful,
that the sight of her alone affected one with madness." Moreover, her
whole nature had become so imbued with poisons that "she herself had
become the deadliest poison in existence. Poison was her element of
life. With that rich perfume of her breath she blasted the very air. Her
love would have been poison, her embrace death." Hawthorne's story of
"Rappaccini's Daughter,"--"who ever since infancy had grown and
blossomed with the plants whose fatal properties she had imbibed with
the air she breathed,"--comes from the same original source (390. II.
172). Here we are taken back again to the Golden Age, when even poisons
could be eaten without harm.
_Priest and Food_.
With the giving of the child's food the priest is often associated. In
the Fiji Islands, at Vitilevu, on the day when the navel-string falls
off, a festival is held, and the food of the child is blest by the
priest with prayers for his life and prosperity. In Upper Egypt, a feast
is held at the house of the father and the child consecrated by the cadi
or a priest, to whom is brought a plate with sugar-candy. The priest
chews the candy and lets the sweet juice fall out of his mouth into that
of the child, and thus "gives him his name out of his mouth" (326. I.
The over-indulgence of children in food finds parallels at a later
period of life, when, as with the people of southern Nubia and the
Sahara between Talifet and Timbuktu, men fatten girls before marriage,
making them consume huge quantities of milk, butter, etc.
For children, among many primitive peoples, there are numerous
_taboos_ of certain classes and kinds of food, from religious or
superstitious motives. This _taboo_-system has not lost all its
force even to-day, as no other excuse can reasonably be offered for the
refusal of certain harmless food to the young.
Concerning certain Australian tribes, Lumholtz remarks: "Before the
children are big enough to hold a pipe in their mouth they are permitted
to smoke, and the mother will share her pipe with the nursing babe"
(495. 193). In like manner, among the natives of the Solomon Islands,
Mr. Guppy witnessed displays of precocity in this regard:
"Bright-looking lads, eight or nine years of age, stood smoking their
pipes as gravely as Haununo [a chief] himself; and even the smallest
babe in its father's arms caught hold of his pipe and began to suck
instinctively" (466.42). With the Jivaro Indians of Ecuador, according
to Simson, the child, when three or four years old, is initiated into
the mysteries of tobacco-smoking, amid great festivities and ceremonies
_Drink of Immortality_.
Feeding the dead has been in practice among many primitive peoples. The
mother, with some of the Indian tribes of New Mexico, used to drop milk
from her breast on the lips of her dead babe; and in many parts of the
world we meet with the custom of placing food near the grave, so that
the spirits may not hunger, or of placing it in the grave or coffin, so
that on its way to the spirit-land the soul of the deceased may partake
of some refreshment. Among the ancient natives of Venezuela, "infants
who died a few days after their birth, were seated around the Tree of
Milk, or Celestial Tree, that distilled milk from the extremity of its
branches"; and kindred beliefs are found elsewhere (448. 297).
We have also the tree associated beautifully with the newborn child, as
Reclus records concerning the Todas of the Nilgiri Hills, in India:
"Immediately the deliverance has taken place--it always happens in the
open air--three leaves of the aforementioned tree [under which the
mother and father have passed the night] are presented to the father,
who, making cups of them, pours a few drops of water into the first,
wherewith he moistens his lips; the remainder he decants into the two
other leaves; the mother drinks her share, and causes the baby to
swallow his. Thus, father, mother, and child, earliest of Trinities,
celebrate their first communion, and drink the living water, more sacred
than wine, from the leaves of the Tree of Life" (523. 201).
The sacred books of the Hebrews tell us that the race of man in its
infancy became like the gods by eating of the fruit of the tree of
knowledge, and in the legends of other peoples immortality came to the
great heroes by drinking of the divine sap of the sacred tree, or
partaking of some of its fruit. The ancient Egyptians believed that milk
from the breast of the divine mother Isis conferred divinity and
immortality upon him who drank of it or imbibed it from the sacred
source. Wiedemann aptly compares with this the Greek story of the
infancy of Hercules. The great child-hero was the son of the god Jupiter
and Alcmena, daughter of Electryon, King of Argos. He was exposed by his
mother, but the goddess Athene persuaded Hera to give him her breast
(another version says Hermes placed Hercules on the breast of Hera,
while she slept) and the infant Hercules drew so lustily of the milk
that he caused pain to the goddess, who snatched him away. But Hercules
had drunk of the milk of a goddess and had become immortal, and as one
of the gods (167. 266).
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.--_Wordsworth_.
And rest at last where souls unbodied dwell
In ever-flowing meads of Asphodel.
--_Homer (Pope's Transl_.).
With certain Hindu castes, the new-born child is sprinkled with cold
water, "in order that the soul, which, since its last existence, has
remained in a condition of dreamy contemplation, may be brought to the
consciousness that it has to go through a new period of trial in this
corporeal world" (326. II. 13). Perhaps, among the myriad rites and
ceremonies of immersion and sprinkling to which the infant is submitted
with other primitive peoples, some traces of similar beliefs may be
When the new world-religion was winning its way among the gentiles,
baptism was the great barrier erected between the babe and the power of
ill, spirits of air, earth, and water, survivals of old heathenism
antagonistic to Christianity. Before that holy rite was performed, the
child lay exposed to all their machinations. Baptism was the armour of
the infant against the assaults of Satan and his angels, against the
cunning of the wanderers from elfin-land, the fairy-sprites, with their
changelings and their impish tricks.
Hence, the souls of still-born and unbaptized children came into the
power of these evil ones and were metamorphosed into insects, birds,
beasts, and the like, whose peculiar notes and voices betray them as
having once been little children, or were compelled to join, the train
of the wild huntsman, or mingle in the retinue of some other outcast,
wandering sprite or devil; or, again, as some deceitful star, or
will-o'-the-wisp, mislead and torment the traveller on moor and in bog
and swamp, and guide him to an untimely death amid desert solitudes.
Ploss, Henderson, and Swainson have a good deal to say on the subject of
Frau Berctha and her train, the Wild Huntsman, the "Gabble Retchet,"
"Yeth Hounds," etc. Mr. Henderson tells us that, "in North Devon the
local name is 'yeth hounds,' _heath_ and _heathen_ being both
'yeth' in the North Devon dialect. Unbaptized infants are there buried
in a part of the churchyard set apart for the purpose called
'Chrycimers,' i.e. Christianless, hill, and the belief seems to be that
their spirits, having no admittance into Paradise, unite in a pack of
'Heathen' or 'yeth' hounds, and hunt the Evil One, to whom they ascribe
their unhappy condition" (469. 131, 132). The prejudice against
unbaptized children lingers yet elsewhere, as the following extract from
a newspaper published in the year 1882 seems to indicate (230. 272):--
"There is in the island of Mull a little burial-ground entirely devoted
to unbaptized children, who were thus severed in the grave from those
who had been interred in the hope of resurrection to life. Only one
adult lies with the little babes--an old Christian woman--whose last
dying request it was that she should be buried with the unbaptized
children." The Rev. Mr. Thorn has given the facts poetic form and made
immortal that mother-heart whose love made holy--if hallowed it needed
to be--the lonely burial-ground where rest the infant outcasts:--
"A spot that seems to bear a ban,
As if by curse defiled:
No mother lies there with her babe,
No father by his child."
Among primitive peoples we find a like prejudice against still-born
children and children who die very young. The natives of the Highlands
of Borneo think that still-born infants go to a special spirit-land
called _Tenyn lallu_, and "the spirits of these children are
believed to be very brave and to require no weapon other than a stick to
defend themselves against their enemies. The reason given for this idea
is, that the child has never felt pain in this world and is therefore
very daring in the other" (475. 199). In Annam the spirits of children
still-born and of those dying in infancy are held in great fear. These
spirits, called _Con Ranh_, or _Con Lon_ (from _lon_, "to
enter into life"), are ever seeking "to incorporate themselves in the
bodies of others, though, after so doing, they are incapable of life."
Moreover, "their names are not mentioned in the presence of women, for
it is feared they might take to these, and a newly-married woman is in
like manner afraid to take anything from a woman, or to wear any of the
clothing of one, who has had such a child. Special measures are
necessary to get rid of the _Con Ranh_" (397. 18-19). The Alfurus,
of the Moluccas, "bury children up to their waists and expose them to
all the tortures of thirst until they wrench from them the promise to
hurl themselves upon the enemies of the village. Then they take them
out, but only to kill them on the spot, imagining that the spirits of
the victims will respect their last promise" (388. 81). On the other
hand, Callaway informs us that the Zulu diviner may divine by the
_Amatongo_ (spirit) of infants, "supposed to be mild and
beneficent" (417. 176).
Wordsworth, in that immortal poem, which belongs to the jewels of the
treasure-house of childhood, has sung of the birth of man:--
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But, trailing clouds of glory, do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy,"--
and the humbler bards of many an age, whose names have perished with
the races that produced them, have thought and sung of soul-incarnation,
metempsychosis, transmigration, and kindred concepts, in a thousand
different ways. In their strangely poetical language, the Tupi Indians,
of Brazil, term a child _pitanga_, "suck soul," from _piter_,
"to suck," _anga_, "soul." The Seminole Indians, of Florida, "held
the baby over the face of the woman dying in child-birth, so that it
might receive her parting spirit" (409. 271). A similar practice (with
the father) is reported from Polynesia. In a recently published work on
"Souls," by Mrs. Mary Ailing Aber, we read:--
"Two-thirds of all the babies that are born in civilized lands to-day
have no souls attached to them. These babies are emanations from their
parents,--not true entities; and, unless a soul attaches itself, no
ordinary efforts can carry one of them to the twentieth year. Souls do
attach themselves to babies after birth sometimes so late as the third
year. On the other hand, babies who have souls at birth sometimes lose
them because the soul finds a better place, or is drawn away by a
stronger influence; but this rarely occurs after the third year."
This somewhat _outre_ declaration of modern spiritualism finds
kindred in some of the beliefs of primitive peoples, concerning which
there is much in Ploss, Frazer, Bastian, etc.
In one of the Mussulman stories of King Solomon, the Angel of Death
descends in human form to take the soul of an aged man, whose wish was
to die when he had met the mightiest prophet. He dies talking to the
wise Hebrew king. Afterwards the Angel says to Solomon:--
"He [the angel, whose head reaches ten thousand years beyond the seventh
heaven, whose feet are five hundred years below the earth, and upon
whose shoulders stands the Angel of Death] it is who points out to me
when and how I must take a soul. His gaze is fixed on the tree Sidrat
Almuntaha, which bears as many leaves inscribed with names as there are
men living on the earth.
"At each new birth a new leaf, bearing the name of the newly-born,
bursts forth; and when any one has reached the end of his life, his leaf
withers and falls off, and at the same instant I am with him to receive
"As often as a believer dies, Gabriel attends me, and wraps his soul in
a green silken sheet, and then breathes it into a green bird, which
feeds in Paradise until the day of the resurrection. But the soul of the
sinner I take alone, and, having wrapped it in a coarse, pitch-covered,
woollen cloth, carry it to the gates of Hell, where it wanders among
abominable vapours until the last day" (547. 213, 214).
According to the belief of the Miao-tse, an aboriginal tribe of the
province of Canton, in China, the souls of unborn children are kept in
the garden of two deities called "Flower-Grandfather" and
"Flower-Grandmother," and when to these have been made by a priest
sacrifices of hens or swine, the children are let out and thus appear
among men. As a charm against barrenness, these people put white paper
into a basket and have the priest make an invocation. The white paper
represents the deities, and the ceremony is called _kau fa; i.e._
In Japan, a certain Lake Fakone, owing its origin to an earthquake,
and now surrounded by many temples, is looked upon as the abode of the
souls of children about to be born (326. I. 3).
Certain Californian Indians, near Monterey, thought that "the dead
retreated to verdant islands in the West, while awaiting the birth of
the infants whose souls they were to form" (396. III. 525).
In Calabria, Italy, when a butterfly flits around a baby's cradle, it is
believed to be either an angel or a baby's soul, and a like belief
prevails in other parts of the world; and we have the classic
personification of Psyche, the soul, as a butterfly.
Among the uneducated peasantry of Ireland, the pure white butterfly is
thought to be the soul of the sinless and forgiven dead on the way to
Paradise, whilst the spotted ones are the embodiments of spirits
condemned to spend their time of purgatory upon earth, the number of the
sins corresponding with the number of spots on the wings of the insect
In early Christian art and folk-lore, the soul is often figured as a
dove, and in some heathen mythologies of Europe as a mouse, weasel,
In various parts of the world we find that children, at death, go to
special limbos, purgatories, or heavens, and the folk-lore of the
subject must be read at length in the mythological treatises.
The Andaman Islanders "believe that every child which is conceived has
had a prior existence, but only as an infant. If a woman who has lost a
baby is again about to become a mother, the name borne by the deceased
is bestowed on the fetus, in the expectation that it will prove to be
the same child born again. Should it be found at birth that the babe is
of the same sex as the one who died, the identity is considered to be
sufficiently established; but, if otherwise, the deceased one is said to
be under the rau- (_Ficus laccifera_), in _cha-itan-_
(Hades)." Under this tree, upon the fruit of which they live, also dwell
"the spirits and souls of all children who die before they cease to be
entirely dependent on their parents (_i.e._ under six years of
age)" (498. 86, 93). There was a somewhat similar myth in Venezuela
Mr. Codrington gives some interesting illustrations of this belief from
Melanesia (25. 311):--
"In the island of Aurora, Maewo, in the New Hebrides, women sometimes
have a notion that the origin, beginning, of one of their children is a
cocoanut or a bread-fruit, or something of that kind; and they believe,
therefore, that it would be injurious to the child to eat that food. It
is a fancy of the woman, before the birth of the child, that the infant
will be the _nunu_, which may be translated the echo, of such an
object. Women also fancy that a child is the _nunu_ of some dead
person. It is not a notion of metempsychosis, as if the soul of the dead
person returned in the new-born child; but it is thought that there is
so close a connection that the infant takes the place of the deceased.
At Mota, also, in the Banks Islands, there was the belief that each
person had a source of his being, his origin, in some animate or
inanimate thing, which might, under some circumstances, become known to
him." As Mr. Codrington suggests, such beliefs throw light upon the
probable origin of totemism and its development.
Mrs. Stevenson informs us that "although the Sia do not believe in a
return of the spirits of their dead when they have once entered Shipapo
[the lower world], there was once an exception to this." The priestly
tale, as told to Mrs. Stevenson, is as follows (538. 143):--
"When the years were new, and this village had been built perhaps three
years, all the spirits of our dead came here for a great feast. They had
bodies such as they had before death; wives recognized husbands,
husbands wives, children parents, and parents children. Just after
sundown the spirits began arriving, only a few passing over the road by
daylight, but after dark they came in great crowds and remained until
near dawn. They tarried but one night; husbands and wives did not sleep
together; had they done so, the living would have surely died. When the
hour of separation came, there was much weeping, not only among the
living, but the dead. The living insisted upon going with the dead, but
the dead declared they must wait,--that they could not pass through the
entrance to the other world; they must first die or grow old and again
become little children to be able to pass through the door of the world
for the departed. It was then that the Sia first learned all about their
future home. They learned that the fields were vast, the pastures
beautiful, the mountains high, the lakes and rivers clear like crystal,
and the wheat and cornfields flourishing. During the day the spirits
sleep, and at night they work industriously in the fields. The moon is
father to the dead as the sun is father to the living, the dead resting
when the sun travels, for at this time they see nothing; it is when the
sun returns to his home at night that the departed spirits work and pass
about in their world below. The home of the departed spirits is in the
world first inhabited by the Sia."
We learn further: "It is the aim of the Sia to first reach the
intermediate state at the time the body ceases to develop, and then
return gradually back to the first condition of infancy; at such periods
one does not die, but sleeps to awake in the spirit-world as a little
child. Many stories have come to the Sia by those who have died only for
a time; the heart becomes still and the lips cold, and the spirit passes
to the entrance of the other world and looks in, but does not enter, and
yet it sees all, and in a short time returns to inhabit its earthly
body. Great alarm is felt when one returns in this way to life, but much
faith is put in the stories afterwards told by the one who has passed
over the road of death."
In the belief of these Indians of North America we see some
foreshadowing of the declaration of Jesus, a rude expression of the
fundamental thought underlying his words:--
"Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of
such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not
receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in nowise enter
Certain Siouan Indians think: "The stars are all deceased men. When a
child is born, a star descends and appears on earth in human form; after
death it reascends and appears as a star in heaven" (433. 508). How like
this is the poet's thought:--
"Our birth, is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar."
CHILDREN'S FLOWERS, PLANTS, AND TREES.
As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field so he
--_Psalm_ ciii. 15.
A child at play in meadows green,
Plucking the fragrant flowers,
Chasing the white-winged butterflies,--
So sweet are childhood's hours.
We meet wi' blythesome and kythesome cheerie weans,
Daffin' and laughin' far adoon the leafy lanes,
Wi' gowans and buttercups buskin' the thorny wands--
Sweetly singin' wi' the flower-branch wavin' in their hands.
Many savage nations worship trees, and I really think my first
feeling would be one of delight and interest rather than of surprise,
if some day when I am alone in a wood, one of the trees were to
speak to me.--_Sir John Lubbock_.
O who can tell
The hidden power of herbs, and might of magic spell?--_Spenser_.
_Plant Life and Human Life_.
Flowers, plants, and trees have ever been interwoven with the fate of
man in the minds of poets and folk-thinkers. The great Hebrew psalmist
declared: "As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field
so he flourisheth," and the old Greeks said beautifully, [greek:
_oiaper phyllon genea, toiade kai andron_], "as is the generation
of leaves, so is also that of men"; or, to quote the words of Homer
(_Iliad_, vi. 146):--
"Like as the generation of leaves, so also is that of men;
For the wind strews the leaves on the ground; but the forest,
Putting forth fresh buds, grows on, and spring will presently return.
Thus with the generation of men; the one blooms, the other fades away."
One derivation (a folk-etymology, perhaps) suggested for the Greek
[Greek: _anthropos_] connects it with [Greek: _anthos_],
making _man_ to be "that which springs up like a flower." We
ourselves speak of the "flower of chivalry," the "bloom of youth,"
"budding youth"; the poets call a little child a "flower," a "bud," a
"blossom,"--Herrick even terms an infant "a virgin flosculet." Plants,
beasts, men, cities, civilizations, grow and _flourish_; the
selfsame words are applied to them all.
The same idea comes out strongly in the words relating to birth and
childhood in the languages of many primitive peoples. With the
Cakchiquel Indians of Guatemala the term _boz_ has the following
meanings: "to issue forth; (of flowers) to open, to blow; (of a
butterfly) to come forth from the cocoon; (of chicks) to come forth from
the egg; (of grains of maize) to burst; (of men) to be born"; in Nahuatl
(Aztec), _itzmolini_ signifies "to sprout, to grow, to be born"; in
Delaware, an Algonkian Indian dialect, _mehittuk_, "tree,"
_mehittgus_, "twig," _mehittachpin_, "to be born," seem
related, while _gischigin_ means "to ripen, to mature, to be born."
In many tongues the words for "young" reveal the same flow of thought.
In Maya, an Indian language of Yucatan, _yax_ signifies "green,
fresh, young"; in Nahuatl, _yancuic_, "green, fresh, new," and
_yancuic pilla_, "a new-born babe"; in Chippeway, _oshki,_
"new, fresh, young," whence _oshkigin_, "young shoot,"
_oshkinawe_, "lad, youth," _oshkinig_, "newly born,"
_oshkinaiaa_, "a new or young object," _oshkiaiaans_, "a young
animal or bird," oshkiabinodji_, "babe, infant, new-born child"; in
Karankawa, an Indian language of Texas, _kwa'-an_, "child, young,"
signifies literally "growing," from _ka'-awan_, "to grow" (said of
animals and plants).
Our English words _lad_ and _lass_, which came to the language
from Celtic sources, find their cognate in the Gothic
_jugga-lauths_, "young lad, young man," where _jugga_ means
"young," and _lauths_ is related to the verb _liudan_, "to
grow, to spring up," from which root we have also the German
_Leute_ and the obsolete English _leet_, for "people" were
originally "the grown, the sprung up."
_Maid (maiden)_, Anglo-Saxon _moegd_, Modern High German
_Magd_, Gothic _magaths_ (and here belongs also old English
_may_) is an old Teutonic word for "virgin, young girl." The Gothic
_magaths_ is a derivative from _magus_, "son, boy, servant,"
cognate with Old Irish _mac_, "boy, son, youth," _mog_ (mug),
"slave," Old Norse _mqgr_, "son," Anglo-Saxon _mago_, "son,
youth, servant, man," the radical of all these terms being _mag_,
"to have power, to increase, to grow,"--the Gothic _magus_ was
properly "a growing (boy)," a "maid" is "a growing (girl)." The same
idea underlies the month-name _May_, for, to the Romans, this was
"the month of growth,"--flowery, bounteous May,--and dedicated to
_Maia_, "the increaser," but curiously, as Ovid tells us, the
common people considered it unlucky to marry in May, for then the rites
of Bona Dea, the goddess of chastity, and the feasts of the dead, were
The study of dendanthropology and human florigeny would lead us wide
afield. The ancient Semitic peoples of Asia Minor had their "Tree of
Life," which later religions have spiritualized, and more than one race
has ascribed its origin to trees. The Carib Indians believed that
mankind--woman especially--were first created from two trees (509. 109).
According to a myth of the Siouan Indians, the first two human beings
stood rooted as trees in the ground for many ages, until a great snake
gnawed at the roots, so that they got loose and became the first
Indians. In the old Norse cosmogony, two human beings--man and
woman--were created from two trees--ash and elm--that stood on the
sea-shore; while Tacitus states that the holy grove of the Semnones was
held to be the cradle of the nation, and in Saxony, men are said to have
grown from trees. The Maya Indians called themselves "sons of the trees"
(509. 180, 264).
Doctor Beauchamp reports a legend of the Iroquois Indians, according to
which a god came to earth and sowed five handfuls of seed, and these,
changing to worms, were taken possession of by spirits, changed to
children, and became the ancestors of the Five Nations (480. IV. 297).
Classical mythology, along with dryads and tree-nymphs of all sorts,
furnishes us with a multitude of myths of the metamorphosis of human
beings into trees, plants, and flowers. Among the most familiar stories
are those of Adonis, Crocus, Phyllis, Narcissus, Leucothea, Hyacinthus,
Syrinx, Clytie, Daphne, Orchis, Lotis, Philemon and Baucis, Atys, etc.
All over the world we find myths of like import.
A typical example is the Algonkian Indian legend of the transformation
of Mishosha, the magician, into the sugar-maple,--the name
_aninatik_ or _ininatik_ is interpreted by folk-etymology as
"man-tree," the sap being the life-blood of Mishosha. Gluskap, the
culture-hero of the Micmacs, once changed "a mighty man" into the
Many of the peculiarities of trees and plants are explained by the folk
as resulting from their having once been human creatures.
Grimm and Ploss have called attention to the widespread custom of
planting trees on the occasion of the birth of a child, the idea being
that some sort of connection between the plant and the human existed and
would show itself sympathetically. In Switzerland, where the belief is
that the child thrives with the tree, or _vice versa_, apple-trees
are planted for boys and pear- or nut-trees for girls. Among the Jews, a
cedar was planted for a boy and a pine for a girl, while for the wedding
canopy, branches were cut from both these trees (385. 6). From this
thought the orators and psalmists of old Israel drew many a noble and
inspiring figure, such as that used by David: "The righteous shall
flourish like the palm-tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon."
Here belong also "flourishing like a green bay-tree," and the remark of
the Captain in Shakespeare's _King Richard Second:_--
"'Tis thought the king is dead. We will not stay;
The bay-trees in our country are all withered."
_Child-Flowers and -Plants._
The planting of trees for the hero or the heroine and the belief that
these wither when a death is near, blossom when a happy event
approaches, and in many ways react to the fate and fortune of their
human fellows, occur very frequently in fairy-tales and legends.
There is a sweet Tyrolian legend of "a poor idiot boy, who lived alone
in the forest and was never heard to say any words but 'Ave Maria.'
After his death a lily sprang up on his grave, on whose petals 'Ave
Maria' might be distinctly read." (416. 216).
An old Greek myth relates that the Crocus "sprang from the blood of the
infant Crocus, who was accidentally struck by a metal disc thrown by
Mercury, whilst playing a game" (448.299). In Ossianic story, "Malvina,
weeping beside the tomb of Fingal, for Oscar and his infant son, is
comforted by the maids of Morven, who narrate how they have seen the
innocent infant borne on a light mist, pouring upon the fields a fresh
harvest of flowers, amongst which rises one with golden disc, encircled
with rays of silver, tipped with a delicate tint of crimson." Such,
according to this Celtic legend, was the origin of the daisy (448. 308).
The peasants of Brittany believe that little children, when they die, go
straight to Paradise and are changed into beautiful flowers in the
garden of heaven (174. 141). Similar beliefs are found in other parts of
the world, and a like imagery is met with among our poets. Well known is
Longfellow's little poem "The Reaper and the Flowers," in which death,
as a reaper, reaps not alone the "bearded grain," but also "the flowers
[children] that grow between," for:--
"'My Lord has need of these flowerets gay,'
The reaper said, and smiled;
'Dear tokens of the earth are they,
Where he was once a child.'"
"The mother gave, in tears and pain,
The flowers she most did love;
She knew she should find them all again
In the field of light above."
According to a myth of the Chippeway Indians, a star once came down from
heaven to dwell among men. Upon consulting with a young man in a dream
as to where it should live, it was told to choose a place for itself,
and, "at first, it dwelt in the white rose of the mountains; but there
it was so buried that it could not be seen. It went to the prairie; but
it feared the hoof of the buffalo. It next sought the rocky cliff; but
there it was so high that the children whom it loved most could not see
it." It decided at last to dwell where it could always be seen, and so
one morning the Indians awoke to find the surface of river, lake, and
pond covered with thousands of white flowers. Thus came into existence
the beautiful water-lilies (440. 68-70).
Perhaps the most beautiful belief regarding children's flowers is that
embodied in Hans Christian Andersen's tale _The Angel_, where the
Danish prose-poet tells us: "Whenever a child dies, an angel from heaven
comes down to earth and takes the dead child in his arms, spreads out
his great white wings, and flies away over all the places the child has
loved and picks quite a handful of flowers, which he carries up to the
Almighty, that they may bloom in heaven more brightly than on earth. And
the Father presses all the flowers to His heart; but He kisses the
flower that pleases Him best, and the flower is then endowed with a
voice and can join in the great chorus of praise" (393.341).
Beside this, however, we may perhaps place the following quaint story of
"The Devils on the Meadows of Heaven," of which a translation from the
German of Rudolph Baumbach, by "C. F. P.," appears in the _Association
Record_ (October, 1892), published by the Young Women's Christian
Association of Worcester, Mass.:--
"As you know, good children, when they die, come to Heaven and become
angels. But if you perhaps think they do nothing the sweet, long day but
fly about and play hide-and-seek behind the clouds, you are mistaken.
The angel-children are obliged to go to school like the boys and girls
on the earth, and on week days must be in the angel-school three hours
in the forenoon and two in the afternoon. There they write with golden
pens on silver slates, and instead of ABC-books they have story-books
with gay-coloured pictures. They do not learn geography, for of what use
in Heaven is earth-knowledge; and in eternity one doesn't know the
multiplication table at all. Dr. Faust is the angel-school teacher. On
earth he was an A.M., and on account of a certain event which does not
belong here, he is obliged to keep school in Heaven three thousand years
more before the long vacation begins for him. Wednesday and Saturday
afternoons the little angels have holiday; then they are taken to walk
on the Milky Way by Dr. Faust. But Sunday they are allowed to play on
the great meadow in front of the gate of Heaven, and that they joyfully
anticipate during the whole week.
"The meadow is not green, but blue, and on it grow thousands and
thousands of silver and golden flowers. They shine in the night and we
men call them stars.
"When the angels are sporting about before the gate of Heaven, Dr. Faust
is not present, for on Sunday he must recover from the toil of the past
week. St. Peter, who keeps watch at the Heavenly gate, then takes
charge. He usually sees to it that the play goes on properly, and that
no one goes astray or flies away; but if one ever gets too far away from
the gate, then he whistles on his golden key, which means 'Back!'
"Once--it was really very hot in Heaven--St. Peter fell asleep. When the
angels noticed this, they ceased swarming hither and thither and
scattered over the whole meadow. But the most enterprising of them went
out on a trip of discovery, and came at last to the place where the
world is surrounded by a board fence. First they tried to find a crack
somewhere through which they might peep, but as they found no gap, they
climbed up the board fence and hung dangling and looking over. Yonder,
on the other side, was hell, and before its gate a crowd of little
devils were just running about. They were coal-black, and had horns on
their heads and long tails behind. One of them chanced to look up and
noticed the angels, and immediately begged imploringly that they would
let them into Heaven for a little while; they would behave quite nice
and properly. This moved the angels to pity, and because they liked the
little black fellows, they thought they might perhaps allow the poor
imps this innocent pleasure.
"One of them knew the whereabouts of Jacob's ladder. This they dragged
to the place from the lumber-room (St. Peter had, luckily, not waked
up), lifted it over the fence of boards, and let it down into hell.
Immediately the tailed fellows clambered up its rounds like monkeys, the
angels gave them their hands, and thus came the devils upon Heaven's
"At first they behaved themselves in a quite orderly manner. Modestly
they stepped along and carried their tails on their arms like trains, as
the devil grandmother, who sets great value on propriety, had taught
them. But it did not last long; they became frolicsome, turned wheels
and somersaults, and shrieked at the same time like real imps. The
beautiful moon, who was looking kindly out of a window in Heaven, they
derided, thrust out their tongues and made faces (German: long noses) at
her, and finally began to pluck up the flowers which grew on the meadow
and throw them down on the earth. Now the angels grew frightened and
bitterly repented letting their evil guests into Heaven. They begged and
threatened, but the devils cared for nothing, and kept on in their
frolic more madly. Then, in terror, the angels waked up St. Peter and
penitently confessed to him what they had done. He smote his hands
together over his head when he saw the mischief which the imps had
wrought. 'March in!' thundered he, and the little ones, with drooping
wings, crept through the gate into Heaven. Then St. Peter called a few
sturdy angels. They collected the imps and took them where they
"The little angels did not escape punishment. Three Sundays in
succession they were not allowed in front of Heaven's gate, and, if they
were taken to walk, they were obliged to first unbuckle their wings and
lay aside their halos; and it is a great disgrace for an angel to go
about without wings and halo.
"But the affair resulted in some good, after all. The flowers which the
devils had torn up and thrown upon the earth took root and increased
from year to year. To be sure, the star-flower lost much of its heavenly
beauty, but it is still always lovely to look at, with its golden-yellow
disk, and its silvery white crown of rays.
"And because of its Heavenly origin, a quite remarkable power resides in
it. If a maiden, whose mind harbours a doubt, pulls off, one by one, the
white petals of the flower-star, whispering meanwhile a certain sentence
at the fall of the last little petal, she is quite sure of what she
desires to know."
The very name _Aster_ is suggestive of star-origin and recalls the
lines of Longfellow:--
"Spake full well, in language quaint and olden,
One who dwelleth by the castled Rhine,
When he called the flowers, so blue and golden,
Stars, that in earth's firmament do shine."
The reference seems to be to Friedrich Wilhelm Carove, of Coblentz, in
whose _Marchen ohne Ende_, a forget-me-not is spoken of as
"twinkling as brightly as a blue star on the green firmament of earth"
(390. II. 149).
Another contribution to floral astrology is the brief poem of H. M.
Sweeny in the _Catholic World_ for November, 1892:--
"The Milky Way is the foot-path
Of the martyrs gone to God;
Its stars are the flaming jewels
To show us the way they trod.
"The flowers are stars dropped lower,
Our daily path to light,
In daylight to lead us upward
As those jewels do at night."
Flower-oracles are discussed in another section, and the "language of
flowers" of which the poet tells,--
"In Eastern lands they talk in flowers,
And they tell in a garland their loves and cares;
Each blossom that blooms in their garden bower
On its leaves a mystic language bears,"
must be studied in Dyer, Friend, and Folkard, or in the various booklets
which treat of this entertaining subject.
Though in Bohemia it is believed that "seven-year-old children will
become beautiful by dancing in the flax," and in some parts of Germany
"when an infant seems weakly and thrives slowly, it is placed naked upon
the turf on Midsummer Day, and flax-seed is sprinkled over it; the idea
being, that, as the flax-seed grows, so the child will gradually grow
stronger" (435. 278, 279); flowers and plants are sometimes associated
with ill-luck and death. In Westphalia and Thuringia the superstition
prevails that "any child less than a year old, who is permitted to
wreathe himself with flowers, will soon die." In the region about
Cockermouth, in the county of Cumberland, England, the red campion
(_Lychnis diurna_) is known as "mother-die," the belief being that,
if children gather it, some misfortune is sure to happen to the parents.
Dyer records also the following: "In West Cumberland, the herb-robert
(_Geranium robertianum_) is called 'death come quickly,' from a
like reason, while in parts of Yorkshire, the belief is that the mother
of a child who has gathered the germander speedwell (_Veronica
chamoedrys_) will die ere the year is out" (435. 276).
Mr. H. C. Mercer, discussing the question of the presence of Indian corn
in Italy and Europe in early times, remarks (_Amer. Naturalist_,
Vol. XXVIII., 1894, p. 974):--
"An etymology has been suggested for the name _Grano Turco_
[Turkish grain], in the antics of boys when bearded and moustached with
maize silk, they mimic the fierce looks of Turks in the high 'corn.' We
cannot think that the Italian lad does not smoke the mock tobacco that
must tempt him upon each ear. If he does, he apes a habit no less
American in its origin than the maize itself. So the American lad
playing with a 'shoe-string bow' or a 'corn-stalk fiddle' would turn to
Italy for his inspiration."
In the interesting lists of popular American plant-names, published by
Mrs. Fanny D. Bergen (400), are found the following in which the child
Babies' breath, _Galium Mollugo._ In Eastern Massachusetts.
Babies' breath, _Muscari botryoides._ In Eastern Massachusetts.
Babies' feet, _Polygala paucifolia._ In New Hampshire.
Babies' slippers, _Polygala paucifolia._ In Western Massachusetts.
Babies' toes, _Polygala paucifolia._ In Hubbardston, Mass.
Baby blue-eyes, _Nemophila insignis._ In Sta. Barbara, Cal.
Blue-eyed babies, _Houstonia coerulea._ In Springfield, Mass.
Boys and girls, _Dicentra cucullaria._ In New York.
Boys' love, _Artemisia absinthium._ In Wellfleet, Mass.
Death-baby, _Phallus sp. (?)._ In Salem, Mass.
Girls and boys, _Dicentra cucullaria._ In Vermont.
Little boy's breeches, _Dicentra cucullaria._ In Central Iowa.
"Blue-eyed babies" is certainly an improvement upon "Quaker ladies," the
name by which the _Houstonia_ is known in some parts of New
England; "death-baby" is a term that is given, Mrs. Bergen tells us,
"from the fancy that they foretell death in the family near whose house
they spring up. I have known of intelligent people rushing out in terror
and beating down a colony of these as soon as they appeared in the
The parents have not been entirely forgotten, as the following names
Mother's beauties, _Calandrina Menziesii_. In Sta. Barbara, Cal.
Mother of thousands, _Tradescantia crassifolia_ (?). In Boston, Mass.
Daddy-nuts, _Tilia sp._ (?). In Madison, Wis.
At La Crosse, Wis., the _Lonicera talarica_, is called "twin
sisters," a name which finds many analogues.
As we have seen, the consideration of children as flowers, plants,
trees, traverses many walks of life. Floral imagery has appealed to many
primitive peoples, perhaps to none more than to the ancient Mexicans,
with whom children were often called flowers, and the Nagualists termed
Mother-Earth "the flower that contains everything," and "the flower that
eats everything"--being at once the source and end of life (413. 54).
A sweet old German legend has it that the laughter of little children
produced roses, and the sweetest and briefest of the "good-night songs"
of the German mothers is this:--
"Guten Abend, gute Nacht!
Mit Rosen bedacht,
Mit Naglein besteckt;
Morgen fruh, wenn's Gott will,
Wirst du wieder geweckt."
CHILDREN'S ANIMALS, BIRDS, ETC.
My brother, the hare, ... my sisters, the doves.
--_St. Francis of Assisi._
Love of animals is inborn. The child that has had no pets is to
be pitied.--_G. Stanley Hall._
For what are the voices of birds--
Aye, and of beasts,--but words, our words,
Only so much more sweet?--_Browning._
I know not, little Ella, what the flowers
Said to you then, to make your cheek so pale;
And why the blackbird in our laurel bowers
Spoke to you, only: and the poor pink snail
Fear'd less your steps than those of the May-shower
It was not strange those creatures loved you so,
And told you all. 'Twas not so long ago
You were yourself a bird, or else a flower.
--_Lord Lytton (Owen Meredith)._
_Children and Young Animals._
The comparisons sometimes made of children with various of the lower
animals, such as monkeys, bears, pigs, etc., come more naturally to some
primitive peoples, who, as Ploss has pointed out, suckle at the breast
the young of certain animals simultaneously with their own offspring. In
this way, the infant in the Society Islands comes early into association
with puppies, as he does also among several of the native tribes of
Australia and America; so was it likewise in ancient Rome, and the
custom may yet be found among the tent-gypsies of Transylvania, in
Persia, and even within the present century has been met with in Naples
and Gottingen. The Maori mother, in like manner, suckles young pigs, the
Arawak Indian of Guiana young monkeys (as also do the Siamese), the
natives of Kamtschatka young bears. An old legend of the city of Breslau
has it that the fashion certain ladies have of carrying dogs around with
them originated in the fact that Duke Boleslau, in the last quarter of
the eleventh century, punished the women of Breslau, for some connubial
unfaithfulness, by taking away their suckling children and making them,
carry instead puppies at the breast (392. I. 61).
Of the Arekuna of Guiana, Schomburgk tells us:--"They bring up children
and monkeys together. The monkeys are members of the family, eat with
the other members, are suckled by the women, and have great affection
for their human nurses. Oftentimes a woman is to be seen with a child
and a monkey at the breast, the two nurselings quarrelling" (529. 13).
The young children of the less nomadic tribes grow up in close
association with the few domestic animals possessed by their parents,
tumbling about with the puppies on the wigwam-floor or racing with them
around the camp-stead.
The history of totemism and fetichism, primitive medicine, and the arts
connected therewith, their panaceas, talismans, and amulets, show early
association of the child with animals. In the village of Issapoo, on the
island of Fernando Po, in Western Africa, there is fastened to a pole in
the market-place a snake-skin, to touch which all infants born the
preceding year are brought by their mothers during an annual festival
(529. 32). In various parts of the world, novices and neophytes are put
to dream or fast in seclusion until they see some animal which becomes
their tutelary genius, and whose form is often tattooed upon their body.
Sir John Maundeville, the veracious mediaeval chronicler, reported that
in Sicily serpents were used to test the legitimacy of children; "if the
children be illegitimate, the serpents bite and kill them." Hartland
cites, on the authority of Thiele, "a story in which a wild stallion
colt is brought in to smell two babes, one of which is a changeling.
Every time he smells one he is quiet and licks it; but, on smelling the
other, he is invariably restive and strives to kick it. The latter,
therefore, is the changeling" (258. 111).
Akin to these practices are many of the forms of exposure and
abandonment all over the world. Shakespeare, in _The Winter's
Tale_, makes Antigonus say:--
"Come on (poor Babe).
Some powerful Spirit instruct the Kites and Ravens
To be thy Nurses. Wolves and Bears, they say
(Casting their savageness aside), have done
Like offices of pity."
An old Egyptian painting represents a child and a calf being suckled by
the same cow, and in Palestine and the Canary Islands, goats are used to
suckle children, especially if the mother of the little one has died
(125. II. 393). The story of Psammetichus and the legend of Romulus and
Remus find parallels in many lands. Gods, heroes, saints, are suckled
and cared for in their infancy by grateful beasts.
Doctor Tylor has discussed at some length the subject of "wild men and
beast children" (376), citing examples from many different parts of the
globe. Procopius, the chronicler of the Gothic invasion of Italy, states
(with the additional information that he saw the child in question
himself), that, after the barbarians had ravaged the country, "an
infant, left by its mother, was found by a she-goat, which suckled and
took care of it. When the survivors came back to their deserted homes,
they found the child living with its adopted mother, and called it
Aegisthus." Doctor Tylor calls attention to the prevalence of similar
stories in Germany after the destruction and devastation of the
Napoleonic wars; there appears to be record of several children wild or
animal-reared having, during this period, been received into Count von
Recke's asylum at Overdyke. Many of these tales we need not hesitate to
dismiss as purely fabulous, though there may be truth in some of the
rest. Among the best-known cases (some of which are evidently nothing
more than idiots, or poor wandering children) are: Peter, the "Wild Boy"
of Hameln (in 1724); the child reported in the Hessian Chronicle as
having been found by some hunters living with wolves in 1341; the child
reported by Bernard Connor as living with she-bears, and the child found
with bears at Grodno in Poland; the wolf-child of the Ardennes,
mentioned by Koenig, in his treatise on the subject; the Irish boy said
to feed on grass and hay, found living among the wild sheep; the girl
found living wild in Holland in 1717; the two goat-like boys of the
Pyrenees (in 1719); the amphibious wild girl of Chalons sur Marne (in
1731); the wild boy of Bamberg, who lowed like an ox; and, the most
renowned of all, Kaspar Hauser. This celebrated "wild boy" has recently
been made the subject of a monograph by the Duchess of Cleveland (208),
of which the first words are these: "The story of Kaspar Hauser is both
curious and instructive. It shows on how commonplace and unpromising a
foundation a myth of European celebrity may rest." Sir William Sleeman
has something to say of "beast-children" in the Kingdom of Oude (183),
and Mr. Ball, who writes of wolf-reared children in India, calls
attention to the fact that in that country there seems to have been no
instance of a wolf-reared girl (183. 474).
In the _Katha sarit sagara_ ("Ocean of the River of Story"), a work
belonging to the twelfth century, there is the story of the immoral
union of a _yaksha_, or _jin_, and the daughter of a holy man,
who was bathing in the Granges. The relatives of the girl by magic
changed the two guilty persons into a lion and a lioness. The latter
soon died, but gave birth to a human child, which the lion-father made
the other lionesses suckle. The baby grew up and became "the
world-ruling king, Satavahana" (376. 29). Another Hindu story tells how
the daughter of a Brahman, giving birth to a child while on a journey,
was forced to leave it in a wood, where it was suckled and nursed by
female jackals until rescued by merchants who happened to pass by.
Herodotus repeats the tales that Cyrus was nursed and suckled by a
bitch; Zeus figures as suckled by a goat; Romulus and Remus, the
founders of Rome according to the ancient legend, were nursed by a
she-wolf; and others of the heroes and gods of old were suckled by
animals whose primitive kinship with the race of man the folk had not
Professor Rauber of Dorpat, in his essay on "Homo Sapiens Ferus" (335),
discusses in detail sixteen cases of wild children (including most of
those treated by Tylor) as follows: the two Hessian wolf-children, boys
(1341-1344); the Bamberg boy, who grew up among the cattle (at the close
of the sixteenth century); Hans of Liege; the Irish boy brought up by
sheep; the three Lithuanian bear-boys (1657, 1669, 1694); the girl of
Oranienburg (1717); the two Pyrenaan boys (1719); Peter, the wild boy of
Hameln (1724); the girl of Songi in Champagne (1731); the Hungarian
bear-girl (1767); the wild man of Cronstadt (end of eighteenth century);
the boy of Aveyron (1795). It will be noticed that in this list of
sixteen cases but two girls figure.
As a result of his studies Professor Rauber concludes: "What we are wont
to call reason does not belong to man as such; in himself he is without
it. The appellation _Homo sapiens_ does not then refer to man as
such, but to the ability under certain conditions of becoming possessed
of reason. It is the same with language and culture of every sort. The
title _Homo sapiens ferus_ (Linnaus) is in a strict sense
unjustifiable and a contradiction in itself." To prehistoric man these
wild children are like, but they are not the same as he; they resemble
him, but cannot be looked upon as one and the same with him. From the
stand-point of pedagogy, Professor Rauber, from the consideration of
these children, feels compelled to declare that "the ABC-school must be
replaced by the culture-school." In other words: "The ABC is not, as so
many believe, the beginning of all wisdom. In order to be able to
admeasure this sufficiently, prehistoric studies are advisable, nay,
necessary. Writing is a very late acquisition of man. In the arrangement
of a curriculum for the first years of the culture-school, reading and
writing are to be placed at the end of the second school year, but never
are they to begin the course ... Manual training ought also to be taken
up in the schools; it is demanded by considerations of culture-history"
Professor W. H. Brewer of New Haven, discussing the "instinctive
interest of children in bear and wolf stories," observes (192): "The
children of European races take more interest in bear and wolf stories
than in stories relating to any other wild animals. Their interest in
bears is greater than that in wolves, and in the plays of children bears
have a much more conspicuous part. There is a sort of fascination in
everything relating to these animals that attracts the child's attention
from a very early age, and 'Tell me a bear story' is a common request
long before it learns to read." After rejecting, as unsatisfactory, the
theory that would make it a matter of education with each child,--"the
conservative traditions of children have preserved more stories about
bears and wolves, parents and nurses talk more about them, these animals
have a larger place in the literature for children; hence the special
interest,"--Professor Brewer expresses his own belief that "the special
interest our children show towards these two animals is instinctive, and
it is of the nature of an inherited memory, vague, to be sure, yet
strong enough to give a bend to the natural inclinations." He points out
that the bear and the wolf are the two animals "which have been and
still are the most destructive to human life (and particularly to
children) in our latitude and climate," and that "several of the large
breeds of dogs,--the wolf-hound proper, the mastiff (particularly the
Spanish mastiff), and even the St. Bernard,--were originally evolved as
wolf-dogs for the protection of sheep and children." His general
conclusion is: "The fear inspired by these animals during the long ages
of the childhood of our civilization, and the education of the many
successive generations of our ancestors in this fear, descends to us as
an inherited memory, or, in other words, an instinct. While not strong,
it is of sufficient force to create that kind of fascination which
stories of bears and wolves have in children before the instincts are
covered up and obscured by intellectual education. The great shaggy bear
appeals more strongly to the imagination of children, hence its superior
value to play 'boo' with."
_Rabbit and Hare._
The rabbit and the hare figure in many mythologies, and around them,
both in the Old World and the New, has grown up a vast amount of
folk-lore. The rabbit and the child are associated in the old
"Bye, bye, Baby Bunting,
Papa's gone a-hunting,
To get a rabbit-skin,
To wrap Baby Bunting in,"
which reminds us at once of the Chinook Indians and the Flat Heads of
the Columbia, with whom "the child is wrapped in rabbit-skins and placed
in this little coffin-like cradle, from which it is not in some
instances taken out for several weeks" (306.174).
An Irish belief explains hare-lip as having been caused, before the
birth of the child, by the mother seeing a hare. The Chinese think that
"a hare or a rabbit sits at the foot of the cassia-tree in the moon,
pounding the drugs out of which the elixir of immortality is compounded"
The Ungava Eskimo, according to Turner, have a legend that the hare was
once a little child, abused by its elders; "it ran away to dwell by
itself. The hare has no tail, because as a child he had none; and he
lays back his ears, when he hears a shout, because he thinks people are
talking about him" (544. 263).
In a myth of the Menomoni Indians, reported by Dr. W. J. Hoffman, we
read that Manabush [the great culture-hero] and a twin brother were born
the sons of the virgin daughter of an old woman named Nokomis. His
brother and mother died. Nokomis wrapped Manabush in dry, soft grass,
and placed a wooden bowl over him. After four days a noise proceeded
from the bowl, and, upon removing it, she saw "a little white rabbit
with quivering ears." Afterwards, when grown up, and mourning for the
death of his brother, Manabush is said to have hid himself in a large
rock near Mackinaw, where he was visited by the people for many years.
When he did not wish to see them in his human form, he appeared to them
as "a little white rabbit with trembling ears" (389. (1890) 246). Of the
white rabbit, the Great Hare, Manabush, Naniboju, etc., more must be
read in the mythological essays of Dr. Brinton.
Among the tales of the Ainu of Yezo, Japan, recorded by Professor B. H.
Chamberlain, is the following concerning the Hare-god:--
"Suddenly there was a large house on top of a hill, wherein were six
persons beautifully arrayed, but constantly quarrelling. Whence they
came was not known. Thereupon [the god] Okikurumi came, and said: 'Oh,
you bad hares! you wicked hares! Who should not know your origin? The
children in the sky were pelting each other with snowballs, and the
snowballs fell into this world of men. As it would have been a pity to
waste heaven's snow, the snowballs were turned into hares, and those
hares are you. You who live in this world of mine, this world of human
beings, must be quiet. What is it that you are brawling about?' With
these words, Okikurumi seized a fire-brand, and beat each of the six
with it in turn. Thereupon all the hares ran away. This is the origin of
the hare-god, and for this reason the body of the hare is white, because
made of snow, while its ears, which are the part which was charred by
the fire, are black" (471. 486).
The Mayas of Yucatan have a legend of a town of hares under the earth
In Germany we meet with the "Easter-Hare" (Oster-Hase). In many parts of
that country the custom prevails at or about Easter-tide of hiding in
the garden, or in the house, eggs, which, the children are told, have
been laid by the "Easter-hare." Another curious term met with in
northeastern Germany is "hare-bread" (Hasenbrod). In Quedlinburg this
name is given to bread (previously placed there intentionally by the
parents) picked up by children when out walking with their parents or
elders. In Luneburg it is applied to dry bread given a hungry child with
an exhortation to patience. In the first case, the little one is told
that the hare has lost it, and in the second, that it has been taken
away from him. The name "hare-bread" is also given to bread brought home
by the parents or elders, when returning from a journey, the children
being told that it has been taken away from the hare.
In the shadow-pictures made on the wall for the amusement of children
the rabbit again appears, and the hare figures also in children's games.
According to the belief of certain Indians of Vancouver Island, there
once lived "a monstrous old woman with wolfish teeth, and finger-nails
like claws." She used to entice away little children whom she afterwards
ate up. One day a mother, who was about to lose her child thus, cried
out to the spirits to save her child in any way or form. Her prayer was
answered, and "The Great Good Father, looking down upon the Red Mother,
pities her; lo! the child's soft brown skin turns to fur, and there
slides from the ogress's grip, no child, but the happiest, liveliest,
merriest little squirrel of all the West,--but bearing, as its
descendants still bear, those four dark lines along the back that show
where the cruel claws ploughed into it escaping" (396. III. 52-54).
Elsewhere, also, the squirrel is associated with childhood. Familiar is
the passage in Longfellow's _Hiawatha,_ where the hero speaks to
the squirrel, who has helped him out of a great difficulty:--
"Take the thanks of Hiawatha,
And the name which now he gives you;
For hereafter, and forever,
Boys shall call you _adjidaumo,
Tail in air_ the boys shall call you."
Those noble and indefatigable missionaries, the Moravians, have more
than once been harshly criticised in certain quarters, because, in their
versions of the Bible, in the Eskimo language, they saw fit to
substitute for some of the figurative expressions employed in our
rendering, others more intelligible to the aborigines. In the New
Testament Christ is termed the "Lamb of God," but since, in the Arctic
home of the Innuit, shepherds and sheep are alike unknown, the
translators, by a most felicitous turn of language, rendered the phrase
by "little seal of God," a figure that appealed at once to every Eskimo,
young and old, men and women; for what sheep were to the dwellers on the
Palestinian hillsides, seals are to this northernmost of human races.
Rink tells us that the Eskimo mother "reserves the finest furs for her
new-born infant," while the father keeps for it "the daintiest morsels
from the chase," and, "to make its eyes beautiful, limpid, and bright, he
gives it seal's eyes to eat" (523. 37).
Mrs. Bramhall tells us how in Japan the little children, playing about
the temples, feed the pet fishes of the priests in the temple-lake. At
the temple of the Mikado, at Kioto, she saw "six or eight little boys
and girls ... lying at full length on the bank of the pretty lake." The
fishes were called up by whistling, and the children fed them by holding
over the water their open hands full of crumbs (189. 65). Other
inhabitants of the sea and the waters of the earth are brought into
early relation with children.
_Crabs and Crawfishes._
Among the Yeddavanad, of the Congo, a mother tells her children
concerning three kinds of crabs: "Eat _kallali,_ and you will
become a clever man; eat _hullali,_ and you will become as brave as
a tiger; eat _mandalli,_ and you will become master of the house"
In the Chippeway tale of the "Raccoon and the Crawfish," after the
former, by pretending to be dead, has first attracted to him and then
eaten all the crawfish, we are told:--
"While he was engaged with the broken limbs, a little female crawfish,
carrying her infant sister on her back, came up seeking her relations.
Finding they had all been devoured by the raccoon, she resolved not to
survive the destruction of her kindred, but went boldly up to the enemy,
and said: 'Here, Aissibun (Raccoon), you behold me and my little sister.
We are all alone. You have eaten up our parents and all our friends. Eat
us, too!' And she continued to say: 'Eat us, too! _Aissibun amoon,
Aissibun amoon!'_ The raccoon was ashamed. 'No!' said he,' I have
banqueted on the largest and fattest; I will not dishonour myself with
such little prey.' At this moment, Manabozbo [the culture-hero or
demi-god of these Indians] happened to pass by. _'Tyau,'_ said he
to the raccoon, 'thou art a thief and an unmerciful dog. Get thee up
into trees, lest I change thee into one of these same worm-fish; for
thou wast thyself a shell-fish originally, and I transformed thee.'
Manabozho then took up the little supplicant crawfish and her infant
sister, and cast them into the stream. 'There,' said he, 'you may dwell.
Hide yourselves under the stones; and hereafter you shall be playthings
for little children'" (440. 411, 412).
The imitation of animals, their movements, habits, and peculiarities in
games and dances, also makes the child acquainted at an early age with
In the section on "Bird and Beast," appropriately headed by the words of
the good St. Francis of Assisi--"My brother, the hare, ... my sisters,
the doves,"--Mr. Newell notices some of the children's games in which
the actions, cries, etc., of animals are imitated. Such are "My
Household," "Frog-Pond," "Bloody Tom," "Blue-birds and Yellow-birds,"
"Ducks fly" (313. 115).
Not at Dodona and in Arcadia alone has the dove been associated with
religion, its oracles, its mysteries, and its symbolism. In the
childhood of the world, according to the great Hebrew cosmologist, "the
Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," and a later bard and
seer of our own race reanimated the ancient figure of his predecessor in
all its pristine strength, when in, the story of Paradise lost and found
again, he told how, at the beginning, the creative spirit
"Dove-like sat brooding o'er the vast abyss."
In the childhood of the race, it was a dove that bore to the few
survivors of the great flood the branch of olive, token that the anger
of Jahveh was abated, and that the waters no longer covered the whole
earth. In the childhood of Christianity, when its founder was baptized
of John in the river Jordan, "Lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and
the Spirit of God descended like a dove, and lighted on Him,"--and the
"Heavenly Dove" Still beautifies the imagery of oratory and song, the
art and symbolism of the great churches, its inheritors. In the
childhood of man the individual, the dove has also found warm welcome.
At the moment of the birth of St. Austrebertha (630-704 A.D.), as the
quaint legend tells, "the chamber was filled with a heavenly odour, and
a white dove, which hovered awhile above the house, flew into the
chamber and settled on the head of the infant," and when Catherine of
Racconigi (1486-1547 A.D.) was only five years old "a dove, white as
snow, flew into her chamber and lighted on her shoulder"; strange to
relate, however, the infant first took the bird for a tool of Satan, not
a messenger of God. When St. Briocus of Cardigan, a Welsh saint of the
sixth century, "was receiving the communion for the first time, a dove,
white as snow, settled on his head, and the abbot knew that the young
boy was a chosen vessel of honour" (191. 107, 108).
In a Swedish mother's hymn occurs the following beautiful thought:--
"There sitteth a dove so white and fair,
All on the lily spray,
And she listeneth how to Jesus Christ
The little children pray.
"Lightly she spreads her friendly wings,
And to Heaven's gate hath sped,
And unto the Father in Heaven she bears
The prayers which the children have said.
"And back she comes from Heaven's gate,
And brings, that dove so mild,
From the Father in Heaven, who hears her speak,
A blessing on every child.
"Then, children, lift up a pious prayer!
It hears whatever you say;
That heavenly dove so white and fair,
All on the lily spray" (379. 255).
The bird-messenger of childhood finds its analogue in the beliefs of
some primitive tribes that certain birds have access to the spirit-land,
and are the bearers of tidings from the departed. Into the same category
fall the ancient practice of releasing a dove (or some other winged
creature) at the moment of death of a human being, as a means of
transport of his soul to the Elysian fields, and the belief that the
soul itself took its flight in the form and semblance of a dove (509.
The Haida Indians, of British Columbia, think that, "in the land of
light, children often transform themselves into bears, seals, and
birds," and wonderful tales are told of their adventures.
Hartley Coleridge found for the guardian angel of infancy, no apter
figure than that of the dove:--
"Sweet infant, whom thy brooding parents love
For what thou art, and what they hope to see thee,
Unhallow'd sprites, and earth-born phantoms flee thee;
Thy soft simplicity, a hovering dove,
That still keeps watch from blight and bane to free thee,
With its weak wings, in peaceful care outspread,
Fanning invisibly thy pillow'd head,
Strikes evil powers with reverential dread,
Beyond the sulphurous bolts of fabled Jove,
Or whatsoe'er of amulet or charm
Fond ignorance devised to save poor souls from harm."
Perhaps the sweetest touch of childhood in all Latin literature is that
charming passage in Horace (_Carm._ Lib. III. 4):--
"Me fabulosa Vulture in Apulo,
Nutrices extra limen Apulia,
Ludo fatigatoque somno
Fronde nova puerum palumbes
which Milman thus translates:--
"The vagrant infant on Mount Vultur's side,
Beyond my childhood's nurse, Apulia's bounds,
By play fatigued and sleep,
Did the poetic doves
With young leaves cover."
The amativeness of the dove has lent much to the figurative language of
that second golden age, that other Eden where love is over all.
Shenstone, in his beautiful pastoral, says:--
"I have found out a gift for my fair;
I have found where the wood-pigeons breed,"
and the "love of the turtle," "billing and cooing," are now transferred
to human affection. Venus, the goddess of love, and the boy-god Cupid
ride in a chariot drawn by doves, which birds were sacred to the
sea-born child of Uranus. In the springtime, when "the voice of the
turtle is heard in the land," then "a young man's fancy lightly turns to
thoughts of love." If, from the sacred oaks of Dodona, to the first
Greeks, the doves disclosed the oracles of Jove, so has "the moan of
doves in immemorial elms" divulged to generation after generation of
lovers the mission of his son of the bow and quiver.
What the wood-pigeon was to Horace, the robin-redbreast has been to the
children of old England. In the celebrated ballad of the "Children in
the Wood", we are told that, after their murder by the cruel uncle,--
"No burial these pretty babes
Of any man receives,
Till Robin Redbreast piously
Did cover them with leaves."
The poet Thomson speaks of "the redbreast sacred to the household gods,"
and Gray, in a stanza which, since the edition of 1753, has been omitted
from the _Elegy_, wrote:--
"There scattered oft, the earliest of the year,
By hands unseen are frequent violets found;
The robin loves to build and warble there,
And little footsteps lightly print the ground."
Dr. Robert Fletcher (447) has shown to what extent the redbreast figures
in early English poetry, and the belief in his pious care for the dead
and for children is found in Germany, Brittany, and other parts of the
continent of Europe. In England the robin is the children's favourite
bird, and rhymes and stories in his honour abound,--most famous is the
nursery song, "Who killed Cock Robin?"
A sweet legend of the Greek Church tells us that "Our Lord used to feed
the robins round his mother's door, when a boy; moreover, that the robin
never left the sepulchre till the Resurrection, and, at the Ascension,
joined in the angels' song." The popular imagination, before which the
robin appears as "the pious bird with the scarlet breast," found no
difficulty in assigning a cause for the colour of its plumage. One
legend, current amongst Catholic peoples, has it that "the robin was
commissioned by the Deity to carry a drop of water to the souls of
unbaptized infants in hell, and its breast was singed in piercing the
flames." In his poem _The Robin_, Whittier has versified the story
from a Welsh source. An old Welsh lady thus reproves her grandson, who
had tossed a stone at the robin hopping about in the apple-tree:--
"'Nay!' said the grandmother; 'have you not heard,
My poor, bad boy! of the fiery pit,
And how, drop by drop, this merciful bird
Carries the water that quenches it?
"'He brings cool dew in his little bill,
And lets it fall on the souls of sin;
You can see the mark on his red breast still
Of fires that scorch as he drops it in.'"
Another popular story, however, relates that when Christ was on His way
to Calvary, toiling beneath the burden of the cross, the robin, in its
kindness, plucked a thorn from the crown that oppressed His brow, and
the blood of the divine martyr dyed the breast of the bird, which ever
since has borne the insignia of its charity. A variant of the same
legend makes the thorn wound the bird itself and its own blood dye its
According to a curious legend of the Chippeway Indians, a stern father
once made his young son undergo the fasting necessary to obtain a
powerful guardian spirit. After bravely holding out for nine days, he
appealed to his father to allow him to give up, but the latter would not
hear of it, and by the eleventh day the boy lay as one dead. At dawn the
next morning, the father came with the promised food. Looking through a
hole in the lodge, he saw that his son had painted his breast and
shoulders as far as he could reach with his hands. When he went into the
lodge, he saw him change into a beautiful bird and fly away. Such was
the origin of the first robin-redbreast (440. 210). Whittier, in his
poem, _How the Robin Came_, has turned the tale of the Red Men into
song. As the father gazed about him, he saw that on the lodge-top--
"Sat a bird, unknown before,
And, as if with human tongue,
'Mourn me not,' it said, or sung;
'I, a bird, am still your son,
Happier than if hunter fleet,
Or a brave before your feet
Laying scalps in battle won.
Friend of man, my song shall cheer
Lodge and corn-land; hovering near,
To each wigwam I shall bring
Tidings of the coming spring;
Every child my voice shall know
In the moon of melting snow
When the maple's red bud swells,
And the wind-flower lifts its bells.
As their fond companion
Men shall henceforth own your son,
And my song shall testify
That of human kin am I.'"
The _Lieblingsvogel_ of German children is the stork, who, as
parents say, brings them their little brothers and sisters, and who is
remembered in countless folk and children's rhymes. The mass of
child-literature in which the stork figures is enormous. Ploss has a
good deal to say of this famous bird, and Carstens has made it the
subject of a brief special study,--"The Stork as a Sacred Bird in
Folk-Speech and Child-Song" (198). The latter says: "It is with a sort
of awe (_Ehrfurcht_) that the child looks upon this sacred bird,
when, returning with the spring he settles down on the roof, throwing
back his beak and greeting the new home with a flap of his wings; or
when, standing now on one foot, now on the other, he looks so solemnly
at things, that one would think he was devoutly meditating over
something or other; or, again, when, on his long stilt-like legs, he
gravely strides over the meadows. With great attention we listened as
children to the strange tales and songs which related to this sacred
bird, as our mother told them to us and then added with solemn mien,
'where he keeps himself during the winter is not really known,' or, 'he
flies away over the _Lebermeer_, whither no human being can
follow.' 'Storks are enchanted (_verwunscht_) men,' my mother used
to say, and in corroboration told the following story: 'Once upon a time
a stork broke a leg. The owner of the house upon which the stork had its
nest, interested himself in the unfortunate creature, took care of it
and attended to it, and soon the broken leg was well again. Some years
later, it happened that the kind-hearted man, who was a mariner, was
riding at anchor near the North Sea Coast, and the anchor stuck fast to
the bottom, so that nothing remained but for the sailor to dive into the
depths of the sea. This he did, and lo! he found the anchor clinging to
a sunken church-steeple. He set it free, but, out of curiosity, went
down still deeper, and far down below came to a magnificent place, the
inhabitants of which made him heartily welcome. An old man addressed him
and informed him that he had been the stork whose leg the sailor had
once made well, and that the latter was now in the real home of the
storks.'" Carstens compares this story with that of Frau Holle, whose
servant the stork, who brings the little children out of the
child-fountain of the Gotterburg, would seem to be. In North Germany
generally the storks are believed to be human beings in magical
metamorphosis, and hence no harm must be done them. Between the
household, upon whose roof the stork takes up his abode, and the family
of the bird, a close relation is thought to subsist. If his young ones
die, so will the children of the house; if no eggs are laid, no children
will be born that year; if a stork is seen to light upon a house, it is
regarded by the Wends of Lusatia as an indication that a child will be
born there the same year; in Switzerland the peasant woman about to give
birth to a child chants a brief appeal to the stork for aid. A great
variety of domestic, meteorological, and other superstitions are
connected with the bird, its actions, and mode of life. The common Low
German name of the stork, _Adebar_, is said to mean "luck-bringer";
in Dutch, he is called _ole vaer,_ "old father." After him the
wood-anemone is called in Low German _Hannoterblume,_
"stork's-flower." An interesting tale is "The Storks," in Hans Christian
In the Golden Age, as the story runs, men were able to hold converse
with the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, nor had a
diversity of dialects yet sprung up among them. In Eden of old the whole
world was of one tongue and one speech; nay more, men talked with the
gods and with God. Many legends of primitive peoples there are telling
how confusion first arose,--every continent has its Babel-myth,--and how
men came at last to be unable to comprehend each other's speech. The
Indians of Nova Scotia say that this occurred when Gluskap, the
culture-hero of the Micmacs, after giving a parting banquet to all
creatures of earth, sea, and air, "entered his canoe in the Basin of
Minas, and, sailing westward in the moonlight, disappeared. Then the
wolves, bears, and beavers, who had before been brothers, lost the gift
of common language, and birds and beasts, hating one another, fled into
the distant forests, where, to this day, the wolf howls and the loon
utters its sad notes of woe" (418. 185).
The Mexican legend of the deluge states that the vessel in which were
Coxcox,--the Mexican Noah,--and his wife, Xochiquetzal, stranded on a
peak of Colhuacan. To them were born fifteen sons, who, however, all
came into the world dumb, but a dove gave them fifteen tongues, and
thence are descended the fifteen languages and tribes of Anahuac (509.
In later ages, among other peoples, the knowledge of the forgotten
speech of the lower creation was possessed by priests and seers alone,
or ascribed to innocent little children,--some of the power and wisdom
of the bygone Golden Age of the race is held yet to linger with the
golden age of childhood. In the beautiful lines,--
"O du Kindermund, o du Kindermund,
Unbewuszter Weisheit froh,
the poet Ruckert attributes to the child that knowledge of the language
of birds, which the popular belief of the East made part of the lore of
the wise King Solomon. Weil (547. 191) gives the Mussulman version of
the original legend:--
"In him [Solomon] David placed implicit confidence, and was guided by
him in the most difficult questions, for he had heard, in the night of
his [Solomon's] birth, the angel Gabriel exclaim, 'Satan's dominion is
drawing to its close, for this night a child is born, to whom Iblis and
all his hosts, together with all his descendants, shall be subject. The
earth, air, and water with all the creatures that live therein, shall be
his servants. He shall be gifted with nine-tenths of all the wisdom and
knowledge which Allah has granted to mankind, and understand not only
the languages of men, but those also of beasts and birds.'" Some
recollection of this appears in Ecclesiastes (x. 20), where we read,
"For a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings
shall tell the matter," and in our own familiar saying "a little bird
told me," as well as in the Bulbul-hezar or talking bird of the
_Arabian Nights_, and its imitation "the little green bird who
tells everything," in the _Fairy Tales_ of the Comtesse d'Aunoy.
The interpretation of the cries of birds and animals into human speech
has also some light thrown upon it from this source. Various aspects of
this subject have been considered by Hopf (474), Swainson (539),
Treichel (372), Brunk, Grimm (462). The use of certain birds as oracles
by children is well known. A classical example is the question of the
Low German child:--
"Kukuk van Hewen,
"Wi lank sail ik lewen?'
["Cuckoo of Heaven,
How long am I to live?"]
Of King Solomon we are told: "He conversed longest with the birds, both
on account of their delicious language, which he knew as well as his
own, as also for the beautiful proverbs that are current among them."
The interpretation of the songs of the various birds is given as
The cook: "Ye thoughtless men, remember your Creator."
The dove: "All things pass away; Allah alone is eternal."
The eagle: "Let our life be ever so long, yet it must end in death."
The hoopoo: "He that shows no mercy, shall not obtain mercy."
The kata: "Whosoever can keep silence goes through life most securely."
The nightingale: "Contentment is the greatest happiness."
The peacock: "As thou judgest, so shalt thou be judged."
The pelican: "Blessed be Allah in Heaven and Earth."
The raven: "The farther from mankind, the pleasanter."
The swallow: "Do good, for you shall be rewarded hereafter."
The syrdak: "Turn to Allah, O ye sinners."
The turtle-dove: "It were better for many a creature had it never been
The King, it appears, chose the hoopoo and the cock for his companions,
and appointed the doves to dwell in the temple which he was to erect
(547. 200, 201). In fairy-tale and folk-lore bird-speech constantly
appears. A good example is the story "Wat man warm kann, wenn man blot
de Vageln richti verstan deit," included by Klaus Groth in his
In the Micmac legend of the _Animal Tamers_, by collecting the
"horns" of the various animals a youthful hero comes to understand their
language (521. 347).
Longfellow, in his account of "Hiawatha's Childhood," has not forgotten
to make use of the Indian tradition of the lore of language of bird and
of beast possessed by the child:--
"Then the little Hiawatha
Learned of every bird its language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How they built their nests in summer,
Where they hid themselves in winter,
Talked with them whene'er he met them,
Called them 'Hiawatha's Chickens.'
"Of all the beasts he learned the language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How the beavers built their lodges,
Where the squirrels hid their acorns,
How the reindeer ran so swiftly,
Why the rabbit was so timid,
Talked with them whene'er he met them,
Called them 'Hiawatha's Brothers.'"
In the Middle Ages the understanding of the language of birds, their
_Latin_, as it was called, ranked as the highest achievement of
human learning, the goal of wisdom and knowledge, and the thousand
rhyming questions asked of birds by children to-day are evidence of a
time when communication with them was deemed possible. Some remembrance
of this also lingers in not a few of the lullabies and nursery-songs of
a type corresponding to the following from Schleswig-Holstein:--
"Hor mal, lutje Kind
Wo dut lutje Vagel singt
Baben in de Hai!
Loop, lut Kind, un hal mi dat lut Ei."
Among the child-loving Eskimo we find many tales in which children and
animals are associated; very common are stories of children
metamorphosed into birds and beasts. Turner has obtained several legends
of this sort from the Eskimo of the Ungava district in Labrador. In one
of these, wolves are the gaunt and hungry children of a woman who had
not wherewithal to feed her numerous progeny, and so they were turned
into ravening beasts of prey; in another the raven and the loon were
children, whom their father sought to paint, and the loon's spots are
evidence of the attempt to this day; in a third the sea-pigeons or
guillemots are children who were changed into these birds for having
scared away some seals. The prettiest story, however, is that of the
origin of the swallows: Once there were some children who were
wonderfully wise, so wise indeed that they came to be called
_zulugagnak_, "like the raven," a bird that knows the past and the
future. One day they were playing on the edge of a cliff near the
village, and building toy-houses, when they were changed into birds.
They did not forget their childish occupation, however, and, even to
this day, the swallows come to the cliff to build their nests or houses
of mud,--"even the raven does not molest them, and Eskimo children love
to watch them" (544. 262, 263). From time immemorial have the life and
actions of the brute creation been associated with the first steps of
education and learning in the child.
CHILD-LIFE AND EDUCATION IN GENERAL.
The mother's heart is the child's school-room.--_Henry Ward
The father is known from the child.--_German Proverb_.
Learn young, learn fair,
Learn auld, learn mair.
We bend the tree when it is young.--_Bulgarian Proverb_.
Fools and bairns should na see things half done.
No one is born master.--_Italian Proverb_.
_Mother as Teacher_.
_Nihil est in intellectu quod non prius in sensu_ is a favourite
dictum of philosophy; primitive peoples might, perhaps, be credited with
a somewhat different crystallization of thought: _nihil est in puero
quod non prius in parenti_, "nothing is in the child which was not
before in the parent," for belief in prenatal influence of parent upon
child is widely prevalent. The following remarks, which were written of
the semi-civilized peoples of Annam and Tonquin, may stand, with
suitable change of terms, for very many barbarous and savage races:--
"The education of the children begins even before they come into the
world. The prospective mother is at once submitted to a kind of material
and moral _regime_ sanctioned by custom. Gross viands are removed
from her table, and her slightest movements are regarded that they may
be regular and majestic. She is expected to listen to the reading of
good authors, to music and moral chants, and to attend learned
societies, in order that she may fortify her mind by amusements of an
elevated character. And she endeavours, by such discipline, to assure to
the child whom she is about to bring into the world, intelligence,
docility, and fitness for the duties imposed by social life" (518. XXXI.
Among primitive peoples these ceremonies, dietings, doctorings,
tabooings, number legion, as may be read in Ploss and Zmigrodzki.
The influence of the mother upon her child, beginning long before birth,
continued in some parts of the world until long after puberty. The
Spartan mothers even preserved "a power over their sons when arrived at
manhood," and at the puberty-dance, by which the Australian leaves
childhood behind to enter upon man's estate, his significant cry is: "My
mother sees me no more!" (398. 153). Among the Chinese, "at the ceremony
of going out of childhood, the passage from boyhood into manhood, the
goddess of children 'Mother,' ceases to have the superintendence of the
boy or girl, and the individual comes under the government of the gods
That women are teachers born, even the most uncultured of human races
have not failed to recognize, and the folk-faith in their ministrations
is world-wide and world-old; for, as Mrs. Browning tells us:--
The way to rear up children (to be just);
They know a simple, merry, tender knack
Of tying sashes, fitting baby-shoes,
And stringing pretty words that make no sense,
And kissing full sense into empty words;
Which things are corals to cut life upon,
Although such trifles."
Intellectually, as well as physically,--as the etymology of the name
seems to indicate,--the mother is the "former" of her child. As Henry
Ward Beecher has well said, "the mother's heart is the child's
school-room." Well might the Egyptian mother-goddess say (167. 261): "I
am the mother who shaped thy beauties, who suckled thee with milk; I
give thee with my milk festal things, that penetrate thy limbs with
life, strength, and youth; I make thee to become the--great ruler of
Egypt, lord of the space which the sun circles round." In the land of
the Pharaohs they knew in some dim fashion that "the hand that rocks the
cradle is the hand that rules the world."
The extensive role of the mother, as a teacher of the practical arts of
life, may be seen from the book of Professor Mason (113). Language,
religion, the social arts, house-building, skin-dressing, weaving,
spinning, animal-domestication, agriculture, are, with divers primitive
peoples, since they have in great part originated with her, or been
promoted chiefly by her efforts, left to woman as teacher and
instructor, and well has the mother done her work all over the globe.
The function of the mother as priestess--for woman has been the
preserver, as, to so large an extent, she has been the creator, of
religion--has been exercised age after age, and among people after
people. Henry Ward Beecher has said: "Every mother is a priestess
ordained by God Himself," and Professor Mason enlarges the same thought: