« ZurückWeiter »
that to dream of a wolf announces a robber. There is in the wolf, at the same time, that always attractive love of liberty which, in the well-known fable, makes him prefer leanness to the comfort of the collar-wearing dog, which makes him among demonic animals sometimes the same as the mighty huntsmen Nimrod and shaggy Esau among humanised demons. One is not surprised to find occasionally good stories about the wolf. Thus the Nez Perces tribe in America trace the origin of the human race to a wolf. They say that originally, when there were nothing but animals, there was a huge monster which devoured them whole and alive. This monster swallowed a wolf, who, when he entered its belly, found the animals therein snarling at and biting one another as they had done on the earth outside. The wolf exhorted them that their common sufferings should teach them friendliness, and finally he induced them to a system of co-operation by which they made their way out through the side of the monster, which instantly perished. The animals so released were at once transformed to men, how and why the advocates of co-operation will readily understand, and founded the Nez Perces Indians. The myths of Asia and Europe are unhappily antipodal to this in spirit and form, telling of human beings transformed to wolves. In the Norse Mythology, however, there stands a demon wolf whose story bears a touch of feeling, though perhaps it was originally the mere expression for physical law. This is the wolf Fenris, which, from being at first the pet of the gods and lapdog of the goddesses, became so huge and formidable that Asgard itself was endangered. All the skill and power of the gods could not forge chains which might chain him; he snapped them like straws and toppled over the mountains to which he was fastened. But the little Elves working underground 142
THE WOLF AGATHODEMON.
made that chain so fine that none could see or feel it,fashioned it out of the beards of women, the breath of fish, noise of the cat's footfall, spittle of birds, sinews of bears, roots of stones,-by which are meant things non-existent. This held him. Fenris is chained till the final destruction, when he shall break loose and devour Odin. The fine chain that binds ferocity,—is it the love that can tame all creatures? Is it the sunbeam that defines to the strongest creature its habitat ?
The two monsters formed when Rahu was cloven in twain, in Hindu Mythology, reappear in Eddaic fable as the wolves Sköll and Hati, who pursue the sun and moon. As it is said in the Völuspá :
Eastward in the Iron-wood
Euphemism attending propitiation of such monsters may partly explain the many good things told of wolves in popular legend. The stories of the she-wolf nourishing children, as Romulus and Remus, are found in many lands. They must, indeed, have had some prestige, to have been so largely adopted in saintly tradition. Like the bears that Elisha called to devour the children, the wolves do not lose their natural ferocity by becoming pious. They devour heretics and sacrilegious people. One guarded the head of St. Edmund the Martyr of England; another escorted St. Oddo, Abbot of Cluny, as
THE CRAFTY WOLF.
his ancestors did the priests of Cluny. The skin of the wolf appears in folklore as a charm against hydrophobia; its teeth are best for cutting children's gums, and its bite, if survived, is an assurance against any future wound or pain.
The tragedy which is so foolishly sprung upon the nerves of children, Little Red Riding-Hood, shows the wolf as a crafty animal.' There are many legends of a like character which have made it a favourite figure in which
Fig. 10.—THE Wolf as Confessor (probably Dutch).
to represent pious impostors. In our figure 10, the wolf appears as the dangerous confessor;' it was intended, as Mr. Wright thought, for Mary of Modena, Queen of James II., and Father Petre. At the top of the original are the words · Converte Angliam,' and beneath, “It is a foolish sheep that makes the wolf her confessor.' The craft of the wolf is represented in a partly political partly social turn given by an American fabulist to one of Æsop's fables.
The wolf having accused the lamb he means to devour of fouling the stream, and receiving answer that the lamb was drinking farther down the current, alters the charge and says, ' You opposed my candidature at the caucus two years ago.' 'I was not then born,' replies the lamb. The wolf then says, “Any one hearing my accusations would testify that I am insane and not responsible for my actions, and thereupon devours the lamb with full faith in a jury of his countrymen. M. Toussenel says the wolf is a terrible strategist, albeit the less observant have found little in his character to warrant this attribute of craft, his physiognomy and habits showing him a rather transparent highwayman. It is probable that the fables of this character have derived that trait from his association with demons and devils supposed to take on his shape.
In a beautiful hymni to the Earth in the 'Atharva Veda' it is said, 'The Earth, which endureth the burden of the oppressor, beareth up the abode of the lofty and of the lowly, suffereth the hog, and giveth entrance to the wild boar. Boar-hounds in Brittany and some other regions are still kept at Government expense. There are many indications of this kind that in early times men had to defend themselves vigorously against the ravages of the wild boar, and, as De Gubernatis remarks," its character is generally demoniacal. The contests of Hercules with the Erymanthian, and of Meleager with the Calydonian, Boar, are enough to show that it was through its dangerous character that he became sacred to the gods of war, Mars and Odin. But it is also to be remembered that the third incarnation of Vishnu was as a Wild Boar; and as the fearless exterminator of snakes the pig merited this association with the Preserver. Provided with a thick coat of fat, no venom can harm him unless it be on the
1 'Zoolog. Myth.,' ii. 7. Trübner & Co.
lip. It may be this ability to defy the snake-ordeal which, after its uncleanliness had excepted the hog from human voracity in some regions, assigned it a diabolical character. In rabbinical fable the hog and rat were created by Noah to clear the Ark of filth; but the rats becoming a nuisance, he evoked a cat from the lion's nose.
It is clear that our Asiatic and Norse ancestors never had such a ferocious beast to encounter as the Grisly Bear (Ursus horribilis) of America, else the appearances of this animal in Demonology could never have been so respectable. The comparatively timid Asiatic Bear (U. labiatus), the small and almost harmless Thibetan species (U. Thibctanus), would appear to have preponderated over the fiercer but rarer Bears of the North in giving us the Indo-Germanic fables, in which this animal is, on the whole, a favourite. Emerson finds in the fondness of the English for their national legend of Beauty and the Beast' a sign of the Englishman's own nature. 'He is a bear with a soft place in his heart; he says No, and helps you. The old legend found place in the heart of a particularly representative American also_Theodore Parker, who loved to call his dearest friend ‘Bear,' and who, on arriving in Europe, went to Berne to see his favourites, from which its name is derived. The fondness of the Bear for honey—whence its Russian name, medv-jed, ‘honey-eater'-—had probably something to do with its dainty taste for roses and its admiration for feinale beauty, as told in many myths. In his comparative treatment of the mythology of the Bear, De Gubernatis 1 mentions the transformation of King Trisankus into a bear, and connects this with the constellation of the Great Bear; but it may with equal probability be related to the many fables of princes who remain under the form of a bear
"Zoolog. Myth.,' ii. 108 seq. VOL. I.