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Title: Myths of the Rhine
Author: Xavier, M.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MYTHS OF THE RHINE

Translated from the French of X. B. Saintine

By Prof. M. Schele De Vere, LL. D.

Illustrated by Gustave Doré

Scribner, Armstrong, and Company

1874



DESCRIPTIVE TABLE OF CONTENTS.

I.

Primitive Times.--The First Settlers on the Rhine.--Masters going to
School.--Sanskrit and Breton.--An Idle God.--Microscopic Deities.--Tree
Worship.--Birth-Trees and Death-Trees.....001

II.

The Druids and their Creed.--Esus.--The Holy Oak.--The Pforzheim Lime
Tree.--A Rival Plant.--The Mistletoe and the Anguinufh.--The Oracle
at Do-dona.--Immaculate Horses.--The Druidesses.--A late
Elector.--Philanthropic Institution of Human Sacrifices.--Second
Druidical. Epoch.....025

III.

A Visit to the Land of our Forefathers.--The Two Banks of the
Rhine.--Druid Stones.--Weddings and Burials.--Night Service.--A Demigod
Glacier.--Social Duels.--A Countrywoman of Aspasia.--Boudoir of a Celtic
Lady.--The Bard’s Story.--Teutons and Titans.--Earthquake.....053

IV.

The Roman Gods invade Germany.--Drusus and the Dru-idess.--Ogmius,
the Hercules of Gaul.--Great Philological Discovery concerning
Tentâtes.--Transformations of every kind.--Irmensul.--The Rhine
deified.--The Gods cross the River.--Druids of the Third Epoch.....089

V.

The World before and since Odin.--Birth of Ymer.--The Giants of the
Frost.--A Log split in Two.--The First Man and the First Woman.--The
Ash Ygdrasil and its Menagerie.--Thor’s Three Jewels.--Freyr’s Enchanted
Sword.--A Souvenir of the National Guard of Belleville.--The Story of
Kvasir and the Two Dwarfs.--Honey and Blood.--Invocation.....119

VI.

Short Biographies.--A Clairvoyant among the Gods.--A Bright God.--Tyr
and the Wolf Fenris.--The Hospital at the Walhalla.--Why was Odin
one-eyed.--The Three Norns.--Mimer the Sage.--A Goddess the Mother
of Four Oxen.--The Love Affairs of Heimdall--The God with the Golden
Teeth.....151

VII.

Heaven and Hell.--The Valkyrias.--Amusements in Walhalla.--Pork and Wild
Boar.--A Frozen Hell.--Balder’s Death.--Frigg’s Devotion.--The Iron Tree
Forest.--The Twilight of the Gods.--Iduna’s Apples.--The Fall of Heaven
and the End of the World.--Reflections on that Event.--The Little
Fellow still alive.....17

VIII.

How the Gods of India live only for a Kalpa, that is, for the Time
between one World and another.--How the God Vishnu was One-eyed.--How
Celts and Scandinavians believed in Metempsychosis, like the
Indians.--How Odin, with his Emanations, came forth from the God
Buddha.--About Mahabarata and Ramavana.--Chronology.--The World’s
Age.--Comparative Tables.--Quotations.--Supporting Evidence.--A
Cenotaph.....209

IX.

Confederation of all the Northern Gods.--Freedom of
Religion.--Christianity.--Miserere mei!--Homeric Enumeration.--Prussian,
Slavic, and Finnish Deities.--The God of Cherries and the God of
Bees.--A Silver Woman.--Ilmarinnen’s Wedding Song.--A Skeleton
God.--Yaga-Baba’s Pestle and Mortar.--Preparation for Battle.--The
Little Chapel on the Hill.--The Signal for the Attack.--Jesus and
Mary.....215

X.

Marietta and the Sweet-briar.--Esus and Jesus.--Amalgam.--A
Neophyte.--Prohibition to eat Horseflesh.--Bishops in
Arms.--Interruption.--Come Home, my Good Friend!--Prussia and the
Myths of the Middle Ages.--Tybilinus, the Black God.--The little Blue
Flower.....243

XI.

Elementary Spirits of Air, Fire, and Water.--Sylphs, their Amusements
and Domestic Arrangements.--Little Queen Mab.--Will-o’-the-
Wisps.--White Elves and Black Elves.--True Causes of Natural
Somnambulism.--The Wind’s Betrothed.--Fire-damp.--Master
Haemmerling.--The Last of the Gnomes.....261

XII.

Elementary Spirits of the Water.--Petrarch at Cologne.--Divine Judgment
by Water.--Nixen and Undines.--A Furlough till Ten o’clock.--The
White footed Undine.--Mysteries on the Rhine.--The Court of the Great
Nichus.--Nixcobt, the Messenger of the Dead.--His Funny Tricks.--I go in
Search of an Undine.....281

XIII.

Familiar Spirits.--Butzemann.--The Good Frau Holle.--Kobolds.--A Kobold
in the Cook’s Employ.--Zot-terais and the Little White Ladies.--The
Killecroffs, the Devil’s Children.--White Angels.--Granted Wishes, a
Fable.....307

XIV.

Giants and Dwarfs.--Duel between Ephesim and Gromme-lund.--Court Dwarfs
and Little Dwarfs.--Ymer’s Sons.--The Invisible Reapers.--Story of the
Dwarf Kreiss and the Giant Quadragaat.--How the Giants came to serve the
Dwarfs.....333

XV.

Wizards and the Bewitched.--The Journey of Asa-Thor and his
Companions.--The Inn with the Five Passages.--Skrymner.--A Lost Glove
found again.--Arrival at the Great City of Utgard.--Combat between
Thor and the King’s Nurse.--Frederick Barbarossa and the
Kyffhâuser.--Teutonia! Teutonia!--What became of the Ancient
Gods.--Venus and the good Knight Tannhâuser.--Jupiter on Rabbit
Island.--A Modern God.....369

XVI.

Women as Missionaries, Women as Prophets, Strong Women, and Serpent
Women.--Children’s Myths.--Godmothers.--Fairies.--The Magic Wand and the
Broomstick.--The Lady of Kynast.--The World of the Dead, the World of
Ghosts, and the World of Shadows.--Myths of Animals.....397



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

   Father Rhine....................................................003

   The impassive historian ........................................004

   Vast forests as old as the world ...............................005

   The first pioneers..............................................007

   The Celts were a people from India..............................009

   What happy people scholars are..................................010

   A horrible custom...............................................019

   Dead man’s trees................................................022

   The Druids now appear for the first time in Germany.............023

   Their creed must be judged by their rites.......................027

   The other chieftains were generally polygamists.................031

   Courts of justice were always held under an elm tree............032

   Attempt to murder the mayor ....................................033

   Mistletoe an officinal and sacred plant.........................035

   Gauls...........................................................037

   Serpents’ knots.................................................039

   Prophetic trembling and neighing................................041

   A Druid teacher ................................................044

   The Germans were in full flight ................................046

   The bloody knife of the Druids .................................052

   I turn my steps from the sacred precincts.......................055

   Who are these other soldiers?...................................057

   These laborers seem to suffer from some restraint...............058

   I look around for a resting-place ..............................059

   A shepherd......................................................060

   The guard of a sword, which had been driven into the ground.....061

   The shepherd,--as mournful as ever..............................063

   Herds of swine are wallowing ...................................066

   A young wife bearing the burden of united household.............067

   Happiness consists in the fulfillment of duty ..................068

   Such were the ways of our fathers: rejoice in facing death......069

   The Druidical altars............................................070

   As there is no window I peep through the trap-door..............072

   One of the chief men of the country ............................075

   She was a young Ionian girl, a country-woman of Aspasia.........080

   The boudoir of a Celtic lady....................................082

   The Druid-bard..................................................085

   Death of Druids.................................................091

   A Druidess endowed with the gift of prophecy ...................093

   The victorious march of the Romans .............................094

   Her deities personified nothing but vices ......................096

   The Hercules--so called.........................................098

   Mercury, the son of Jupiter ....................................099

   “O Varus, Varus, bring me back my legions!”.....................103

   Perhaps the old river remembered his grievances.................105

   They made him a king, the King of German rivers.................106

   He had already allowed Jupiter to cross.........................107

   The vines began to adorn the banks of the river.................108

   Once more caresses had their hoped-for effect...................109

   He did his best to help everybody across........................110

   Fnvolous and ill-mannered deities...............................110

   The dauntless pirates will end by wearing white night-caps......113

   The great Northern Tempest .....................................115

   The German Druids gave way......................................118

   Iormungondur, the great sea serpent.............................121

   The giant Ymer has been born....................................123

   The first men had been born with a telescope in their pocket?...127

   Ymer was the first to succumb...................................128

   After the giants came the turn of land and sea monsters.........129

   The new creation was assuming a more pleasing appearance........132

   Deer, eland, and aurochs were bounding in herds.................133

   Incessantly a tiny squirrel comes and goes......................136

   A vulture perching upon the loftiest top of the sacred tree.....137

   Thor’s weighty hammer Mjoïner...................................139

   The good Freyr seated at Odin’s table...........................141

   Portrait of Freyr...............................................142

   Bragi and the beautiful Freya ..................................147

   Return of the eagle with the three precious vessels.............150

   Balder, the bright god..........................................153

   The wolf Fenris.................................................156

   Converse with each other by significative glances...............159

   They were the Norns.............................................160

   He took counsel with the Norns..................................162

   “To Egir, the seas and navigation”..............................164

   Gefione took her four sons and changed them into oxen...........165

   Jarl, the noble.................................................171

   The Valkyrias ..................................................175

   Beautiful nymphs of carnage.....................................176

   A very mammoth of a boar........................................180

   Feast in Scandinavian Paradise..................................181

   Hela, the pale goddess..........................................185

   “Balder, fair Balder, is going to die”..........................189

   Loki succeeds in exhilarating even Odin himself.................191

   Balder is amused by the game....................................192

   When the mother told her pitiful tale the iron trees wept.......197

   The three sacred cocks announcing the Twilight of Greatness.....202

   The death of the gods...........................................208

   My VIIIth chapter is thus changed into a cenotaph...............211

   I like to glean a little where scholars have reaped.............214

   The two religions face to face..................................217

   Ovid reciting his “Metamorphoses”...............................219

   Druidic worship suspended by the Romans.........................220

   “Miserere mei, Jesu”............................................222

   Perkunos, Pikollos, and Potrympos...............................224

   Puscatus,--a kind-hearted god ..................................226

   Monstrous reptiles accompany the gods to Germany................227

   He let his heavy mace fall upon a little town...................238

   The blacksmiths of Ilmarinnen...................................239

   Marietta appeared in their midst................................245

   “Do you think I am a man to be taken in ?”......................251

   Horse-head, a la mode...........................................253

   The Undines mingled with the Tritons and the Naiads.............258

   Have transferred their Olympus to the Brocken...................259

   The Olympus of the North........................................263

   Able to see without being seen .................................266

   Dance of the white fairies .....................................269

   The black fairies personify Nightmare ..........................271

   An important personage with a will of his own ..................272

   Enormous toads are posted about.as watchmen.....................279

   Elementary spirits of the water.................................283

   Imaginary music ................................................288

   The nix with the harp ..........................................289

   Schoolmaster’s son who had fallen in love with one of them......291

   He thought he saw a pale form arise from the waters.............294

   He rose suddenly and fled to another room ......................295

   The steward whispered some words in her ear ....................297

   Niord, the Scandinavian god ....................................299

   This creature is Nixcobt........................................300

   The Vintner is hanged, and Nixcobt laughs heartily..............302

   Four Prussian soldiers watching the water ......................305

   The Zotterais protected sheep ..................................309

   The master has nothing to do....................................315

   Prefer to remember the Kobold a cheerful household companion....317

   The Zotterais as fond of stables as the Kobolds of kitchens.....319

   They are naturally easily tired ................................321

   The Killecroffs are children of the Devil ......................322

   His nurse has to be reinforced by two goats and a cow...........324

   The great Reformer, Dr. Martin Luther ..........................326

   The fall of Killecroff .........................................331

   Giants and dwarfs...............................................335

   The last of the giants..........................................337

   Grommelund and Ephesim .........................................339

   The humiliated giant............................................340

   Our good little dwarfs .........................................341

   He stood at first with his mouth wide open .................... 346

   A long and deep sigh of satisfaction............................348

   Flight of the conspirators......................................353

   Kreiss slipped boldly into this vast and spacious cavity........354

   They fixed strong piles between the two rows of teeth...........355

   In his hand he held not a club but a lantern....................357

   Kreiss compelled to leave his position by torrents of tears.....359

   The last two held each a long thorn in their hands..............361

   Kreiss entering the great meeting hall..........................363

   Putskuchen was in love..........................................365

   Ouadragant vanquished...........................................367

   The passing of the wizard ......................................371

   Venus and Tannhàuser............................................390

   His ex-colleague Jupiter .......................................396

   The author pursues the subject .................................399

   The conscientious collector of myths............................401

   The Druidess transformed into an accursed witch.................406

   To return was as impossible as to proceed.......................409

   She had rejoined her victims ...................................413

   He is the Lord Hackelberg.......................................417

   These ghosts can imitate all the motions of men.................421

   Farewell........................................................423



[Illustration: 023]



I.

{003}_Primitive Times.--The First Settlers on the Rhine.--Masters
going to School.--Sanskrit and Breton.--Ax Idle God.--Microscopic
Deities.--Tree Worship.--Birth-Trees and Death-Trees._ The Rhine is born
in Switzerland, in the Canton of Grisons; it skirts France and passes
through it, and after a long and magnificent career it finally loses
itself in the countless canals of Holland; and yet the Rhine is
essentially a German river.

{004}Already in the earliest ages, long before towns were built on its
banks, it saw all the Germanic races dwell here in tents, watch their
flocks, and fight their interminable battles, although the clash of
arms and the blast of trumpets never for a moment aroused the impassive
historian from his deep slumbers.

[Illustration: 024]

His silence, long continued into later centuries, does not prevent us
from supposing, however, that the Rhine was already at that time the
great high-{005}road on which the Germanic races wandered to and fro,
and other races came to their native land. It was the Rhine that brought
to them commerce and civilization; but on the Rhine came also invasions
of a very different kind. We can allude here only to those religious
invasions which are connected with our subject.

[Illustration: 025]

In the earliest ages the South of Europe alone was inhabited, while the
Northern part was covered with vast forests, as old as the world, and as
yet{006}unbroken by the footsteps of men. Dark, dismal solitudes,
consisting of ancient woods or wretched morasses, where trees struggled
painfully for existence and only the strongest survived when they
reached the light and the sun; densely wooded deserts, in which vast
herds of wild beasts pursued each other incessantly, while in the deep
shadow of impenetrable foliage flocks of timid, trembling birds sought
a refuge against hosts of voracious birds of prey. Thus, even while Man
was yet absent, War was already reigning supreme here, and in these vast
regions the Great Destroyer seemed to revel in it, as if it had been a
feast, a necessity, a glory!

Had never human eye yet looked upon these magnificent but unknown
regions?

Then, one fine day a host of savages appeared here and settled down with
their flocks. After them came another host of more warlike and better
armed men, who drove out the first comers and took possession of the
tilled ground.

After them another race, and then still another. Thus it went on for
years and for centuries, and all these waves of immigration came down
from the extreme North, marking each halting place by a bloody battle,
while the conquered people, driven by the sharp edge of the sword to
seek new homes, by turns pursued and pursuing, went and peopled those
wild unsettled countries which afterwards be{007}came known as Belgium
and France, as Bretagne and England. Continuing their march from thence
southward, from the Rhine to the Mediterranean, they spread right and
left, east and west, and crossed the Pyrenees and the Alps, making
themselves masters on one side of Iberia, and on the other side of the
plains of Lombardy, thus changing from fugitives into conquerors.

[Illustration: 027]

These conquered conquerors, driven from their own homes, and now driving
other nations from their homes, these first pioneers who laid open one
unknown country after another, were all children of one great family and
all bore the same name of _Celts_.

But where was the first source from which this {008}flood of families,
of peoples, of nations, broke forth, that now overflowed Europe and in
successive waves spread over the greater part of the Old World? Whence
came these vast multitudes of Northern visitors, unexpected and unknown,
who broke the mournful silence that had so long reigned in Europe? Were
the frozen regions of the North pole, at that early time, really so
fertile in men? We call upon men of science to answer our question. The
question is a serious one, perhaps an indiscreet one, for who can
be appealed to on such a difficult point? History? It did not exist.
Monuments, written or sculptured? The Celts had never dreamt yet of
writings or of carvings. Does this universal silence put it out of the
power of our learned men to give a reply? Must they confess that they
are unable to do so? By no means. Learned men never condescend to make
such confessions. The Celts have left as a monument, a language, a
dialect, still largely used in certain parts of ancient Bretagne as well
as in the Principality of Wales.

Illustrious academicians, mostly Germans, did not hesitate to go to
school once more in order to learn Breton. The self-denial of which
science is capable, deserves our admiration.

After long labors, devoted to the separation of what belonged to the
primitive language from subsequent additions, our great scholars found
them{009}selves once more face to face with Sanskrit, the sacred idiom
of the Brahmins, the ancestor of the old German tongue, and of the old
Celtic tongue, and thus of the Breton.

[Illustration: 029]

The matter was decided, scientifically and categorically, and no appeal
allowed. The Celts were a people from India. Europeans are all descended
from Indians, driven from home by some powerful pressure, a political or
religious revolution, or one of those fearful famines which periodically
devastate {010}that immense and inexhaustible storehouse of nations.

[Illustration: 030]

At first, we good people, artists, poets, or authors, who generally
claim to possess some little knowledge, were rather surprised at such
a decision. But the wise men had said so; Bengal and Bretagne had to
fraternize; the Brahmins of Benares speak Breton and the Bretons of
Bretagne speak Sanskrit. Bretagne is Indian and India is Breton.

Comparative Philology has taught the children of our day, that two
syllables which are identical {011}in the idioms of two different races,
prove the connection between two nations; hybridism means kinship.

What happy people scholars are! They can converse with people who have
been dead these three thousand years, and the grave has no secrets for
them! A single word bequeathed to us by an extinct people, enables them
to reconstruct that whole race.

But I am bound to ask them another question, a question of much greater
importance to myself. What were the religious convictions of these first
inhabitants of Europe? I am answered by Mr. Simon Pelloutier, a minister
of the Reformed Church in Berlin, of French descent, who has studied the
primitive creed of the Celts most thoroughly and successfully. He tells
us that these people, before they had Druids, worshipped, or rather held
in honor the sun, the moon, and the stars, a kind of Sabaism, which,
however, did not exclude the belief in a God, who was the creator, but
not the ruler, of all things.

This god appears to me to have been very imperfect; he was heavy,
sleepy, and shapeless, having neither eyes to see nor ears to hear; he
was incapable of feeling pity or anger, and the prayers and vows of men
were unable to reach him. Invisible, intangible, and incomprehensible,
he was floating in space, which he filled, and which he {012}animated
without bestowing a thought upon it; omnipotent and yet utterly
inactive, creating islands and continents, and causing the sun and the
stars to give light by his mere approach, this divine idler had created
the world, but declined taking the trouble of governing his creation.

To whom had he confided the control over the stars in heaven? Mr.
Pelloutier himself never could find out. As to the government of the
earth, he had entrusted it to an infinite number of inferior deities,
gods and sub-gods, of very small stature. They were as shapeless and as
invisible as he was, but vastly more active, and endowed with all the
energy which he had disdained to bestow upon himself. By their numbers
and by their collective force they made up for their individual
feebleness--and they must have been feeble indeed, since their extremely
small size permitted a thousand of them to find a comfortable shelter
under the leaf of a walnut tree!

Besides, they presided over the different departments which were
assigned to them, not by hundreds, but by myriads, nay, by millions
of myriads. Thus they rushed forth in vast hosts, stirring the air in
lively currents, causing the rivers and brooks to flow onwards, watching
over fields and forests, penetrating the soil to great depths, creeping
in through every crack and crevice, and breaking out {013}again through
the craters of volcanoes. They formed a belt from the Rhine to the
Taunus mountains, dazzling the whole region for a moment by a shower of
sparks, and falling back upon the plain in the form of columns of black
smoke.

Science has, moreover, established this incontestable principle, that
motion can only be produced in two ways here, below: either by the acts
of living beings, or by the contact of these microscopic deities.

Whenever the waters rose or broke forth in cataracts, whenever the
leaves trembled in the wind, or the flowers bent before a storm, it was
these diminutive gods who, invisible and yet ever active, forced the
waters to come down in torrents, drove the tempest through the branches,
bent the flowers down to the ground, and chased the dust of the
highroads in lofty columns up to the clouds. It was they who caused the
golden hair of the maid to fall down upon her shoulders as she went to
the well, who shook the earthenware pitcher she carried on her shoulder,
who crackled in the fire on the hearth, and who roared in the storm, or
the eruptions of fiery mountains.

When I think of this little world of tiny insect gods, who passed
through the air in swarms, coming and going, turning to the left and to
the right, struggling and striving above and beneath (I ask {014}their
pardon for comparing these deities to humble insects, born in the
mud and subject to infirmity and death like ourselves), I cannot help
thinking of the beautiful lines by Lamartine, in which he so graphically
describes life in Nature.

     “Chaque fois que nos yeux, pénétrant dans ces ombres,
     De la nuit des rameaux éclairaient les dais sombres,
     Nous trouvions sous ces lits de feuille où dort l’été,
     Des mystères d’amour et de fécondité.

     Chaque fois que nos pieds tombaient dans la verdure
     Les herbes nous montaient jusques à la ceinture,
     Des flots d’air embaumé se répandaient sur nous,
     Des nuages ailés partaient de nos genoux;
     Insectes, papillons, essaims nageants de mouches,
     Oui d’un éther vivant semblaient former les couches,
     Ils’ montaient en colonne, en tourbillon flottant,
     Comblaient l’air, nous cachaient l’un à l’autre un instant,
     Comme dans les chemins la vague de poussière
     Se lève sous les pas et retombe en arrière.

     Ils roulaient; et sur l’eau, sur les prés, sur le foin,
     Ces poussières de vie allaient tomber plus loin;
     Et chacune semblait, d’existence ravie,
     Epuiser le bonheur dans sa goutte de vie,
     Et l’air qu’ils animaient de leurs frémissements
     N’était que mélodie et que bourdonnements.”

Such were the gods known to the first ingenuous dwellers on the banks
of the Rhine--gods worthy of a society but just beginning. And still, I
venture to make a suggestion, which Mr. Simon Pelloutier, my guide up to
this point, has unfortunately neglected to make. It is this: I feel as
if {015}there was hidden beneath this primitive and apparently puerile
mythology a hideous monster, writhing in fearful threatenings and bitter
mockery. This god Chaos, so careless and reckless, gifted with the power
of creation but not with love for his work, seems to me nothing else
but Matter, organizing itself. I have called these countless inferior
deities microscopic. I should have called them molecular, for they are
atoms, the monads of our science. There is evidently here a germ, not
of a religious creed so much as of a philosophic system, a shadow of
the materialism of a former civilization that is now degraded and nearly
lost.

At first I doubted the correctness of the opinions of our learned men;
but I begin to believe in them; yes, these early Celts had come, to us
from distant India, from that ancient, decayed country, and in their
knapsacks they had brought with them, by an accident, this fragment
of their symbolic cosmogony, the sad meaning of which was, no doubt, a
mystery to them also.

After some years, perhaps after some centuries, --for time does not
count for much in those questions,--the Celts became weary of this
selfish Deity, which was lost in the contemplation of its own being and
dwelt in the centre of a cold and empty heaven, and they desired to
establish some relations between him and themselves. Unable to appeal to
{016}the Creator, they appealed to Creation, and asked for a mediator,
who should hear their complaints or accept their thank-offerings and
transmit them to the Supreme Power.

We have already seen that they turned first to sun and moon; but they
were ill rewarded for their efforts. These heavenly bodies were either
too far removed from their clients to hear their complaints, or they
were too busy with their own daily duties; at all events they shared
with their common master in his indifference towards men.

Our pious friends were offended by this want of consideration, and
thought of looking for other intercessors, who might be less busy; whom
they might not only see with their eyes but touch with their hands,
and who would remain as much as possible in the same place, so as to be
always on hand when they were needed.

They appealed to rivers and mountains; but the rivers had nothing
permanent but their banks, and went their way like the sun and moon;
while the mountains, besides being the home of wolves, bears, and
serpents, and thus enjoying an evil reputation, were continually hid by
snow and rain from the eyes of the petitioners.

At last they turned to the trees, and as it always happens, they now
found out that they ought to have commenced where they ended. {017}A
tree was an excellent mediator; standing between heaven and earth, it
clung to the latter by its roots, while its trunk, shaped like an arrow,
feathered with verdure, rose upwards as if to touch the sky.

The worship of trees was probably the first effect of sedentary life
adopted by the Celts after their long, more or less forced wanderings;
in a few years it prevailed on both sides of the river Rhine.

There was no lack of trees; every man had his own. As he could not carry
it away with him, he became accustomed to live by its side.

Man could lean his hut against the trunk; the flock could sleep in its
shade.

The birds came to it in numbers. If they were singing, it was a sign of
joy to come; if they built their nests there, it was an invitation to
marry.

The fruit-bearing tree suggested comfort, abundance, and enjoyment; it
spoke of harvest feasts and cider-making, when friends gathered around
it, holding in their hands large horns filled to overflowing with
foaming drink.

Soon it became customary to plant at the birth of a child a tree which
was to become a companion and a counsellor for life.

Thus in the course of time a copse represented a family.

The worship bestowed upon the tree consisted {018}in pruning it, in
making it grow straight, in freeing its bark from parasitical growth
and in keeping the roots free from ants, rats, snakes and all dangerous
enemies. Such continuous care naturally led in the course of time to an
improvement in cultivation.

The tree worshippers, however, did more than this. On certain hallowed
days they hung bouquets of herbs and of flowers on its branches, they
brought food and drink, and thus fetichism crept in gradually. Alas!
That men have never been able to keep from extremes!

When the wind whispered in the leaves, the devout owner listened
attentively, trying anxiously to interpret the mystic language of his
cedar or his pear tree, and often a regular conversation ensued.

It was a bad omen when a rising storm shook the tree fiercely; if the
tempest was strong enough to break a branch, the event foretold a great
calamity, and if it was struck by lightning, the owner was warned of
his approaching death. The latter was resigned; he felt quite proud
at having at last compelled his indolent god to reveal himself to his
devout worshipper.

When a child died, it was buried under its own tree, a mere sapling..
But it was not so when a man died.{019}

[Illustration: 039]

The Celts used various and strange means for the purpose of disposing of
the remains of their {021}deceased friends. In some countries they were
burnt, and their own tree furnished the fuel for the funeral pile; in
other countries the _Todtenbaum_ (Tree of the Dead), hollowed out with
an axe, became the owner’s coffin. This coffin was interred, unless
it was intrusted to the current of the river, to be carried God knows
where! Finally, in certain localities there existed a custom--a horrible
custom!--of exposing the body to the voracity of birds of prey, and the
place of exposure was the top of the very tree which had been planted at
the birth of the deceased, and which in this case, quite exceptionally,
was not cut down.

Now, observe, that in these four distinct methods by which human remains
were restored to the four elements of air and water, earth and fire, we
meet again the four favorite ways of burial still practiced in India,
as of old, by the followers of Brahma, Buddha, and Zoroaster. The
fire-worshippers of Bombay are as familiar with them as the dervishes
who drown children in the Ganges. Thus we have here four proofs, instead
of one, of the Indian origin of our Celts. For my part at least, I
confess I am convinced by this quadruple evidence.

It is to be presumed that the use of Dead Men’s Trees and of posthumous
drownings continued for centuries in ancient Gaul as well as in ancient
Germany. About 1560 some Dutch laborers found, {022}in examining a part
of the Zuyder Zee, at a great depth, several trunks of trees which
were marvelously well preserved and nearly petrified. Each one of these
trunks had been occupied by a man, and contained some half-petrified
fragments. It was evident that they had been carried down, trunk and
man, by the Rhine, the Ganges of Germany.

[Illustration: 042]

As recently as 1837 such _Todtenbaume_ or Dead Men’s Trees, well
preserved by the peculiar nature of the soil, have been discovered in
England, near Solby in Yorkshire, and still more recently, in 1848, on
Mount Lupfen in the Grand Duchy of Baden.

In face of such well authenticated evidence of Dead Men’s Trees having
been confided to the current of rivers or the bosom of the earth, it
seems superfluous to ask for additional proof in support of the fact
that cremation was practiced all over ancient Europe. Nor do I consider
myself, as a collector of myths, bound to prove everything. I {023}do
not mean to speak, therefore, any further of Birthday Trees, of Dead
Men’s Trees, and of Fetich Trees,--which we shall moreover meet again
presently,--and hasten on to other myths of far greater importance.

The Druids now appear for the first time in Gaul and in Germany.

[Illustration: 043]



II.

{027}_The Druids and their Creed.--Esus.--The Holy Oak.--The Pforzheim
Lime Tree.--A Rival Plant.--The Mistletoe and the Ansfuinum.--The
Oracle at Dodona.--Immaculate Horses.--The Druidesses.--A late
Elector.--Philanthropic Institution of Human Sacrifices.--Second
Druidical Epoch_.

The Druids were the first to bring to the Gauls as well as to the
Germans religious truths, but their creed can be appreciated from no
dogma of theirs; it must be judged by their rites.

The first question is: Whence did the Druids {028}come? Were they
disciples of the Magi, and did they come from Persia? Such an origin has
been claimed for them: or had they been initiated by Isis in her
ancient mysteries, and did they come from Egypt? This view also has its
adherents. Or, finally, had they been driven towards Western Europe
by one of the last waves of immigration, which left India under the
pressure of some new calamity? Many think so.

As it seems to be difficult to decide between these three suggestions,
it might be worth while to try and reconcile them with each other. It is
a long way from India to Germany and to Gaul, and there might have been
many stopping places between the country from which they started and
their future home.

The Druids, like all other Celts, might very well have started from
India, and choosing not the most direct way might have reached Europe
only after making many a long halt in Persia and in Egypt.

‘If that can be admitted, then there is no difficulty in assuming that
the first Celts might very well have taken with them from the banks of
the Indus and the Ganges only a few fragments of a sickly materialism
taught by false teachers outside of the temple, while the Druids might
have been initiated within the temple itself, thus learning to know the
true nature of the Deity.

Their creed was founded upon a triple basis--one {029}God; the
immortality of the soul; and rewards and punishments in a future life.

These sound doctrines, which are as old as the world and form the
foundation of all human morality, had ever been maintained by their wise
men.

At a later period the Greeks, proud as they were of their Platonic
philosophy, had not hesitated to acknowledge that they had obtained the
first germ of it from the Celts, the Galati, and consequently from the
Druids. One of the Fathers of the Church, Clement of Alexandria, openly
admits that these same Celts had been orthodox in their religion, at
least as far as their dogmas were concerned.

By what name was the Supreme Being known to the Druids? They called it
_Esus_, which means the Lord, or they gave it the simple designation
of _Teut_ (God). Through this Teut the German races became afterwards
Teutons, the sons and followers of Teut, and even in our day they call
themselves in their own language Teutsche or _Deutsche_.

Three marvelously brief maxims contain almost the whole catechism of the
Druids: Serve God; Abstain from evil; Be brave!

The Druids, being warriors as well as priests, displayed in the
performance of their warlike priesthood all the energy, the severity,
and the authority which must needs accompany such a strange combination
of powers. {030}Holding all the power of the state in their hands, and
speaking in the name of God, commanding the army, controlling the public
treasury, and acting not only as judges but also as physicians, they
punished heresy and rebellion, and ended lawsuits as well as diseases,
by the death of the person most interested.

Their laws, liberal and philanthropic in spite of their apparent
severity, allowed a jury consisting of notables, to judge grave
crimes; this fact of a jury suggests naturally the idea of extenuating
circumstances, and thus the criminal, escaping more readily than
the patient, frequently got off with a fine, if he was rich, or with
banishment if he was poor.

Nevertheless all the efforts of the Druids did not succeed in thoroughly
eradicating Tree worship; they were thus led to adopt one tree, to the
exclusion of all others, which should rally around it the scattered
adoration of all the nations. This official tree, a kind of green altar,
on which God manifested himself to his priests, was an oak, a strong,
vigorous oak, the king of the forests.

Thus the holy oak became known and honored; pious worshippers came by
night, with torches in their hands, in long processions to present their
offerings.

This usage soon became general among all Celtic nations. Around these
oaks the Druids formed sacred precincts within which they lived with
their families, for they were married; but they could have {031}only one
wife, while the other chieftains were generally polygamists.

[Illustration: 051]

But the oak, although thus enjoying preeminence over all other trees,
was by no means exclusively worshipped everywhere. Perhaps from
religious antagonism, or perhaps merely from local usage, some
provinces of Gaul and of Italy preferred the beech and the elm. In Gaul
especially, the elm prevailed over the oak, and even Christian France
still continued for a long time to plant an elm tree before every newly
built church, so as to draw God’s blessing the more surely upon it; and
down to the end of the Middle Ages courts of justice were always held
under an elm tree. Hence the curious {032}French proverb, which did not
always have the mocking sense in which it is used nowadays, wait for
me under the elm tree! (Attendez-moi sous forme) What was then a
formal summons to appear before a judge has now come to mean: Wait till
doomsday.

[Illustration: 052]

The ash tree, also, had its worshippers among the dwellers in high
northern latitudes, and it was under the dense branches of an enormous
ash tree that terrible Odin and his following of deities appeared in a
dark cloud.

Thus Tree worship appeared once more. It has ever since continued to
flourish more or less in Germany, and even now exists to a certain
extent. But it is not the oaks, nor the beech, nor the elm, nor the ash
tree, which in our day receives the worship of the young especially--but
the lime tree. The admirers of the lime tree carry their fervor to
fanaticism and their fanaticism to murder. I had {033}been unwilling to
believe this.

[Illustration: 053]

But this morning I opened my newspaper and there I found an article,
dated December 30, 1860, and stating that a young man from Pforzheim, in
the Palatinate, attempted to murder the mayor of his town by means of
a revolver, the four barrels of which were loaded with as many leaden
balls. When he was arrested, he declared that he had personally nothing
to say against the burgomaster, but that the latter {034}had recently
ordered certain lime trees to be cut down, that _the good people of
Pforzheim idolized these trees_, and that he had determined to punish
him for such profanation.

The paper added: “This young man belongs to an honorable family, his
antecedents are excellent, and he has never shown the slightest symptom
of mental derangement.”

How, then does it come about that the lime tree should in our day, in
the nineteenth century, call forth sentiments of such extreme violence?
The reason is that Young Germany has proclaimed it to be the Tree of
Love, because _its leaves are shaped like hearts_.

If I were not afraid of getting myself into trouble, having a natural
horror of all firearms, and especially of four barrelled revolvers,
I should mention here, that anatomists protest against this pretended
resemblance of the leaf to the heart. In reality it looks much more
like the ace of hearts, as it terminates below in a sharp point--but
superstition prevails over anatomy, and teaches us once more that
science ought not to meddle with things pertaining to love.

The Druids’ Oak, although less tempting to gallant comparisons, finally
excited almost equal fanaticism. Processions and sacrifices became
well nigh endless; young maidens adorned it with garlands of flowers,
{035}interspersed with bracelets and necklaces, while warriors suspended
in its branches the most precious spoil they brought home from their
battles. If a storm arose, the other trees of the forest seemed in good
faith, humbly to bow down before their chief.

[Illustration: 055]

And yet it had an enemy, a fierce, relentless enemy. An abject, little
plant, unknown and miserable in appearance, came unceremoniously and
made its home on its sacred branches and even on its august summit;
there it lived on its life’s blood, feeding on its sap, absorbing its
substance, threatening {036}to impede its natural growth, and finally
carrying the impudence so far as to conceal the glossy leaves of the
noble godlike tree under its own lustreless and viscous foliage. This
hostile and impious plant was the Mistletoe, the mistletoe of the oak
(_Guythil_).

Other people, less intelligent and less sagacious than the Druids, would
have freed the tree from this unwelcome and obnoxious visitor, by simply
climbing up and cutting off the parasite by means of a pruning bill.
This would have been irreverent as well as impolitic. What would the
people have thought? The people would most assuredly have reasoned, that
the sacred tree had been rendered powerless, being unable to rid itself
of its vermin.

The Druids did much better. They treated the mistletoe very much as we,
in our day, treat a formidable member of the opposition; they gave it a
place in the sanctuary. The mistletoe was proclaimed to be an official
and sacred plant, and became an essential part of their worship. When it
was to be detached from the tree, this was not done stealthily and by a
mean iron bill-hook, but in the presence of all, amid public rejoicings
and accompanied by solemn chants. The instrument was a golden reaping
hook, and with it the _Guythil_ was carefully cut off at the base and
gathered in {037}linen veils. These veils became henceforth sacred, and
were not allowed to be used for ordinary purposes.

The Teutons who lived on the Rhine, obtained from the mistletoe a kind
of glue, which they looked upon as a panacea against the sterility of
women, the ravages of diseases, the effects of witchcraft,--and also as
a means to catch birds.

[Illustration: 057]

The Gauls, on the other hand, dried it carefully and put the dust into
pretty little scent-bags, which they presented to each other as New
Year’s Gifts on the first day of the year. Hence, in t some provinces
of France, the cry is still heard, “Aguilanneuf” (_au gui l’an neuf_),
“Mistletoe for New Year!”

Modern science treats mistletoe simply as a purgative, and thus attempts
to prove that our ancestors showed their affection to each other by
exchanging presents of violent purgatives.

The introduction of this parasite plant into the {038}sanctuary became,
however, very soon a public benefit. For the oak-mistletoe obtained ere
long considerable commercial value, and at once counterfeiters (for even
under the Druids there existed such men) went to work and gathered it
from other trees also, from apple trees and pear trees, from nut trees
and lime trees, from beeches, elms, and even larches. The consequence
was, that owners of orchards as well as owners of forests, rejoiced
in the trick, at which the Druids discreetly winked; for they took
advantage of the lesson.

[Illustration: 058]

At one time venomous reptiles had become so numerous in the regions
of the Rhine, that they caused continually serious accidents among the
{039}people, the majority of whom lived all day long in the open air,
and did not always sleep under shelter. During their winter sleep, these
reptiles rolled themselves up into vast balls, and became apparently
glued to each other by a kind of viscous ooze. In this state they were
called by the Celts _Serpents Eggs_, or rather _Serpents’ Knots_, while
the Romans called them _anguimim_.

These strange balls were used medicinally by the Druids like the
mistletoe; they employed them even in their religious ceremonies, and
soon they became so rare, that only the wealthiest people could procure
them, by paying their weight in gold. If the Druids had really at first
been misled so as to adopt superstitious customs, which they repented of
in their hearts, they soon found means to make these same superstitious
rites beneficial to the people.

Unfortunately serpents’ knots, oaks, and their parasites, did not long
satisfy a people ever desirous of new things. It is a well-known fact
that innovations, however small may have been their first beginning, are
sure to go on enlarging and increasing from day to day.

The old party of Tree worshippers, still numerous and very active as all
old parties are, complained of the suppression of their companion-trees,
the ancient family oracles, for the purpose of favoring {040}one single
oak tree,--a tree which yet was not able, in spite of all the privileges
it enjoyed, to put them into communication with _Estes_, the god of
heaven.

This complaint was certainly not unfounded;--it had to be answered.

The Druids consisted of three classes:--

The Druids proper (_Eubages_, they were called in Gaul) were
philosophers as well as scholars, perhaps even magicians, for magic was
at that time nothing more than the outward form of science. They were
charged with the maintenance of the principles of morality, and had to
study the secrets of nature. The Prophets, on the other hand, knew how
to interpret in the slightest breath of wind, the language of the holy
oak, which spoke to them in the rustling of its leaves, in the soughing
of the branches, in the low cracking heard within the trunk, and even in
the earlier or later appearance of the foliage. There were, finally, the
Bards, poets bound to the altar.

While the bards were singing around the oak, the prophets caused it to
render its oracles. These oracles soon increased largely not only in
Europe, but also in Asia Minor, where a Celtic colony, according to
Herodotus, established in the land they had conquered the oracle of
Dodona. Early Greece worshipped an oak tree, which Strabo, however,
assures {041}us was a beech. There is no disputing about trees any more
than about colors; but Homer calls it an oak, and an oak it must remain
for us.

[Illustration: 061]

This new movement, grafted upon the simple worship of the Druids, did
not stop here. After having for some time been accustomed to converse
with Teut by means of a tree, the Celts were naturally surprised at
seeing that, while trees could speak, living creatures remained silent,
and were apparently deprived of the power of foretelling the future.
Certain chieftains, especially, felt aggrieved, {042}upon setting out on
a great campaign, that they were not allowed to carry the holy oak
along with them, and in their intense devotion, fell upon the idea
of consulting the nervous trembling of their horses and their sudden
neighing in moments of surprise or terror,--for in order to be of
prophetic nature the movements of the animals had to be involuntary and
spontaneous. As this creed began to spread gradually, every man who was
setting out on a journey or a warlike expedition mounted his horse in
the firm conviction that he would be able to consult his four-footed
prophet at any time during his absence from home, provided he was able
to submit the omens to the learned interpretations of a soothsayer.

The Druid priests were not long in becoming seriously alarmed at these
travelling oracles, liable as they naturally were to contradict each
other.

As they had before chosen a single tree to be the sacred tree, so they
now accepted as genuine omens only the symptoms noticed in certain
horses which were bred within the sacred precincts and under their own
eyes.

These horses, of immaculate whiteness and raised at public expense, were
not employed for any work, and never had to submit to saddle or bridle.
Wild and untamed, they roamed with fluttering manes in perfect liberty
through the lofty forests. The freedom {043}of their movements gave
naturally a safer character to their omens, and thus these prophetic
horses, which formed almost a part of the druidical clergy, enjoyed for
a long time the highest authority in all Celtic countries, when suddenly
one fine day new rivals arose.

Other living creatures entered into competition with them, and these
rivals of the horses were--shall I say it?--were women. These women
discovered, all of a sudden, that they also were endowed, and in the
very highest degree, with the gifts of second sight, of inspiration,
intuition, and divination.

When public opinion appealed to the Druids to give their views on this
claim, they admitted, according to the statement of Tacitus, that women
had something more instinctive and more divine in them than men, nay,
even than horses. Their sensitive organization predisposed them to
receive the gift of prophecy, and hence “women indeed act more readily
from natural impulse, without reflection, than from thought or reason.”

This last explanation, improper in the highest degree, does not come
from Tacitus, nor from myself, God forbid! It is the exclusive property
of the aforementioned Mr. Simon Pelloutier. Let every one be responsible
for his own work!

The Druids treated the women just as they had {044}treated the horses,
the mistletoe, and the trees. They acknowledged as true prophetesses
only those who were already under the direct influence of the holy place
and the sacred oak; that is to say, their wives and their daughters.

The principle of centralization of power is evidently not of modern
origin.

[Illustration: 064]

Thus, there were now Druidesses, as there had been Druids before. The
latter became the teachers of the young men; they taught their pupils
the motions of the stars, the shape and extent of the earth, the divers
products of nature, the history of their ancestors written in the form
of poems which the bards recited; in fact, they taught them everything
except reading and writing. Memory was as yet sufficient for all things.
The priestesses, on the other hand, opened schools for the young girls;
they taught them to sing and to sew, they initiated them into religious
ceremonies and confided to them the knowledge of simples; nor was
poetry neglected, as they had to learn by heart certain poems which were
specially composed for their benefit. These verses, of somewhat doubtful
{045}lyrical character, probably taught them how to make bread, how to
brew beer, and other small details of the kitchen and the house.

The Druidesses practiced also medicine. This threefold prerogative of
being physicians, prophets, and preceptors, finally raised them so high
in the estimation of the nation, that when the priests of Teut were
compelled to abandon their sanctuaries, they did not hesitate to confide
them to their guardianship. They even presided in their own right, at
certain ceremonies.

If one of them excelled by the frequency, the lucidity, and the
reliability of her inspirations, as was the case at different times with
the illustrious Aurinia, Velleda, and Ganna, whom the Roman emperors
even deigned to consult through their ambassadors, the proud Druids
placed her with humble submission, at the head of their own college of
priests. During this female dictatorship, she became the arbiter of the
destiny of nations, decided on peace and war, and controlled all the
movements of great armies.

Caesar tells us that he once asked one of his German captives, why
Ariovistus, their chieftain, had never yet dared to meet him in battle,
and was told in reply, that the Druidesses, after a careful examination
of the eddies and whirlpools of the Rhine, had forbid his engaging in
action till the {046}time of the new moon. As a matter of course, the
shrewd general profited by this information, and when the new moon
appeared, the Germans were in full flight.

[Illustration: 066]

But the Rhine has not yet given its oracles, and the time has not yet
come, when Ganna Velleda, and Aurinia condescend to grant audiences to
Roman ambassadors.

We only wished to trace in a few outlines the future development of this
institution of Druidesses, which we shall meet again in the days of its
decline. {047}In the mean time, however, their influence and their power
were daily growing. Were the Teutons at last satisfied? By no means. In
spite of all the skill displayed by their diviners and the Druid-esses,
they came to the conclusion, that neither the trembling foliage of the
holy oak, nor the sudden starts, the wild leaps, and the more or less
prolonged, loud neighings of the horses, afforded them sufficient
excitement and perfectly reliable revelations. It occurred to them next,
to consult animals, not in their outward manifestations, but in their
still quivering entrails. This new ceremony could not fail to give to
their religious worship a more serious aspect, and a certain savor of
murder, which no doubt had its charms for a warlike people.

The Druids yielded once more, but they felt discouraged. What had become
of that grand philosophic religion, which was content with prayer and
meditation, and which they once--too fondly, perhaps--had hoped to be
able to adapt to the nature of these barbarians?

They first consented to slay at the foot of the sacred oak, so long kept
free from blood, a number of noxious beasts, like wolves, lynxes, and
bears; but the turn of domestic animals came ere long, and they began
to sacrifice sheep, goats, and finally man’s best companion in war,
the horse. Not even the spotless white horses, heretofore looked upon
{048}with such profound and superstitious reverence, were spared any
longer.

And at each step forward in this bloody career, the Druids, always
resisting, and always compelled to yield, made their last and their very
last concession, vainly hoping that they might thus retain for a little
while longer the power, which they felt was fast slipping from their
grasp.

Encouraged by success, the reformers finally came to the question,
whether the most acceptable offering to be presented to God, was not the
blood of man? Is not man, of all created beings, the most noble and the
most perfect? Perhaps they were inclined to carry the argument still
farther, and to reason that among all men the most worthy to be chosen
and the most likely to be acceptable to God, were the Druids themselves?
But they took care not to ask too much at once. They held this final
consequence of a great principle in reserve, requiring for the present
nothing more than a common victim, anything that might come in the way,
provided it was a human being.

It might have been expected, that when this abominable demand was made
to hallow murder by committing it in the name of Heaven, the descendants
and heirs of the ancient sages would have remembered their noble
ancestors who had put an end to the first and quite inoffensive
superstitions {049}of the early Celts. They ought to have veiled their
faces, drawn back with horror, and recovering for once their former
energy, appealed by means of the holy oak, the spotless horses, the
soothsayers and the Druidesses, nay of heaven and earth itself, to
the whole nation, calling upon them to anathematize the infamous
petitioners. But they did no such thing. On the contrary they hastened
to legalize such savage bloodshed by their holy consent. One might
almost be led to suspect that they had themselves, underhand, suggested
the horrible idea.

O ye hypocritical priests, ye false philosophers, ye tigers disguised as
shepherds of the people!.... But we must check our indignation. For
who knows, but they may have been swayed not so much by an instinct
of cruelty as by a lofty political, or even philanthropic principle?
Philanthropic? Yes, indeed; we will explain.

Among the Celts human life counted for little; it was lavished in
battles, it was cast away in duels. At the time when the Gauls held
large national assemblies, they tried to secure punctual attendance by
simply putting to death the man who was the last to come; he paid for
all the tardy ones. I do not mean to propose such a plan at the present
day; but after all it was an infallible and economical measure. {050}The
Teutons, on the other hand, bloodless in their national assemblies,
after a battle in which they had been victorious, delighted in
massacring all their prisoners.

These massacres ceased from the time when the Druids claimed for
themselves the exclusive right of human sacrifices.

The good Esus, having become bloodthirsty, demanded all the captives
to be slain in expiation at his altar, and woe to him who dared to
anticipate him in his wrath. He was excluded from the sacred precincts;
he was declared an impious, sacrilegious person, who could no longer
take his place among the citizens; and he ran great risk of being forced
to offer his own life in compensation for that which by his fault was
wanting at the holocaust.

When this custom became once fully established, the prisoners of war
were all delivered up to the high-priest, who chose from among them one
or more to be slain as an offering. The victim was generally one of the
captive chieftains, and he was slain together with his war horse, so
as to add to the impressiveness of the ceremony and to reconcile the
spectators by the abundance of blood that was shed to the small number
of victims.

After having carefully examined the opened bodies of man and animal,
the sacrificing priest, his {051}beard and clothes saturated with blood,
raised his bloody right hand to heaven and, reeking with murder and
breathing carnage, he proclaimed that his god was satisfied. The
remainder of the prisoners were kept for another day, but that other day
never came.

Thus a new office had been created: that of a sacrificing priest. On
both banks of the Rhine, in Germany as well as in Gaul, the Druids
reserved this office for themselves; in other Celtic countries, in
Scandinavia and among the Scythians, women performed the terrible duty;
we all remember as a proof of it, Iphigenia of Tauris.

Whatever we may think of this bloody innovation, it certainly benefited
the prisoners, but the Druids obtained from it, after all, the greatest
advantage. Their power, which had been seriously undermined, step by
step, was once more firmly established. The opposition, which had paid
no attention to their remonstrances or their prayers, shrunk from their
knives.

From this moment begins the Second Period of the Druids.

The bloody knife of the Druids remained long all powerful, but we need
not follow its later fate. Cæsar had conquered and pacified Gaul,
and the successors of Augustus fulminated their Imperial {052}decrees
against the Druids, as slayers of men, while the same knife continued to
shed the blood of the Germans.

[Illustration: 072]

[Illustration: 075]



III.

{055}_A Visit to the Land of our Forefathers.--The two Banks of the
Rhine.--Druid Stones.--Weddings and Burials.--Xight Service.--A Dentigod
Glacier.--Social Duels. A Countrywoman of Aspasia.--Boudoir of a Celtic
Lady.--The Bard’s Story.--Teutons and Titans.--Earthquake._

Any one who has ever travelled in my company, must know that I am apt
to stray from my way, or at least to choose the longest route. I have
a fancy to-day, to turn my eyes and my steps away from those sacred
precincts of the Druids, which {056}had become slaughter-houses and in
which the hand that blessed was also the hand that killed.

I desire to breathe an air less filled with the perfumes, or rather the
fetid odor of sacrifices. Up there, on that hill-top, where the setting
sun lights up the bright summit, I shall breathe more freely.

Here I am.

Beneath me the Rhine spreads out its two banks, not united yet by any
bridge, and even without a ferry to bring the one nearer to the other.

But on both sides, half hid under dense willow thickets and gigantic
reeds, there lie, in many a shallow little bay, large numbers of tiny
barks. These cunning looking boats belong to harmless fishermen in the
daytime; but at night they are filled with robbers and corsairs, who
form in bands, cross over to the other side in search of booty, and even
venture, if needs be, out into the Northern Sea. Just now nothing stirs;
the fishermen have gone home, the corsairs have not come forth. I look
farther out.

On the left bank there are some Gallic Celts encamped, with blue eyes,
white skin, and abundant golden tresses. Almost naked, their principal
garment seems to be that immense shield, almost as long as their body,
which shelters them on the march as well as when they are at rest, and
which protects {057}them against the sun and the enemy alike. All of a
sudden I hear them, with lips held close to one of the edges of their
shields, utter sharp cries, which are taken up and repeated, from
distance to distance, all the way down the river. To these cries, which
no doubt represent their telegraphic system, there comes an answer from
far sounding trumpets.

[Illustration: 077]

Who are these other soldiers with the black hair and the bronzed
complexions? Carefully arrayed in symmetrical lines they advance
steadily, clad in brilliant armor, and carrying banners surmounted by
golden eagles with half open wings. Has Cæsar really succeeded, after
ten years’ warfare, in making himself master of Gaul as far as the banks
of the Rhine? I cannot doubt it; for at their {058}approach, the Gauls
lower their lance-heads, in token of their peaceful disposition, and
allow them to pass.

[Illustration: 078]

When they reach the river, the small Roman army pauses; under the
protection of this armed force a few men, dressed in simple tunics, with
no arms but tablets, a style, and ropes for measuring the ground, go to
work preparing a plan, perhaps for a bridge, perhaps for a town.

German sentinels, take care!

From the height of my hill I look down upon a {059}narrow strip of land
on the right bank of the river, and here I see several groups of men,
scattered here and there in the woods and on the plain, who work under
the superintendence of a Druid. Some are digging up the roots of trees
which overshadow and impoverish the ground; others draw long furrows
with the iron of their ploughs. These laborers seem all to suffer from
some restraint which impedes their movements, but of which at this
distance I can discover no cause.

In order to meditate on this strange sight, I look around for a resting
place. Half way up the hill I notice a small stone bench. As I draw
nearer, the object grows in size and rises to such a height, that I
should need a ladder if I wished to take possession of my seat.

[Illustration: 079]

This apparent bench is a monument, a Druidical monument, and consists of
two upright stones, on which rests a third, horizontal stone. In France,
in England, and in Germany there are still found {060}such Druidical
altars, cromlechs or dolmens; these menhyrs astonished already Alexander
of Macedonia when he marched through Scythia. In Bretagne, at Carnac,
some of these stones, consisting of a single rock, rise by the wayside,
as if to tell the traveller the story of the past, or they range
themselves before his eyes in long lines, forming on the ground endless
circles of emblematic meaning, as it is supposed. But the traveller can
no longer understand their language. Was this an altar, or was it an
idol, or perhaps only a simple monument raised over a grave. If they
were altars, Carnac would be Olympus; if they were tombstones, it would
be a cemetery.

[Illustration: 080]

I was going all around the mystic three stones to examine them more
closely, when I noticed close by a flock of sheep, and then a shepherd.

This shepherd, covered with a ragged _sagum_, had on his feet leather
sandals, a half open wound on his forehead, which had not yet had
time to close, enhanced the fierceness of his appearance. His burning
{061}glances fell now upon the Druidical stone and now upon another
object which I had not noticed before. This was the guard of a sword
which had been driven into the ground.

Could it be that this stone resting upon two supports, were new
concessions made by the politic Druids?

[Illustration: 081]

As according to their spiritualistic views God could not render himself
visible in a shape resembling our own, they had represented him as well
as they could by a symbol. It appeared thus that human sacrifices were
already no longer sufficient to maintain their creed.

While I was examining with growing curiosity this strange keeper of
sheep, fair, with bare neck and bare feet, was busy watching on the same
side of the hill another flock, and at the same time gathering herbs
for medicinal purposes. When she was about to leave, she offered the
shepherd to attend to his wound, sword handle, and this {062}but he
refused haughtily; she ran away laughing, and threw a flower into his
face.

He did not pick up that flower; he did not salute that pretty girl as
she left him. He looked at her with disdain.

Ah! I can doubt it no longer; this unhappy man is like the wood-cutter
in the forest, and the laborers in the field, one of those prisoners
taken in war, whom the Druids have spared, and now render useful. His
closely shorn hair, his open wound, and the heavy wooden yoke which he
has to carry on his neck, all betray his sad fate. He has made no reply
to the half pitiful, half coquettish advances of the pretty gatherer of
simples, because she has only awakened in his heart painful memories of
his distant love, or of his wife, whom he is never to see again! He has
cast glances of fierce hatred and burning revenge at the Druidical altar
and the handle of the sword, because both of these objects point out the
place of bloody sacrifices. Does he think he is himself destined to be
slain? or was perhaps the warrior whom they slew yesterday, a man of his
own tribe, his best friend, his own brother?

But I have taken refuge here in order to escape from these painful
thoughts of blood and murder. I propose to seek new objects of interest.

Farther down, nearly at the foot of the hill, I {063}see a few huts, or
rather a few low, almost crushed roofs, which seem hardly to rise from
the ground. Are they houses, or stables, or caves?

On the left bank Gauls and Romans have alike disappeared in the mists
rising from the river. On the right bank the wood-cutters and the
field-laborors are resting upon their axes or their ploughs, and seem to
ask the sun if the day is not drawing to an end.

[Illustration: 083]

A breeze is springing up, the shepherd gathers his flock and, as
mournful as ever, he slowly takes {064}the footpath that leads down the
hill towards the village.

I follow him without knowing what mysterious power draws me in that
direction.

Perhaps some Druid magician holds me under a potent spell, which enables
me to forget who I am, whence I come, and even to what century I belong,
and to witness these strange scenes, which, well nigh forgotten by all
living beings, I alone am permitted to watch? Let me try, at all events,
to profit by this rare piece of good fortune.

I reach the low village and find it occupied by a colony of Salic
Franks, who live scattered all along the Rhine. With their eyes fixed
upon the left bank, they are just now far more occupied with the
invasion of Germany by the Romans, than with the thought of invading
Gaul themselves.--I feel suddenly a deep interest in these people. What
Frenchman of this nineteenth century can feel sure that the blood in his
veins is not the same that once gave life and strength to these terrible
warriors from the North, Franks or Gauls? We are all natives of one or
the other bank of this great river Rhine, and feel towards each
other, whether we live on the right or the left bank, very much like
school-boys whose friendship is cemented by many a battle royal.

Being a Frenchman, I feel that I am about to {065}pay a visit to my
paternal ancestors--for the Franks have given us our name. No wonder
that I feel deeply moved.

I examine the low huts of the village, if village it can be called, and
find that they are separated from each other by commons and by fields,
and that they finally lose themselves in the open country. Where now
these scattered huts are standing, there may be one of these days a
Mayence or a Cologne, and yet they will occupy no larger space with all
their suburbs included.

On both sides of the road extend orchards, fenced in with reeds and all
aglow with blooming apple trees; dark, sombre pine forests and swamps,
the greenish waters of which are confined within slight dams; here and
there the live rock crops out from the ground and interrupts the road,
or huge trees are lying across, recently cut down and but just deprived
of their branches. In the open pasture grounds huge buffaloes are lying
about snorting and panting with fatigue, for they have worked all day in
the plough; the neighing of horses is heard from one end of the country
to the other, and gradually dies out as the sun sinks below the horizon;
lean heifers, with long, spiral horns, push here and there their heads
through the fence of the orchards to have a last bite at the tender
foliage of the reeds, and small oxen of an {066}inferior breed return to
their quarters at the same time with the sheep, quite content to browse
on the grass by the wayside, while herds of swine are wallowing in the
mire of the low grounds.

[Illustration: 086]

The landscape resembles parts of Bretagne and of Normandy; but these
provinces have no such huts. To see a human habitation, you have to rise
high above the fences and hedges and then look down upon the ground.

At a place where two roads meet, the cracking of a whip is heard;
hogs, sheep, and small oxen are driven aside to make way for a kind of
procession, consisting of grave and solemn men and women, who almost all
wear a look of consternation.

It is a wedding.

Two young people have just had their union blessed by the priests under
the sacred oak. The bride is dressed in black, and wears a wreath of
dark leaves on her head; she walks in the midst {067}of her friends,
bent double, as if weighed down by overwhelming thoughts. A matron, who
walks on her left, holds before her eyes a white cloth; it is a shroud,
the shroud in which she will be buried one of these days. On her right,
a Druid intones a chant, in which he enumerates, in solemn rhythm, all
the troubles and all the anxieties which await her in wedded life.

[Illustration: 087]

“From this day, young wife, thou alone wilt have to bear all the burden
of your united household.

“You will have to attend the baking oven, to provide fuel, and to go
in search of food; you will have to prepare the resinous torch and the
lamp.

“You will wash the linen at the fountain, and you will make up all the
clothing;

“You will attend to the cow, and even to the horse if your husband
requires it;

“Always full of respect, you will wait upon him, standing behind him, at
his meals;

“If he chooses to take more wives, you will receive your new companions
with sweetness; {068} If needs be, you will even offer to nurse the
children of these favorites, and all from obedience to your karl
(master);

“If he is angry against you and strikes you, you will pray to Esus, the
only God, but you will never blame your husband, who cannot do wrong.

“If he expresses a wish to take you with him to war, you will accompany
him to carry his baggage, to keep his arms in good condition, and to
nurse him if he should be sick or wounded.

“Happiness consists in the fulfillment of duty. Be happy, my child!”

[Illustration: 088]

When I heard this dolorous wedding song, which in some parts of France
is to this day addressed to brides by local minstrels, when I saw this
winding-sheet, {069}the mournful costumes and the whole funereal wedding
procession, I felt overcome with sadness. Just then, cries and joyous
acclamations were heard at some little distance.

Another procession came from the opposite direction to the cross-roads;
there all the faces were smiling and full of joyousness.

This was a funeral.

[Illustration: 089]

Such were the ways of our fathers; they rejoiced in facing death, which
relieves man from all his sufferings; they had nothing but tears for man
when he entered upon his trials.

In the meantime the twilight had passed into darkness. Small lights,
looking like will-o’-the-wisps, were flitting to and fro in field and
forest, going in all directions. Devout worshippers, carrying torches
or lanterns in their hands, were going to consecrated places, to hold
public worship or to recite private prayers. {070}Some, and these were
the majority, go in the direction of the oak forests, where the Druids
are found; others, concealing the light of their lanterns as well as
they can, go hither and thither, towards the copses of beeches and pine
trees, or towards the river, or towards the hill, which was but just
now shining brightly in the sunlight, but is now concealed in utter
darkness.

[Illustration: 090]

What are they going to do? They are going to worship the Rhine, the
wells, the water-courses, the trees, the Druidical {071}altars, and the
sword-guards. For no creed yet but has had its schisms.

Orthodox or not, German or Gallic, the Franks have always shown a
preference for nocturnal worship; they divide the year into moons,
and count the moons not by days but by nights. And yet they have been
suspected of worshipping the sun! And I had nearly fallen into the same
error! How well it was that I came to see for myself!

As I am just now more interested in watching manners than in studying
mythology, I pursue my investigations, especially as I know very well
that we must know the lives which people lead in order to be able fully
to appreciate the objects of their worship.

While all these small lights are flashing, like shooting stars, here
and there through the landscape, certain specially bright lights seem
to become stationary and permanent. These are the lighted-up windows of
human habitations. I called the latter just now stables, or caves, and
excepting a few of them, I must still call them such.

They are dug out of the ground, damp and dark; their ceiling is on a
level with the surface of the earth, and their roof consists of layers
of turf, or of dry thatch covered with moss. The only door resembles the
lid of a snuff-box, and is set in the roof on a level with the ground.
The dwelling {072}has no light but such as enters through these
trapdoors; consequently they are utterly dark during the whole rainy
season and during winter, that is to say, for three fourths of the year!
Darkness reigns supreme here; that darkness which is the enemy of all
healthfulness, of enjoyment, of every comfort. No windows! No glass! O
divine Apollo,--

“Thou of the silver bow, god of Claros, hear!”

[Illustration: 092]

I never had any objection to the doctrine which made of you, the
brilliant personification of the sun, a first class divinity; but I
think like honors ought to have been bestowed upon the unknown man who
first invented windows and window-panes, the {073}first glazier in fine.
He ought at least to have been made a demigod, and if he had to remain a
simple mortal, they ought surely to have remembered his name! Alas! that
high honors are as unfairly distributed in heaven as upon earth!

As there is no window, I peep through the trapdoor to see how these
subterranean dwellings look inside. The aspect is far from being as
wretched as I had expected. I find that the walls are hung with mattings
and the floor is beaten hard; by the side of the smoking lamp which
is suspended from the main beam of the ceiling, there are hanging, on
hooks, a hindquarter of venison, baskets filled with provisions, and
implements for fishing and hunting. Besides, I notice long strings of
medicinal herbs, such as we see in the shops of herb-doctors, and among
these plants the mistletoe occupies, as a matter of course, the place of
honor.

In another underground hut there appear actually some traces of luxury.
Here the walls are incrusted with pebbles from the Rhine, of many colors
and skillfully arranged; here and there weapons are arranged in various
shapes; javelins with sharp hooks; framees, such as the ancient Franks
were using; hatchets of stone or iron; “morning stars,” with sharp
points, were pleasantly mingled with huge bucklers; large leather
quivers and long arrows feathered at one end and with jagged teeth
{074}at the other. At first sight it looks as if for the purpose of
softening somewhat the threatening aspect of these panoplies, the Celtic
lady of the house had added some of her jewels to these weapons. But it
is not so; these gold chains, these necklaces set with onyx and rubies,
are worn by the grim warriors on the day of battle, quite as much in the
nature of ornaments as for the purpose of protection. One of our
sober, I may say, most sober historians, ascribes to this custom of
our forefathers, the Franks, the gorget, worn still by officers in some
European armies. Here also I see straw mats, but here they are trod
under foot; they are used as carpets, not as hangings.

The deep and spacious dwelling contains, besides the large room which
alone I can see through my dormer-window, a number of other rooms on
all sides, or rather of other caves, which are all connected with each
other. I am evidently before the palace of one of the chief men of the
country.

In the first hut, into which I had looked, I had found the people at
table, drinking a beverage made from grain and herbs--cerevisia--in
horns of wild bulls, and talking about business--for our ancestors
talked about business at dinner, just as we do. The conversation turned
about exchanges of rams, a great fishing expedition to be undertaken
jointly, an invasion to be made into the territory on the other{075}

{077}bank of the river, and most eagerly, about the approaching
elections. For Montesquieu tells us that municipal and even
constitutional government existed alike among the early Germans.

In the other dwelling, the one adorned with panoplies, they were talking
neither of elections, nor of fishing, but they were likewise at table.
Here they drank not only cerevisia in the _horns of the brave_, but also
hydromel and hippocras in leathern tankards or human skulls, as white
as ivory, adorned with silver and naturally shaped like cups. God be
thanked that this custom has not been bequeathed to us by the Franks!

On that evening they were celebrating the welcome given to a young
warrior who had already made himself known by great exploits and who
belonged to a neighboring, friendly tribe.

When the meal was ended, and what a meal it was!--I shall be careful
not to give the bill of fare, since the mere recital would cause an
indigestion,--they thought of prolonging the entertainment given to
their illustrious guest. But what could they do? The young Frankish
ladies were not familiar yet with the piano, and the noble game of
billiards had not yet been invented. They proposed riddles to be
guessed, but this did not seem to afford much amusement to the young
man. Then came a game with bones; but he nearly fell {078}asleep. As the
duty of hospitality required that they should make every possible
effort to entertain their guest, a great man among the Cheruski or the
Marcomanni, they proposed the _handkerchief_; this, seemed to arouse his
attention.

The handkerchief game was at that time very popular; it was a kind of
company duel. Two kind-hearted adversaries, having no other motive but
to amuse themselves and to entertain the company, would seize with their
left hand one end of a handkerchief, and with their right hand a table
knife or a hunting knife, it did not matter which, provided the weapon
was sharp and very pointed. For our good ancestors did not know foils
with cork buttons or other arms of courtesy. Imbued with the strange
idea that to fight, man against man, or a thousand against a thousand,
was the greatest happiness upon earth, they delighted in occasionally
cutting each other’s throat, even if they were the best friends in the
world.

The spectators formed a ring around the combatants. After they had taken
a solemn oath, by the rims of their bucklers, by the shoulders of
their horses, and by the points of their swords, that they cherished no
feeling of animosity against each other, a signal was given and the game
commenced. For some time I saw how the handkerchief was stretched out,
twisted and then suddenly {079}turned around and around rapidly. Light
red lines had already begun to mark the skin of the two adversaries; the
blood was trickling down their arms, but these wounds were such trifles
that the spectators took no notice of them and uttered not a single
exclamation.

All of a sudden I heard three hurrahs in rapid succession; the welcomed
guest, whom all had been striving to honor to the utmost of their
capacity, had fallen down with his adversary’s knife still sticking in
his breast. He was dead.

They had not been able to think of any better way to make him spend a
pleasant evening. The good old times had a hospitality of their own!

This pleasant handkerchief game has survived, only slightly modified,
in several countries of northern Europe. The handkerchief is generally
wrapped around a rapier, so as to shorten the length of the blade. In
the taverns of Holland the game is considered conducive to health; a
knife wound gives a man a chance to escape apoplexy; it serves as a
timely bleeding.

I had run away in horror. For an hour I wandered about, casting a
furtive glance down a trapdoor here and there, and almost everywhere
I saw men and women, horses and cattle, enjoying their rest, lying
pell-mell on the same litter.

In one of these hovels I thought I recognized {080}the young girl whom
I had seen on the hill; her attitude of repose gave a peculiar charm to
her supple and delicate limbs, and by the feeble flickering light of the
lamp, she suggested the idea of a sleeping nymph.

[Illustration: 100]

She was a young Ionian girl, a countrywoman of Aspasia; captured in war,
she had been sold as a slave in twenty markets, developing in spite of
such treatment, one grace and one beauty after another. On the banks of
the Ilyssus, they would have erected an altar in her honor, on the banks
of the Rhine they made her keep a herd of swine. {081}She was not the
only one of her sex, however, whom I saw during that fantastic night.

The sound of a shrill fife, mingling with the sweeter notes of a harp,
attracted my attention. I went toward the spot from which the music
came.

In a little room decked with flowers, a young woman was engaged in her
toilet.

I ought to have fled once more,--this time from bashfulness or a sense
of propriety,--but a conscientious historian is bound to overcome every
difficulty, in order to ascertain the exact truth. It was a great piece
of good luck, surely, to be able to report as an eye-witness, what might
be seen in the boudoir of a Celtic lady.

My friend was sitting, half undressed, on a stool, with her hair
loosened, and holding in her hand a metal mirror. An old woman, a
servant or her mother, I cannot tell which--and yet it seemed to me as
if I had seen both these women, as well as the beautiful swine-herd,
somewhere before; when that was, however, I could not possibly tell--the
old woman held the whole rich abundance of the young lady’s hair in
both her hands and rubbed it with a horrid mixture of tallow, ashes, and
plaster. Thanks to this wretched pomatum, the beautiful hair gradually
changed from pale blonde to intense red, and thus enabled the owner
to comply with a fashion, which I do not presume to criticise, but
{082}simply record here. Then she washed and combed it carefully,
plaited it cunningly, and at last rubbed the shoulders and the neck of
the beauty with melted butter, while she washed the face and the hands
with foaming beer.

[Illustration: 102]

After the demands of cleanliness had thus been satisfied, she placed
before her mistress a slight collation, which was promptly served and
promptly dispatched. While she was thus attending to her toilet and
disposing of a bird’s meal, there was a cyclopean feast going on in an
adjoining room; loud and violent voices were heard, everybody seemed
{083}to talk at once, and in such high tones that even the shrill fife
could no longer be distinguished--for it was from this hall that the
sound of music proceeded, which had attracted me to the dwelling.

The old woman evidently thought the feast was drawing to an end, for she
hastened to finish her mistress’s toilet: She opened a wooden box and
drew from it a pair of pretty red boots, which she put on the feet of
the young beauty; then she threw over her white dress a purple scarf,
which she fastened on the left shoulder with a long thorn from a
sloe-tree. After that she tied a narrow scarlet ribbon around her head,
handed her a collar and bracelets made of small berries, which in form
and color were strikingly like corals, and finally, as the finishing
touch, she daubed her cheeks with red by means of a cosmetic which I
suspect consisted largely of brickdust. When the young Frankish beauty
found that there was enough red--scarlet, crimson, purple, and pink--on
her person from head to foot, she uttered a cry of triumph, especially
when her husband, who entered her room, followed by his guests, seemed
to be quite dazzled by the resplendent charms of his lovely wife, whom
he had just _bought_.

To buy a woman was a familiar expression in Germany at that time, as
it is now,--_Ein weib kaufen_. It must be borne in mind, however, that
{084}in those days the bride brought no dower; on the contrary, the
husband paid her family a certain sum as compensation. We have inherited
many of our usages from our Celtic forefathers; but as to this custom,
we have not thought proper to keep it up.

I at once recognized the husband, although he was now all smiles in his
face, and let us hope, all smiles in his heart also. He was the chief
personage in the wedding procession, whom I had seen two hours before,
looking so grave and solemn, so sad and mournful.

According to Druidical regulations, the bride has first of all waited
upon him at table, humbly standing behind him like the other house
slaves; then, towards the middle of the repast, she had gone to her
room in order to exchange her girlish costume for the dress of a married
woman--a woman who has the right to follow the fashions and to dress
herself up in red from the heels of her feet to the end of her hair.

Now she receives her master _at home_; here she is mistress, and
mistress she will remain. This was the rule among the Franks; for in
spite of the lachrymose anthems of the bards and in spite of the sombre
ceremonies of the wedding, the women became almost invariably the
masters at home, a usage which, contrary to that of dowerless girls,
may possibly have crossed the Rhine. {085}Thinking it over, I found that
during my nocturnal excursion into the land of my forefathers, I had
been present--as a witness only, be it understood--at three successive
entertainments; a feast of welcome, a business dinner, and a wedding
dinner. Although they had not been calculated to satisfy my appetite,
they had, at all events, made me extremely hungry. I was thinking,
therefore, of retracing my steps and looking for a lodging, when I
saw the Druid-bard, who had not disdained taking a seat at the nuptial
feast, coming slowly and solemnly to the centre of the room, all the
while drawing a few accords from, a kind of harp, which consisted of a
closely bent bow with three strings instead of one.

[Illustration: 105]

He was getting ready to charm the company with the recital of one of
those long and mysterious poems which recount the history of the Celts.
I delay my departure.

It has been said, and not without a show of reason, that the history of
our Gallic or Germanic ancestors ought to be for us a subject of deep
interest; but bold minds have in vain tried to raise {086}up once more
the old oak tree, to trim it and to let air and light enter within its
canopy of leaves. The birds that once sang in its branches have left no
trace behind them of their songs, and nothing has reached us from those
sacred precincts but a few faint echoes.

I certainly have reason to praise my good fortune! What all these great
scholars, these learned men, have not been able to accomplish by dint
of energy and perseverance and aided by all their knowledge of Latin,
Greek, and Sanskrit, I (I, the man whom you know) am enabled to do!
Thanks to the bard’s long recital, I am able to fill up this blank,--the
first, the only man in the history of mankind, who can throw light upon
the impenetrable darkness of those ages!

The bard began. I listened, all attention and eagerness, trying to catch
every sound and to impress every word upon my excellent memory.

In a pompous introduction he told us all about the first arrival of the
Celts in Europe, the coming of the Druids as apostles of the true
faith; he told us how a great colony of Salic Franks, Gauls, under the
collective name of Pelasgi, all children of Teut, or Teutons, had
first planted a sacred oak at Dodona. On this point I was already well
informed. He then alluded to the building up of Athens, due as much to
the Teutons as to the {087}Greeks of Cecrops; he boasted, that when the
Greeks were led astray by their corrupt imagination and wished to
raise altars to Saturn, Jupiter, and all those false gods whom they had
borrowed from the Egyptians and the Phoenicians, the Teutons rose in the
name of outraged human reason, and proclaimed the only one God, breaking
down all the false altars. Hence, he said, that formidable struggle,
still so well known as the battle of the gods of Olympus against the
_Teutons_ or _Titans_....

I held my breath. What? Those terrible giants, those colossal men, whom
Jupiter himself feared and who piled Ossa upon Pelion, or Pelion upon
Ossa--they were Celts? They were the ancestors of the brave French?

O Titans, O my brothers, with what delight I listened to the sacred
words of the bard, so that I might repeat them to you and rejoice with
you in our glorious descent!

By special grace I understood the Germano-Celtic words of the bard
without difficulty. But the poem was flowing on interminably; I began
to mistrust my memory. Centuries succeeded centuries, events followed
events, and they were as close to each other and as numerous as grains
in a bag of wheat. The continuous exertion of all my faculties began to
tell upon me. The most illustrious {088}heroes of Gaul and of Germany
appeared to me soon only like the faint forms seen by means of a magic
lantern; Sigovesus and Bellovesus, the descendants of the great king
Ambigat; Brennus, Btlgius, and Lutharius, sons or sons-in-law of that
other great king Cambaules, began to turn around and arouad in my head,
holding each other by the hand and performing an old British dance to
the music of an old Breton instrument. Ariovistus played on the biniou.
Then the sounds of the biniou, the shrill tones of the fife and the
Druid harp were broken in upon by a terrible noise of countless church
bells; the air shook all of a sudden, the earth trembled, everything
around me fell to the ground with a great crash, the Druid, the house of
the wedding, the trap-door, the hamlet, the trees, the hill, the Rhine
and its banks, the heaven and the stars, all disappeared at the same
moment, and I awoke in my arm-chair, surrounded by my poor books, which
had just fallen from my knees.

The dinner bell was still ringing.

[Illustration: 111]



IV.

{091}_The Roman Gods invade Germany.--Drusus and the Druidess.--Ogmius,
the Hercules of Gaul.--Great Philological Discovery concerning Teut at
es.--Transformations of every kind.--Irmexsul.--The Rhine deified.--The
Gods cross the River.--Druids of the Third Epoch._

You may rest assured, I did not merely dream of that bold transformation
of Teutons into Titans; one of the most learned and most reliable
authors in my library, assures me of the fact. These great scholars are
sometimes very clever men.

According to this authority, the Celts were very much taller than the
Greeks, and this fact had naturally suggested to the latter the idea
of speaking of them as giants. The Celtic Pelasgi, who were warlike
shepherds like all the men of their race, usually watched their flocks
as they were {092}grazing on the high mountains, and it was these
mountains which the myth accused them of piling up, one upon another,
to scale the heavens. You will say, What mad follies of poets! I grant
this; but after these mad poets came men like Hesiod and Homer, who
changed the idle dream into stern reality, and upon this rock a new
religion was founded, and with it, a new civilization.

Now the day has come when these same gods of Greece, having become the
gods of great Rome, will pursue the Titans, or Teutons, to the very
heart of Germany.

It is well known that Cæsar, after having conquered Gaul, had promptly
crossed the Rhine, rather for the purpose of making a reconnaissance
on the opposite bank of the river, than with any view to conquest.
His successor went farther into Germany. Drusus, the adopted son of
Augustus, and his lieutenant, reached the banks of the river Elbe,
pursuing the Franks, the Teutons, the Burgundians, the Cheruski, the
Marcomanni, all those children of the same great family, who had been
overcome, put to flight, but never subjugated. All of a sudden, at the
very moment when he is about to cross the river, there comes forth from
the dark, dense forest, not a new army of barbarians, bristling with
spears and halberts, but a woman, a tall, haughty looking woman, with
long disheveled hair{093}

[Illustration: 113]

{094}

[Illustration: 114]

{095}flowing down upon her bare shoulders, and on her brow a crown of
simple oak branches.

She steps across his path and with uplifted finger orders him in an
imperious voice to turn back and to go to his camp to prepare for death.

It was a Druidess, endowed in the highest degree with the gift of
prophecy; so it would seem at least, for Drusus had hardly entered the
Roman camp, when he fell from his horse and expired.

Not all the Druidesses, however, succeeded in making the Roman generals
go back, by a word or a gesture; nor did all the Roman generals fall
from their horses and die. After fifty-five years of strangely varying
fortunes, the Genius of Rome was victorious, and must needs have been
victorious, for it led the whole world by its power. It brought with
it also its gods, which in spite of their numbers, or rather perhaps
because they were so numerous, met on the banks of the Rhine with a more
determined resistance than its soldiers.

Rome had a magnificent mission to fulfill. Her glorious duty upon earth
was to restore the unity of all the great human families, and to
improve their condition by bringing them in contact with each other--by
fraternity, in fine. To attain this end, she had generally employed War
as her principal instrument; Religion had been a subsidiary agent only,
a weapon which she kept concealed, {096}but which she used with great
efficacy to secure the permanency of her conquests.

Unfortunately, Roman gods were as liable to corruption, and to fearful
corruption, as the great men of the Empire. Nations rise step by step
on the grand ladder of civilization; when they have reached the top they
must keep up their activity, without which no life and no progress can
be maintained, and thus the moment comes when they are forced to descend
again, till at last they sink into sensual degradation, into erudite,
refined, voluptuous barbarism--the very bottom of the ladder.

[Illustration: 116]

Rome had begun by raising altars to all the virtues; now her deities
personified nothing but vices. How could they expect to introduce
them and make them acceptable to these coarse Germans, among whom
prostitution, adultery, and theft were hardly known by name, who allowed
a woman {097}to claim hospitality at the house of any _Karl_, to rest
under his roof, and even to share his couch, without fearing slander, if
he had but put a naked sword between her and himself, and who had
never known and could not know the use of locks and keys? Were they not
accustomed to hang their most valuable possessions upon the branches
of a consecrated tree in the open camp, or to place them on top of a
druidical stone or beneath it, as they chose--knowing that there they
were perfectly safe? When they had taken this simple precaution, they
could go to bed and sleep quietly, and there was no need for putting a
sentinel on guard.

Already, in the days of Cæsar, the Romans had employed a very ingenious
and cunning device, in order to win over the simple Gauls. They
had pretended to find their gods, their own peculiar gods, already
established in the country from olden times. Thus there existed in Gaul
a statue which the Etrusci had erected in honor of _Ogmius_, or rather
_Ogma_. The Greek Lucian mentions it in these words:--

“It is a decrepit old man; his skin is black; this form of a man,
however, wears the attributes of Hercules, the lion’s skin and the club.

“I thought at first,” Lucian adds, “that the Celts had invented this odd
figure in order to laugh at {098}the gods of Greece; but this so-called
Hercules, who is of very great antiquity, drags after him a multitude of
men, whom he leads by golden chains which he holds in his mouth, while
they are fastened to the ears of his victims.”

[Illustration: 118]

This _Ogmius_ was evidently a typical representation of Druidism itself;
_Ogma_, in Celtic languages, means both science and eloquence. What
has Hercules to do with all this? Nevertheless the Romans insisted upon
calling him by that name.

Nor did they stop here. {099}When they found all the nations they had
conquered were continually speaking of a certain _Teutates_,
they at once declared that they recognized in this popular person their
own god Mercury. It was he and no other! It was Mercury, the son of
Jupiter and the nymph Ma’ia. There was a striking resemblance, an
unmistakable analogy! No one could misapprehend the thing for an
instant!

[Illustration: 119]

Oh, my good Romans, I don’t mean to blame you now for all the trouble
you gave me when I was at college! I will forget all that--But what
could make you conceive this stupid idea, of naturalizing among us your
Mercury, the god of eloquence, if {100}you choose, but above all the
ever ready pimp of Jupiter, the god of trade and of thieves, and of
naturalizing him in a land where trade, love, and thieves are so little
known! In subservience to this Roman notion, some of our modern writers
have been clever enough to prove that there were really many points of
resemblance between Mercury and Teutates--but I, I openly deny it! Once
more, philology shall come to my assistance, to overturn their doctrine.
It was only this morning, while shaving, that I made a philologie
discovery of the very highest importance, in which the public will take
the most lively interest, and, I doubt not, the French Acadamy also.

The word _Teut_, as the reader no doubt knows perfectly well, means
_God; Tat_ in ancient Celtic and in modern Breton may be accurately
rendered as _father_--so an old Breton woman assures me, who brought me
up when I was a child. Add to _Tat_ the termination _Es_, the diminutive
form of _Esus_, the _Lord_, connect the three monosyllables, and you
have _Teut-Tat-Es_, God, Father, and Lord!

Where--I appeal to all the famous historians so graphically described
by Rabelais--where do you find a trace of Mercury in Teutates now? He is
beyond all doubt the great divinity of the Celts, but you found it more
convenient to follow the interested views of the Roman writers. And yet
{101}even if they were innocent of any design upon your credulity, might
they not have been mistaken themselves? Are you not aware that Plutarch,
conscientious Plutarch himself, after having witnessed the Feast of
Tabernacles in Palestine, tells us gravely that the Jews worshipped
Bacchus? You were not aware of it, come, confess it frankly! For I will
confess to you, that I was not aware of it, myself, ten minutes ago;
but Dr. Rosahl has just told me so. The good doctor is delighted at
my discovery of the true meaning of _Teut-Tat-Es_; he thinks no
etymological question of such importance ‘was ever more satisfactorily
put and answered in the same breath. He advises me strongly to write a
memoir on the subject, which he will undertake to bring to the notice of
learned societies, and only suggests the expediency of leaving out any
allusion to my old Breton nurse; but I am too conscientious a writer
ever to omit quoting my authorities.

Now, since I have mentioned Rabelais, let us “return to our lambs,” that
is, to our Teutons.

After the Roman conquest, the same transformation of native deities
into classic gods continued in Germany. The sacred oak was changed into
Jupiter, whom it represented symbolically; the Druidical altars became
either Apollo or Diana; sometimes they were made to represent deities
of inferior rank, nymphs, anything in fact. But these numerous
{102}metamorphoses, made rather hastily, led to a curious mistake.

The conquerors had met on the banks of the Weser a huge monolith,
cut with an axe by simple and ignorant stone-carvers. It was called
_Irmensul_. Like the Celtic Teutates, this Irmensul also attracted
at certain fixed times an immense concourse of people. The Romans,
appreciating the martial spirit of the natives, did not hesitate to
declare that this was Mars, their god of war. Thereupon they paid it
all possible honor, consecrating their weapons to the new deity, and
offering countless propitiatory sacrifices.

Now, who was this Irmensul?

When Varus had invaded Germany, during the reign of Augustus, at
the head of three legions, Arminius, a chieftain of the Cheruski (a
Brunswicker, we would say nowadays), had surprised him, and completely
surrounded his army in the marshes of Teutoburg, on the banks of the
Weser. Every man of this army, whether a Roman or a warrior of the
allied tribes wearing Roman livery, had perished by the sword. For eight
days the bloody waters of the Weser had carried down more than thirty
thousand dead bodies.

When the news of this disaster reached Augustus, he thought that Gaul
was lost, Italy in danger, and Rome herself imperilled. Mad with grief,
he would {103}rise, for a month afterwards, night after night, and in
his terror wander through his vast palace, crying out: “O Varus, Varus,
bring me back my legions!”

[Illustration: 123]

Well, the Irmensul was nothing more than a triumphal column erected
in honor of Arminius and his Cheruski. _Irmen_ is the same as the
name _Herman or Armin_ (Arminius), and _sul_ means column. The Romans,
however, did not know this, and they paid dearly for their ignorance.
If they had known better they would not have committed the egregious
blunder of kneeling down and worshipping the man who had destroyed the
three legions of Varus. It is very evident that they were as ignorant of
German as of Celtic. {104}It ought not to surprise us, however, to
see the soldiers of the imperial people change stones into gods, as
Deucalion had changed them into men. Before the days of Homer, and for
a long time after him, Jupiter was in Seleucia modestly represented by
a fragment of rock and Cybele by a black stone. In Cyprus, the Venus of
Paphos was nothing but a triangular or quadrangular pyramid, nor can I
imagine what importance could be attached to three or four angles in
a body, which was soon to assume the softest and most fascinating
outlines. First the poets had come and sung of Cybele, the kind goddess,
of Jupiter the omnipotent, and of Venus, the soul of the world and the
queen of beauty. Inspired by their voice and the bold conceptions of
their fancy, the sculptors had next employed the chisel upon these
stones and these pyramids, and there had sprung forth from these
shapeless masses the Lord of Gods, armed with his lightning, the
beautiful Cytherea, armed with the most powerful weapons of all womanly
graces. Oh, poets and sculptors, you have upset everything in religion!
You are responsible for the loss of that austere simplicity which once
characterized the faith of men! Miserable cutters of stone, reckless
counters of syllables, you, and you alone, have substituted symbols
for truth! Still, I do not condemn you; although I have stood up
to {105}defend the Druids of the earliest days, I am far from being
insensible to the charms of art and of poetry; besides, what right have
I, who speak of gods and myths, to pass sentence on those who have been
the real creators of Mythology?

[Illustration: 125]

While the conquerors of the Teutons, in the pride of their cleverness,
were committing blunder after blunder, and fell into the pits they had
dug for others, the real gods of Rome stayed on the banks of the Rhine,
where they had already been accepted by the Gauls. They were impatient
enough to see Germany also erect them temples and statues, but the Rhine
with uplifted waves barred the passage.

Perhaps the old river remembered his grievances {106}of former days,
when he had been compelled to appear in the triumphal processions of
Germanicus, as a conquered river, loaded with chains, while the rabble
and riffraff of Rome had insulted him to his face and covered him from
head to foot with the mud of the Tiber.

The remembrance of his former humiliation seemed to revive his wrath
at this day, and he unfolded his whole strength to take his revenge. In
vain had the Olympians tried repeatedly to cross at different points;
everywhere, from the Alps to the Northern Sea, they found him
furious, roaring and rushing, full of threats in his green waters and
besprinkling the banks with white foam.

[Illustration: 126]

At last they bribed him to espouse the cause of the Empire: they made
him a king, the king of German rivers. A king more or less mattered very
little to a people who made and unmade kings at will.

The Rhine was evidently flattered by the distinction; and he laid aside
his long cherished wrath.

He had already allowed Jupiter to cross, taking {107}him perhaps for
Esus; he now carefully examined the passports and certificates of good
conduct of several other gods, and left the way open for Apollo and
Minerva, Diana and some deities of fair repute; but when he saw Bacchus,
his anger was rekindled. What? Were not the Germans mad and quarrelsome
enough, when they had only taken too much beer? How could he consent to
allow their passions to be aroused by potent wine? He was king, and as
such bound to keep this scourge from his people.

[Illustration: 127]

The gods whom he had allowed to cross endeavored to plead for the son of
Semele,--but he remained inexorable. His severity relaxed, however, when
the vines planted by order of the Emperor {108}Probus in parts of the
Rheingau, began to adorn the banks of the river with their verdure--he
was overcome, when he had once tasted the juice of the grape. He
consented to let Bacchus pass from bank to bank, but only at the time of
the vintage.

[Illustration: 0128]

Once admitted, Bacchus soon brought into the land the whole crowd of
gods and goddesses, who made up his following and who enjoyed no great
reputation in Rome and in Greece. The Rhine {109}became angry once more,
but once more caresses and unexpected honors had their hoped-for effect.
He was already a king; he now became a god.

[Illustration: 129]

Henceforth Father Rhine conceived a strong affection for his former
adversaries. When he saw that the German bank had adopted the customs
and the religion of the conquerors as fully as the Celtic bank, he
abandoned completely his restrictive policy and did his best to help
everybody across. Thus Jupiter was no sooner installed in Germany, than
he summoned his Corybantes; Bacchus his Bacchantes and his Maenads,
Diana {110}her hunting nymphs, Venus her whole court of lascivious
priestesses; the Dryads and the Hamadryads, the Naiads and the Tritons,
the Fauns and the S il vans, all came one by one. It was a perfect
invasion.

[Illustration: 130]

Germany, grave and solemn as she was, felt not a little troubled by this
wholesale irruption of frivolous {111}and ill-mannered deities, who so
little agreed with her austere habits. The young, it is true, were more
easily Romanized and readily caught at this poetical personification of
all the forces of Nature; but the old, the chieftains, and above all the
Druids, backed by a nearly unanimous people, asked each other what could
be the meaning of this sudden enthusiasm for new gods, this half mad
devotion to celestial clowns?

No one, however, dared to raise a hand; the Teutons had lost their
former energy, they were enfeebled, unnerved and exhausted by their long
but useless resistance. Hence, like true cowards, they appeared in the
pagan temples, in order to conciliate the good-will of the conquerors,
and then, to pacify their consciences, they hastened to some dark forest
and there with anxious eyes and disturbed minds, they offered in fear
and trembling their fervent worship to the sacred oak.

The Roman gods were soon to encounter far more formidable adversaries
elsewhere.

Far beyond Germany, as we find it described and limited by geographers,
there lived a host of nations, scattered over a vast territory, and
extending as far East as the shores of the Caspian Sea. The Romans
had never penetrated far into these unknown depths, which sent forth
incessantly new armies of soldiers whom they classed indiscriminately
{112}under the vague and collective name of Hyperboreans. Such were
the Huns, the Scythians, the Goths, the Slaves (Poles, Danes, Swedes,
Russians, and Norwegians), all of them robbers and pirates. Some, under
the name of Cimbrians, had joined the Teutons t and with them invaded
Gaul and even Italy, till they encountered the armies of Marius; others,
were about to cross the Pyrenees and to fall upon Spain. Among them all,
the Scandinavians were by far the most powerful, intrepid soldiers and
fearless sailors, who were soon to darken the waters of the Rhine
with their countless vessels, and to make Charlemagne shed tears as he
thought of the days to come.

Ere long these dauntless pirates will actually enter the Loire, then
even the Seine; they will besiege Paris, and finally, thanks to the
able statesmanship of King Charles, whom they call the Simple, they will
become. Christians, after a fashion, and under the name of Normans take
possession of one of the fairest provinces of France. Then they will
cultivate the soil which they had heretofore robbed of its produce, they
will drink beer instead of cider, they will peacefully devote themselves
to lawsuits and cattle-raising, and will end by wearing white cotton
night-caps--after having destroyed Rome and conquered England twice.

The Scandinavians, of Celtic origin like the {113}Gauls and the Germans,
led at first both nomadic and sedentary lives and were rather barbarous
than unpolished; but they built cities and erected temples, in which
they worshipped Odin the One-Eyed.

[Illustration: 133]

If the harvest failed, or whenever the first warmth of spring aroused
in them their innate fondness of vagabondage and war, they took to their
boats or mounted their horses, and the stupefied nations {114}of Europe
watched the horizon and listened along the river courses, to distinguish
whether this great Northern tempest, this storm of iron and fire, of
blood and of tears, was rushing down upon them by land or by sea.

After having crossed Germany in all directions, some of these bands,
or rather some remnants of such bands, settled from inclination or from
necessity, in certain portions of the country, especially on the islands
in the Main, the Weser, and the Neckar. Their priests soon made numerous
converts among the neighbors to the faith of Odin. The Germans paid
little heed to the difference between Odin and Teut. The two names
designated, for them, one and the same god, the one god of the Celts.

The increasing influence of these Druids of the third epoch led,
however, naturally to some opposition. The German priests accused them
of being too profuse in the shedding of blood, and of having given their
god Odin a companion in a certain god Thor, fond of overcoming giants,
and of having thus destroyed the true nature of the original creed,
which knew but one God.

A schism was about to divide the Druidical church, when the arrival of
the Roman deities brought the two opposite parties once more together.
Each yielded somewhat; {115}they came to an understanding and finally
joined hands in a conspiracy.

[Illustration: 135]

{117}The Scandinavian Druids, forsaking the prudent reserve which they
had so far scrupulously observed, declared that, in order to triumph
over the Roman Olympians, Odin had not only the assistance of his
all-powerful son Thor, but could, if he chose, summon an escort of gods
at least as imposing in numbers as that of Jupiter himself.

The German Druids veiled their faces, but the people and the whole party
which was opposed to Jupiter the wicked, and to Venus the shameless,
joyfully accepted the proposition. However cruel the Scandinavian ritual
appeared with its increased number of victims who had to be offered to
the new gods, it seemed to them better still to worship Terror than to
worship disgraceful Voluptuousness. They acknowledged Odin and his son
Thor, and impatiently waited for the arrival of the others.

The German Druids gave way, hoping perhaps that the two hosts of deities
would erelong fall out among themselves and soon destroy each other.

Father Rhine, in his equal affection for all his brother gods, was
far too good-natured to take this admission of new deities amiss, and
promptly went northward, to the most hyperborean regions of snow and
ice, in search of the newly chosen gods.

The two parties soon met face to face. {118}It is our solemn duty to
explain fully the whole curious system of Scandinavian gods. We shall
see that here, as in all that we shall have to add, legends, myths, and
traditions abound in such numbers that they can be had for the asking.

[Illustration: 141]



V.

{121}_The World before and since Odin.--Birth of Ymer.--The Giants of
the Frost.--A Log split in Two.--The First Man and the First Woman--The
Tree Ygdrasil and its Menagerie.--Thor’s Three Jewels. Freyr’s Enchanted
Swoj’d.--A Souvenir of the National Guard of Bellville.--The Story of
Kvasir and the Two Dwarfs.--Honey and Blood.--Invocation._

The world was not born.

Thick mists, unbroken by light, unbounded in limit, filled space.

After a long period of darkness, silence, and perfect repose, a faint
light is seen, vague and uncertain, hardly deserving the name; something
is moving unsteadily in this night. The giant Ymer has been born
spontaneously out of the mixture {122}and assimilation of these closely
compressed mists, which sudden and severe frost has condensated.

At that time men of science had not yet discussed the question of
spontaneous generation; not one academy made mention of the subject.

Ymer, the sole inhabitant, the Robinson Crusoe of this world of
darkness, became tired of his solitude. Guessing how he had been born
himself, he gathered the mists that surrounded him, piled them one upon
the other, shaped them into a form resembling his own, and once more the
North wind came and solidified the mists. As he was a giant, he
created giants; he also created mountains, no doubt for the purpose of
furnishing seats for these giants, for the highest among them did not
reach up to their belts. This does not mean, that these mountains were
less high than they are nowadays, but the sons of Ymer were of such size
that without bending down a little, they could not have rested their
elbows on the summit of Chimborazo, and what is more marvelous still,
Ymer himself not only was taller than every one of his sons, but taller
than all of his sons together, standing one upon the shoulders of the
other! When he stretched himself out full length, the Alps might have
served him as a pillow, while his feet would have rested on {123}Mount
Caucasus.

[Illustration: 143]

{125}In order to produce such giants and such mountains, he had, of
course, to consume large quantities of the material furnished by the
chaos of mists; the remainder of this gaseous substance, trembling in
vacant space and losing its balance, fell back into the depths of the
valleys, and formed the ocean.

Some few animals began soon to stir in the waters, and on the shores
of that vast sea; sphinxes and dragons, hydras and griffins, kraken
and leviathans, all creatures of a low order, but in their proportions
adapted to this colossal world, this world of the infinitely great, and
no doubt related in some manner to the antediluvian families of mammoths
and pterodactyls, of ichthyosauri and plesiosauri.

A god of the first race, a creator without being created, Ymer naturally
did not possess that skill and that cleverness which can only be
acquired by long experience. However strange, therefore, it may appear,
however inexplicable, the fact is, that this world, fresh with new
life and freed from the original mists, was nevertheless covered with
darkness. The only light which existed was an occasional phosphorescence
of the sea or a few flashes of electric light, such as an aurora
borealis sends forth; and this faint glimmer alone illumined the pathway
of those vast creatures, those monstrous {126}reptiles, who, dazzled for
an instant, plunged back into the lowest depths of the waters, casting
up huge waves and tall columns of spray.

It must have been a peculiarly curious sight, certainly, to see those
Giants of the Frost, as they were called, wandering, through the
darkness across the boundless plains and along endless shores, under a
sky without light, looking for each other from one end of the world to
the other. To be sure, they could accomplish the journey in a few long
strides, and if they were peculiarly anxious to see each other, face
to face, they had only to wait for the chance of a momentary flash or a
faint twilight glimmer.

The sight was no doubt curious, but there was no one to behold it.

This state of things could not last long. With a new god a new world
also came into existence. This new god was very different from the
first, it was Light itself, condensed at the southern extremity of the
heavens, far from this earth inhabited by giants.

One fine day--an unlucky day for them, however--these giants noticed
that the sky above their heads was suddenly assuming a faint pinkish
hue, then violet, and finally purple. At this they rejoiced. But
suddenly a ball of fire appeared, and they were terrified. It was Odin,
Odin followed {127}by his celestial family, which consisted at least of
a dozen principal deities!

[Illustration: 147]

But no! no! I take it back! I rebel! No one can come in contact
with these ancient myths, without knocking against some principle of
astronomy. Astronomers find only seven principal deities in Scandinavian
mythology, when they are called upon to transform them into planets, and
twelve, when the question is about the signs of the Zodiac. That seems
to me to make mythology a. little too easy. Does it not look as if the
first men had been born with a telescope and a compass in their pocket,
and as if they had erected an observatory long before they thought of
building huts for themselves?

Fortunately I am not bound to follow their footsteps.

Certain historians of high authority have found out that Odin lived
upon earth before he came to dwell in heaven. He was an illustrious
conqueror, {128}very expert at killing men, one of those scourges of
God, who fall upon nations in order to break them to pieces. As a matter
of course, these nations deified him after his death.

[Illustration: 148]

I see nothing astronomical in all this.

Hence, I return to my own method, and propose to describe him, as he
appeared to his Druids, his Scalds, and his worshippers.

[Illustration: 149]

He arrived from the southern countries, no doubt from the Orient,
bringing with him the sun, as an indispensable auxiliary in the
great task{129} which {131}he had undertaken, to reform this dark and
ice-covered world: “For there was a time,” says the Edda, the bible of
the Scandinavians, “when the sun, the moon, and the stars did not know
the place they were to occupy. It was then the gods assembled and agreed
as to the post which was to be assigned to each one of them.”

When the installation of the heavenly bodies had thus been agreed upon,
Odin followed the example of all the Hercules of Egypt and of Greece,
and began his benevolent career by freeing the earth of all the monsters
by which it was infested. Ymer was the first to succumb to his blows,
and after him, the other giants of the frost, “a race of evildoers,”
 adds the Edda. Evildoers? Whom did they aggrieve, I wonder? The
complainants must have been the kraken, the griffins, and the serpents.

The world had hardly come into existence and already the right of the
stronger had established the doctrine: _Væ victis!_

Of all the giants of the frost a single one escaped. He must have been a
married man, for his descendants became after a while so numerous as
to trouble the Ases, that is to say, Odin and his companions, the other
gods.

After the giants, came the turn of land and sea monsters, who were
almost as formidable as they themselves. In the general destruction two
monsters {132}only survived: the wolf Fenris, with his fearful jaws,
which enabled him to crush mountains and even to injure the sun, and the
serpent Iormungandur, the great sea serpent of world-wide renown. Both
these monsters were one day to aid the giants of the frost in avenging
themselves on their conqueror.

[Illustration: 152]

Odin thought he had now nothing more to fear, and returned to the realms
of light, there to enjoy his glory in peace and to revel in the delights
of Walhalla.

{133}One morning he came down to see how the world was coming on since
he had reorganized it, and he found to his great joy, that the new
creation was assuming a more pleasing appearance. Grass was growing in
the plains, on the slopes of hills, and even at the bottom of the rivers
and the sea; here and there trees of varied forms and shapes arose
and gave variety to the monotonous horizon; some, crowding together in
groups on the mountain side, seemed to whisper confidentially to each
other, as the breeze was lightly agitating their foliage, while others
stood together in countless hosts, stretching away over hill and dale
as far as eye could reach, but silent and immovable, like an army which
remains motionless, while the chiefs are deliberating.

[Illustration: 153]

Behind the green curtain of forests, deer, eland, and aurochs were
bounding in herds, now and then showing their beautiful horns or
their dark bushy brows at the opening of some clearing; goats were
{134}climbing about on the rocks and venturing close to the brink of
precipices; birds were singing in the groves, now swinging playfully on
the supple branches of willows, and now darting suddenly on swift wings
through the air; fish were gliding silently under the surface of the
waters, which reflected their silvery sheen or broke in soft ripples,
while butterflies and insects were sporting and buzzing around beautiful
flowers.

Odin smiled; the artist was pleased with his work.

But were animals, impelled by natural instincts only and exclusively
occupied with the desire to satisfy their coarse wants, were such
animals worthy to be the sole owners of such a charming abode?

It occurred to him to invent a being which, without participating in the
divine essence, might still rise high above all other creatures. This
time the divine artist wanted a spectator, to witness his work, to
appreciate it intelligently, and afterwards to profit by it for some
good purpose.

He was meditating on it during a walk on the sea-shore, when a piece of
wood, a fragment of a huge branch of a tree which the wind had broken
off, attracted his attention. It had evidently fallen into a river,
which had carried it out into the high sea, and there it had been beaten
and bruised by {135}ebb and tide. He drew this poor shapeless stick of
wood towards him, split it in two and made out of it a man and a woman.

“Do you hear? Do you understand?” Asks the Edda, at this point.

Now, what is this intended to convey to us? That man, exposed to the
caprices of the elements, is nothing but a poor plaything in the hands
of Fate? Very well, let us admit this explanation. But can the sacred
book of the Scandinavians really presume to teach us that the origin of
mankind must be looked for in two sticks of wood? We cannot but think
that that would be a sorry jest, alike unworthy of the general solemnity
of the Edda and of the mysterious majesty of ancient cosmogonies.

Besides, we ought not to forget that all the Northern nations attributed
a divine character to trees; if in Germany the oak was held sacred, the
hyperboreans held the ash tree in great respect, and the question is
only whether our first father was made of the wood of an ash tree, an
oak, or a willow.

This leads us naturally to the consideration of the ash _Ygdrasil_ and
its curious population of gods, birds, and quadrupeds.

The branches of this marvelous tree spread over the whole surface of the
earth; its top supported {136}the Walhalla and rose is to the uppermost
heavens, while its roots penetrated to the very bottom of hell. Under
its shadow dwell Odin and his Ases, when the government of the world
requires his presence, or some important question has to be decided.

[Illustration: 156]

Two swift winged ravens are incessantly flying to and fro in the
Universe, to see what is going on; then they come and perch, one on his
left and one on his right shoulder, and whisper into his ear the news
of the day. A squirrel, as swift in its movements as the two ravens,
is perpetually running up and down the tree. If you doubt my word, hear
what the poet says:--

     .... The fearful Odin Was seated beneath the ancient ash,
     The sacred tree whose immortal brow
     Rises and touches the vault of heaven.
     {137}On the top an eagle with eager eyes,
     With piercing eyes, with ever open eyes,
     Takes in the whole Universe in a single glance.
     Odin receives his swift messages.
     Incessantly a tiny squirrel
     Comes and goes; the god’s voice cheers it onward.
     All at once it dashes from the trunk to the top
     And in an instant it returns again
     From the top to the trunk. Odin, when it comes,
     Turns an attentive ear to the squirrel.....

But the poet does not tell the whole story.

[Illustration: 157]

To act as a check upon the reports of the eagle, the ravens, and the
squirrel, a vulture is perching {138}upon the loftiest top of the sacred
tree, who looks over all the horizons of the earth and the universe,
watching for the slightest stir and giving notice of any important event
by his cries or the flapping of his wings.

Still other animals, however, inhabit the great ash tree Ygdrasil. Some
of these play a sinister part in the great menagerie; they are hideous
reptiles, half concealed in the slimy marshes into which one of the
roots of the tree finds its way, and ever striving to pour their
venom into the mire; beneath another root a dragon is crouching, who
constantly gnaws at it, and four starving deer, rushing through its
branches, forever devour its foliage.

“Do you hear? Do you understand?” asks the Edda once more.

For the present we do not presume to interpret these descriptions,
and before we attempt to penetrate into these dark mysteries, we will
mention the principal chiefs among the Ases.

The mystic marriage of Odin and Frigg resulted in the god Thor, who
is held in equal veneration with his father. As his duty is to carry
thunder and lightning, it is he who shakes the earth whenever he drives
through the clouds in his car drawn by two goats and producing a noise
represented by the words: “_Pumerle pump! Ptimerle pump! Pliz! Pluz!
Schmi! Schmur! Tarantara! Tarantara!_”. {139}This onomatopoetic
translation of the flashing of lightning and the rolling of thunder,
is not my own; it comes directly from Dr. Martin Luther, the great
Reformer.

Thor is also engaged in pursuing and destroying the giants of the
mountains, degenerate children of the giants of the frost, in size at
least. At a later period we shall meet with giants of still smaller
dimensions. Alas! that here below everything that is great and strong
has a tendency to decrease steadily!

[Illustration: 159]

For this war against the giants Odin has bestowed upon his son three
precious objects, which in the inventory of the Ases appear under the
name of _Thor’s Three Jewels._ The first is his weighty hammer.

_Mjoïner_ (some people call it his club), which goes forth by itself to
meet giants and crushes their heads. One of the commentators upon the
Edda professes to see in the giants of the mountains nothing but the
mountains themselves, and in the hammer Mjoïner, nothing but lightning,
which generally strikes their summit. We must evidently {140}put as
little faith in commentators as in astronomers.

The second of Thor’s jewels was a pair of iron gloves. As soon as he
puts them on, his spear no sooner reaches the point at which it is
aimed, than it returns to his hand, precisely as the falcon comes back
to the keeper’s gauntlet, after having destroyed its victim.

The third jewel of Thor is his war belt; when he puts it on, his
strength is twice as great as before; in fact, he becomes irresistible
and would overthrow the great Odin himself. But Odin has nothing to fear
on his part, for in spite of his brutal and passionate temper, Thor is
always an obedient and submissive son.

Asa-Thor, that is to say, the Lord Thor, was most highly respected
among men as the redhaired master of thunder and lightning, and as
the destroyer of giants; and he was also greatly feared as an active,
blustering god, of a troublesome, turbulent temper and of somewhat
eccentric manners.

Another weapon, at least as marvelous as Asa-Thor’s famous hammer, was
the sword of the god Freyr. This sword was endowed with an intelligence
very rarely to be met with among swords, and punctually obeyed the
orders of its master. Even in his absence, it went promptly and
faithfully {141}to carry out his orders, striking here and there at a
given point, or making terrible havoc in the midst of a battle, without
a hand at the hilt to direct its mortal blows.

[Illustration: 161]

The good Freyr, as pacific a god as ever lived, was quite indifferent
to battles and fights; hence he gave his orders quietly to his faithful
sword, while he remained comfortably seated at Odin’s table, enjoying
his strong beer and the rarest wines.

I cannot help wishing that they might have known the art of
manufacturing guns after this system, at the time when I was a
lieutenant in the Belleville National Guard. It would have been so
pleasant to see a rifle move gravely to and fro, quite alone, in front
of the City Hall and the Guard House; or to meet a patrol of four
{142}guns, accompanied by a corporal, but a flesh and blood corporal to
cry out: Who is there?

[Illustration: 162]

In the meantime the happy owners of these improved weapons might have
been sitting, not at Odin’s table, but at the nearest coffee house or
restaurant, {143}drinking beer or wine just like the Scandinavian gods.

Unfortunately our manufacturers of arms have not yet reached that degree
of skill, which our forefathers seem to have possessed, and thus I have
never yet been able to enjoy such a sight.

The happy owner of this magic weapon, Freyr, presided over the general
administration of the clouds; it was he who made fine weather or rain,
a very troublesome office, which must have exposed him to countless
petitions and most contradictory prayers.

His sister Freya, afterwards called Frigg, was Odin’s wife and the
most honored goddess on earth as well as in heaven. She inspired and
protected lovers, and very different from her sister in Greece, this
Northern Venus enjoyed an unsullied reputation.

They say that once, when her husband had gone away on a long journey,
she was so deeply grieved at his absence, that her tears ran day and
night incessantly; these tears, however, differed from those of mortal
beings; “they were all drops of gold which fell into her bosom,”--and
hence the Northern people call the precious metal to this day _Freyas
tears_.

One only among all the dwellers in Walhalla had been able to give her
some comfort by singing {144}his sweetest songs; this was the god Bragi,
the god of poetry and beautiful words.

A tradition which deserves to be mentioned here, accounts for the manner
in which he obtained this precious gift of eloquence and the art of
poetry.

In the early days of the world, when the creating god had concentrated,
so to say, all the active powers of humanity in a few individuals,
and when a long life permitted these favored beings to carry on their
studies till they reached a happy end, there lived on earth a wise man
who possessed an art unknown, not among men only, but among the gods
themselves. This was the art of perpetuating thoughts by word-painting,
of reproducing them in outward forms, not to the eye by colors, but
to the ear by sounds. This sage was called Kvasir. He had invented the
_Runes_, the art of poetry, and the no less precious art of reproducing
words and fixing them in writing. He cut his runes on beech tablets; if
he had gone a step farther, he would have invented printing long before
Guttenberg.

Kvasir was then the sole owner of the art of Poetry.

Two wicked dwarfs prowling about in search of treasures, took it into
their heads, that the treasure of Poetry was better than any other, and
forthwith determined to obtain possession of it. They killed Kvasir,
into whose dwelling they had crept by {145}stealth, and as they were
masters in magic, like all the dwarfs of those days, they carefully
collected his blood, and mixing it, in different proportions, with
honey, put it into three vessels, which they closed hermetically. These
three vessels contained respectively Logic, Eloquence, and Poetry. To
keep them safe till the day on which they should be used, they buried
them in the depths of a cave which was inaccessible to men and unknown
to the gods themselves. But one of those travelling agents, who under
the form of ravens, were continually wandering over the world in Odin’s
employ, had been a silent witness of the transactions, the murder, the
mixing, and the hiding of the three vessels. He returned instantly to
the ash Ygdrasil and reported it all to his master. The god gave his
orders, which the squirrel, no doubt, at once carried to the eagle, and
the latter, who was continually on the watch on the top of the sacred
tree, left his post for a few moments in charge of the vulture, and flew
with rapid wings to the cave, from whence he returned laden with the
three precious vessels. It is to be supposed that he carried one in his
beak, and the two others, one in each of his claws.

He placed the mysterious vessels at Odin’s feet and at once returned to
relieve the vulture and to resume his watch.

Odin opened first the vessel which contained {146}Poetry and tasted the
contents. From that moment he never spoke otherwise than in verse.
He also tasted Logic, and henceforth he spoke and reasoned with such
extreme accuracy, that he found no one to agree with him any longer; he
tasted Eloquence, and as soon as he opened his lips, he might have been
mistaken for one of our own most eminent lawyers. Gold chains seemed to
come out from his lips, as was the case with Ogmius, with which he bound
the ears and hearts of all his hearers.

Whilst he was thus enjoying himself, Bragi his son, and Saga his
daughter, who were sitting by him, felt their mouths water and looked
imploringly at him.

Setting aside the terror with which the Druids have surrounded Odin, he
seems to have been occasionally good-natured, and certainly always acted
like a kind father. He offered the vessel with Poetry first to Saga,
courteously giving her the preference on account of her sex. She barely
touched it with her lips. When Bragi’s turn came, he eagerly swallowed
as much as he could, and without taking time to gather breath, he began
a grand triumphal chant in honor of the feasts, the loves, the wars, and
the greatness of the gods, the stars of the firmament, paradise, hell,
and the ash Ygdrasil. {147}

[Illustration: 167]

{149}In well chosen cadences he imitated the clanking of cups, the
cooing of doves and of lovers, the tumult of battles, the harmonies of
the celestial spheres, and all this with such energy, such fire and
such grace by turns, that Odin was enchanted, and having become a master
himself about five minutes ago, on the spot changed his name of the
Long-bearded God, which he had borne so far, to that of the God of
Poetry. Moreover, he entrusted to his keeping the threefold treasure
which had been taken from Kvasir’s murderers.

This was that god Bragi who alone succeeded in comforting the beautiful
and inconsolable Freya in her great grief.

Through him the Druids were instructed in the art of verse; to him is
due that terrible Scandinavian poetry, which contains, according to
Ozanam, quite as much blood as honey.

As to Saga, she became the goddess of Tradition. “The heart of history
is in tradition,” says a master, a sage, and a poet.

Good goddess Saga, your lips, I know, never touched the vessel
containing Eloquence, nor that which held Logic, far from it! And still
I count upon you to support me in carrying out my work, which I have
perhaps imprudently begun; for I begin to be overwhelmed with materials,
the subject is a very grave one, and, in spite of the good advice of my
learned doctor and the assistance of my two charming lady-companions,
time and strength threaten not to suffice. Therefore I beseech you as
well as my readers, to grant me a short repose, before I proceed any
farther on my journey through Odin’s fantastic world.

[Illustration: 170]

[Illustration: 173]



VI.

{153}Short Biographies.--_A Clairvoyant among the Gods.--A Bright
God.--Tyr and the Wolf Fenris.--The Hospital at the Walhalla.--Why was
Odin one-eyed?--The Three Norns.--Mimer the Sage.--A Goddess the Mother
of Four Oxen.--The Love Affairs of Heimdall, the God with the Golden
Teeth._

We have no intention of giving here a complete list of the numerous
deities of the North. We will only mention Hermode, Odin’s messenger and
man of business; Forseti, the peacemaker; Widar, the god of silence,
a dumb person who only walks on air, as if he were afraid to hear
the noise of his own footsteps; Vali, the skilfull archer; Uller, the
excellent skater, who taught the giant Tialff his art, in spite of what
the poet Klopstock says to the contrary; Hoder, a mysterious deity,
whose name must never be uttered by any one in heaven or on earth. Why
not? Odin alone knows the reason.

Let us also mention Heimdall, with the golden teeth. A son of Odin, he
had nine mothers--eight more than had ever been known before him. He
is the guardian of Walhalla, and his duty is to watch lest the giants
should one fine day attempt to storm the heavenly abode by means of the
Bifrost bridge, that is, the rainbow. But the gods can sleep in peace;
neither the eagle nor the ravens on the ash Ygdrasil can surpass
Heimdall in vigilance. The senses of sight and hearing are in him
developed to a perfectly marvelous degree; he can hear the grass grow in
the meadows and the wool grow on the back of the sheep. From one end of
the world he sees a fly pass through the air at the other end, and, more
than that, he sees distinctly the different joints in its feet and the
black or brown spots with which its wings are {155}dotted. In the midst
of the darkest night and at the bottom of the sea where it is deepest,
he sees an atom moving and watches the marriage of monads. There is
nothing in the whole universe hid from him.

But why should this god Heimdall have golden teeth, after a fashion of
some of the natives of Sunda? Odin alone knows the reason.

Among all these gods Balder is the most richly endowed, the best, the
handsomest and the most virtuous--Balder, the Bright God, by eminence.
Although the son of Odin and Frigg, he might be taken for a son of
Freya, on account of his strong resemblance to Love itself, not to the
turbulent, passionate, and capricious Love of the Greeks, but to Love
in the widest and noblest sense of the word,--Love, in fine, in its
Christian meaning. Balder represents that universal goodness, loyalty,
affection, and harmony, which binds all beings to each other; Bragi, the
poet is his brother; Forseti, the peacemaker, is his son. But we shall
but too soon have to return to him on a most melancholy occasion.

In spite of our desire to close this already too numerous list, we
cannot well pass over in silence that poor Tyr, the very type of
intrepidity and loyalty, who fell a victim to his own prowess and to his
imprudent confidence in the other gods. {156}The latter, having one day
met the wolf Fenris, invited him to enjoy a good meal with them. The
wolf, always voraciously hungry, listened to the proposal. Then the
Ases, pretending to fear that he might play them an ugly trick on the
way home, insisted upon leading him by a chain around his neck, pledging
their word as gods, however, that they would set him free upon going to
table.

[Illustration: 176]

Fenris, suspicious as all wolves, in fact, as all wicked creatures are,
consented to be bound, but made it a condition that as a proof of the
good faith of the Ases, one of them should put his hand into his mouth.
Tyr agreed to do so without hesitation, not expecting that personages of
such lofty position could possibly be faithless. The gods, {157}however,
did behave faithlessly and kept Fenris a prisoner, whereupon the wolf
claimed the fulfillment of the pledge, and when Tyr put his hand into
his mouth, coolly bit it off up to the wrist. Hence that particular
joint has ever since been called _the wolf’s joint_, in memory of this
inartistic amputation.

Thus the gods had a one-handed brother among them, after having long
been presided over by a one-eyed god. But Tyr and Odin were by no means
the only gods who labored under such an infirmity. Heimdall with the
golden teeth must evidently have had a set of false teeth; Widar, the
god of silence, was dumb, and Hoder, that mysterious being whose name
must not be pronounced by any one, was blind. There was also a certain
god, called Herblinde, who was not only blind but--actually dead! We
poor mortals generally imagine that death includes blindness as a matter
of course, but it was not so, apparently, among these mystic personages.
Herblinde, for instance, was quite blind, although he was quite dead
also, and yet he attended the meetings of the gods and even had a vote
in their counsels. Do you understand that? I do not, I am sure.

And this grand council, this hospital of the Walhalla, which counted
among its members a onehanded and a dumb god, a toothless and two blind
{158}gods, was, as I said, presided over by one-eyed Odin! This fact
recalls forcibly the old proverb: Among the blind the one-eyed is king.

But why had Odin but one eye?

Fortunately I am able, for once, to give an answer to this question.

Astronomers have naturally found a reply to this Why? in their
imperturbable system of sidereal interpretations. Odin was the sun-god;
the sun was the eye of Nature, Nature had but one eye--consequently
Odin was bound to be born one-eyed!.... Now you see why your daughter is
deaf-mute.

The Edda, however, gives a different account of the matter, and I feel
bound to adopt this explanation, as it is founded upon a knowledge of
the most secret mysteries.

Odin had two eyes when he was born, and the sun was nothing more than
his travelling companion, when he came from the far East, to revive and
warm the earth which had so long been in the hands of’ the giants of the
frost.

Several centuries after he had created man, he was one day walking up
and down in the lower parts of his great ash tree Ygdrasil, and thinking
of the greatly increased responsibility which rested upon him since he
had added the government of the earth to that of heaven, and since the
earth {159}had begun to be peopled with a multitude of races. He was
asking himself whether the knowledge of all things had been revealed
to him fully enough to enable him satisfactorily to fill, his two great
offices. He had quaffed ample draughts by turns from the three vessels
of Kvasir, but Eloquence, Poetry, and even Logic do not supply Wisdom.

[Illustration: 179]

As he passed by a large tank fed by a purling brook, he saw three
beautiful swans swimming merrily about in it, who after having examined
him with half thoughtful, half mocking attention, twisted their long
flexible necks in strange contortions and then seemed to converse with
each other by significative glances.

He spoke to them and asked them if they possessed the secret of Wisdom.

The swans suddenly plunged beneath the surface, {160}and in their place
there appeared three beautiful women, representing three different
stages of life.

They were the Norns.

[Illustration: 180]

The first, called Urda, knew the Past; the second, called Verandi, saw
the Present unfold itself before her eyes, hour by hour and minute by
minute, and when to-day had become yesterday, her older sister gathered
up the departed day and entered it on her record. Finally Skulda, the
third, the Norn of the Future, enjoyed the privilege of beholding with
her far-seeing eyes the germs of all future events and of being able to
foretell with unerring accuracy the date and the consequences of their
occurrence.

Let us pause here a moment to notice a remark communicated to me by the
amiable and learned {161}Dr. Rosalh, which may not be without interest
to some of my readers.

It will be remembered that the Romans had at first pretended to
recognize in these three Norns their own three Fates, probably because
they were three and because they were women; at least I can see no other
reason. Urda, Verandi, and Skulda were as beautiful and as graceful
as the three Parcæ--Alecto, Lachesis, and Atropos--were ugly. Besides,
their duties were entirely different. The Norns knew the fate of men,
but they were utterly unable to lengthen human life. Such at least is
the opinion of the great Holinshed in his Chronicles. Warburton sees
in them nothing more than Valkyrias, but, what is far more astonishing,
Shakespeare chose these three beautiful prophetic virgins, to furnish
the three hideous, unclean, and toothless witches, the weird sisters,
who called out to Macbeth, “All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king
hereafter!”

Shakespeare had evidently taken the curse denounced by the Church
against the ancient deities in its literal meaning.

Odin had a better opinion of the three sisters; he conversed for some
time with them, and afterwards came frequently back to visit them. It
was thus and by their aid that he gained experience.

But even Experience, added to the precious gifts {162}of Eloquence,
Poetry, and Logic, is not able to supply Wisdom.

[Illustration: 182]

He took counsel with the Norns, and in his anxiety to possess this most
precious of all gifts, he expressed his willingness to exchange for it,
if needs be, his treasures of poetry and of eloquence, his magic armor
which made him safe against all danger, his horse Sleipner, which had
eight legs and crossed the air with the rapidity of lightning, his eagle
and his vulture, his squirrel and his two {163}ravens. Then he went to
Mimer, the wisest man in existence, the successor of old Kvasir, and
attended his lectures like the most humble and zealous of students. When
he had mastered the subject, and felt that he had acquired Wisdom at
last, he paid the philosopher liberally by giving him one of his own
eyes, in order thus to show him the high value he set upon the service
which had been rendered to him by Mimer.

This was the reason why Odin was one-eyed. The truth is far too
honorable to the god to be hid under idle astronomical pretexts.

Now, what use did he make of his wisdom?

He began by regulating the government of heaven. The Ases had until now
lived very much as they chose; he now gave to each of them a duty to
perform: to Niord the management of rivers and of fishing; to Egir, the
seas and navigation; and so to others, requiring regularity and accuracy
of all, but sternly prohibiting the display of extreme zeal, just as
Talleyrand used to do with his diplomatic apprentices.

Then he turned to the earth.

Here men had multiplied incessantly, and with their numbers their wants
had increased, and alas! with these, their vices also! In order to
satisfy the wants and to repress the vices, they had established among
them that great, primitive law which {164}constitutes the whole code of
laws among barbarians--the right of the stronger.

[Illustration: 184]

“TO EGIR, THE SEAS AND NAVIGATION.”

The most fertile pastures, the rocks and grottoes best fitted for
dwellings and safe retreats, the forests that were richest in game and
the springs that were most frequented by the flocks, all were taken by
force and possession maintained by the strength of the sword.

Wise Odin felt that violence gave no right and that theft could not
give a title to possession. He {165}determined to establish the right of
property, and to give it, for greater efficiency, a religious character
which would make it sacred in the eyes of nations.

One of his daughters, Gefione, was sent by him to one of the most
powerful chiefs of Scandinavia. She presented herself before his tent,
with presents in her hands. In return she asked only for a span of land.
The chief gave her a vast but uncultivated territory.

[Illustration: 185]

Next she went, with secret purposes in her mind and always inspired by
Odin, to a distant country, into the mountains, where giants dwelt. Here
she married one of these giants, the most powerful of them all, to whom
she bore four sons. The strong are apt to be gentle. Gefione took her
four sons, changed them into oxen, and by words of gentle persuasion
induced her husband to harness them himself to a plough. A river marked
the boundary of the field, on the other side stood an altar. Thus was
the first piece of property inaugurated, {166}by purchase, by labor, and
under the protection of the gods. The first owner, the gigantic husband,
represented Force submitting to Right, and the four oxen represented the
hard-working family, improving the soil and enriching it with the sweat
of their brow.

Soon people began to imitate Gefione’s example, and in all directions
land was measured and laid out; stones were put up to mark the boundary
lines of each legal possession, and these stones were held sacred.

In order to encourage men in these efforts, the Ases made it a point
every morning to show their bright, shining heads above the horizon and
thus to cheer them by their presence and the interest they took in their
labors.

The god Thor even came once to pay a visit to his sister Gefione, and
then cast a few flashes of lightning upon each one of the newly acquired
pieces of land, to render them sacred. Hence the old, deeply rooted
notion that lightning hallows all it touches. Afterwards, and as late as
the fifteenth century, it was deemed sufficient at Bonn, at Cologne, and
at Mayence, to cast Thor’s hammer upon the piece of land that had become
a fief, in order to establish an absolute right of proprietorship.

But the right of property alone did not suffice to render human society
stable and flourishing,--{167}the nations of the earth longed for a
hierarchy of rank and race; at least the divine pupil of the wise Mimer
decided it should be so. The means he employed to found such a hierarchy
and the system itself appear curious and odd enough to us, who are no
gods, but, unsuitable as they look now, they were successful at the
time.

By his order Heimdall, the god with the false teeth, abandoned his post
as guardian of the Wal-halla for nine days, and after a long journey
across the country, knocked at the door of a wretched tumbledown hut,
where the _Great-grandmother_ lived. Here he remained three days and
three nights.

The Great-grandmother brought a male child into the world,
black-skinned, broad-shouldered, with hard horny hands, and powerful
arms. They called it _Thrall_, the serf.

Thrall’s natural inclination led him to prefer the hard work in mines
and in the wilderness; he was fond of the society of domestic
animals and even slept with them in their stables. His sons became
cattle-raisers, miners, or charcoal-burners.

Heimdall had continued his journey. He next stopped at the
_Grandmother’s_ house, a small, simple cottage, but lacking in nothing
that was useful.

Here he remained three days and three nights.

The Grandmother gave birth to a son, who was called _Karl_, the free
man. {168}Karl was fond of driving oxen under the yoke, of working in
wood and in iron, of building boats and houses, and of trading. From him
are descended our workmen and artisans, our merchants and builders.

Turning his face towards the south, Heimdall next went to a beautiful
mansion, surrounded by magnificent gardens and reflected in the blue
waters of a large lake. As the god had only to show his golden teeth
in order to be welcomed by every woman he saw, the mistress of this
mansion, the _Mother_, also received him with great delight and tried
to do him honor. Dressed in her most costly robes she put an embroidered
cloth upon a table of polished wood and offered him in silver dishes
all the varieties of fish and game, in which the lake and the park near
the house abounded. The Mother did everything to keep the god as long
as possible at her house, but, as at the Grandmother’s and at the
Great-grandmother’s, so he remained here only three days and three
nights.

A son appeared to console the Mother for the departure of her
illustrious guest; this child had at its birth already rosy cheeks,
long hair, and a haughty look. When he was still a child, he was fond of
brandishing his spear and of bending his bow; at fifteen he swam across
the blue waters of the lake, or plunged on an unbroken horse into
{169}the depths of the forest, riding as fast as the wind. They called
him Jarl, the noble.

Some years later Heimdall paid another visit to this country; delighted
with the prowess of Jarl, he acknowledged him as his son and taught
him the language of birds, which the gods alone understand and fluently
speak. He taught him also the science of Runes, of runes of victory
which are engraven on the blades of swords; runes of love to be traced
upon drinking horns or the thumbnail; runes of the sea, with which the
prow and the rudder of ships are decorated--in all cases precautionary
measures by which alone ill fortune can be kept at bay.

Besides these gifts of knowledge, he bestowed upon him an inalienable,
hereditary domain. This was the first entailed estate ever known in
Europe.

Jarl, says the Edda, was a man of _eight-horse power_. Could we express
it better in the noble railway Anglo-Saxon of our day, or does
our modern English really go back to the old Scandinavian, as this
coincidence would seem to prove?

Jarl’s descendants are the great chieftains, the barons, princes,
kings, and Druids, who have all inherited great power from their divine
ancestor with the golden teeth. They alone are his legitimate
and acknowledged children; the descendants of the grandmother and
great-grandmother are illegitimate. {170}Still, whether acknowledged by
the law or not, they all form a close chain, a single family, they all
spring from the same god! Thus the humblest among them saw his rights
secured for the future.

I must confess that, the more carefully I examine these barbarians,
whether they were gods or men, the more I am surprised to discover
beneath the outward cloak of their fables so many correct ideas of order
and of justice. These fables had, of course, their day and then passed
away. Up to the present time, it is true, there is not much of the day
gone; perhaps also Odin may be blamed for having invented, before the
world was a few hundred years old, both the Middle Ages and the Feudal
System. But it would be wrong to blame him, for it must be acknowledged,
that in spite of the violence of their manners and the bloody nature
of their worship, a certain civilization had at last appeared among
the Scandinavians. It may be called brutal, I grant; it may be called
aggressive even, but it was after all an improvement, and it has held
its own in the North, under snow and ice, like the vigorous plants of
our Alps. How comes it that the Germans and the Franks, more favored by
climate and by contact with highly civilized nations, remained so long
inferior to the Scandinavians in this respect? Perhaps they were more
liable to be invaded than the Sons of the North; the Scandinavians
invaded the continent {171}in all directions, but no one ever dreamt of
invading their country.

After having thus established the right of property and a certain social
hierarchy, Odin had next instituted marriage with the symbolic ring, and
finally courts of justice.

But, since he had given to man an immortal soul, and since he held out
to him reward or punishment in another world according to his deserts,
Odin had been compelled to establish the first high tribunals in that
other world.

[Illustration: 191]

We must, therefore, find our way to Walhalla and even to Hell, if the
reader is disposed to follow us to that place.

[Illustration: 195]



VII.

{175}Heaven and Hell.--_The Valkyrias.--Amusements in Walhalla.--Pork
and Wild Boar.--A Frozen Hell.--Balder’s Death.--Frigg’s Devotion.--The
Iron Tree Forest.--The Twilight of the Gods.--Idunas’ Apples.--The Fall
of Heaven and the End of the World.--Reflections on that Event.--The
Little Fellow still alive._

When the warriors were preparing for battle, a number of blue-eyed young
maidens, mounted on {176}bright, shining horses, passed through their
ranks, animating them with word and gesture, and whispering into their
ears warlike songs to be soon changed into triumphal chants for those
who fell on the battlefield, mortally wounded.

[Illustration: 196]

These maidens were the Valkyrias, those Valkyrias whom ever since the
poets and painters of the Ossianic school have reproduced in a thousand
forms. Nor must it be forgotten that this remarkable school, which the
Scotchman Macpherson revived {177}towards the end of the eighteenth
century, counted among its most ardent admirers two enthusiastic
Frenchmen, whose names were Napoleon and Lamartine.

These Valkyrias, beautiful nymphs of carnage as they were, delighted in
the clash of arms, the shedding of blood, and the dying groans of the
wounded, even in the odors exhaled by the dying,--a taste which seems
little suited to fair, blue-eyed maidens. These unnatural tastes were,
however, justified to a certain extent, by the peculiar mission which
they had to fulfill, a mission of kindness and tender compassion. They
walked to and fro on the battlefield, not to carry off the dead, but to
gather the souls of those who had fallen. Of the _Seola_ (such was the
sweet name of the Soul among the nations of Germanic or Scandinavian
race), they rapidly asked these questions:--

“Seola, did you belong to a free man or to a slave?

“Seola, did your master honor the gods and the priests of those gods?

“Did he keep his pledged word?

“Did he die like a brave man, with his face to the enemy and not a fear
in his heart?

“Seola, did he ever fight against the men of his own blood and his own
race?”

The human soul, as soon as it escapes from the {178}wretched bondage of
this earth, no longer possesses the sad power of being able to tell a
falsehood; Seola, therefore, answered these questions truthfully, even
though it were to its own condemnation. In the latter case the Valkyrias
left it to the black Alfs, a kind of demons who belonged to hell; but
if the Seola had belonged to a brave and loyal warrior, the Valkyria
instantly unfolded her white wines and took it to Walhalla, the home of
the gods and the paradise of heroes.

This paradise, exclusively intended for free men, was still open to
slaves also, if they had fallen by the side of their masters, or if they
had thrown themselves voluntarily into the fire of the funeral pile for
the purpose of continuing their service in the future life.

Let us see whether the delights of Walhalla were sufficiently attractive
to warrant such selfimmolation.

The one great enjoyment of all who dwell in Walhalla was combat and
strife. That is a matter of taste, but did they not carry combat and
strife a little too far? They fought there for hours and hours, with
eagerness, with fury, even piercing each other and cutting each other to
pieces to their hearts’ delight. It is true, that as soon as the dinner
hour came the blood ceased to flow, the wounds closed their gaping lips,
the {179}limbs that had been lopped off by the swords returned to their
place, the broken heads and exposed entrails were restored without the
surgeon’s aid, not leaving a scar behind, and the heroes went arm in arm
to dinner, looking forward with joy to a repetition of the same merry
sport as soon as the meal should be finished.

The fare at this table of gods and heroes does not seem to have been
peculiarly wholesome; at all events it was not very varied.

The pork-butchers’ business was at that time uncommonly flourishing both
in heaven and on earth. Tacitus tells us that among the races of the
North, as far as the borders of the Baltic Sea, chieftains and matrons
alike loved to wear suspended around their neck a small image of a pig
as an emblem of abundance and fecundity. Rich and poor, all looked
upon pork as the main supply of their pantry. The pig, however, was not
deemed worthy to appear on Odin’s table, and its place was taken by the
boar: the gods lived upon wild boar, men upon domestic pig, that was the
whole difference.

I am often tempted to eat pork, and I am occasionally enabled to taste
wild boar; but I must solemnly confess, swearing if needs be by my
stomach, that in my opinion, the gods and the heroes had by no means the
best of it. It may {180}be, however, that wild boars here below are not
quite equal to heavenly boars.

[Illustration: 200]

However that may be, there appeared every morning upon the edge of one
of the marvelous forests to be found in Walhalla, an enormous colossal
boar, a very mammoth of a boar. The {181}heroes proceeded to hunt it,
accompanied at times by Thor, by Vali, the skillful archer, or by Tyr,
the one-handed god, who nevertheless wielded his sword with power and
accuracy. Then the monster was killed, cut up and roasted, and all dined
together.

[Illustration: 201]

The next day there appeared on the edge of the marvelous forest another
wild boar, quite as fat and quite as enormous, in fact in every respect
as attractive as the boar of the day before--some think it was always
the same animal, come to life again. Then a new hunt and a new dinner
upon roasted wild boar. Surely we poor people might become disgusted for
the rest of our lives, one would imagine,--and those were immortal gods!
What taste!

But there is worse behind yet. The Scandinavian {182}paradise was by
no means the only one where the pork-butcher was thus glorified. In a
neighboring paradise, which the Finns had established, we are told by
a learned writer, the rivers were flowing with beer and hydromel, the
mountains consisted of lard and the hills of half salted pork.

To help them in digesting their solid food, the Scandinavian gods drank,
like those of Finland, great quantities of beer and hydromel; but they
had in addition, an abundance of wine which they quaffed from gold cups.
Wine! In this one word thoughtful historians have discovered a whole
revelation.

Now would it ever have occurred to Odin, in his hyperborean lands, where
the vine did not exist and could not possibly live, to bring the fruit
of the vine to his paradise? Did he know grapes? And when had he learnt
to know them? But as I do not wish to interrupt my story, I reserve the
discussion of this great and important question, with several others
of the same kind, for another chapter, in which I hope to be able to
develop my views fully and scientifically.

Besides wine, beer, and hydromel, the blessed people in Walhalla had
an additional precious beverage of their own, which it may safely be
presumed, no mortal on earth has ever tasted. This {183}ambrosia of a
novel nature was obtained by the gods and heroes themselves, on certain
favorable days, from the white substance of the moon. Yes, from the
moon! Did they quaff it in full draughts or did they inhale it through
calumets? We do not know, but the nations of the earth saw in these
periodical bleedings of the moon the reason for her divers phases and
her gradual diminution. When she became reduced to a mere crescent,
fright was seen on all faces and oppressed all hearts. Were the great
people up there forgetting themselves in their celestial orgies, and
would they drink up the moon to the last drop?

It must be borne in mind that they, like the Germans, saw in the moon
nothing but a transparent leathern bottle, filled with sweetened milk,
and phosphorescent.

Let us return now. To hunt the boar, to breakfast on wild boar, to dine
on the same dish, day after day, to drink beer and wine, and from time
to time that mulled egg which the moon furnished, to fight morning
and evening, to die and come to life again, merely for the purpose of
fighting again--these were the amusements of that delightful place. Upon
my word, it took Scandinavians to be content with such pleasures.

If Odin’s paradise appears to us but little attractive, his hell, on the
other hand, seems to have been {184}far from terrible, especially if we
compare it with the hell of some of our great poets, such as Dante and
Milton.

The hell of the Scandinavians occupied the lowest depths of the world
and consisted of two parts, _Nastrond_ and _Niflheim_. The latter is
a kind of dismal vestibule shrouded in darkness, in which are seen
wandering about the mournful seolas of those who have been neither good
nor bad, neither heroes nor scoundrels, and of all who have not fallen
by the sword. To die on one’s bed or in an armchair, was a wrong in
Odin’s eyes, a grievous wrong, though not exactly a crime, since he
punished it only with a temporary detention in those damp, low places,
where darkness, silence, and weariness seemed to combine for their
punishment. The dwellers in Niflheim had scarcely any amusement except
their reciprocal yawns, and from time to time a flash of dim light which
reached there when the little black Alfs came in or went out, busily
engaged in conveying a load of souls.

The great criminals were thrown into Nastrond, the real hell. What
is very remarkable is, that here there were no braziers and burning
gridirons to be seen, no furnaces and masses of flames as in all the
other hells. This was a hell of ice; it froze here hard enough to split
iron, and the damned shivered with cold. Dante mentions something of
{185}the kind in his great work, but between the Florentine and the
Scandinavian there can be no doubt who borrowed from the other.

It was quite natural after all that in these win-tery regions of
Scandinavia, where cold is the greatest evil to be dreaded, intense,
continued, eternal cold should have become the terror and the punishment
of the criminal. The idea of a hell of fire, so far from keeping them
from the fatal slope, might very well have tempted some chilly scoundrel
to commit a great crime.

[Illustration: 205]

The poor wretches who were shivering in Nastrond {186}with stiffened
hands and eyes full of frozen tears, felt their tortures increased
whenever Hela, the pale goddess, the queen of that place, Death itself,
cast upon them a glance from her lack-lustre eyes.

Yes, it was Hela who reigned over this frightful iceberg; her palace is
called Misery, her gate the Precipice, her reception room Grief, her bed
Disease, her table Famine, and her throne Malediction!

The body of this terrible queen is party-colored, half white and half
blue, and her breath is perfumed with that horrible cadaverous odor in
which the Valkyrias delight.

But after all, the names seem to be worse than the sufferings
themselves; for excessive cold paralyzes pain itself, and there is
nothing here to compare with those classic places where lava-baths,
rolling rocks, flaming wheels, horses of red-hot iron, boiling pitch,
fiery arrows and the snake whips of the Eumenides made up an infernal
stock of tortures which might well tempt the imagination of the greatest
of poets.

In Nastrond there were no demons and no Eumenides; to be sure, there was
a Bigvor and a Sisvor, furies if you will have it so, watching at the
gates of hell, with the help of Gaun, the formidable dog, but all three
are forbidden to enter within. {187}The place of missing monsters is
occupied by some of those whom Odin spared on the occasion of his first
campaign against the giant sons of Ymer, and by the wolf Fenris, whom
the Ases had treacherously captured. There are also two other wolves,
convicted of having made an attempt upon the life of the Sun, and all of
these monsters are firmly chained and appear rather as sufferers than as
tormentors.

One of these days, their iron chains will be loosened; one of these days
heaven will turn cold and hell will melt, and--then, woe to the gods!

Listen! The moment is drawing near when all these mysteries are to
be solved. The hour is coming when _you shall hear, when you shall
understand!_ But before uttering these last words, final and at the same
time fatal words, we must mention an event which at that moment
occurred in the open assembly of the gods, filling heaven and earth with
amazement, with pity and horror.

It must be acknowledged that so far the heavenly personages have
appeared to be rather kindhearted and mild. Odin, in spite of his Druids
and their demands for bloody sacrifices, seems to have been full of good
intentions. The god Thor, with all his somewhat brutal ways, rendered
great services to mankind; and the same hammer, which protected them
against the giants, afterwards served, {188}without the aid of
geometry, to mark the boundary lines of their respective properties.
The golden-teethed god, Heimdall, gave most undoubted evidence of his
devotion to the human race and of his self-denial in his visits to the
Grandmother and the Great-grandmother, and so did the other gods. But we
had good reasons for not going through the whole list of the Ases. For
there is one whom we keep in reserve so that he may appear at the right
hour, and that is Loki, the god of evil and the genius of destruction.

Surpassing Odin himself in his magic skill, fair of form and features,
a smile on his lips--thin lips, however, the Edda adds--and apparently
possessed of the most jovial temper so as to make him a most agreeable
person, Loki is in reality a compound of the most hideous vices. He
is the representative of hatred and cruelty, of envy, hypocrisy, and
perversity. In fact, he is our Satan, before the fall. If he had been
king of hell, Miflheim and Nastrond would both have been filled with
more tortures and more horrors than all the other hells which are known
to men.

And yet he was the god upon whom the dwellers in Walhalla counted for
their entertainment, and whom they had surnamed the Clown!

One day an ancient prophetess returns to life, rises in her grave, and
utters a terrible cry: “Balder, {189}fair Balder, is going to die!”
 With these words she falls back again upon her mournful couch and dies
again--forever.

[Illustration: 209]

In the meantime this cry has been heard even at the top of the ash
Ygdrasil. The Ases are troubled and amazed; they meet, they look at
each other, thoroughly frightened, for on the life of Balder depends the
existence of all the other gods. Moreover, {190}Balder the Bright is
the glory of heaven and the love of the earth. Can Balder die, the most
charming and the purest as well as the most beautiful of all the sons of
Odin? He, who was so beautiful that Hela herself could not help smiling
when she looked at him--he, so pure that no falsehood could be uttered
in his presence and that a vessel containing an adulterated liquid would
break instantly at his approach--he, so charming that all the gods love
him as their favorite child, and that men have surnamed him Hope? No,
no! Balder shall not die, said the Ases.

His distressed mother Frigg, Odin’s wife, shows her apprehensions by
her intense anguish, and her sobs scarcely allow her to speak. She tells
those who try to laugh at the sudden alarm of all who have heard the
warning of the prophetess, that for several nights already she has
been repeatedly, persistently warned in her dreams of the death of her
well-beloved son. She would not believe it, she adds, but now she does
believe.

The divine sybil Vola, whose predictions have never proved untrue, and
Skulda, the Norn of the Future, are ‘summoned to appear. They consult
with each other and this is their decision:--

“Balder is in danger; Balder will die unless all earthly substances that
can inflict death, are rendered powerless.” {191}Frigg descends to the
earth and speaks to volcanoes and water-spouts, to frost and hail, and
they promise to spare her son. Among the aquatic powers, from the ocean
to the smallest brook, among the stones, from the mightiest rock to the
pebble, and among the metals, from gold to iron, there is none that does
not swear the same oath. The plants also promise, from the oak to the
smallest shrub and down to the humblest grass.

[Illustration: 211]

Triumphantly she returns to heaven to announce the good news. Everybody
is overjoyed. They celebrate the happy result of her journey by a family
dinner, at which Loki succeeds in exhilarating even Odin himself by his
merry jokes. He had never appeared in better spirits; had never seemed
to sympathize more warmly with the happy court.

When the feast was ended and the last cups were drained in honor of
Balder, some one proposed for the general amusement to try how far all
these substances, vegetable or mineral, will be faithful to the oath
they have sworn, when brought face to face with Balder. {192}Beginning
with the most inoffensive of them all, they throw at him a clod of
earth; the clod of earth breaks into a cloud of dust before it touches
him. Then they pour a pitcher of water over him and the water forms a
cascade above him without wetting even his garments. They try to strike
him with a hazel wand; the wand, slipping from the hand that holds
it, breaks in two. Balder is amused by the game and encourages the
bystanders to renew their attacks.

[Illustration: 212]

The skillful Uller shoots at him a pointless arrow, aiming, from
excessive caution, only at his shoulder. The arrow passes at a distance
of twenty feet from its aim and continues its flight through {193}the
air, like a bird in search of its prey beyond the clouds.

Ten other assailants meet the same fate, trying their luck with a
fragment of rock and a heavy branch in the shape of a club. But the
fragment was of stone and remembered the promise given to Frigg, and the
club was cut from a tree and the tree remembered the promise given to
Frigg.

Encouraged by so many reassuring trials, Freyr desired to try his magic
sword, but for once the faithful sword was deaf to his orders. Thor
brandished his hammer, but the hammer suddenly reversed its action and
well nigh made him fall back upon his heels. Freyr’s sword and Thor’s
hammer were both of iron and the iron remembered the promise given to
Frigg.

Loki took care not to appear.

The sport was over, as it seemed, when suddenly the blind god Hoder,
Balder’s own brother, was seen to advance, feeling his way, towards the
bright god. Hoder held in his hand a small bunch of leaves, a bit of
grass, at least it appeared such after the fearful instruments that had
just been brought into play.

Immense laughter, a laughter such as the gods of Homer were in the habit
of enjoying, broke out at the sight; Loki laughed till his sides shook
and Hoder himself shared the general hilarity. {194}But he drew
nearer and nearer, shaking his bit of verdure in the air; then, almost
tottering and having learnt from the bystanders in what direction he
would have to turn, he threw the slender twig against Balder, using his
full force, which was prodigious.

He hit Balder full in the chest and the god fell instantly. That bright
light which was always shining around him became extinct; he closed his
eyes, and lowered his beautiful brow deprived of its glory.....Balder
was dead!

He had been struck by a bit of mistletoe. Frigg had addressed her
prayers to the oak tree, but she had not thought of the mistletoe which
grows on the oak tree; the mistletoe had given no promise to Frigg. Must
we look here for a symbolic meaning? Did this mean, that the Druidical
mistletoe was soon to triumph over the gods of Scandinavia? This could
not be so, for at the time to which we have come, there was no trace
left of the wise worship of the Druids of the first epoch; the Druids of
the second epoch were fast losing their power, and the Scandinavian gods
were daily increasing in popularity, even beyond the banks of the Rhine.

But we ought not to interrupt this account of Balder’s death, which
is as poetical and as touching as the most famous fables of Greece.
{195}When blind Hoder, whose name must not be uttered, you remember,
hears the cries of despair which break out all around him, and encircle
him on all sides with maledictions, he is troubled and seriously
distressed. Then, all of a sudden joining in the distressed cries of the
Ases, he falls utterly overcome upon his brother’s body and denounces
Loki as the author of this calamity. Loki has reproached him for being
the only one who took no part in the amusements by which they thought to
honor Balder, and he it was who had not only given him the fatal
plant but who had also directed his arm. Loki was jealous of all the
perfections of Balder and he hated him as much as the other gods loved
him.

They look for Loki, but he has disappeared. No doubt he has tried to
escape from the vengeance of the Ases by seeking refuge in the mountains
among the giants, his natural allies, or perhaps in the deep sea, with
the serpent Iormungandur.

And whilst they thus lament, inquire, and investigate, Balder’s soul is
carried off by the black Alfs to Niflheim, the dark vestibule of hell.

Odin still cherished hopes that his dead son might be restored to him.
Upon his order Her-mode, the messenger of the gods, mounts his horse
Sleipner and goes to see Hela, but neither promises nor threats can move
the dread goddess. Fate has {196}decided, and Fate is above the gods, as
the gods are above men.

Then Frigg herself goes to see the pale goddess. Frigg weeps and the
merciless goddess is unable to keep her heart from softening when she
sees the tears of such a mother. She says to her:--

“Let all created beings--mind, I say, all created beings!--give a tear
to Balder, a tear such as you have’ shed in my presence, and Balder
shall be restored to you!”

Frigg was unwilling to trust any one but herself with the effort to
realize such hopes. Once more she went over the world, gathering around
her all the races of men, one after the other, and as she mentioned the
name of Balder, tears flowed from all eyes.

For three months she visited all the forests and all the mountains,
the seas and the lakes and the animals that live in the waters and the
mountains; and seas and lakes and mountains wept. She went even to the
abode of the giants, the enemies of the gods, and her grief made the
giants also weep; every tree wept and every rock wept.

Frigg thought her task was accomplished, and was filled with joy; but
she heard that in the far East of Midgard there lived an old woman in
the heart of a forest of iron trees. As she lived alone there, far
from any beaten track, she had never {197}become known to the intrepid
traveller. Now, however, Frigg sought her out by steep paths, cut up
with gullies and fierce torrents, and at last found her. When the mother
told her pitiful tale, the iron trees wept, but the old woman would not
weep.

[Illustration: 217]

{198}They called her Thorck, and her heart was ten times as hard as her
name.

“What do I care for your Balder?” she cried; “what do I care whether he
is dead or alive? You have other sons; I have not one left me. Once I
had four, and all four were my pride, my delight. They were so fair!
They were so tall! Your son Thor killed every one of them. I wept much
at that time. Now, it is all over. Look for tears elsewhere, I have no
tears to give to other people’s sorrows!”

Frigg bowed down before her, begged her, conjured her, and even fell on
her knees before her; but the old woman was inflexible. Balder had to
remain a prisoner with Hela.

Some interpreters of Scandinavian runes have been of the opinion that
the bereaved mother in the forest of iron trees was none other than
Loki himself, changed into an old woman. That thought, however, is
inadmissible. The Ases were beyond the reach of Hela, and Loki’s refusal
would not have rendered void the unanimous vote of all Nature, when
tears of pity and sympathy alone were to be given as votes. It is much
more plausible to suppose, that Loki had induced Thorck to refuse by his
counsels and by his enchantments; through him the heart of the old woman
had’ become iron as well as the trees of the forest in {199}which she
lived. Thus Loki had twice caused the death of Balder!

It was at this time that a strange, almost incredible report was for the
first time heard among men. The Druids whispered it cautiously into
the ears of the initiated, and voices were said to utter it in the air
during the night. This report, a terrible secret, a most unexpected
revelation, stated that the gods were about to die! Thor would die,
after seeing lightning become extinct in his hands; Odin himself would
die, and so would the others. The fate of each one of them was depending
on the fate of this fragile world over which they ruled, and this world
had to perish because Balder had perished.

What? Should the Universe change back into chaos? Was there no
all-powerful will that could arrest the process of destruction before
it was too late? But where could such omnipotent will be found, now that
the gods were no longer to be in existence?

Listen! listen to these verses from the Edda!

“Who is the most ancient among the gods?

“Alfader, that is, the universal father. He has always been and will
ever be; he governs all things, both big and small; he has made the
heavens, the earth and the gods. Odin created man, but Al-fader gave
him his immortal soul!” {200}Thus we come back to the pure essence of
an only god, who is ever the same, whether his name be Teut, Esus, or
Jehovah; the other gods are nothing but emanations proceeding from him,
living symbols intended to live for a few thousand centuries--that is
all.

“Do you hear? Do you understand now?

“Do you understand why the great ash tree Ygdrasil is continually
gnawed at its root by a dragon? Why four famished stags feed upon its
foliage? You understand? Well!

“But by what sign shall we recognize the approaching end of the
gods--that which the Edda calls their _twilight?_

“The most important among all the sacred books of the North, a volume
containing the prophecies of the divine sybil Vola, the _Voluspa,_ will
tell you.

“When the fatal moment draws near, their voice will cease to be able
to utter the accustomed chants, and the luminous brightness radiating
from their bodies will fade away little by little.

“When they leave their bath, their bodies will not dry at once, as they
do now, but remain moist; drops of water will continually drip from
them, and they will in this respect become like unto mortal men.

“In order to overcome these first symptoms of {201}indisposition, the
wife of the god Bragi, Iduna, will give them certain apples to eat,
which she keeps in reserve. These apples will have the effect of
strengthening them and of restoring to them a kind of fictitious youth
for a few thousand years perhaps.

“One day, however, their eyes will begin to wink; the next morning, upon
awaking, their eyelids will be found closed, and then they will turn red
and blear.

“At table, when proceeding to their usual libations, their slightly
tremulous hands will be unable to hold their cups steadily; some of the
wine or the hydromel will escape and their garments will remain stained.

“Woe to them if a grain of dust adheres to these stained garments!

“Woe to them still more, if the wreaths of flowers or of jewels begin to
fade and to wither on their brows!

“Finally, when the sweet perfumes which now are exhaled from their
bodies, change into acrid and sickening odors, there will be nothing
left for them but to make their last will.”

I am well convinced that this last phrase has been stealthily introduced
into the Voluspa by some kind of criminal and fraudulent trick. The
rest, however, is a faithful translation of the original {202}text, as
taken from the best authenticated editions.

[Illustration: 222]

“Then,” the prophecy continues, “then three sacred cocks, dwelling
in the three principal worlds, will crow and reply to each other,
announcing the _Twilight of Greatness._

“Then, everything on earth will be in disorder and confusion; families
will be at variance with {203}each other, the claims of blood will no
longer be acknowledged, and brothers will be arrayed against brothers.

“Adultery and incest, robbery and murder, will prevail among men, and
the age will be an age of barbarism, an age of the sword, an age of
tempests, an age of wolves!

“The wolves will be ready to devour the sun. Three long winters, with
no summers between them, will cover the earth with snow and ice; the
branches of the trees will give way under the immense burden; the sun
will be darkened more and more; the moon will dissolve into vapor and
the stars will go out; the mountains, shaking in their foundations, will
be tossed to and fro like reeds in a river; the earth will reject all
the plants, the trees, and the rocks which it now bears; the waters will
cast the fish upon the shore and with them their algae, their corals,
and even the bodies of shipwrecked men, hideous skeletons, whose
rattling bones will chime in grimly with the warning of the rising
flood.

“Then the sea will grow dark, and upon its waters there will be seen
floating that monstrous ship made of the nails of dead men. At the
rudder, Ymer, the giant, will stand, having been recalled to life for
a time, in order to assist Loki in scaling the heavens by the way of
Bifrost, the {204}rainbow, at the head of the other Giants of the Frost.

“Then Surtur the Black will arrive from the southern regions, from the
realm of fire, with all of his malignant demons, bearing torches and
ready to set heaven and earth on fire.

“Then Hela, the pale goddess of death, will set free her prisoners, the
wolf Fenris first of all, and march at the head of these monsters to
assist the powers of the South.

“Then the gods will take up their arms; Odin will gather them around
him, and with them the heroes from Walhalla; and the last battle will be
fought.”

But Vola’s prophecy has to be fulfilled; the gods must perish, and the
world with them.

Freyr dies in the flames of Surtur the Black; Thor succumbs to
the deadly embrace and the poisonous bites of the great serpent
Iormungandur; but, before dying, he kills it. Odin is torn to pieces by
the wolf Fenris.

During the struggle, the heavens have been scaled and the genii of fire
enter on horseback through the breach, while the giants shake the ash
Ygdrasil, which writhes uttering long sighs, and at last falls with
the heavenly vault which it has been upholding. The conquerors and the
conquered alike are crushed under the ruins, and the world {205}being
set on fire by Surtur the Black, vanishes in smoke.

Thus the night of the gods has to succeed to the twilight of the gods.

“O you, spirits of the mountains, do you know whether anything will
continue to exist?” asks the Voluspa, at the end of these mournful
prophecies.

It must be admitted that this sombre and terrible conception is not
without a certain poetic grandeur, a certain savage heroism, which we
cannot help admiring. In these verses the Edda is in no way inferior to
the most brilliant pictures drawn by Dante or by Milton, and more than
once it approaches nearly to the Apocalypse. Thus, as the inspired
Apostle saw a new heaven and a new earth, the Edda also announces the
coming of a time, when a new earth, more favored and more perfect than
ours, shall succeed the old earth.

“When the earth is thus broken to pieces and devoured by fire, what
shall happen next?

“There will come forth from the sea another earth, more beautiful and
more perfect.

“And will any of the gods survive?

“Balder will be revived and come forth from the place of departed
spirits, to rule over the new world under the guidance of the
imperishable Al-fader. {206}Then will be the reign of Justice.”

The mythology of the Scandinavians embraces, as we have shown, among
its symbols all the great phenomena of Nature, the continual struggle
between the two opposite principles, creation and destruction. Being,
besides, more complicated and more intelligent than the mythology of the
Gauls and the Germans, it deserved to fill a large space in our work,
and such a space we have accorded it cheerfully.

But why was it that the civilization introduced by Odin contributed as
little as the philosophy of the Druids to the real well-being and the
improvement of mankind? I think I see the reason.

In the eyes of the German as well as of the Scandinavian, God was only
just and rigid. The rule of the God of Love had not yet begun.
Perhaps Balder was to inaugurate it in that other world which the Edda
announced.

Do you hear? Do you understand?

Amid all the incidents which were to mark the general conflagration,
there is one which particularly recalls to our mind a great historical
event. Alexander of Macedonia once questioned certain Celtic ambassadors
and was told by them, that what they feared most upon earth, was the
falling down of the sky.

This apparently lofty answer filled the young {207}conqueror with
admiration, and it is still admired by modern students of history. It
was, however, in reality nothing more than a simple, naïve rendering of
one of their articles of faith; for all their prophetic books threatened
them with the destruction of the heavens.

Another detail, the complete destruction of this globe of ours, after
a series of fearful catastrophes, recalls to me, not exactly a great
historical fact, but a simple game of my childhood, which may have
been symbolic, nay, which may have come down to us from the Edda. This,
however, I state with great hesitation.

Did you ever know one of the merriest games, which was once very much
the fashion in city and country alike, when a firebrand, a burning
stick, or a bunch of straw set on fire, was quickly passed from hand
to hand? To prevent its going out, while you held it, you were bound to
pass it as quickly as possible to your neighbor, repeating at the same
time the expressive words: “_The little fellow is still alive_.” Your
neighbor passed it to his neighbor and thus it travelled all around,
always accompanied by the same, constant burden: “The little fellow is
still alive!” This game was transformed during the Middle Ages, in
the North, and especially in Bretagne, into the Torch Dance, as I have
mentioned before. {208}Now I imagine that this game, in some way or
other, prefigured the universal conflagration that was to come, and _the
little fellow_ was the world.

[Illustration: 228]

But we must make haste to reach our great scientific discussion.

[Illustration: 231]



VIII.

{211}_How the Gods of India live only for a Kalpa, that is, for the Time
between one World and another.--How the God Vishnu was One-eyed.--How
Celts and Scandinavians believed in Metempsychosis, like the
Indians.--How Odin, with his Emanations, came forth from the God
Buddha.--About Mahabarata and Ramayana.--Chronology.--The World’s
Age.--Comparative Tables.--Quotations.--Supporting Evidence.--A
Cenotaph._

My reader has had a lucky escape.

Determined as I was to fathom in this chapter the true origin of the
Scandinavian religion, and inspired by the zeal of a recent convert, I
had collected and compared every document that could aid me in proving
the Oriental descent of the priests of Odin as well as of the other
Druids. I {212}thought it was a beautiful doctrine, and especially an
entirely new one.

When I finished my chapter, which I thought was exceedingly well done,
I read it to Doctor Rosahl, expecting, I must confess, to be warmly
congratulated.

“Why, my dear sir,” he said, when I had finished, “you have made great
efforts to prove a thing which has been established long since. All the
master minds of France and Germany, to say nothing of other nations,
agree on that subject. I mean men like Fauriel, Lassen, Lenormand,
Ampere, Eichhoff, Saint-Marc Girardin, Marmier, Klaproth, Ozanam, the
two Rémusats, the two Thierrys, the two Humboldts, the two Grimms, not
to mention twenty others.

“Why will you come to their assistance after they have won the victory?
Do you merely wish to display your scholarship?”

I indignantly denied the charge, and seizing my manuscript with both
hands, I resolutely threw it into the fire.

A remnant of paternal weakness induced me, however, to retain the
summary of that famous chapter, and I have inserted it here in its
regular place, so that it might bear evidence of my wasted labor. As the
_corpus delicti_ is no longer in existence, this summary may stand there
like an inscription {213}on an empty tomb, to honor the memory of the
deceased.

My VIIIth chapter is thus changed into a cenotaph.

I--a scholar! Great God! Let the reader not be disturbed. My purpose
in writing this work was nothing more than to try and collect along the
banks of the Rhine all the curious myths which have survived the ancient
creeds of Europe; for they have all come to the great river. There the
traveller finds piled up, after the manner of alluvial layers, all the
ancient fables, all the marvelous and often childish tales to which
the credulity and lively imagination of our forefathers gave a ready
welcome. With the exception of a very few cases, in which the grave
nature of the subject lifts me necessarily into higher regions, I wish
mainly to tell you once more _Grandmamma’s Tales_. That is what we are
going to do next. The Edda itself has no other meaning, for _Edda_ means
the same as our _grandmother_.

No, I am too great a lover of tales of a tub ever to have claimed the
reputation of being a scholar; but at times I like to glean a little
where scholars have reaped. I have been shown the best spots, and I
pilfer as well as I can--that is all.

An ignoramus and a pilferer, I resemble a bee which might fly into a
botanical garden and, utterly {214}unacquainted with the Latin names
of flowers, carry off joyously a rich harvest, without pretending to be
able to make academic honey.

[Illustration: 234]

[Illustration: 237]



IX.

{217}_Confederation of all the Northern Gods.--Freedom of
Religion.--Christianity.--Miserere mei!--Homeric Enumeration.--Prussian,
Slavic, and Finnish Deities.--The God of Cherries and the God
of Bees.--A Silver Woman.--Ilmarinnen’s Wedding Song.--A Skeleton
God.--Yaga-Babcûs Pestle and Mortar.--Preparation for Battle.--The
Little Chapel on the Hill.--The Signal for the Attack.--Jesus and Mary._

It is high time for us to return to the banks of the Rhine, where the
two religions of Jupiter and Odin were about to meet face to face.
{218}At that time the terrible prophecies of the Edda were far from
being near their fulfillment; Odin had a long period of omnipotence yet
before him.

To the great surprise of the adversaries, the Romans, so far from
showing any alarm at his approach, received him and his retinue of
deities as old acquaintances.

According to their unchanging policy they would see in him nothing but a
Jupiter, and in fierce Thor another gallant Mars, somewhat sobered by a
long residence in northern countries and excessive use of beer.

The Romans looked, in fact, upon all of these Scandinavian gods and
goddesses simply as upon myths of their own that came back to them once
more.

The poets hallowed these claims and the historians tried to justify
them. According to some, Odin the Conqueror, a member of the family of
Ases, had first given to some of his conquests the name of Asia (which
might very well be so), and then receded before the Roman armies to cold
hyperborean regions. Here he had adopted the gods of his new conquerors,
hoping that they would, in return, make him victorious--which seems to
me in the highest degree improbable. According to others, the poet Ovid,
when Augustus had banished him to Scythia, had learnt the language of
the barbarians, {219}among whom he was living, and finding them willing
and eager to listen to him, had recited before them his “Metamorphoses.”
 This was all that was needed to induce the Scythians to make for
themselves gods after the model of the Roman gods.

[Illustration: 239]

Tacitus, Plutarch, Strabo, and a host of the most illustrious writers
never hesitated to give currency to such childish stories, ignoring
entirely the date of the Scandinavian religion.

As Rome, however, permitted no human sacrifices, the priests of Odin
and of Teut had at first withdrawn far from the beaten track, into the
depths of dark old forests. There they could live quietly, practice
without restraint the religion of their forefathers, and kill their men
in perfect security. At least such were their hopes. The Roman soldiers,
however, who handled the woodman’s axe {220}as readily as the sword, and
the spade as well as the spear, soon made big holes in these venerable
forests, murdered the murderers, and overthrew their blood-stained
altars.

[Illustration: 240]

{221}Occasionally it happened that the brave legionaries who were
employed in these hazardous enterprises, did not reappear. The
proconsuls, whose duty it was to keep Germany in order, would have liked
to inflict severe punishment; but just then the great reaction began to
set in, from the North against the South.

Whilst Rome was making efforts to establish her power in Germany,
certain German tribes, Franks and Burgundians, invaded France and began
to settle down in some of the conquered Roman provinces. The proconsuls
thought it both prudent and wise not to raise the question of religion;
and for a long time a truce was tacitly agreed upon between all the
different creeds, though not without some misgivings on both sides. Odin
had his altars by the side of those of Jupiter; a temple in honor of
Thor stood facing a temple dedicated to Mars, and if Bacchus, Diana, and
Apollo had their sacred days, Bragi, Frigg, and Freya had theirs also.

In spite of this general toleration, the parties watched each other
carefully.

Sooner or later a holy war had to break out; in certain regions it had
already begun, when fishermen of the Rhine busily drawing in their nets,
heard, for the first time, a still small voice coming down upon them on
the waters of the river, which whispered the names of Jesus and Mary.
{222}The same voice and the same names were simultaneously heard again
and again before Strasbourg, Mayence, and Cologne. It was Christianity
that was approaching.

[Illustration: 242]

These wondrous words, which now the river only {223}murmured, had soon
after been forced by some mystic power from the lips of the Druidesses
in their prophetic exaltation and from the priests of Jupiter, as they
consulted their auguries.

There was a Druid, who, in the act of sacrificing, was suddenly seized
with inspiration, and dropping the bloody knife felt impelled to cry
out: _Miserere mei, Jesus!_ and yet Latin had until then been an unknown
tongue among the Druids!

The nations stood expectant, waiting for the revelation of a new faith.

Soon a number of fugitives from Tolbiac, returning to the Rhine,
produced consternation in all hearts by the announcement that Clovis,
the king of the Franks, who had long been suspected of a secret
understanding with Rome, had gone over to the god of the Christians, and
that the god of the Christians was at that moment advancing at the head
of ten legions of destroying angels.

When this news came, the rival religions laid aside their jealousy,
and terrified by a common danger, joined hands to resist the invader.
A general appeal was made not only by the followers of Odin to those of
Jupiter, but also to the Northern gods, the Finnish gods, the Russian
gods, and the Slavic gods. The danger was threatening to all alike, and
they responded to the appeal and came to the Rhine. {224}We cannot so
rapidly pass over this vast Olympian assembly of gods, a poet’s dream,
it may be, but a traditional dream, full of strange and striking
splendor, which completes in a most unexpected manner the limited
description we have tried to give of Northern Myths.

[Illustration: 244]

At this grand meeting there appeared in the first place a goodly number
of Borussian or Prussian gods, among whom stood first and foremost
Percunos, the divine leader of the heavenly bodies; Pikollos, whose
face was as pale as Hela’s and whose duty was, like hers, to preside
over hell; exacting, however, from men nothing but prayers accompanied
by beating hearts, he cared nothing whether he was feared or beloved. A
third god, Potrympos, had the appearance of a youth, with smiling lips
and with a wreath of wheat ears and flowers on his brow; this was the
god of War. Of War? And what meant the smile on his lips and the wheat
ears on his brow? They indicated that he was also the god of public
supplies and even of love.

It seems that, in ancient Prussia, War was the purveyor-general and
supplied everything.

In the retinue of this great trio, we find Antrympos, the god of seas
and lakes; Poculos, the god of the air and of storms; then, after these
gods ending in _os_, came other deities ending in _us_; Pilvitus, the
god of riches, Auchwitus, the god of the sick, and Marcopulus, the god
of the nobles. The latter was the terror of the common people, whom he
held under an iron yoke. In order to {226}conciliate his good will, they
prayed to Puscatus, another god in us, but a kindhearted god. He
lived under an elder tree, and the price he exacted in return for his
mediation was the modest gift of a piece of bread and a _schoppen_ of
beer.

[Illustration: 246]

Although their priests were called Crives or Waidelottes, their
ceremonies were, nevertheless, mere imitations of those of the Druids.
The Borussians honored particularly the famous oak of Remowe, to which
Percunos, Pikollos, and Potrympos paid a daily visit. To these same gods
they offered their prisoners of war; but they were not sacrificed by
means of a knife after the German {227}Or the Scandinavian manner. They
destroyed them by fire or they gave them to be devoured to enormous
serpents who lived upon the altar and for the altar.

[Illustration: 247]

Now all these gods have come to Germany accompanied by their monstrous
reptiles, by griffins fearful to behold, and by demons summoned
from hell, all called upon to take part in the impending struggle.
{228}Almost at the same time with the Prussian gods arrived also the
Scythian gods and those of the Sarmatians, the former in chariots,
according to the manner of travelling which prevailed among those
nations. They also bowed low, like their people, before the all-powerful
Tahiti, the great representative of their religion, Fire. The Scythians
had evidently derived very little profit from hearing Ovid read his
“Metamorphoses.”

The others were but few in numbers; their representatives were their
chief triad: Perun, their Jupiter Tonans; Rujewit, who controlled the
clouds; and Sujatowist, the judge of the dead. These three brought in
their train only Trizbog and the Tassanis, that is, the plague and the
furies. Their other gods, unable to do anything for success in war, had
wisely stayed at home.

Can I neglect mentioning the names and attributes of these inoffensive
local deities, whom the fierce Sarmatians worshipped. They were:--

Kirnis, who causes the cherries to ripen;

Sardona, who watches over the nut trees;

Austeïa, who presides over the education of bees;

The sweet Kolna, who sees to the marriage of flowers.

There were also gods or goddesses of corn, of the kneading-tub and the
wash-tub, the god of flies and the god of butterflies; we must confess
that {229}these deities could hardly have been very useful on the banks
of the Rhine.

But Odin and Jupiter could count upon more efficient and more reliable
allies in the gods of Finland.

The gods bear almost always the impress of the character of their
followers and of those over whom they rule, and what other nation has
ever given such proofs of undaunted courage as the Finns or Finlanders?
Pirates on the Baltic, as the Scandinavians were pirates on the ocean,
they shared with them the booty that could be gotten in all the Northern
seas. They had originally come from the high table-lands of Asia,
together with their brethren the Turks, the Mongols, and the Tartars;
their first appearance was made under the name of Ugorians, Ogres, and
surely the Ogres have made a lasting and a terrible impression on bur
popular tales!

The Finns consisted almost exclusively of sailors and soldiers, of
miners and blacksmiths. To smelt iron and to fashion it into anchors
for their ships, into lances, swords, and spears, was their principal
occupation. Hence they paid special reverence to Rauta-Rekhi, the
personification of iron; to Wulangoinen, the father of iron, and to
Ruojuota, the nurse of iron. They worshipped in like manner with special
zeal three sombre virgins, whose powerful breasts were running over
with a dark milk, {230}which turned into iron as it cooled off, as water
turns into ice when it cools off.

Their principal gods, besides these whom I have mentioned, were again
three, and, as usual, three brothers.

The oldest, Vainamoinen, of hoary age, created celestial and terrestial
fire, that is to say, the sun and the volcanoes.

The second, Ukko, has to provide them with fire, so as to prevent the
earth from returning to the condition of an immense icicle, and the sun
to the form of a heap of extinct embers. Living in the clouds he now
blows upon the sun and now upon the volcanoes so as to keep up the blaze
in both, and encourages them with his voice, the thunder.

Ilmarinnen, the third, a very industrious and most skillful workman, has
forged the earth and the seven heavens by which it is surrounded; hence
he is called the _Eternal Blacksmith_. He spends his life at the forge,
making sometimes stars of all sizes and at other times spare moons.
He has even made a silver woman, not for himself, however, but for a
younger brother, whose manifold and incessant occupations left him no
time to take the necessary steps for a suitable marriage. This woman
of fine metal, well-made, beautiful, charming, and of the sweetest
disposition, had but one single defect,--no {231}one could come near her
without being chilled to the marrow of his bones.

However, the most skillful blacksmith cannot be expected to make a
perfect woman at the first trial.

When the question of his own marriage was mooted, Ilmarinnen preferred
taking a ready made wife, and, according to the usage which prevailed
among the Finns as well as among the Germans, he bought one.

For the sake of enjoying some relief after such a long enumeration of
deities, now entirely out of fashion, I feel strongly tempted to insert
here _a saga_, a Finnish legend, which treats of this very marriage of
Ilmarinnen, the blacksmith, and was composed by his own sister. In this
wedding-song, which is full of the sweetest and chastest sentiments,
she exhibits the domestic life of these artisan-gods, who sometimes were
disposed to beat their wives,--at least the saga suggests the occurrence
of such events.

Ilmarinnen has just been married and becomes impatient, he actually
swears at not seeing his young bride come to him in great haste. Listen
to what is sung to him, with an accompaniment on a small Kantele
guitar, by his sister, the hostess of Pohjola, in order to calm him the
better:--

“O husband, brother of my brothers, you have {232}already waited long
for the coming of this happy day; wait patiently a little longer. Your
well beloved will not tarry long. She finishes her toilet; but you know
it is far to the fountain to which she has to go for water.

“O husband, brother of my brothers, be patient! She has just put on her
robe, but she has only put on one sleeve. You would surely not have her
appear before you with one sleeve empty?

“O husband, she has just arranged her hair; a beautiful belt encircles
her waist, but she has a shoe only on one foot; she must needs have time
to put on the other shoe also.

“Husband,.... here she is coming,.... but she has put on only one
glove,.... give her time to put on the other!”

When the young bride appears at last, the good hostess of Pohjola is
suddenly deeply concerned for her:--

“O wife, O purchased maid, O dove that has been sold! My sister, my
poem, my green branch, how many tears you will shed!

“Your family were very eager to have the money paid down for you in the
hollow of a shield.

“Poor ignorant girl, you thought you were leaving the paternal roof for
a few hours, for a day, perhaps! Alas! You have surrendered forever, you
have a master now!” {233}And then turning once more to Ilmarinnen, she
adds:--

“O husband, brother of my brothers, do not teach this child, the slave,
whip in hand, the way she must walk.

“Do not make her cry under the rod or under the stick; teach her gently,
in a soft voice, with closed doors.

“The first year by words, the second year by a frown, the third year by
gently pressing her foot. Be patient!

“If, after three years, she is unwilling to learn, O husband, brother of
my brothers, take a few slender reeds, take a little broom-sedge,
chastise her, but with a rod covered with wool.

“If she still resists, well; cut a twig in the woods, a willow branch,
not too stout, and hide it beneath your garment. Let no one guess what
is going to happen.

“Above all, do not strike her hands nor her face; for her brother might
well ask you: Has a wolf bitten her? Her father might well say to you:
Has a bear torn her thus?”

Does not this Saga, with all its harsh allusions, breathe a most
touching tenderness? It seems that the most delicate sentiments
were preserved intact amid the coarsest manners and the most violent
passions. What was your name, O naïve muse of {234}Finland, who inspired
the good hostess of Pohjola? Were you not perhaps a daughter of those
beautiful Indian gandharvas, who said,--

“The elephant is led by a rope, the horse by a bridle, and a woman by
her heart.”

And does it not remind us of our humble and simple-minded neighbors,
when we hear how this Eternal Blacksmith, this first-class god who has
made heaven and earth, who buys a wife and beats her, expresses his fear
of the reproaches of his brother-in-law and his father-in-law?

After this pause we must go on describing the other armies of gods
who had hastened to the banks of the Rhine in order to resist a common
enemy.

By the side of the heavenly representatives of Scythia and Sarmatia,
of Prussia and Finland, we find other gods belonging to the different
Slavonic races. But why should we repeat here a complete list of all
this multitude of allies, whose curious names the most retentive memory
could not possibly retain?

Suffice it to say that the Lithuanians, the Moravians, the Silesians,
Bohemians, and Russians were represented at this meeting by their most
formidable deities. There was Ilia, the great archer, whose arrows hit
the mark after having passed through a thickness of nine fir trees;
Radgost, the {235}merciless destroyer; Flintz, the skeleton god, who
bore a lion’s head on his shoulders and drove a chariot of flames;
and the giant Yaga-Baba, whose head reached high above the loftiest
mountains. When a warrior was seized with fear before he beheld the
enemy, he immediately took him from the ranks and brayed him in a wooden
mortar with an iron pestle.

All four of them brought in their retinue whole battalions of Strygi
or blood-suckers, of voracious Trolls, Marowitzes, and Kikimoras, who
smothered their victims; of Polkrans and Leschyes, the latter a kind of
dwarf satyrs, who could at will change into giants, and the former half
men and half dogs, singing and barking alternately. Their songs,
as fearful as their barkings, spread terror around them, and they
themselves killed at a hundred yards’ distance by the venom of their
breath.

Such were the allies whom the Roman and Scandinavian gods arrayed
against Christianity.

When the new comers had been properly organized, Jupiter’s eagle rose
above the clouds, uttered three piercing cries, turning to the three
points of the horizon, and at once from the East, from the West, and
from the South, there came forth the gods of Rome and Greece, abandoning
their mysterious retreats. There was Neptune with his Tritons, his
Harpies, and his marine monsters; and {236}there was Pluto with his
Fates, his Furies, and his whole host from hell.

Odin struck his buckler, and from the far North came not only the gods
and the Valkyrias, with the heroes of Walhalla, but even the adversaries
of the Ases,--Hela, the wolf Fenris, the Giants of the Frost with Loki
at their head,--and all enlisted under him to take part in the immense
slaughter.

Never had the armies of a Darius, an Alexander, an Attila, or a
Charlemagne, presented a more imposing and more terrible aspect; nor has
the world ever seen the like since.

When the Sibyls and the Norns, the augurs and the witches had been
consulted, the march began.

A few miles from the other side of the river, in the direction of
Argentoratum (Strasbourg), about half way up the slope of a gentle hill,
there stood a little chapel which had not been quite finished.

The Sibyls and Druidesses had pointed out this building as the end of
the first day’s march, not doubting but that the god of the Christians
would appear at the head of his legions, to defend his temple.

The Confederates were advancing silently under cover of the night
in order to surprise the enemy, whom they thought fully prepared for
resistance. Odin was in command of the right wing of the {237}army,
Jupiter of the left. The Scythian, Sarma-tian, Borussian, and Finnish
deities under the orders of Tahiti, Perun, Percunos, Wainamoinen, and
Radgost, commanded the centre.

As soon as they came in sight of the hill, they noticed a very peculiar
twinkling light, which shone out from the deep darkness, and was
surrounded below by a circle of light.

Immediately the three light-footed messengers of the Roman, Slavonic,
and Scandinavian gods, Mercury, Algis, and Hermode, were sent out to
reconnoitre, accompanied by the Eumenides, the Valkyrias, and a small
detachment of Lapithes and Centaurs. When they returned they reported
that the light proceeded from the flaming swords of ten thousand
destroying angels. They were quite sure of it.

Some of the allies immediately rushed forth, as is the usage in all epic
battles, to challenge the chiefs of the angels to single combat. But
Jupiter and Odin, thinking that all these private contests can only
jeopardize the success of the great battle, compelled them to obey
orders.

Thor, who had been one of the first to rush forth, was so much
disappointed, that in his anger he let his heavy mace fall upon a little
town that was on their route, and that might possibly have impeded the
progress of the army. The mace {238}instantly returned to the hand of
the owner, and then fell and returned again and again.

[Illustration: 258]

The barking of Cerberus, the three-headed dog, of his brother dog Garm,
and the howlings of the Strygi, the Kikimoras, and the Polkrans.

This was by no means all of the concert.

Mars, Odin, Potrympos, and the other war-gods now drew their swords,
which produced a fearful grating sound as they came out of their
sheaths; next Jupiter sounds his thunder among the Romans, and after him
thunder Perun among the Slaves, Ukko among the Finns, and Thor among
the Scandinavians. The repeated crash of thunder. And thanks to this
incident, the plain had been cleared and levelled at the same time, and
the signal for the attack was given at once. The Corybantes beat their
drums in muffled tones; the chants of the Bards and the Skalds responded
from the right and the left wing, although their harps were soon drowned
in the bleat of the trumpets, the furious {239}lightning mingles with
the rumbling of the chariots of Tabiti, of Flintz, the skeleton god,
and of Pocu-los and Stribog, the gods of waterspouts and of Northern
tempests; the Egipans, the Cyclops, the blacksmiths of Ilmarinnen, begin
to push immense masses of rock before them, brandishing entire oak trees
as spears; while the Giants of the Frost with fearful clamor, which is
taken up by the whole army of invaders, follow them, led by the equally
gigantic Yaga-Baba, the terrible conductor of such an infernal concert,
who marks the time by beating with his iron pestle upon his wooden
mortar.

[Illustration: 259]

All these fearful noises, all these echoing explosions, seem to confound
heaven and earth; the {240}horizon trembles and shakes, the mountains
start and stagger.

But the holy hill stands unmoved.

The light which at first shone only at the base has gradually risen as
high as the summit, and the little chapel now shines brightly like a
brilliant constellation.

Surprised at seeing no enemy appear, the army of the pagan gods makes a
halt.

Suddenly, O miracle! lifted up as if by a gust of wind from on high,
the little chapel vanishes, and in its place is seen a simple altar
surmounted by a cross.

Before this altar stands a young maid, showing neither ornament nor
weapon of defense,--a Virgin barefooted, with a child in her arms.

She comes down the hill, a smile on her lips; the brilliant light still
encircles her brow and the brow of the infant; she comes straight up to
the allied gods, who begin to look at each other in utter consternation.

She draws nearer, and all of a sudden an irresistible panic seizes
Jupiter and Odin, Mars and Thor, Wainomoinen and Perun, together with
the Eumenides, the Tassanis, the Cyclops, and the Giants, and all turn
back towards the river, cross it in fearful disorder, and crush each
other in their desperate flight, while their own temples and {241}their
own statues fall to pieces in the universal destruction.

Some of these were buried in the Rhine, where we shall hereafter find
them once more; the remainder reached in sad condition their northern
homes, abandoning almost the whole of Germany to Jesus and Mary.

It is but right to notice that in all the traditions which speak of this
struggle between the gods and the rising religion of Christ, no mention
is ever made of the Teut and the Esus of the Celts, the Alfader of the
Scandinavians, the Jumala of the Finns, and the Bog of the Slaves,--nor
is the Unknown God of the Romans ever mentioned. The reason is that
each one of these grand deities, like the Indra of the Indian heaven,
contained all the others and represented to the mind the idea of the
only one eternal God.

This grand but vain effort of the pagan gods was made, according to
tradition, about the year 510 of the Christian era. In the course of the
same year King Clovis determined to erect a temple in honor of Christ
which should be worthy of Him, and laid the foundation of the Minster
at Strasbourg, perhaps with a design to replace the little chapel, which
had disappeared in so miraculous a manner.

[Illustration: 265]



X.

{245}_Marietta and the Sweet-briar.--Esus and Jesus.--A malgam--
A Neophyte.--Prohibition to eat Horse-flesh.--Bishops in
Arms.--Interruption.--Come Home, my Good Friend!--Prussia and the Myths
of the Middle Ages.--Tybilimts, the Black God.--The little Blue Flower._

All who know me and esteem me will testify to my great natural modesty.
Even when I have {246}to do with fables, I would not venture to
invent the smallest thing; I am incapable of committing such a crime.
Nevertheless, some of my incredulous readers, when they see the
marvelous nature of the poem, in which the triumph of Jesus and Mary
over the allied pagan gods was celebrated, might possibly fancy it to be
a product of my imagination. In self-defense I feel bound to quote here
one of the countless traditions which allude to this great event. I once
more borrow from the Muse of the Finns.

“There lived in those days a virgin who was so pure, so pure and chaste,
that her eyes had never seen anything but the eyes of her sisters, that
her hands had never yet touched a being in creation for the purpose of
caressing it.

“She lived alone in her chamber, in company with her distaff, and
ignorant of what happened even within the narrow circle of shadows which
the sun traced around her house, and the image of a man was as foreign
to her eyes as it was to her mind. Her thoughts and her eyes had alike
kept their chastity perfect.

“She was called Marietta.

“One day, on a fine spring morning, Marietta felt a vague and
incomprehensible desire to enjoy the beauties of Nature. Her heart rose
within her with strange emotion. {247} “Impelled rather by a desire of
her own than by a command from on high, she opened her door and hastened
to a meadow inclosed with a hedge, which was near the house.

“In this hedge a sweet-briar was in bloom. She drew near to inhale the
fragrance; she touched the flower, and that was all that was needed.
Marietta became a mother, and when her son was born she felt by the
boundless pride that filled her heart, that she had given birth to a
god.

“In the mean time the other gods of her own country and of the adjoining
countries had been warned by their prophetesses that this child, born
of a virgin and a flower, would one day drive them out of heaven; they
assembled, fully armed and determined that mother and child must both
die so as to prevent the threatened catastrophe.

“At the moment when they were holding their secret councils, Marietta
appeared in their midst holding her infant in her arms, and all these
gods, who had until now wielded such absolute power, fled in dismay to
the far North, and the icy gates of the North Pole closed behind them.”

This is the story of Marietta and her child Jesus.

It would certainly seem as if this naïve account, well known among the
ancient legends of Finland, was nothing less than a slight sketch of
that great epic poem which we have laid before our readers. {248}We have
only filled out the details by the aid of similar documents.

Henceforth Christianity enjoyed the results of that great day at
Argentoratum. At a later period the conquered gods, it is true, showed
once more signs of resistance on isolated points, but from the first,
this triumph of Mary and Jesus, and perhaps also the victories obtained
by King Clovis, changed the first dawn of Christianity in Germany into a
kind of purifying conflagration, which spread rapidly from the Rhine to
the Weser and from the Weser to the Danube.

Curious circumstances sometimes came to its assistance. Thus, many
Teutons had been taught by their Druid teachers to acknowledge but one
single God, and this primitive doctrine naturally reconciled them to
the new creed. But, more than that, the particular god whom they thus
acknowledged, was called _Esus_, almost Jesus! Others had followed the
example of the Slaves and worshipped the handle of their swords, which
bore the form of a cross; they naturally recognized in the Christian
cross a familiar emblem of protection and safety. Even baptism was in
no way distasteful to the followers of Odin. They readily adopted, it in
memory of the regular and regenerative ablutions with water which their
ancient creed prescribed. Odin had said to them in the Runic chapter of
the {248}Edda: “If I wish a man never to perish in combat, _I sprinkle
him with water soon after his birth?_”

Finally, this just man, put to death by wicked men, this risen Christ,
reminded them forcibly of their own god Balder. Evidently the predicted
time had come. Balder, the ancient prisoner of Niflheim, was about to
renew the world; in his new shape, the Bright God was no longer the son
of Frigg; he was now Mary’s son and his name was Jesus.

This disposition, however, although plainly shown in many parts of
Germany, was by no means unanimous.

At the table of King Clovis, the bishops, and Saint Reni himself, were
compelled to sit by the side of Scandinavian Druids. When they intoned
their Benedicite, the latter never failed to pour out their libations
in honor of Asa-Thor and Asa-Freyr. In spite of all the heroic and
indefatigable efforts of the priests, polytheism survived even among the
new converts, who would walk devoutly in the processions of Christian
worship, while they carried their idols and their fetishes under their
arms, and who never failed to make the sign of the cross when
they passed a tree or a spring that had been held sacred by their
forefathers. What could be done to make them sincere and orthodox
Christians? {250}Liberty, in the sense in which we understand it now,
and have good reason to understand it, would have appeared to a Teuton
or a Slave as a beautiful woman, with a wooden yoke around her neck and
all her limbs in chains. Germany had her laws, as well as every other
Northern country her written or unwritten laws, but the dignity of a
freeborn man consisted mainly in disregarding these laws. The free man
left his country, to engage in war wherever he chose, and his family,
to live in any country he might prefer. It was the same thing with
religious matters; he reserved to himself his independent judgment,
the right to worship as he chose and the privilege of combining such
articles of creed as pleased him.

This curious freedom of religion, this curious amalgamation of creeds,
produced the strange result, that the neophytes especially remained half
pagan and half Christian, and preferred generally to “ride on the fence”
 between the two creeds.

In the Nibelungen Lied, which we look upon as nothing more than a great
epic poem of the Scandinavians, pagan at first but Christianized at
a later period, men are represented as going devoutly to church after
having consulted the Nix of the river as to their future fate. This is,
no doubt, a true picture of the Germany of the early Christian days.
{251}Some looked upon baptism, with its magnificent and pompous
ceremonies, as a pleasure; others submitted to it for a consideration.
Ozanam, who is exceedingly well informed about everything that refers
to this curious period of transition in point of religion, tells the
following anecdote:--

[Illustration: 271]

One day there was a crowd of candidates for baptism; each one of them
was, as usual, dressed in white, as emblematic of purity. This symbolic
dress, made of a suitable material, was a present from the Church to
the neophyte, which he had carefully to preserve as an evidence of his
conversion.

Now, on that day, all the available robes had been given away, when one
more candidate for baptism presented himself; the priest found at last a
robe of light color, but unfortunately in wretched condition.

“What do you mean?” exclaimed the neophyte, angrily drawing back; “have
I not a right to claim a white robe as well as the others, and one of
fine wool?” and looking furiously at the priest he added: “Do you think
I am a man to be taken {252}in? This is the twentieth time that I am
baptized, and I have never been offered such rags before!”

The naïve candor of this good Teuton could make me almost believe that
he misunderstood the nature of the ceremony altogether, and looked upon
it only as a gratuitous distribution of wearing apparel.

Other more painful mistakes were made when the Christian missionaries,
crossing rivers and seas at the risk of their lives, went to the
uttermost confines of Germany, and there encountered half savage nations
who were still worshipping the Scandinavian gods.

The patient zeal, the gentleness, and the eloquence of these holy men,
succeeded finally in overcoming the convictions of these barbarians, and
in introducing among them not only the Gospel, but also the worship of
saints. The people received baptism, and not only welcomed the saints
with great eagerness and enthusiasm, but in their desire to do them all
the honor in their power, they hastened to turn every one of them into
a god! They erected altars to these new gods, and on these altars they
offered them human sacrifices.

These same missionaries had been instructed to prohibit the use of
horseflesh among the new converts; but they found it very difficult
to overcome a custom which at that time was very general. {253}We can
hardly, at the present day, understand the importance which the Church
attached to this abstinence, since now-a-days the best of people are
perfectly willing to allow their horses to be taken from their stables
for the purpose of being served up at table!

[Illustration: 273]

The most serious difficulty in all such critical periods is this, that
while the true and faithful clergymen by their prodigious labors and
admirable self-devotion succeeded in converting and disciplining
great multitudes, false priests appeared among them, taking forcible
possession of parishes and bishoprics, often without waiting till they
became vacant. Pepin of Heristal and Charles Martel, his son, had just
compelled the pagan Saxons to take refuge behind the Weser. When the
war was over and they proceeded to dismiss the commanders of {254}this
numerous army till the beginning of another campaign, as was the custom
in those days, the majority among them claimed, as a reward for services
rendered, the right to exchange the sword for the crozier and the helmet
for the mitre. They evidently thought that the profession was an easy
one to practice and rich in rewards.

Pepin and Charles resisted, but they had to give way.

To the great disgust of the newly converted populations and to the great
injury of the holy cause, which they professed to have served, these
warrior-priests brought with them into the Church the manners of
the camp and the fortress. They surrounded themselves with squires,
falconers, and riding-masters, with horses and hounds; they hawked, they
hunted, they lived high, giving themselves up to all kinds of excesses,
and drawing the sword against any one who should venture to reproach
them.

When war began once more, they almost all returned to arms, without,
on that account renouncing their ecclesiastic duties. Gerold, Bishop of
Mayence, perished in a battle against the Saxons; his son succeeded
him on the episcopal throne, and had hardly been consecrated when
he proceeded to avenge his father. He rushes into battle, challenges
Gerold’s murderer, kills him, and quietly returns to {255}Mayence for
the purpose of officiating there at Mass and of returning thanks to God
for his success.

Such acts of violence and such worldly enjoyments were incomprehensible
to the faithful; gradually the Church of the Apostles began to fear
the Church of the Soldiers. The Saxons, having vastly increased their
numbers by an alliance with the Scythians and Scandinavians, appeared
once more in the field.

“But,” exclaims the reader, whom I fancy I hear at this distance, “but
this is history, church history moreover, and you told us you would tell
us all about gods!”

I confess I did, sir; and that is the reason why I have traced out, on
this historical ground, the narrowest and shortest possible path, on
which I can safely return to my own domain.

“Well, then, let us return, my good friend.”

I beg your pardon, sir, but before we return, allow me at least
to glorify three men, who were called upon at that time to save
Christianity, and with it civilization, by the pen, the word, and the
sword. These equally great and equally heroic men are now three of our
saints.

“Saints again!”

Yes, sir, the first is Pope Gregory, the second Saint Boniface the
missionary, and the third the Emperor Charlemagne. Do not be afraid; I
shall {256}do no more than mention them, for fear of going again out
of my way and of speaking of forbidden subjects, against which you have
warned me. Allow me, however, to add that if the struggle which the
great Emperor undertook, was a long and ter-tible one, it was also
glorious far beyond all. Was it not marvelous, I ask you, to see
this nation of Franks, which but just now consisted of a mixture of
barbarians, go forth under the command of their young king, to become
the protector of Rome, of civilization, and of Christianity? The mace
had become a shield, the siege-ram a wall and a rampart.

“Of course! Everybody knows that!”

But, did you know this, sir: When the Saxons, conquered for the tenth
time, had received baptism, together with their king Witikind, when the
Rhine, also baptized, had become a French river and a Christian river,
when the whole of Germany bowed low before the cross, one of the nations
of that country, the Borussians (Pruszi, or Prussians), refused to give
up their old gods, and continued to refuse for several centuries to
come? And yet it was so. The proscribed gods, finding a refuge on the
banks of the Oder and the Spree, paid frequent visits, as was quite
natural, to their former followers. It was thus that the old pagan creed
was long preserved in the remote regions of Germany. You see, sir, I
have returned to my subject. {257}Let us rapidly conclude this first
part of our task, so as to reach at last the modern gods, who were as
popular as the others, and in their way neither less strange nor less
curious.

During the time of the Middle Ages, Germany had been filling up with
towns and castles, feudal dungeons bearing aloft a helmet and a
cross. The cross arose wherever two streets met in a city and at every
cross-road in the country; the most beautiful cathedrals in the world
and the most magnificent monasteries were reflected in her broad river;
and still, in field and forest, in city and country, and along the banks
of the Rhine, the false gods were worshipped in secret.

As the church taught that they were to be looked upon as demons, the
people dared not treat them badly. Demons are not guests to be turned
out rudely.

“From the eighth century of our Christian era,” says one of our erudite
authorities, “the Saxons and Sarmatians heard the Christian missionaries
speak so continually of the formidable power of Satan, that they thought
it best to worship him secretly in order to disarm his wrath and perhaps
to win his favor. They called him the Black God or _Tybilinus_; the
Germans call him, even now, _Dibel or Teufel_.”

This Black God now became for all the German {258}nations the army
leader of their proscribed gods, an army which was presently to be
largely increased.

The princes and knights, followed by their vassals, departed in large
numbers, on the Crusades, but they brought back from the Crusades,
together with holy relics, traditions of Gnomes, Peris, and Undines.

[Illustration: 278]

The Rhine, disgusted at the loss of his royal dignity, and determined to
take his vengeance on the warrior-bishops, received these last arrivals
as he had those who came before. In his healing waters the Undines
mingled with the Tritons and the Naiads; the Gnomes found shelter under
the rocks, where they were hospitably received by the Dwarfs, and in the
evening twilight the Nymphs, the Elves, and the Dryads danced once more
merrily in company with Sylphs, Fairies, and Peris.

No doubt Christian Germany looked afterwards at all this more in the
light of food for the imagination than of trouble for the conscience,
but in that happy land, where people believe and dream {259}at the same
time, and where the words of the poet are as true as the Gospel, the
imagination easily gets the better of conscience. Thus the search after
the little blue flower led many a learned man astray, far off into half
satanic paths. Besides, it lies in the nature of the German mind, which
has always a tendency towards idealism, its magnetic pole, to oppose to
the orthodox religion another more secret and more mysterious creed.

[Illustration: 279]

This was the case already in the fourteenth and {260}fifteenth century;
it is the case still in this, the nineteenth century, especially among
the country people, who have passed through the age of witchcraft in
which the Black God ruled supreme, and, completely modifying their pagan
notions, have transferred their Olympus to the Brocken, the mountain of
the Witches’ Sabbath.

Let us now see what the dwellers on the banks of the Rhine have done
with all their old gods and demi-gods of every denomination.

[Illustration: 283]



XI.

{263}Elementary Spirits of Air, Fire, and Water.--_Sylphs,
their Amusements and Domestic Arrangements.--Little Queen Mab.
--Will-o’-the-Wisps.--White Elves and Black Elves.--True Causes of
Natural Somnambulism.--The Wind’s Betrothed.--Fire-damp.--Master
Haemmerling.--The Last of the Gnomes._

The reader is requested to recall what I have said before, that in
Germany manners, customs, and creeds, matters of prejudice as well as
matters of art, and even of science, may have a beginning, {264}but
never have an end. In that ancient home of mysticism and of philosophy,
everything is permanently rooted, everything is made for eternity, like
those old oak trees of the Hercynia of antiquity: when the parent tree
is cut down, and has no longer a trunk to bear boughs and branches,
it sends forth new shoots from the roots. Druidism also has become
permanent there. We have seen it fight against the gods of the Romans;
it fought in like manner against Christianity under Witikind; it was
kept alive, though in concealment, by the first iconoclasts or image
breakers, and when that whole vast country was at last conquered and
became wholly devoted to Catholicism, it broke forth once more quite
unexpectedly in the first days of the Reformation. Luther was a Druid
still.

Thanks to this tenacity of life which characterizes creeds, and thanks
to the prolific nature of that soil, whatever seems to have disappeared,
rises again, under new forms, and whatever has perished is recalled to
life in some way or other. Let us prove this.

Among all those gods which we have mentioned before, none surely would
seem to have been more readily forgotten, swept away by the wind, which
they claimed to render useless, or buried in the dust with which they
seemed to compete, than those tiny, microscopic deities, called Monads.
{265}And yet this was by no means the case. Did they not, in fact,
represent the elementary spirits? And the worship of the elements
continued in spite of all other creeds which tried to suppress it
forever.

Only these atomic deities, still quite small, exceedingly small, had
increased in the most astonishing manner, when compared with their
original diminutiveness. They had even assumed a form and a body, a
visible body and a shape by no means void of grace.

They had become Alps or Alfs, better known afterwards under their
Eastern designation of Sylphs.

It happened occasionally that a belated traveller, a peasant or a
charcoal burner, returning homeward from a wedding towards the beginning
of night, would be fortunate enough to meet at a clearing in the woods
or on the banks of a brook with a band of little goblins, who were
making merry in the dim twilight.

These were Sylphs, a little people flying in swarms through the air,
making their nest in a flower or building one with a few bits of grass
at the foot of a broom-sedge, and going out only in the evening to pay
visits and as good neighbors to perform their social duties.

If the traveller, the peasant, or the charcoal burner {266}had walked
softly on the fine sand of the brook or on a grass-grown path on which
his steps could not be heard, and if he had then stopped in time so as
to be able to see without being seen, he might witness their gambols and
ascertain the secrets of their private life, without running any risk.

[Illustration: 286]

Have you, dear reader, have you heard Mercutio, in Shakespeare’s “Romeo
and Juliet,” relate how Queen Mab came, and say:--{267}

     “Oh, then, I see, Queen Mab hath been with you.....
     Her wagon spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
     The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
     The traces of the smallest spider’s web,
     The collars of the moonshine’s watery beams,
     Her whip of cricket’s bone, the lash of film,
     Her wagoner, a small, gray-coated gnat!”

Well, the peasant, the traveller, or the charcoal burner, enjoyed a
sight which was by no means less curious.

Some of his Sylphs, suspending a thread of gossamer from one blade of
grass to another, made a delightful swing for their amusement, or took a
spiders web to supply them with a hammock. Others danced wildly about
in the air, beating their tiny wings with harmonious accuracy and
furnishing thus an orchestra for the aerial ball.

Not far from them some little sylph ladies, no doubt excellent
housekeepers, were washing their linen in the beams of the moon, or
preparing a feast.

The provisions consisted of a mixture of honey with the nectar of
flowers, a few drops of milk which the hanging udders of young heifers
had left on the high grass, and a few pearls of that precious dew which
aromatic plants secrete; this mixture was used as a seasoning for some
butterfly-eggs beaten up white as snow.

If during the repast darkness fell upon them and {268}suddenly
covered the guests with its sombre cloak, other hobgoblins, the
Will-o’-the-Wisps, with wings of fire, came and took seats at the
hospitable table, paying for their entertainment by diffusing a pleasant
light all over the place.

The principal occupation of these elves consisted in walking before
the wanderer who had lost his way so as to lead him back again into the
right path.

Such were some of the harmless spirits of Air and Fire. Everything
has, however, been changed in these two elements. The Will-o’-the-Wisps
especially, angry at the reports of wicked people, that they are nothing
more than the products of burning hydrogen, or at best phosphorus in
a volatile form floating above damp places, have conceived a veritable
hatred against men and now only appear when they wish to tempt
travellers into marshes and deep ravines.

As to the Sylphs, they also seem to have heard similar stories which
have been told about them, or they may have been irritated by the
chemist Liebig, who in his “Treatise on the Composition of the Air,”
 absolutely denies their existence, having found in his apparatus neither
Sylphs nor Sylphides.

They have changed into faithless Elves, hostile to men, like the other
Gnomes.{269}

[Illustration: 289]

{271}The Fairies of our day are divided into two formidable classes.

The White Fairies are damsels who wander about on meadows and in woods,
like the Willis of the Slaves, and lie in wait for inexperienced young
men, whom they persuade to join in their dances and keep dancing, till
they lose their breath and generally fall to the ground never to rise
again. German stories are full of such wicked tricks. The place where
they perform their diabolic dances, becomes quite silvery under their
feet. The shepherds can thus at once recognize the place where they have
been, and are sure to hasten away at once with their flocks.

[Illustration: 291]

The Black Fairies personify Nightmare and Somnambulism, but only Natural
Somnambulism, it must be borne in mind. {272}When men fall into this
state, the Black Elf directs all the motions of the sleeper; he lives in
him, thinks and acts for him, makes him get upon the furniture and climb
upon roofs, and keeps him from falling, unless... Poor sleeper, he allowed
them breath enough to swell the sails of a vessel or to chase the clouds
from one end of the heavens to another.

Among the Celts all magicians had been able to command the winds and
the tempests at will; even now certain men in Norway and in Lapland will
sell you, for a small price, the wind you desire to carry you home.

Careful! The Black Fairies are treacherous and cruel; the Fairy who
controls you for the moment may at any moment take a fancy to throw you
from your height.

[Illustration: 292]

The Alfs, who have thus become Elves or Fairies, are of course not the
only Spirits of the Air; their fragile and delicate structure would
never have al{272}In Germany, on the contrary, the wind was looked upon
as an elementary power. It was not deified, as in Rome, where there was
a whole windy family of gods, like Eurus, Æolus, Boreas, and Favonius,
but it was an important personage, with a will of his own and
independent action. The poets did their part to give importance to
_Master Wind._

I have in my hand a ballad, which will enable the reader to judge for
himself:--

“Gretchen, the pretty miller’s daughter, was courted by the son of the
king. Her father, the miller, knowing that kings’ sons are not apt to
marry, had chosen her a husband, a young flour merchant from Rotterdam.

“The Dutchman was on his way up the Rhine; that very evening he was
expected to arrive, to make his proposals.

“Gretchen called upon Master Wind to help her; he came in by the window,
but not without breaking a number of panes.

“‘What do you wish me to do?’

“‘A man wants to marry me, against my will; he is coming in a sail boat;
contrive it so that he cannot land at Bingen.’

“The wind blew, and blew so well that the boat, instead of coming up to
Bingen, was driven back again as far as Rotterdam. {274} “At Rotterdam
also it could not make land; it was driven into the North Sea, and there
the Dutchman is perhaps still sailing about at this day.

“But Master Wind had made his conditions before he went to work blowing
so well; and the pretty miller’s daughter had agreed to them without
hearing them, for all around her the furniture, the doors, and the
blinds were shaking and rattling furiously, thanks to her visitor. Thus
it came about that poor Gretchen found herself betrothed to Master Wind,
which made her very sad, for now she had less hope than ever of marrying
the king’s son.

“However, Master Wind was as gallant towards his fair betrothed as he
could be. Every morning, when she opened her window, he would throw
her in beautiful bouquets of flowers which he had torn off in the
neighboring gardens.

“If any young man of the village, whom she had rejected, passed without
saluting her, Master Wind was promptly at hand to carry off his hat
and send it up in the air so high, that soon it looked no bigger than a
lark. It was well for him that Master Wind did not, with the hat, take
his head off at the same time.

“One day (when Master Wind must have been asleep), the king’s son came
to the mill, made his {275}way without difficulty to Gretchen’s chamber,
and forthwith desired to kiss her. Gretchen did not object. But at once,
and although out of doors all was quiet, the tables and chairs performed
a wild dance, and the doors and windows began to slam as if they had
been mad.

“Gretchen herself began to twirl around and around in the most
unaccountable manner; her hair was loosened by an invisible hand and
whisked about her head with strange rustling and dismal whistling.

“Terrified by the sight of a tempest in a close room, the prince
cried:--

“‘Ah! accursed one, you are the betrothed of Master Wind!’

“And at the same moment a terrible gust of wind carried off the king’s
son, the miller’s daughter, and the mill, and no one ever saw or heard
anything more of them.

“Perhaps they went to join the Dutchman, who was all the time sailing
about in the North Sea, or the hat, which was still on its way in the
clouds.”

The legend does not tell us whether it was before or after this
occurrence that Master Wind married Mistress Rain.

So much for the Spirits of the Air.

As for the Spirits of the Fire, it must be remembered {276}that the
Will-o’-the-Wisps were by no means their only representatives. There
were also Salamanders, too well known to be described here; and St.
Elmo Fires, near relations of the Will-o’-the-Wisps. But we must pause
a moment to speak of the formidable Fire-damp, the miner’s terror. The
remarkable feature about it is that it plays so insignificant a part in
the popular German myths, although it has destroyed so many victims in
all mountainous countries, and above all in the Hartz mountains.

This subterranean lightning, far more fatal than that of the upper
regions, is known to the people of the Rhine simply as a tall monk, whom
they call Master Haemmerling.

Master Haemmerling visits the mines from time to time in the guise of a
harmless amateur, or of an inspector, who is not fond of being hurried.
However, on Fridays especially, he is subject to violent attacks of
anger. If a laborer handles his pickaxe awkwardly, or if he is insolent
to his master, or the master harsh to him and requiring too much, he is,
quick as a flash of lightning, between them when they are as yet half
way under ground. Then he suddenly draws his long legs together, and
between his two knees crushes their heads with as little hesitation and
ceremony as a mother would show in destroying between her two thumbs the
{277}little hateful insect that has troubled her darling child.

Nothing more need be said of the elementary spirits of Air and Fire;
but as we have followed Master Haemmerling into the lower depths of
the mountains, we might just as well remain there a while and make the
acquaintance of the Gnomes, the Spirits of the Earth.

Can you see, through the dense air which fills these immense caverns,
the long, gigantic stalactites, reaching from the ceiling to the
floor and strongly impregnated with iron? They are the columns of this
subterranean palace, and around these stalactites, peaceful, slumbering
waters form a kind of little lakes, the shores of which look as if they
were covered with rust.

Here and there, in the damp low grounds, half choked with ore and slag
of various kinds, dark reeds are growing in the shape of lizards; like
lizards they bend backwards, moving their heads from side to side and
showing thus the diamond eye which shines brilliantly at the extreme
end.

These dark depths seem to teem with fantastic creatures; close by a
heap of grains of gold, stands immovable a watchful, silent guardian,
a griffin; a pack of black dogs, also guardians of the treasures hid in
this world of precious metals and {278}stones, are roaming incessantly
along the ceiling. On the sloping sides, dwarfs not larger than
grasshoppers, and jumping about like peas in the sieve of the winnower,
are gathering right and left the tiny gold and silver spangles which
are left at their disposal, while enormous toads are posted about as
watchmen.

Finally, far back in the remotest part of these abysses the kings of
this empire are moving about; these thick-set men, with stout limbs and
monstrous heads, are the Gnomes.

But people hardly believe in Gnomes any longer; the hard-working miners
who ought to come every day in contact with them, deny their existence,
and they have gradually passed into the class of fabulous beings.

Still, I am told that as recently as last year, a pretty peasant girl
from the neighborhood of Hamburg appeared on a certain evening at a
ball, with a large ruby on her finger. She professed to have received
this gem from an Earth Spirit, who had appeared to her at the entrance
to the Faunus mines.

The gossips of the village were not satisfied, however, with the
account, and suspected the Gnome to have been an English Gnome, who
was travelling abroad for his health and courting pretty girls for his
amusement. This conviction {279}was so strong that the poor girl had to
leave the country in disgrace.

This is the last Gnome that has been mentioned in that part of Germany.

[Illustration: 299]

[Illustration: 303]



XII.

{283}Elementary Spirits of the Water.--_Petrarch at Cologne.--Divine
Judgment by Water.--Nixen and Undines.--A Furlough till Ten
o’clock.--The White-footed Undine.--Mysteries on the Rhine.--The Court
of the Great Nichus.--Nix-COBT, the Messenger of the Dead.--His Funny
Tricks.--I go in Search of an Undine._

“After leaving Aix-la-Chapelle, I had stopped at Cologne, on the left
bank of the Rhine, which I then found completely covered with several
rows of women, a countless and charming multitude....

“Adorned with flowers or aromatic herbs, the sleeves {284}pushed up above
the elbow, they dipped their soft white hands and arms into the river,
murmuring certain mysterious words which I could not understand.

“I questioned some people. They told me it was an ancient custom of the
country. Thanks to these ablutions and certain prayers which accompanied
them, the river carried down with it all the diseases, which would
otherwise have attacked them during the coming year. I answered,
smilingly: ‘How happy the people of the Rhine must be if the kind river
thus takes all their sufferings to distant countries! The Po or the
Tiber have never been able to do as much for us.’”

These are the words which Petrarch wrote in one of his familiar letters,
written on St. John’s Eve.

This letter, as precious by its date as by its contents, proves beyond
all question, that in the fourteenth century the Rhine was popularly
worshipped and adored on the very days on which the summer solstice is
celebrated by bonfires after the manner of the old fire worshippers.

Unfortunately the Christians ended by appealing to the elements, to Fire
or Water, as to a judicial authority.

The popular notion that the elements were perfectly pure and would hence
instinctively reject every impure substance, led naturally to ordeals
{285}by water. The accused was undressed; his hands and feet were tied
crosswise, the right hand to the left foot and the right foot to the
left hand, and thus bound he was thrown into a river or any watercourse
that was deep enough. If he floated, he was guilty and instantly burnt;
if he sank and remained for some time at the bottom of the water, he was
considered innocent--but he was drowned.

Heinrich Heine, at least, tells us that this was the infallible result
of justice in the Middle Ages, and the Middle Ages ended in Germany but
yesterday.

There was also a trial by bread and cheese (_exorcismus panis hordeacei,
vel casei, ad probationem veri_), but bread and cheese are not elements.
Let us return to the elementary spirits of Water.

During the great religious reaction which took place after the days
of Charlemagne, all the mythological gods of rivers and streams
had gradually returned, more or less successfully, to their former
occupations. The great Nix or Nichus, upon whom devolved the rule over
all the rivers of Germany, was no other than the ancient Niord, a
very important deity and a kind of Northern Neptune. This very weighty
discovery is due to the learned Mallet.

No doubt this god Niord was one of those who, on their disastrous flight
from Argentoratum, had {286}fallen into the Rhine. They thought that he
was drowned, but he had only taken refuge in one of the lowest, almost
unfathomable depths of the river. From this safe retreat the great
Nichus had defied the decrees of Councils and the anathemas of the
Christians hurled against all elementary spirits alike; there he had
summoned the subaltern deities of sources, ponds, lakes, and smaller
streams, the nymphs of the banks, and the hideous, scaly monsters which
swarmed at the bottom of the river. Organizing all these into a people,
an escort, and an army, he had come forth and invaded at the head of his
host the banks of the Neckar and the Main, the Moselle and the Meuse,
the great tributaries of the Rhine, and governed the inhabitants of the
banks by terror. More than once he had extended his ravages far beyond
the plains, overthrowing churches that had but just been completed, and
drowning in his waters all the deserters from the altars of Odin.

Niord was a wicked god, who had a fearful temper. He held his subjects,
to whatever class they might belong, completely under his yoke, treating
them capriciously and cruelly, and making of the Rhine a hell of waters.

It is to this dark and damp kingdom of the great Nichus that we have to
go in order to make the acquaintance, not of his great dignitaries, but
{287}of the very humblest and lowest of his subjects, the Nixen and the
male and female Undines, a race of anathematized demons, who make up, by
themselves, almost the whole population of this realm beneath the waters
of the Rhine.

What! Must we really count our beautiful Lore, the charming fairy
Lorelei, you who preferred death to the punishment of making all men
fall in love with you, much as you loved men in general, must we count
you among the demons, evildoing and accursed sprites? No! How public
opinion has stoutly held its own in defiance of all the decrees of the
Church. Nixen, like the Fairies, are by common consent divided into two
classes: Nixen proper, who are former pagan deities and not too much to
be dreaded, and female Nixen, almost always harmless and at times even
useful.

It is these latter only of whom we shall hereafter speak as Undines.

The Nixen of the first class are ever ready to assume any disguise that
may aid them in attaining their purpose. Some of them roam about in
deserted places near the banks of rivers; others have at times
appeared in the neighboring towns, pretending to be foreign ladies of
distinction, or artists, generally great performers on the harp. Here
they have begun intrigues with credulous lovers or unlucky admirers.
Others appear at village {288}celebrations, mingling in the dance with
such energy, that their partners are intoxicated, carried away, and,
losing their heads, think they continue to hear the sound of harps and
violins, while they are already far away, led on by imaginary music, and
only return to consciousness on the banks of the river, at the moment
when they are about to sink helpless into the waters of the Rhine.

[Illustration: 308]

One important point, however, must not be overlooked. To protect
one’s self against the allurements of these accursed fairies, a bit of
horehound or marjoram is sufficient. We hope all who propose visiting
the Rhine will be careful always to keep such an herb on their person.
Before they take out their passports they ought always to pay a visit to
an herbalist.

The second class of Nixen, the only one in which we are interested, the
Undines, are, as far as I have been able to learn, the restless souls of
{289}poor girls who, driven to despair by love, have thrown themselves
into the Rhine. Unfortunately German lovers, not very courageous at
best, are but too apt to seek relief in suicide.

[Illustration: 309]

According to the somewhat uncertain information for which I am indebted
to my authorities or to my intercourse with the Rosahl family, the
Undines {290}are born as human beings and very inferior in power to
the genuine Nixen. They live under the water exactly the same time they
would have lived on earth, if they had not voluntarily put an end
to their existence. They are thus granted a kind of exceptional
resurrection and have here a preliminary purgatory, in which they but
too frequently expiate, if not the sin of their love, at least that of
their death.

In the lowest depths of the river, at the bottom of vast, submerged
grottoes, a secret tribunal, presided over by the great Nichus, holds
its solemn meetings. Here they are disciplined with the utmost severity,
as is abundantly proven by a great number of terrible stories, such as
the account of the three Undines of Sinzheim, which the two brothers
Grimm report in their great work.

Three young girls of marvelous beauty, three sisters, appeared every
evening at the social meetings of Epfenbach, near Sinzheim and took
their seats among the linen-spinners. They brought new songs and merry
stories which no one had heard before. Where did they come from? No one
knew, and no one dared to ask for fear of appearing suspicious. They
were the delight of these meetings, but as soon as the clock struck ten
they rose, and neither prayers nor supplications could induce them to
stay a moment longer. {291}One evening the schoolmaster’s son, who had
fallen in love with one of them, undertook to prevent their departure
at the usual hour; he put back the wooden clock, which usually gave them
warning.

[Illustration: 311]

The next day some people from Sinzheim, who were walking by the side
of the lake, heard groans rising from the depths of the lake, while the
surface was stained by three large spots of blood. From that time the
three sisters were never seen again at the evening assemblies, and
the school{292}master’s son faded away gradually. He died very soon
afterwards.

These three sisters, so gentle, so lovely and laborious, had in nothing
betrayed a connection with the spirits of the lower world. The only
thing was, that people remembered how the hems of their garments had
frequently been wet, a sure sign by which Undines can be recognized.
Otherwise they seem to have been very much like other girls, and the
severity of the great Nichus appears hardly reasonable.

As to this hour of ten o’clock, however, military rules cannot be more
rigorous than his.

It must, on the other hand, not be imagined that all Undines are as
gentle and resigned as these three sisters. There are some who bitterly
resent having been abandoned by their lovers, and try to revenge
themselves; these seem to partake to some degree of the character of
the Nixen, or rather,--why should we not say so at once and quite
candidly?--they remain faithful to their instincts as women.

As a proof of this statement I will quote a short but perfect little
drama, which Miss Margaret Rosahl has, at my request, copied from
Busching’s voluminous collection.

Count Herman von Filsen, whose estates lay on the right bank of the
Rhine, between Oslerspey {293}and Brauback, was about to marry the rich
heiress of the castle of Rheins, on the other bank. His messenger had
started to carry the letters of invitation to all the guests, but a
sudden rise of the waters had nearly prevented his crossing a small
stream. In trying to get over, his horse stumbled, and was drowned. The
messenger, however, did not lose courage, but went on his way on foot.
Everywhere he found the brooks swollen into streams, and the torrent
seemed to press him more and more closely, describing curves and
zigzags, with countless cataracts, barring him the way on all sides and
making the usual path impassable.

By the aid of a huge stick and jumping from rock to rock, the poor, half
bewildered man kept on, walking well-nigh at hap-hazard, till he found
himself near the Rhine, into which the swollen torrent, rushing after
him with sudden fury, seemed determined to push him.

Fortunately a small boat was lying quite near the shore: he loosened it,
took the oars, and returned to Filsen.

When he reached the castle he said to the Count: “Sir, a Nix has barred
me the way.”

The Count did not believe in Nixen. He sent out another messenger. But
the same adventure befell him.

The wedding day had been fixed and the Count {294}went on, although he
feared his friends and followers would be few in number.

One morning, as he crossed the river from the right bank to the left,
in order to pay a visit to his lady love, a sudden tempest broke out. He
thought he saw a pale form arise from the waters, bending over the
bow of the boat and trying to draw it down into the abyss beneath
the waters. Thereupon he became thoughtful, sent for his steward,
and ordered him to find out what had become of a certain girl of the
neighborhood, Gott-friede from Braubach.

[Illustration: 314]

{295} “I met her a few days ago,” replied the steward, “as she was going
to St. Marks Chapel, and I offered her holy water. Gottfriede asked me
about your approaching wedding. She was very well, and seemed to be in
good spirits.”

“Go and see if you can find her,” said the Count, “and bring me word.”

[Illustration: 315]

During the wedding feast Hermann von Filsen appeared joyous and
attentive to his bride, the new Countess, but the effort to appear so
caused his perspiration to break out profusely, especially when all of
a sudden a small woman’s foot, white and delicate, appeared to his eyes,
and to his only, on the ceiling of the dinner-hall.

He felt a chill in all his limbs. He rose suddenly {296}and fled to
another room, followed by his wife, his mother, and all the guests, who
thought he had been seized with sudden illness.

In this room he saw, and he alone again saw, a white hand raise a
curtain and with the forefinger beckon him to follow.

Long time ago Hermann had heard, without paying any attention at that
time to the statement, that such a small white foot and a small white
hand indicated the presence of an Undine and the coming of an inevitable
calamity.

Now he believed it.

The bishop, who had performed the marriage ceremony, was at the dinner.
Hermann went straight up to him, knelt down, and confessed aloud, and
with many tears, that a young girl named Gottfriede, fairer and better
than all her sisters, had loved him dearly, and that he had returned
her love and then abandoned her. Gottfriede had sought oblivion of her
sufferings in the river, and now was bent upon revenge.

“Bless me, father, for I am going to die!”

The bishop, before uttering the words of absolution, demanded first that
the Count should abjure his impious faith in such supernatural beings,
of whom the Church knew nothing.

“How can I refuse to believe what I see? There she is! Looking as pale
as she was this morning {297}at the bow of the boat. Her hair, full of
green grass, is hanging in disorder all over her shoulders; she looks at
me with a tearful smile.”

“Nothing but visions!” replies the bishop. “Your eyes deceive you.”

“But it is not only by the eye that I am aware of her presence, I hear
her voice; she is calling me? Forgive me, Gottfriede!”

[Illustration: 317]

“You are out of your mind! These are the devil’s snares! And who tells
you that the girl has ceased to live? That she has committed a crime?
Thanks be to God, Gottfriede came to me, she confessed to me penitently,
and now she is in a convent!” At this moment the assembly, already
deeply excited, was somewhat startled by the entrance of the steward,
who looked terrified, went up to the Count’s mother, and whispered some
words into her ear. She could not repress a cry.

“Dead!” she said.

“Yes, she is dead, and I also must die!” cried Hermann in accents of
despair.

The young bride, offended at this avowal of a previous attachment, had
at first stood aloof; now, consulting her own heart alone, she thought
of contesting {298}the right of this invisible rival, and with open arms
drew near the Count; but he pushed her aside rudely.

The bishop began his exorcisms. While he was repeating the prescribed
words, the Count asked:--

“What do you want of me, Gottfriede? Forgive me and we will all pray
for you. You are seeping and kissing me by turns, but your kisses are
nothing but bitterness and sorrow to me, since I have given my name to
another, since another is my--”

He could not complete the sentence. Uttering a sharp cry he fell at full
length to the ground, and on his neck appeared a long, bluish mark, such
as is seen in strangled persons.

The great Nichus is, as we have seen, the master, the despot, the
_Wassermann_, par excellence, of all this watery, dark world, peopled
by Nixen and Undines. His authority is, moreover, by no means limited
to the exercise of judicial functions; his will, constantly under the
influence of an ill-regulated appetite, is law for everybody; the male
Nixen are his Court, and his harem is kept full by the fairest among
those women who become his own by suicide. This greenish-complexioned
Sardanapalus is said to celebrate incredibly monstrous orgies with his
drowned Odalisques.

He is, in reality, Niord, the Scandinavian god, {299}and this Niord
again is, originally, one of those old Roman emperors, who were deified,
and whose portraits Petronius has left us drawn in mud and blood.

[Illustration: 319]

His principal agent, and the Jack-of-all-trades of the whole community,
Nixcobt, the messenger of the dead, has to maintain communication
between the people who live on the river, and those who live in it.
He is perhaps the most eccentric of all the mythical personages of the
Rhine.

When morning is about to dawn and the mountain tops are beginning to
glow in a faint subdued light, a kind of low, thickset man of the most
hideous appearance, may occasionally be seen gliding along the houses of
a town, keeping carefully in the shade, or slipping down the hill-side
between the long rows of grapes, which are almost as high as he is. His
terrible head turns upon his slender neck as upon a pivot, and thus he
can see and examine everything without stopping for a moment. His bare
shoulders, his elbows, knees, and cheekbones are covered with scales;
small pins appear {300}at intervals at his ankles; his round glamous
eyes have a bright red point in the centre; his teeth and hair are
green, and his enormous mouth, split wide open and shaped like the mouth
of a fish, wears a fixed smile, which strikes terror in the beholder.
This creature is Nixcobt.

[Illustration: 320]

With daybreak he is back in the river to inquire if its mournful
population has been added to over night by some victim, suicide or not.
He takes down a description of each one, draws up a report, inquires as
to what induced them to seek refuge in the new world, and offers them
his services for the purpose of letting the friends and parents
know, {301}whom they may have left behind, ignorant of their fate and
inconsolable at their loss.

Then he amuses the great Nichus with all his stories and all the clever
tricks he has been playing during his nocturnal visits to the people in
the villages and towns on the river.

These merry tricks of Master Nixcobt form even in our day an ever
welcome staple of amusement to the young spinners during the long winter
nights, accompanied as they are by the cheerful hum of the swiftly
turning wheels.

One day Nixcobt calls upon the tax collector of a little town on the
Rhine, whom he finds in great consternation. His wife has left his house
and he does not know what has become of her. To console him Nixcobt
tells him that she is dead, having drowned herself, and as a proof of
it, he shows him a letter which he has with his own hands taken from the
pockets of the deceased.

The husband, whose tears had been flowing freely, dries them quickly,
becomes furious, and looks at his children with fierce glances. He is
jealous of their dead mother. Nixcobt laughs and goes to some one else.

That some one else, an honest vintner of the Rheingau, has the night
before killed his friend in an excess of passion and then thrown the
body into the Rhine, together with the knife with which {302}he had
committed the murder. This knife Nix-cobt now presents to him, for he
takes delight in restoring lost objects of this kind.

While the murderer stands petrified at the sight of the still bloody
knife, the Gnome hastens to the Mayor to report to him the whole matter.

An inquiry is held, the vintner is found, holding the bloody knife in
his hand, he is hanged and Nixcobt laughs heartily.

One night a notary of Badenheim, near Mayence, hears in his sleep a
voice saying:--

“John Harnisch, the great Nichus is courting your wife, who has been
changed into an Undine three months ago; she will not listen to him, and
{303}he wants you to tell him how he must manage to please her.”

The notary thought it was a bad dream, uttered a sigh as he thought of
his deceased wife, and fell asleep once more. But a chilly hand resting
upon his breast waked him once more, and the voice said:--

“John Harnisch, speak, speak promptly and be sincere, or you shall never
sleep again.”

John Harnisch resisted for some time longer, but a red flame dimly
lighted up his alcove and he saw a row of green teeth and scaly cheek
bones. Thoroughly frightened, he said what he could.

“Thanks!” cries Nixcobt, and breaks out into a far sounding laugh.

We might fill folios with all the lugubrious jokes of this messenger
of the dead, but we will abstain. Besides, Nixcobt has lost all respect
now-a-days. He is no longer seen gliding along the houses in towns or
slipping through the rows in the vineyards.

We might in like manner tell a vast number of interesting stories and
quote endless _Lieder_ and ballads, which treat of Nixen and Undines.
For there are, besides, Undines of rivers and Undines of lakes, and
there are even some in the ocean; in Germany all watercourses, down to
the tiniest rills, have their Undines. {304}Only day before yesterday
I was walking on the banks of the Rhine; only yesterday on those of
the Moselle, This morning, wandering about at haphazard I encountered a
brook, a mere rill, which attracted me by its sweet murmurs. I followed
it, followed it for two hours. I happened to have nothing else to do.

My tiny rill, a mere infant so near its source, was turning and twisting
in the thick grass and seemed to try and walk on all fours as little
children do. Farther down it had become a little girl, having increased
in size and bulk; it now wandered hither and thither, carelessly,
capriciously, leaping merrily over the rocks and carrying off here
a flower and there a flower that grew on its banks, no doubt for the
purpose of making a bouquet. Still farther on, I witnessed its marriage
with a big brook that had come down all the way from the mountains; it
was a young woman now, a wife, and walked soberly through the plain,
like a prudent stream, bearing already boats on its surface and
preparing to join an elder sister, the Moselle. Soon I had to cross
it on a bridge; on this same bridge four Prussian soldiers were busy
watching the water as it flowed by, no doubt in the hope of catching
a fair Undine as she was stealthily slipping down the river. As for
myself, I had in vain traced the unknown little river from its birth
all {305}along its banks, under the thick shelter of willows and alder
bushes; neither day before yesterday on the Rhine, nor yesterday on the
Moselle, nor today, did I ever find a trace of a Nymph, a Nix, or an
Undine!

What must be my conclusion?

A thief who had been brought before a police court and was there
confronted with two persons who had seen him steal, said:--

“These men claim that they have seen me, but I, I could bring twenty
other witnesses who would swear that they have not seen me!”

“What does that prove?” asked the judge of the court.

[Illustration: 325]

I saw nothing. “What does that prove?” as the wise judge said to the
thief.

[Illustration: 329]



XIII.

{309}Familiar Spirits.--_Butzemann.--The Good Frau Holle.--Ko-bolds.--A
Kobold in the Cook’s Employ.--Zotterais and the Little White
Ladies.--The Killecroffs, the Devil’s Children.--White Angels.--Granted
Wishes, a Fable._

France, which is skeptic to the core, has no idea of the importance of
certain visible or invisible spirits, who eagerly seek the society of
man, sleeping {310}under his roof, or in certain cases becoming members
of his family, in the strictest sense of the word. Besides, they render
efficient services to a good housekeeper; they may do great harm if they
are made angry, and they give at times most useful advice.

These hobgoblins, little known outside of Germany and England, frequent
also the French provinces watered by the Meuse, the Moselle, and the
Rhine, and are sometimes brought to Paris by cooks from Alsace and
coachmen from Lorraine.

Let us rapidly glance, not at all, but at some of the best authenticated
among these familiar spirits.

Evening has come, the night is dark, and master and mistress are fast
asleep. A servant with a candle in her hand and gaping to her heart’s
content, goes once more over the house, looking in all the corners and
out of the way places and putting everything in order. All of a sudden a
door is swiftly opened and closed again right in her face and her light
is blown out. You will say a window has been left open and the draught
has done all this.

By no means! It is the _Butzemann_.

Some merry companions are assembled in the large dining-room of the
hotel and celebrate there a feast of grapes in memory of the divine
Dionysius. The night advances and there they are still, {311}glass
in hand, singing, drinking.... Silence! all of a sudden singing and
drinking comes to an end; the glasses halt half way in the midst of a
toast; the heavy eyes open wide, the trembling knees grow strong
once more. Every one of the guests hastens home. Three times a hairy,
ill-shapen creature has come and knocked with its wings against the
window. You will say it was a bat.

By no means! It is the _Butzemann!_

The family is gathering around the warm porcelain stove, where they can
safely defy cold winter. The men are smoking, a pot of beer by their
side; the women are knitting and talking of the approaching wedding
of the eldest daughter. Oh misery! Away back in the fireplace, a great
noise is heard; a bright light shines. Coals and sparks are scattered
all around, and some have fallen upon the dress of the betrothed. What
is the matter? You will say again, it was a knot in the wood, perhaps a
chestnut that had been overlooked in the ashes and has burst now.

By no means! it is the _Butzemann!_

The Butzemann, a prophetic family spirit, warns you of coming danger
and bids you prepare for an approaching misfortune. Never undertake
a journey, never get married if a clear sign has made you aware that
Butzemann has put his veto upon your journey or your marriage. The only
difficulty {312}you will have is to distinguish between Butzemann and a
puff of wind, a bat, or an exploding chestnut.

It is much easier to recognize _Frau Holle_, as her presence is always
announced by unmistakable indications. She has assumed the task of
overlooking the poor country girls at their work. But it has never been
found out why this benevolent fairy of work-people does not live in some
great industrial city, or some beautiful country district, where the
signs of active life are abundant and the whirring of wheels or the
stamping of machinery is heard; where the spinners sing, and the
washerwomen beat time at the limpid stream. She prefers, with
unaccountable perverseness, to live in dismal swamps, beside faithless
Will-o’-the-Wisps and low Nixen!

No one has ever dared examine this question so closely as to ascertain
the precise truth.

Some have dropped timid hints that Frau Holle, now occupying a very
humble position and rated among the familiar spirits only, was once upon
a time a high and mighty personage, but they have had nothing more to
say of her past glory, as is the case with poor ladies who have been
“unfortunate.” Others, with more boldness or more knowledge, have
recognized in her the goddess Frigg, Odin’s wife. Dear Frau Holle! what
a coming down! what poor creatures we are, after all. {313}As soon as
the cross was planted on the banks of the Rhine and the Danube, Frigg,
under the name of Hertha (Mother Earth), had taken refuge on an island
in the ocean, where she lived invisible and alone in the heart of a
sacred forest, which was constantly invaded by the waves of the sea.

A priest, who had remained faithful to the old religion, alone knew the
hour and the minute when the goddess would deign once more to appear to
men. At the given moment he drew forth, on the marshy island, a chariot
wrapped in veils. Hertha got in, and for some days travelled through the
world, diffusing all around her good will and consolation. Then all wars
were suspended; not only the sword went back into its sheath, but all
irons, all defensive and offensive weapons and even the iron shoes of
the ploughs, had to be kept carefully concealed. Hertha invited the
world to enjoy peace and repose.

Now let us see in what respect Frau Holle or Holla reminds us of the
good goddess.

At certain periods of the year, especially at Christmas, Frau Holle
leaves her marshy island in order to inspect the world. All who work in
linen, spinning, weaving, embroidery, or starching, are by turns visited
by the good lady. Their idleness and their carelessness are severely
punished. If one fine morning Annie finds her wheel {314}or Kate her
loom covered with green slime, if Bertha notices her work torn in the
place which she repaired only the night before, or if the water has over
night turned greasy and looks discolored, the poor girls may be sure
that Frau Holle has been on her round of inspection.

If she is pleased, on the other hand, the ribbon around the distaff
holds a pretty marshflower, a lily, an iris, or a gladiolus; on the lace
cushion or on the seamstress’s work a little golden needle is stuck, and
on the heap of specially well washed and well folded linen lies a cake
of perfumed soap, which fills the whole house with its sweet odor.

Sometimes Frau Holle finds her way mysteriously to a garret, where a
poor woman is lying sick with fever, the result of overwork. Then she
finishes herself the work that had been begun, and when she leaves she
puts a few florins under the pillow of the sleeping sufferer.

Blessings be upon you, good Dame Holle! Even if you were really once a
goddess of the first rank, you need not blush at your present condition.
Still, we cannot help asking, with a slight tremor of fear, how it can
have come about, that the noble Frigg, the all powerful Hertha,
should have been reduced to play the lady patroness of washerwomen and
seamstresses? How has this island in the ocean, with its sacred forest,
become a wretched {315}marsh, fetid and ill reputed? There is but one
answer to such a question: Frigg has been unfortunate.

But the spinners and seamstresses, the clear-starchers and embroiderers
are not the only ones who are honored by kind attentions from the
supernatural world. The brothers Grimm say:--

[Illustration: 335]

“In certain parts of the world, every person--man, woman, or child--has
his own goblin to do menial service; he carries water, cuts wood, and
fetches beer.” During all this time the master has nothing to do but to
set still and to see the work done.

This goblin is evidently the _Genius loci_ of the ancients.

Among all these goblins, however, one is by far the most famous in
Germany, and at the same time the oddest, of whom the most extraordinary
stories are told. They call him _Kobold._

During the night the Kobold sets everything to {316}rights in the
kitchen; he cleans the glasses, the plates, the pans, and wages war
against the spiders and the mice. For all these attentions he asks only
a little food, specially prepared for him, for he would never dream to
ask for a share of his master’s dinner.

Although he seems to be specially devoted to the cook’s department, the
Kobold is first of all attached to the house. If the cook is dismissed,
or if the master moves, he nevertheless remains in his old home, quite
ready to offer his services to the new comers. If the cook goes, she
says to her who takes her place:--

“Do not forget to put a little panada on the kneading trough for the
Kobold, or he might play you some ugly tricks. Be careful, for he is not
always in good humor.”

If the Kobold, or in his place the cat, eats the panada, the new cook is
sure to say:--

“Chim has been here; I see we shall be good friends.”

But if Chim has left the dainty untouched, or has merely tasted it, she
is troubled.

“Perhaps he wants it made with the yolk of an egg? Or perhaps I had not
put enough butter to it?”

Although the Kobold is almost always invisible, he is at all times
ready for a chat. {317}What are we to make of these strange beings, the
servants of our servants, who are even more faithful than the latter to
the house which they have once made their home, who do not, as we are
told is the case in some countries, insist so strongly upon certain
privileges that it becomes uncertain whether the servants are not
themselves masters and those who think themselves to be masters are in
reality servants? They generally do nothing but kindness. Nevertheless
they keep out of sight, thus shunning all public return for their
benevolent services. What are we to make of such servants? Martin Luther
answers in his “Table Talk.”

[Illustration: 337]

“For many years,” he says, “a servant had a familiar spirit who sat down
by her on the hearth, where she had made a little place for him, and
they talked to each other during the long winter evenings. One day she
asked Heinzchen (Chim, Heinzchen, and Kurt Chimgen are the pet names by
which German and Alsatian cooks generally call their Ko-bolds) to let
her see him in his natural shape. At first Heinzchen refused. {318}but
at last, as she insisted, he told her to go down into the cellar, where
he would show himself to her.” “She took a candle,” he goes on to say,
“and went into the cellar, where the Kobold appeared to her in the
likeness of a child of hers who had died some years before.” Whether
he vanished then, leaving her in amazement and terror, or whether he
resumed the shape in which she had been accustomed to see him, we are
not told. It is a grim story upon which we do not care to dwell, for we
prefer to remember the Kobold as a cheerful household companion. It is
pleasant to think of those quaint little creatures, whose world is the
kitchen, and to imagine the joy they feel in sharing the busy, bustling
life that goes on there daily. Be sure they know every nook and corner
about,--every stew-pan and ladle, and are learned in the steamy scents
and fragrant savors which are the atmosphere of their home. At night
when the fires are out, and the family is asleep, they have a life of
their own. They are on the best possible terms with the cat, which they
permit to share their food, and with which they no doubt waltz when in a
gamesome mood. Happy Kobolds.

According to general belief the Kobolds belong as much to the race
of men as to the world of spirits; they retain the size and shape of
infants, and that knife which so often is noticed in the form {319}of
a caudal appendage, is nothing less than the instrument with which they
have been put to death.

There exist, however, quite a number of troublesome hobgoblins, who turn
the house upside down and deprive the people to whom they bear a grudge
of all peace and sleep, till they well nigh drive them mad. But these
creatures ought, in my opinion, not be mixed up with the Kobolds. The
latter are almost invariably gentle and inoffensive; if they sometimes
become angry, they act just like children; they break and smash things,
but they are easily pacified by the sight of some little tit-bit, as for
instance, a panada made with butter and eggs.

[Illustration: 339]

The Zotterais and the Little White Ladies seem, in their habits at
least, to come nearer to Kobolds. Very useful and easily satisfied, the
Zotterais are as fond of stables as the Kobolds are of kitchens;
they curry the horses, nurse {320}them when they are sick, and
keep everything in excellent order in their racks as well as in the
harness-room.

The Little White Ladies, on the other hand, are more delicate in their
instincts and often quite fastidious; they like only blood horses, Arab
or Turkish horses, and hence the popular idea that they have originated
in the East.

They slip into the stables of wealthy people, while the grooms are
asleep; here they light a small candle, which they always keep about
them, and then proceed to business.

In the morning, when the head, coachman makes his round to see that
everything is right, he sometimes finds a drop of wax on the smooth
coat of a sorrel or an Isabel colored horse, and then he says to the
grooms:--

“You have not had much to do to-day, my friends, with your horses; I see
the little lady has been here.”

The Zotterais are of unmistakable German origin, for they take care of
horses without regard to race and without the help of a wax candle. They
have, of course, harder work to do and are more apt to become soiled
or to have accidents; but, nevertheless, they accomplish their purpose.
They are naturally easily tired, and hence they require a knot to be
made in the mane of a horse, where {321}they can suspend themselves and
rest. There is not a peasant on the banks of the Rhine or the Meuse, who
would neglect this duty, and I have myself often seen them attend to it
carefully.

[Illustration: 341]

Formerly the Zotterais also protected sheep against ticks and kept their
wool from getting tangled; they even derived their name from Zotte,
which means a flock of wool. In those days, it must be presumed, from
the habits of those benevolent little people, the fleeces must have been
whiter and better kept than they are now-a-days; but sheep raisers had
the unlucky idea, produced probably by avarice, that not a particle of
wool should be left on ram or ewe, and thus deprived their tiny friends
of all means to rest and recover breath when hard at work. The Zotterais
looked upon this neglect of what was due to them as an insult, and
abandoned the flocks of sheep for the horses in the stables. Besides,
they found it impossible to live on good terms with the shepherds’ dogs.

We must finally mention the most important and most extraordinary of all
familiar spirits, whom we must needs include among these favored beings,
{322}as he represents nothing less than the son of the house, the child
of the family.

This is the _Killecroff or Suppositus._ The last mentioned name is
given to him because this so-called son of the house is in reality a
changeling, a supposed child, which has been put into the place of the
real child.

[Illustration: 342]

Who has taken the legitimate child from its cradle in order to put into
its place a _Killecroff_, and who is the real father of the latter?

Both of these questions are met by one and the same answer. The Devil!
We have so far carefully avoided touching on matters of witchcraft; but
unfortunately they are as well known on the banks of the Rhine as on
those of the Thames and the Seine. The _Killecroffs_, however, children
of the Devil and begotten according to popular belief during the orgies
of the Witches’ Sabbath, have been really in existence upon earth;
_suppositi_ or not, they have played their part in the world’s history
and occasionally even left behind them illustrious descendants. {323}In
the same way as the Swedish king Vilkins and Merovæus, king of the
Franks, boasted of being the sons of a sea-god, the dynasty of the
Jagellons in Poland were proud of their original descent from the Devil,
no doubt through Killecroffs, and actually bore in their arms certain
emblems of hell.

How can a real Killecroff be recognized, since he has been, improperly
enough, counted in among the Kobolds?

[Illustration: 343]

From his first appearance in the world, the Killecroff excites the
astonishment, and sometimes the {324}admiration of his reputed parents.
He sucks so heartily and with such an appetite that his nurse has to be
reinforced by two goats and a cow, like the renowned Gargantua.

When he is weaned a new marvel appears: he swallows his soup by the
tureen, “as much as two peasants and two threshers in the barn would
take,” says a celebrated writer in speaking of this subject.

He grows up and keeps everything in commotion around him; he provokes
quarrels not only among the servants, but even between his parents. If
some untoward event occurs he roars with laughter, on a day of rejoicing
he sheds tears and moans piteously. He takes a stick or a spit and rides
on it in his room, from morning till evening, climbing on every
chair and table, breaking everything that comes in his way, injuring
himself--also quite as readily, provoking cats, dogs, and even the
parrot on his perch, till they all mew and bark and scream. Then he runs
to the stable and sticks a pin into the croup of a horse to see it kick,
and then breaks open the doors and locks by the aid of a huge stick
of wood; next he rushes into the garden, playing the part of a tempest
there, destroying, uprooting, and breaking everything.

In the poultry yard he wrings the hens’ necks and walks over the young
chickens; in the kitchen {325}he loves to take up the tops of pots and
pans and to season the dishes according to his fancy with salt, pepper,
dust, ashes, oil, vinegar, mustard, sand, or sawdust, and never leaves
without having turned on the water everywhere.

If a visitor arrives, he takes possession of him and stands between his
legs, and walks on his toes, pulls the buttons off his waistcoat, and
draws the strings out of his shoes; he troubles and annoys him in every
way, he pinches and scratches, he worries and tortures him. When his
mother cautiously observes that he must not trouble the gentleman he
obeys like a good child and leaves the gentleman alone, but not without
having first broken his watch-chain, taken his cane, and hid his
spectacles; the cane he drops accidentally into the well; as for the
spectacles, he forgets where he has put them. When the poor visitor,
quite overcome and exhausted, at last rises to go, he stumbles and falls
down the stairs, thanks to a string which his playful young friend, the
Killecroff, has stretched across the top step.

The Killecroffs are generally the delight of their parents; fortunately
they do not live long.

The great man whom I have quoted before, told the Duke of Anhalt
frankly, that if he were a sovereign like the duke, he would run the
risk and become a murderer in such a case, by ordering {326}every such
son of the devil to be thrown into the Moldau!

This great man, who believed so firmly in Killecroffs, who believed
likewise in Butzemann, in Ko-bolds, in Nixen and Undines, who saw the
Devil in every fly that came to drink his ink or to perch on his nose,
was again Dr. Martin Luther.

[Illustration: 346]

The great Reformer, who was so valiant in combating the superstitions of
the Papists, seems to have taken very little trouble to get rid of his
own.

But among the many delusions, in which he apparently delighted, there
was one, a really charming {327}one, which arose from the Christian
religion itself, and which, it seems to me, I cannot well pass over in
silence when speaking of familiar spirits.

I mean Guardian Angels.

A most erudite and clever academician, Mr. Alfred Maury, tells us in
his charming book on “Magic and Astrology,” that according to Egyptian
doctrines a special star foretold the arrival of every man in this
world. In proof of this statement, he refers us to Horapollon, in his
“Treatise on Hieroglyphics.”

We infinitely prefer taking Mr. Maury’s own evidence; and he adds: “This
creed exists still in some remote districts among rural populations, and
especially in Germany.”

It may be that in certain portions of Germany every man may still have
faith in his star; we are willing to believe it, since he says so; but
almost everywhere the star has been superseded by a Guardian Angel,
the White Angel, as they call him, a far more tempting personage, and
infinitely more intimate and sympathetic. The White Angel is much more
than the _Genius loci_; it is in fact the _Genius personalis_.

Without entering here upon a serious discussion, on the subject of
Guardian Angels, whom the modern Church is disposed to ignore, we shall
prefer {328}inserting here, as a complement to our chapter on Familiar
Spirits, a legend, which we were fortunate enough to obtain directly
from very truthful and very beautiful lips:--

“A white figure appeared before the young girl as she awoke.

“‘I am your Guardian Angel!’

“‘Then you will grant me the wishes which I shall mention?’

“‘I shall carry them to God’s throne. You may count upon my assistance.
What are your wishes?’ “‘O White Angel, I am tired of continually
turning the spindle, and my fingers are getting to be so hard by
constant work, that yesterday, at the dance, my partner might have
imagined he was holding a wooden hand.’

“‘Your partner was that fine looking gentleman from Hesse? Did he not
tell you that he adored your blue eyes and fair hair, and that he would
make you a baroness, if you would go home with him?’

“‘White Angel, make me a baroness.’

“The evening of that day a young peasant came and asked Louisa’s mother
for her daughter’s hand. The mother said, Yes.

“‘White Angel, deliver me from this boor. I want to be a baroness!’

“But the mother, who was a widow, had energy {329}enough for two. The
White Angel did not appear again; Louisa had to yield, and went on
turning her spindle.

“One day her husband, who was a hard-working man, had over-exerted
himself and was taken ill. Louisa had seen her gentleman again.

“‘White Angel, he loves me still. He has sworn he would marry me if I
were a widow.’.... She dared not say more. Her husband recovered his
health completely. The White Angel still turned a deaf ear to her
wishes. She lost all hope of ever becoming a baroness.

“Some years later Louisa was the mother of two beautiful children;
she was fond of her husband, whose labor procured for her all that she
needed, and when she thought of him and her two darlings, the spindle
felt quite soft to her fingers.

“One evening, when she was only half asleep, lying by her husband’s
side, with one of her hands in his, and the youngest of her babies at
her bosom, the white figure appeared once more and she heard a gentle
voice whispering something into her ear. It was the voice of the White
Angel.

“What did it say?

“It told her a fable.

“‘A little fish was merrily swimming about in the water and looking
seriously at a pretty blackcap which first circled around and around in
the air {330}and then alighted softly on a branch of a willow which grew
close to the bank of the river.

“‘“Oh,” said the little fish, “how happy that bird is. It can rise up
to the heavens and go high up to the sun to warm itself in its rays. Why
cannot I do the same?”

“‘The blackcap was looking at the fish at the same time, and said:--

“‘“Oh! how happy that fish is! The element in which it lives furnishes
it at the same time with food; it has nothing to do but to glide along.
How I should like to sport in the fresh, transparent water!”

“‘At that moment, a kite pounced upon the poor little fish, while a
scamp of a schoolboy threw a stone at the bird; the blackcap fell into
the water, the fresh, transparent water, and for a moment struggled in
it before it died, while the little fish, carried aloft, could go up
on high to the sun and warm itself in its rays. Their wishes had been
granted.’

“‘Louisa,’ continued the gentle voice, ‘our duty as Guardian Angels is
far more frequently to thwart wishes than to satisfy them.’

“This was the moral of the fable.

“Louisa pressed her husband’s hand warmly, kissed her last born,
and said: ‘Thank you, White Angel, thank you.’” {331}I am certainly
delighted to think, that if the poor Germans have Killecroffs among
their familiar spirits, they have at least also White Angels.

[Illustration: 351]

[Illustration: 355]



XIV.

{335}Giants and Dwarfs.--_Duel between Efthesim and Grommelund.--Court
Dwarfs and Little Dwarfs.--Ymer’s Solis.--The Invisible Reapers.--Story
of the Dwarf Kreiss and the Giant Quadragant.--How the Giants came to
serve the Dwarfs._

If legendary tradition is only a distant vibration of the bell of
history, where must we go and look for traces of the real existence of
giants? Must we believe the Edda or Holy writ itself? Afterwards the
great fossil skeletons of mammoths, mastodons, and other antediluvian
animals only revived the {336}memory of gigantic men. The Apocryphal
Books tell us that in the days of Enoch, a number of angels, amounting
to two hundred, had conceived a desire for the daughters of men and came
down to Mount Hermon in order to be near them. Some of the principal
ones are even mentioned by name; there were Urakabaramiel, Sanyaza,
Tamiel, and Akibiel. Is it a wonder, then, that credulous people should
have believed that devils also, who after all are but fallen angels,
have acted in the same way towards the descendants of Eve. The
Killecroffs, we have seen, were the offspring of a union between
devils and earthborn women; in like manner giants were the offspring
of marriages between women and angels. Women are evidently capable of
setting heaven, earth, and hell on fire.

Germany, which was the last part of Europe to enter the great Catholic
Church, and was to be the first to leave it again at the time of the
Reformation, kept up the belief in giants longer than any other country.
Perhaps this was one of the results of the right of free inquiry.

The giant Einheer lived in the days of Charlemagne and even served
in his army. Several centuries later there were gigantic burgraves
(Burggra-fen), living all along the banks of the Rhine. They have a well
known story there of a young and ingenious giant’s daughter, who had
been jealously {337}guarded in her father’s castle, and when she got
out into the fields for the first time in her life, brought back in her
apron a peasant with his plough and his two horses, whom she had picked
up on the way. She showed them to her father as being all three little
animals of very curious shape.

[Illustration: 357]

After a while, however, the giants became smaller and smaller, until
there were only a few left in the highest mountains, in dark forests,
and in the romances of chivalry. After that they disappeared altogether.

The report is, however, that a single couple, man and wife, are kept
alive by magic art in an isolated part of the Hartz Mountains, to serve
as a specimen of the lost race. {338}At first the giants had produced
universal terror. The god Thor was blessed because he had driven them,
armed as he was with his famous iron mace, all across the Hercynian
forest. But as people became better acquainted with them, their fears
subsided. They turned out to be far from cruel, to eat human flesh only
in cases of dire necessity, and to act generally not only kindly, but
even like simpletons--a misfortune common to most men, who are too
fully developed in length or in breadth. This latter weakness is well
supported by a popular German tale.

An old duke of Bavaria had at his court a dwarf, called Ephesim, and a
giant, called Grommelund. The latter laughed at the dwarf, and Ephesim
threatened to box his ears. Grommelund laughed only the more heartily
and challenged Ephesim to carry out his threat. The dwarf accepted
the challenge, and the duke, having been a witness of the whole scene,
ordered at once that a field for single combat should be prepared.

Everybody expected to do as the giant did and laugh at the pigmy; as the
poor little fellow was hardly two feet high and would have had to climb
a long way before reaching the giant’s ears. But it turned out very
differently.

The dwarf began by walking all around the giant as if to take his
measure. The good-natured giant, {339}standing up immovable, looks down
upon him and laughs till his sides shake; but while he is holding his
hands to his sides, the dwarf unties his shoestrings and then worries
him by kicking and pinching his calves.

[Illustration: 359]

Grommelund laughs more loudly than ever, thanks to the tickling, takes
a few strides, steps on his loose shoestrings, nearly stumbles, and at
last, with a thoughtful presence of mind, characteristic of his race, he
stoops down to tie the strings.

Ephesim has foreseen this, he avails himself of the opportunity, and
slaps the giant’s cheek with his little hand, so heartily that the sound
reaches the ears of the duke and the lords of his court, who applaud
Ephesim’s skill enthusiastically.

The poor giant, humiliated and overcome, left the town, it is said, and
sought refuge in the mountains, where he died of shame.

The people were thus beginning to have a very humble opinion of giants,
when a rumor was spread that they had entered the service of the dwarfs;
{340}not of court dwarfs, but of little dwarfs, who are so small that,
by their size, the others appear as giants.

[Illustration: 360]

These little dwarfs appear in the popular tales of Germany, under
different names, as _Wichtelman-ner, Metallarii, or Homunculi_, and
evidently, at one time, were found in great numbers throughout all the
mountainous parts of the North. In Bretagne they were also known as
_Couribes, Parulpiquets or Cornicouets_, but as they are ugly and evil
disposed, I presume they are not of the same race with our good little
dwarfs. These latter appear in the evening at the foot of large oak
trees, or in old ruins, where they come by the {341}thousand out
of every crack and crevice and gambol and frolic, but vanish at the
smallest noise.

[Illustration: 361]

{343}As to their origin there are different opinions entertained. One
theory alone is worthy of belief, because it is mentioned already in the
Edda.

According to the Scandinavian Bible, when Odin had killed the giant
Ymer, his decaying body produced an innumerable quantity of small
worms. By a law of natural order which had already become operative with
insects, each worm changed into a chrysalis, and out of each chrysalis
came forth a little man, resembling, with a few trifling differences,
the race of full sized men, whom Odin had created.

Like ourselves, they also are subject to all the infirmities of age,
to disease and death; like ourselves, they are at times capable of
reasoning with fairness. Skillful metallurgists, they are at work in the
mines, where we have already met them; they are not without imagination,
and even know what piety is.

What religion do they profess?

For a long time, we are told, the majority, having been converted to
Christianity, were under its benign influence, in a far higher degree
than we, for they did not carry on war among themselves, and all
authors, legends, and ballads agree, that they were gentle and peaceful,
loving each other, {344}kindly disposed towards others, laborious,
and very obliging. Hence they were universally known as the _Peaceful
People_,--das stille Volk.

“In ancient times,” says Wyss, “men lived in the valleys, and around
their dwellings, in the cavities of the rocks, dwelt the little dwarf
people, keeping always on very good terms with them, and helping them
even at times in their work in the fields. They took great delight in
doing good in this way; for generally they were very busy mining in the
mountains, and digging in the ground to collect the tiny particles of
gold and silver that could be obtained.”

Sometimes field laborers coming out to plant or to weed, found their
work already done, and heard the dwarfs, hid behind the bushes, break
out into loud laughter, when they showed their amazement.

It happened one day, early in the morning, that some peasants in passing
a cornfield, saw that the stalks were falling in long rows, as if by
their own will; they were most cunningly cut off below, and now they
were ranging themselves, also to all appearance by their own act, in
long sheaves. The peasants had no doubt that the good little dwarfs
were there, working away stealthily, but of the tiny workmen not a trace
could be seen.

The dwarfs possessed, in common with all these {345}mysterious races,
the power of making themselves invisible. They had nothing to do, for
that purpose, but merely to draw a little hood over their ears, which
formed part of their costume.

Our countrymen, seeing that the wheat was not ripe enough to be cut,
became exceedingly angry against these injudicious friends, and arming
themselves with twigs, went to work striking right and left in the hope
of hurting one or the other by chance. They really heard some faint
cries of distress in the furrows, and soon the first rows of wheat
which had been left standing were thrown into violent disorder, thus
testifying to the flight of the little ones.

Several of the dwarfs became even visible, as the twigs suddenly tore
the hoods from their heads. Thereupon the men became furious and tried
to strike all the harder; but suddenly a violent storm broke forth
and the hail came down in torrents, cutting the whole standing crop to
pieces and sparing only the rows that had been reaped.

The rude countrymen now saw clearly that the Quiet People had foreseen
the hailstorm and anticipated the harvest on that account. They repented
their brutality, but the dwarfs, disgusted by their ingratitude, never
again appeared in that region of country. Similar occurrences took place
in other countries. {346}Now let us see, by what perseverance, by what
skill, and especially by what audacious conceptions these tiny beings,
not much more than a few inches high, succeeded in making themselves
masters of the giants.

[Illustration: 366]

They were running about quite bewildered, pushing and jostling each
other in their anxiety to regain their little mole-hill, he stood at
first with his mouth {347}wide open, lost in amazement. Then, to amuse
himself in true lordly fashion, he crushed a few dozen with his foot.

But he was not without curiosity, and hence he tried in the next place
to find out something about their manners. The moment was not very well
chosen, it must be confessed. Men do not usually choose a city that has
just been taken by storm and given up to pillage, for the purpose of
studying the manners and customs of its citizens. But we have seen
before this, that giants are not remarkably bright.

Our giant, whose name I have never been able to ascertain and whom I
will call for convenience sake, _Quadragant_ (“Quadragant was rather
colossal,” I once read in “Amadis of Gaul;” our giant was really
colossal, for he measured thirty feet in height), our giant, I say,
stretched himself out at full length and fixed his eyes upon the hole
out of which he had pulled the oak tree. He heard a low humming noise
underground, but he could see nothing.

He thought he would wait patiently, and in waiting he fell quietly
asleep, turning over so as to lie on his back, his usual position when
he was sleeping.

After a few hours’ sound and heavy sleep, such as all giants are said to
enjoy, he awoke. Finding {348}that the sun had in the mean time followed
his example and gone to sleep, he remembered that it was supper time,
and as he thought of the delights in store for him he uttered a long and
deep sigh of satisfaction. But something that his long drawn breath had
brought up, suddenly jumped out of his mouth.

[Illustration: 368]

This something was one of the dwarfs; and this dwarf, the boldest and
most intelligent among them all, was called Kreiss.

But in order to make it clear how Kreiss happened to be almost in the
giant’s throat, which was {349}of course only accidentally his home for
a time, we must go back and see what had happened while Quadragant was
asleep.

When the little pigmies found their tree uprooted and their people
scattered in all directions, escaping through every crack and crevice in
the soil, they had rushed into a long subterranean passage, excavated
in days long gone by, by their forefathers. Here they had uttered their
well known cries of distress, resembling the chirp of crickets, and thus
they had finally reached the ruins of an old castle, inhabited by vast
numbers of their people, and chosen as the place of meeting of the
General Council of the dwarfs.

Kreiss happened to have arrived the night before, as one of a numerous
deputation, and he at once suggested the propriety of burying the dead
with all due honors, before anything else was done. After that, they
might go to work stopping up all the holes and openings made by the
tearing up of the sapling, and filling the excavation which it had
produced, so that the rain might not come and inundate their long
gallery, which was their only safe means of communication.

The two resolutions offered by Kreiss were carried by acclamation, and
all, loaded with brush and with stakes, went immediately to work. There
were some ten thousand of them. {350}They thought the giant had left,
but they found him lying full length on the ground and snoring most
fiercely. Their first impulse was to escape, but Kreiss held them back.
He had conceived a bold plan; he proposed to capture the giant. Were
they not already provided with ropes and with stakes? Was there not
strength in numbers? They immediately went to work, and in less than an
hour the murderer, unable as he was to make the slightest motion, was
bound to the soil which he had soaked with their blood.

“What do you say?.... Yes, sir, you are undoubtedly right. This looks
very much like the manner in which Gulliver was treated in the island
of Lilliput. How can we help that? Besides, we must remember that there
have been dwarfs in Germany from time immemorial. If Jonathan Swift
undertook to transfer them to imaginary countries, whose business is
that and who is liable to be charged with plagiarism, I ask you?”

We will not stop to discuss this trifling matter, which is of little
importance. We have weightier matters than that in hand.

When the work was done and with the excitement of the efforts the first
enthusiasm also had somewhat passed away, the question arose what was
to be done with their capture. They looked at each other in great
perplexity. {351}The dwarfs are kind hearted people, who have a great
horror of blood. Besides, it would have been more difficult even, to
dispose of the giant after death than to kill him. Still, if they did
not kill Quadragant he would, as soon as he was awake, go to work and
cry for help lustily; then the other giants would, no doubt, hasten to
his assistance. The disgrace inflicted upon one of their brethren would
in all probability render them furious, and they would proceed at once
to uproot all the trees and to pursue the poor little people of dwarfs
down into the very bowels of the earth.

While these and similar observations were passing in the crowd from one
group to another, Kreiss remained silent and thoughtful, supporting his
head in his hand and his hand on his elbow.

In the mean time the crowd passed from simple talk to grumbling and from
grumbling to threats. There was nothing left but to undo what was done
as promptly as possible, to abandon this ridiculous enterprise and
to restore the giant to liberty in the same way in which he had
been deprived of it--during his sleep. If he should awake before the
operation was over, why, then they might try to appease his wrath by
handing over to him the authors of this fatal project.

Ah! one can see at a glance, that these dwarfs, small as they were,
were nevertheless men, and {352}that it is better not to venture upon
attacking giants!

They were utterly discouraged and demoralized. Calm in spite of all this
excitement around him, Kreiss was still meditating, apparently quite
unmindful of all the invectives that were hurled at him and the little
hands that were threatening him. But when some of them actually began to
loosen the ropes, he suddenly dropped his hands from his elbow and his
brow, and turning sharply upon his aggressors, he said:--

“I acknowledge my mistake and I am ready to atone for it. Go,--my seven
brothers and myself, we will alone set the giant free again. If he
awakes, he shall have to do with us and with us only. Go!”

The former conspirators were well content to accept the proposition, and
without bestowing a thought upon their murdered brethren, they escaped
as fast as they could. In the dim twilight of the last hour of the day
one might have seen them running nimbly through the tall grass and under
the cupolas of mushroom, arousing in their hurry the beetles and moths,
or even mounting upon their backs in order to reach by their aid all the
more quickly their safe retreat in the ruins of the old castle.

When all were gone save Kreiss and his seven {353}brothers, he said
to them: “Now that we are alone, we alone shall reap the glory of the
enterprise! So far from regretting what I have done, I mean on the
contrary, to enlarge our project in a manner which shall redound to the
eternal glory of our race.”

[Illustration: 373]

The dwarfs are not only skillful metallurgists, but they are also most
expert carpenters and builders.

Hence the good people of the Rheingau are {354}convinced that they have
built all those ruins of solid old castles, in which they are still
living and which they have so cunningly repaired and propped up that
they will last forever.

[Illustration: 374]

Now Quadragant was sleeping with his mouth wide open, as all large
people are apt to’ do. Kreiss slipped boldly into this vast and spacious
cavity, armed with a long spear which was equally sharp and pointed at
both ends. He took care to rest at first most cautiously only upon
the projections of the teeth, which formed, so to say, a double row of
parallel battlements. By such assistance he passed from one end of the
abyss to the other, without troubling the slumbers of the giant by the
{355}slightest awkwardness in his movements. For a case of emergency
Kreiss held his spear firmly in his hands, ready to fasten it so between
the two jaws as to prevent their closing upon him.

[Illustration: 375]

His brothers were in the meantime busily engaged in preparing posts,
pins, and rafters, which they handed to him as he needed them. One of
them even went with him to assist him.

They fixed strong piles between the two rows of teeth, and strengthened
the piles by beams, which secured them to each other. The work was by
no means an easy one, for in the mouth of the giant it was as dark as
night, and there reigned in it a heat equal to that of an oven. Moreover
Quadragant had dined that day on a deer and several {356}hares, and
as he liked his game high, like every good judge of fine dinners, the
perfumes of his breath increased the inconvenience caused by the heat
and the darkness.

Kreiss’s brother was all of a sudden taken ill, and had to leave to join
the others outside. They, however, continued work on the scaffolding,
and watched the giant carefully.

Quadragant was absolutely in the hands of the eight dwarf brothers.

They had passed up a lantern to Kreiss, which he hung upon one of
the transverse beams, and he now continued his work alone resolutely,
although he was every now and then compelled to stop his nose.

His work was at last completed, and he was just about to leave this
damp, pestiferous abyss, when the giant awoke, and his first sigh
carried off the brave pigmy, as a gust of wind would have carried off
a dry leaf from a branch, and hurled him senseless into space. He fell
heavily upon the chest of the colossus.

As soon as he recovered from the shock, he looked around carefully, and
saw, to his great satisfaction, that the bonds which held the giant
were beyond doubt strong enough to hold him a prisoner. Then he crept
cautiously all along the neck as far as his ear, and by its aid climbed
up the chin, after having crossed the cheek in its whole {357}length.
When he had found a convenient restingplace, he drew himself up to his
full height, and raising his feeble voice as loud as he could, he said
to the giant:--

“Murderer of our brethren, you are our prisoner, and you must die!
Commend your soul to God.”

[Illustration: 377]

The giant tried to see the tiny being who was speaking to him so boldly,
and cast down his eyes. At first he could distinguish nothing but a
feeble glimmering light at the extremity of his nose; but the nose
itself completely concealed the speaker.

Kreiss then advanced a few steps from the chin towards the mouth of the
colossus, and the latter now perceived a kind of little man, dressed in
a cloak of mouse skin, which he grandly wrapped around him, as Hercules
did with the skin of the Nemean lion.

In his hand, however, he held not a club, but a lantern, in which a
firefly did service as candle.

Thanks to this phosphorescent sheen, which seemed to surround Kreiss
as with a halo, Quadragant could examine him at leisure, and he asked
himself how such an embryo could have flown out of his mouth, and how
he, Quadragant, could have become his prisoner? {358}The contemptuous
glance which he threw at the dwarf made Kreiss aware of what he was
discussing in his mind.

“You think you are not captured yet,” he said. “Very well, try to get up
and walk, if you can!” Quadragant did try, and found that he was firmly
fastened to the ground by ropes and chains, by each single hair of his
head, by every hair on his body. He tried to speak to the pigmy, and he
could not, by any effort of his, move his jaws in the slightest way.

“As to the manner of your death,” Kreiss went on, “if the wolves and the
vultures do not hasten your end, hunger will do the work.”

At this thought of dying of hunger, a mode of death which he had always
looked upon as the most terrible of all, Quadragant’s heart gave way,
and he began to cry piteously. Two torrents of tears flowed down his
cheeks, and after turning around the prominence of his lips, ran over
from his chin.

Kreiss was compelled to leave his position, so as to avoid the double
current.

Although quite firm in his resolution, he was naturally kind-hearted.
These many tears of such unwonted size finally touched ‘him, but his
sympathy made him only the more determined to render his vengeance as
useful as it was complete. {359} “Listen to me, giant. You can buy your
life, if you choose.” Quadragant’s tears ceased to flow. Here was life
offered to him, and with that life he saw first of all a good supper
in store for him, and if his mouth had not been held so tight by the
scaffolding erected in it by Kreiss, his big face would have grinned
from ear to ear.

[Illustration: 379]

“But,” continued the dwarf, “you will Tiave to devote your life and
your liberty, if we restore both to you, to the service of our decimated
people; do you hear? You must understand me clearly; you will not be our
protector, but our servant; you will unhesitatingly perform every kind
of work which may be required of you for our safety or our comfort.
First of all you will replant that oak tree, {360}under which the dwarfs
of this district were living in peace, and you will water it every
morning until it has taken root again. Now, close your eyes, if you mean
to accept our conditions!”

Quadragant opened and shut his eyes quickly ten times in succession.

Kreiss made with his lamp a kind of telegraphic signal; his brothers,
all seven dressed in garments of mouse skin or mole skin, and carrying
each one a lantern with a firefly inside, climbed in an instant upon the
face of the giant, which now looked quite brightly illuminated.

Three of them took their station on his forehead; two others by the side
of each eye. The last two held each a long thorn in their hands, which
they seemed to use as a dagger.

Kreiss, who had remained at his place, said again to the giant:--

“If, after you have been set free, you dare utter a sound to call for
help, you lose both of your eyes instantly. Mind the warning!”

Armed with his double pointed spear, he then went once more into
Quadragant’s mouth, and loosened one of the transverse beams which
formed the ceiling. The giant assisted him with his tongue in the work
of demolition; then, after drawing a long sigh of relief, he closed his
mouth and crushed between his formidable jaws all the timber, posts,
{361}and beams, as if they had been a bundle of matches, and swallowed
the whole in anticipation of his supper.

[Illustration: 381]

After that he swore an oath which binds the giants as firmly as the
invocation of the Styx pledged the s of Greece.

“By the earth, which is my mother, by the mountains, which are her
bones, by the woods and forests, which are her hair, by the brooks, the
streams, and the rivers, which are the blood of her veins, I, {302}the
giant Quadragant, declare that I am the slave of the dwarfs.”

At sunrise Quadragant was up again, carrying his new masters between
his fingers, which he twisted together in the shape of a cradle. In
less than five minutes he reached, in obedience to their orders, the
old castle in ruins, where a ‘solemn meeting was held, not only by the
fugitives of the day before, but also by the principal representatives
of all the dwarfs of that part of Germany.

When the sentinels announced the arrival of the giant, all thought their
last hour had come and endeavored to escape, hoping to find a refuge in
the lowest depths of the old building. Kreiss, however, had ordered the
giant to put him down in front of the cellars of the castle, and now
entered the great Meeting Hall, assuming like all great conquerors, an
air of extreme modesty.

Then he informed them that the giant was their slave!

They at once threw themselves at his feet and expressed their desire to
proclaim him Emperor of the Dwarfs.

Kreiss, however, having heard of a recent experiment of that kind,
was far from believing such sudden enthusiasm to be either deep or
permanent.


[Illustration: 383]

From that day the giant abandoned his {363}old name of Quadragant, and
assumed that of _Ptitskuchen,_ which at that time meant Friend of
the Dwarfs, but which, translated into modern German, represents our
_omelette soufflee_.

[Illustration: 385]

{365}At first all went well; but at the end of three weeks Putskuchen
looked sad and melancholy; Putskuchen only took half a dozen meals a
day; Putskuchen was slowly fading away; Putskuchen was in love, in love
with a young giantess, who taunted him with having become the servant of
these wretched pygmies and reproached him with his poverty. The unhappy
creature fell off more and more, the _omelette soufflee_ fell down flat,
and Putskuchen was a mere lath of thirty feet in length.

Kreiss had always felt a certain tenderness for him, and hence, after
having asked the consent of all the other chieftains, he placed in the
giant’s hands a large heap of gold scales such as the dwarfs were in the
habit of collecting in the neighboring mountains.

It was enough to buy three wives, instead of one.

The fact had no sooner become known than all {366}the happy giant
fathers of the country desired him as a son-in-law, and when they saw
how liberally his services had been rewarded by his new masters, they
were all eager to become the serfs of the dwarfs.

Thus, thanks to Kreiss, the giants gradually came all, one by one, and
entered the service of the dwarfs.

Certain skeptics have maintained that the whole story is symbolic.

According to their interpretation the giant fastened to the ground and
muzzled by the dwarfs, is the people, the people always kept down
and always held in subjection, in spite of its gigantic strength. The
dwarfs, who lived under the oak, the sacred tree of all nations of
Celtic origin, are the priests.

We say: Shame upon people, who would change a legend into an apologue
and our friend Kreiss into a Druid!

When the dwarfs became reconciled again to men, they compelled the
giants to execute for them great works of public utility, such as
bridges and highroads, which were afterwards generally ascribed to the
Romans.

The belief in little dwarfs continues to this day to exist in most of
the Northern countries. They still live in myriads in the subterranean
regions {367}and in the rocks in Westphalia, in Sweden, and in Norway,
and they are still hard at work amassing vast treasures.

[Illustration: 387]

[Illustration: 391]



XV.

{371}Wizards and the Bewitched.--_The Journey of A sa-Thor and his
Companions.--The Inn with the Five Passages.--Skryinner.--A Lost Glove
found again.--Arrival at the Great City of Utgard.--Combat between
Thor and the King’s Nurse.--FREDERICH BARBAROSSA AND THE
KYFFHAUSER.--Teutonia! Teutonia!--What became of the Ancient
Gods.--Venus and the good Knight Tannhauser.--Jupiter on Rabbit
Island.--A Modern God._

Hear! hear! New and greater marvels still! But, unfortunately, we shall
be under the sad necessity of returning to our giants once more, much as
we have already spoken of them, from giant Ymer down to Quadragant, and
there may be too much even of the best things in this world. But let
the reader take courage; this time my giants are not real giants; or at
least they are giants of a very peculiar species. But instead of losing
time with limitations and explanations, let us begin our story.

It was in the days when the Scandinavian gods were still in the full
enjoyment of their power.

One fine day the god Thor, curious to see certain distant lands of
which they had told him most marvelous stories, set out on his travels,
accompanied by Raska, Tialff, and Loki. Leaving Sweden and Norway
behind, they arrived at the sea-shore and crossed over by swimming. A
mere trifle, of course, for people of their kind. On the opposite shore
they found a vast plain, and as night was approaching and they began to
feel that rest would be acceptable, they looked out for a shelter. In
this vast and deserted plain they see but one single building; a huge,
ill-shapen, and abandoned house, {373}rather broad than high and of
altogether exceptional appearance. It has neither doors nor windows,
nor even a roof; but the night fog may possibly conceal a part of the
edifice. The travellers enter and find a square, low vestibule, and at
the end of it five long passages; each of the travellers takes one of
these passages, looking for a door or a bed in the dark. As they find
neither bed nor chamber, they resign themselves and lie down on the
floor, with their backs to the wall.

But even the walls seem to be elastic, and so does the floor; perhaps
a layer of straw or of moss was spread over them and gave them the
softness of felt, rather coarse, to be sure, but not unpleasant. The
travellers felt that they could sleep there comfortably and warm. So
they did.

At daybreak Thor rubbed his eyes, stretched his arms and proposed to
take a turn in the country, to stretch his legs and to shake off the
heaviness of sleep. Through the white mists which were still hanging on
the tops of high hills he thought he saw a huge mass of disheveled hair,
and then he discovered in the centre of that head two eyes. At first
he thought this head and these eyes were simply a rock covered with
shrubbery and two small pools of water shining in the rays of the
rising sun. But soon the disheveled head began to move, bent down to
the ground, and turned now {374}to one side and now to another. In the
meantime the mists had risen and Thor found that he was standing before
a giant of such enormous size that those whom he was generally engaged
in hunting down would not have reached to his knee.

The giant advanced toward him, always looking here and there, and still
with his eyes fixed on the ground, as if he were looking for something
he had lost.

Thor, who was easily incensed by the sight of a giant, went straight up
to meet him and said in an arrogant tone:--

“What are you doing here? What is your name? Who are you?”

“My name is Skrymner,” replied the other. “Did you not know? As for me,
I have no need to ask you any such question; you are the god Thor, one
of those under sized gods who live with Odin on the ash tree Ygdrasil.
Have you seen my glove? I have lost my glove; yes! yesterday,” he
added in the most indifferent manner possible, and as if he were solely
occupied with his search.

“I have found nothing of the kind,” replied Thor, who was always in bad
humor, and now regretted that he did not have his hammer at hand.

“And do you travel quite alone?” asked Skrymner. {375}

“I have three companions.”

“I do not see them.”

“They are all three still asleep in that house there, in which we have
spent the night.”

And with his finger he pointed at the house, which they had used as an
inn for the night.

Skrymner looked both surprised and delighted. “My glove!” he cried,
“that is my glove! I have found it.” He hastened to pick up this
apparent house with its five long passages, and took it up, but not
before he had shaken it, holding it close to the ground, and showing
thus that he was not without a feeling of humanity.

Loki, Tialft, and Raska tumbled out upon the grass, rather terrified
by their sudden ascension and the sudden somerset which they had been
forced to make. But as soon as they had recovered from their first
surprise, and especially from the discovery that they had spent the
night in a glove, they thought of continuing their journey.

The country was unknown to them, but Skrymner offered to act as guide
and even to carry their baggage. So much obliging kindness and courtesy
drove all aggressive thoughts out of Thor’s mind, especially as he now
had his hammer.

At the first stopping place, and just when they were getting ready for
breakfast, the giant left them, although only after having pointed out
to {376}them the road they ought to take. Thor, however, found he was
unable to open the knapsack in which they carried their provisions; all
the strings and small chains by which it was fastened, were in knots.
They had to proceed on their journey without having had any breakfast, a
necessity which is most disagreeable to travellers, and even to gods.

As hour after hour passed and the plain remained deserted and sterile,
their hunger became tormenting. They listened with all their might,
hoping they might hear the roaring of a bear or the lowing of a cow,
determined as they were to dine upon the one or the other; but the dull
rumbling of a storm and the distant roll of thunder was all they heard.

Thor was furious at the idea that any one should venture to thunder
without having obtained permission from him, the god of thunder, and
rushed forward. Following the direction of the noise, he reached a rocky
defile, overshadowed by a few oak trees, where he found Skrymner lying
at full length between two hills and snoring furiously. This snoring it
was which the travellers had taken for the roaring of a storm.

“No doubt,” said Thor to himself, “the wretch is at work digesting the
provisions of which he has robbed us. No doubt it was he who tied all
those knots in the strings of our knapsack, in order to {377}conceal his
theft; but he shall pay for it dear! Besides, did he not speak of me as
an undersized god?”

With these words he seized his hammer and threw it at the head of the
sleeping giant, who did not stir, but only passed his hand over his brow
as if a dead leaf falling from a tree had tickled him a little.

Thor went up closer and struck him once more on the back of his head,
directly on the cerebellum, which in giants is unusually developed.

This time the sleeper opened one eye, closed it again, and after having
scratched himself at the place where he had been struck, he fell asleep
again.

Brutal by nature and doubly so when fasting, Thor had become perfectly
furious when he found himself thus mysteriously powerless. Fully
determined the next time to make an end, once for all, of his adversary,
he put on his invisible belt, which had the gift of doubling his
strength, seized his hammer with both hands and threw it with such
amazing force at the giant, that it sank up to the handle into one of
his cheeks and Thor had no small trouble in getting it to come back to
him.

This time Skrymner was fully roused; he opened both of his eyes, raised
his hand to his cheek, and exclaimed that it was impossible to sleep
comfortably {378}in that place, as a fly had just stung him in the
cheek.

Then, perceiving his assailant, who stood right before him, he asked him
good-naturedly, how he happened to be there, and whether he had lost
his way. In the meantime the other travellers are also coming up and
Skrymner offers to show them the way to the great city of Utgard, where
he promises they will find a good inn, a good table, a warm reception,
and not only enough for their wants but all that their heart can desire.

Thor does not know what to think. Overcome and confounded, he follows
the footsteps of his guide, without being able to form any idea except
the one: to avenge himself in a signal manner for all his humiliations.

The city of Utgard is of incredible size, the city walls, the houses,
the trees, the furniture, all are gigantic. Our travellers could easily
pass between the legs of the little children they met in the streets,
as we modern people pass under the triumphal arches of the ancients. You
see, now we are no longer in Lilliput, we have reached the island of the
giants with Gulliver. Gulliver might very well be the offspring of some
Scandinavian legend.

The king received Thor and, his friends, laughing heartily at their
small size, and the seats they are offered are three times as high as
they are. {379}After a host of adventures in which our men, that is to
say, our gods, are continually victimized, Thor in his rage challenges
the giants to single combat. The king accepts the challenge and
offers to back his nurse, a toothless old woman, against the god. Thor
consents, eager as he is to vent his wrath on somebody, and determines
to pitch His Majesty’s nurse out of the window. But by all his efforts
he hardly succeeds in lifting her slightly off the ground, and he
himself, exhausted by the struggle, sinks on his knees.

On the next day our travellers came to the conclusion that they had
travelled far enough. Skrymner again showed the way, with his usual
courtesy, and when they were well out of the town he took the god Thor
aside and said to him: “So far you have only known my name and nothing
of myself, now you ought to know that I am Skrym-ner, the wizard. You
ought, therefore, not to mind anything that has happened to you during
these last days. You thought you were striking me three times with your
hammer, but in reality you were striking the impenetrable rocks, on
which I was apparently sleeping. As to the nurse, you have given proof
there of such strength as I should not even have expected from the great
Thor, when you lifted her from the ground; for the toothless old woman
is none other but Death, yes Death, {380}whom I had compelled to
come and take part in our games. The rest was all enchantment, mere
delusions! I wanted to see if the power of the art of Magic was equal to
that of the gods. Farewell, Asa-Thor, and a pleasant journey to you.”

More enraged than ever, Asa-Thor was about to throw himself upon him;
but the pretended giant had fled in the shape of a bird. Then Thor
turned back towards the city of Utgard, determined to destroy it
utterly, but before his eyes it dissolved into a column of smoke.

Well, I promised you some of Mother Goose’s stories--have I kept word?
And do not imagine that this story of Thor and the giants’ city is of
doubtful origin--you will find it in chapters 23, 24, 25, and 26 of the
sacred book called Edda.

Of magicians and wizards I could say much, but the road is long and I
am in haste to reach the end. And who does not know the story of the
prowess of Merlin and of the Maugis?

In all the ancient traditions of the North there are found innumerable
tales of wizards, witchcraft, and ghosts. Now rocks are changed into
palaces, and now brutes into men and men into brutes; and the same
fantastic but always epic element prevails largely in all the old
romances of chivalry as well as in the great poems of Ariosto and Tasso.
{381}In almost all countries we find that epic poetry is closely allied
to religious sentiments and through these to the marvelous; for it has
always found a first home in temples and a first use for temples. Thus
it was in India with the Mahabarata, and in Greece with the myths of
Hercules and of Orpheus. It could not be otherwise with the Gallic or
German bards, nor with the Scandinavian skalds, all of whose grand poems
are most unfortunately unknown at present.

But a feature more peculiarly German than the wizards, are the
bewitched, often called the Sleepers. In these Germany incorporates, as
it were, the loftiest of her patriotic aspirations, the saddest of her
disappointments, the most persistent of her hopes. They represent not
only her old faith, that could never be completely eradicated, but
also her old favorites, a Hermann and a Siegfried, the hero of the
Nibelungen, a Theodoric and a Charlemagne, a Witikind and a Frederick
Barbarossa, a William Tell and a Charles V. Her heroes, her beloved,
her glory--she has not allowed them to fall into oblivion and be severed
from the present; she will not admit that they are dead, they are but
asleep. Witikind under the Siegberg in Westphalia, Charlemagne in the
lowest rooms of his old castle at Nuremberg. There--and not, as might
have been imagined, in Aix-la-Chapelle--the mighty old {382}Emperor
rests majestically, surrounded by his brave champions, ready to awake
again whenever God shall be pleased to tell him that the moment has
come.

As for Frederick Barbarossa, he sleeps in the Kyffhauser, one of the
porphyry and granite mountains of the Taunus, and so do others; there is
no denying the fact, for they have been seen!

A few years after his disappearance from this world, Frederick showed
himself upon the summit of one of these mountains, whenever the sound of
a musical instrument was heard in the valley. Knowing his love of music,
the Philharmonic Societies of Erfurth and of other towns to this day,
are fond of serenading the old warrior.

It is said that one evening, when the clock at Tilleda struck midnight,
certain musicians who had ascended the Kyffhauser, suddenly saw the
mountain open and a number of women adorned with jewels and carrying
torches, came out of the opening. They beckoned to them, the men
followed, continuing to play on their instruments and thus they came
where the Emperor was. The latter ordered a good supper to be served,
and when they were ready to leave again, the fair ladies of the court
escorted them back, with their torches in their hands, and at the last
moment gave to each of them a poplar branch. The poor musicians had
{383}hoped for better things from the Emperor’s generosity, and when
they reached the foot of the mountain, they threw their branches into
the road, very indignant at having been so badly treated. Only one among
the number kept his branch, and when he reached home, carefully stuck it
by the side of the consecrated bunch of box which hung over the head of
his bed. Immediately, O marvel! each leaf of the poplar branch changed
into a gold ducat. When the others heard of this, they hastened to look
for their branches, but they never found them again.

On another occasion a shepherd--others say a miner--met on the
Kyffhäuser a monk with a white beard, who unceremoniously and just as
if he had asked him to come and see his next door neighbor, told him
to come with him and see the Emperor Barbarossa, who wanted to speak
to him. At first the poor shepherd was dumb-founded; then he began to
tremble in all his limbs. The monk, however, reassured him and led him
into a narrow, dark valley, and then, striking the ground three times
with his rod, he said: “Open! open! open!”

Thereupon a great noise arose beneath the feet of the monk and the
shepherd; the earth seemed to quake and then a large opening became
visible. They found they were in a long gallery, lighted up {384}by a
single lamp and closed at the other end by folding doors of brass. The
monk, who no doubt was a magician, knocked three times at the door with
his rod, saying again: “Open! open! open!” and the brass doors turned
upon their hinges, producing the same noise which they had heard before
underground.

They were now in a grotto, whose ceiling and walls, blackened by the
smoke of an immense number of torches, seemed to be hung with black as
a sign of mourning. It might have been taken for a mortuary chapel, only
there was no coffin or catafalque visible. The shepherd had, in the
mean time, begun to tremble once more, but the monk repeated his summons
before a silver door, which thereupon opened in the same manner as the
brass door.

In a magnificent room lighted but dimly and in such a manner that it
was impossible to tell where the light came from, they saw the Emperor
Frederick, seated upon a golden throne, with a golden crown on his
head; as they entered he gently inclined his head, contracting his bushy
eyebrows. His long red beard had grown through the table before him and
fell down to the ground.

Turning, not without visible effort, towards the shepherd, he spoke to
him for some time on different subjects and recommended to him to repeat
{385}what he heard to his friends at home. His voice was feeble, but it
grew strong and sonorous as soon as he alluded to the glory of Germany.
Then he said:--

“Are the ravens still flying over the mountains?”

“Yes!” replied the shepherd.

“Are the dead trees still hanging over the abysses of the Kyffhâuser as
in former days?”

“Who could uproot them, unless it be a great storm?”

“Has no one spoken to you of the reappearance of the old woman?”

“No!”

“Well then, I must sleep another hundred years!”

He made a sign to the shepherd that he could go, and then fell asleep,
murmuring the name of a woman which died on his lips.

For among these great Sleepers of Germany there is also a woman, but a
woman rather of symbolic than real existence. What is the difference?
Tradition gives the following account of her:--

When Witikind was beaten by Charlemagne at Engter, a poor old woman,
unable to follow him in his flight, uttered lamentable cries and thus
added to the panic among the defeated army. When the {386}soldiers
obeyed Witikind’s orders and stopped for a moment in the heat of their
flight, they threw a mass of sand and rock upon the old woman. They did
not expect that she would die when thus buried alive; their commander
had told them: “She will come back!”

This old woman, who is to come back, is Teutonia, and it was her name
that Frederick Barbarossa was murmuring to himself as he fell asleep
for another century.

When the old woman shall have succeeded in extricating herself from
this mass of sand and rock which weighs her down, then and then only
the great day will come. The heroes who now are held captive in their
mountains and subterranean grottoes, will shake off the torpor of their
long sleep; they will reappear among their people, the dead trees will
bear new foliage to proclaim their return by a miracle, and the cry of:
Teutonia! Teutonia! will resound in a thousand valleys, and the birds
even will repeat the name!

They say that when this long wished for day does come, Germany will be
freed of all her difficulties, and will boast of having but one
creed, one law, and one heart; she will be glorious and free, one and
indivisible!

We must wait for the birds to tell us so, before we believe it. {387}At
that time Teutonia and her emperors were alike asleep. They mention a
peasant woman from Mayence, who on her way home became so exhausted and
unable to bear the heat of the sun, that she had to seek shelter in an
isolated house, standing by the wayside in the midst of a plantation of
young trees. It was a dwelling of a skillful magician. She asked him for
leave to rest there a few moments. As he was in the midst of some of
his most abstruse calculations, he only replied by nodding his head, and
glanced with his eye at a bench in the most distant part of the room.
She went and sat down, but only on the edge, hardly knowing if she was
allowed to do so or not; every moment she got up to ask her host if she
disturbed him, and if she had not better leave him, tired and exhausted
as she was. She told him that she would much rather endure the heat and
the fatigue, than be a burden to him, she begged him not to mind her and
to go on just as if she were not there, and a host of similar phrases.

Annoyed by her incessant, idle talk, the magician suddenly turned round
and fixedly looked her full in the face. Immediately she fell asleep.
(There was no doubt some knowledge of magnetism already in the world
at that time, but as yet only of magic magnetism). When the good woman
awoke, {388}she was alone; her host had left her. To her great regret
she was compelled to leave without being able to thank him for his
hospitality in her usual profuse manner, and to beg him to excuse her
falling asleep, when he did her the honor of keeping her company.

As she left the house, she was not a little surprised to see around the
house, not a copse of young trees, but a number of tall pine trees and
noble oaks, but she thought it possible she might have left by another
door than that by which she had entered.

When she at last reached her village, new surprises were in store for
her. Of all the good people whom she met on her way or whom she saw
standing in the doors of their houses, she could not recognize a single
one; she had to look a long time before she found her own house, and
when she reached it at last, it was inhabited by strange people, who in
spite of her protestations, pushed her out and treated her as mad.

Then followed a lawsuit, the result of which was to prove, that instead
of sleeping an hour or so on that bench, as she believed, she had been
asleep there a hundred years. Thus the young saplings had had time to
grow up into large trees and her house to change masters. The
strangers who were now living in it and who had turned her out so
{389}unceremoniously, were nothing less than her great grandchildren.

I hope, however, the matter was settled amicably.

The Germans have, with that perseverance which characterizes the nation,
preserved all that could be preserved of their ancient gods as well as
of their former heroes; they do not like to lose anything, only they
did not embalm their favorites, but used enchantment. Let us, however,
notice at once for the honor of the gods, that they were never condemned
to sleep indefinitely. Not one of them is found among the great
Sleepers, such as Charlemagne, Witikind, Frederick I., William Tell, or
the peasant woman, from the neighborhood of Mayence. It is true, they
were exiled to certain remote districts, which they were not allowed to
leave, but they could at least move about and continue their former mode
of life there, after a fashion.

It is not so very long since certain charcoal burners protested that
they had seen Asa-Thor, for want of giants to combat, hurl his hammer
against the tallest trees, which he broke and uprooted.

They had also seen the enchanted hunt of Diana, whose deep-mouthed dogs
bark at night and disturb the slumbers of honest people in {390}Bohemian
villages. Who has not heard of the intrigues of old Venus, not with
her former, classic lover, the god Mars, but with the good knight
Tannhäuser? If we are to believe Heinrich

Heine, even Jupiter has been recently discovered again in one of the
Norwegian islands.

[Illustration: 410]

It would be the height of imprudence, of course, to undertake an account
of the discovery, after such a master. I shall, therefore, be content to
present a mere summary of this remarkable tradition.

There is an island in the Northern seas, which is bordered by icebergs
and arid mountains: the valleys are dim and dark with heavy mists, the
mountain tops are covered with snow for nine months of the year.

Here, one dismal morning, some travellers landed, driven by a tempest
much more than by their own free will. They were mostly savants, members
of great academies from Stockholm and St. Petersburg, who had undertaken
a voyage of discovery to the polar regions. The arid, almost {391}bare
soil did not promise a pleasant resting place, but the mountain slopes
towards the south produced fine grass and dwarf gooseberry bushes, and
the immense number of holes in the ground, together with distinct traces
of debris left at the openings, proved that the island was at all
events inhabited by countless numbers of rabbits. Of other animal life,
however, no trace could be found.

Rabbits seemed to be the only inhabitants of the island, and that was
tempting enough for poor sailors who had for some time been put on salt
rations.

Our savants prepared, therefore, a large number of traps and snares,
when suddenly a fierce tempest of snow and hail broke out, and compelled
them instantly to seek refuge in a spacious cave which opened in that
direction.

They were not a little surprised to find here an old man, bald, hollow
cheeked, and pale, whose body was emaciated and decrepit and who was
hardly clothed in spite of the rigor of the climate. But beneath all
these signs of extreme old age, and great destitution, the stranger
displayed an air of authority, and on his serene and lofty brow such
supernatural majesty, that the travellers were filled with respect and
reverence, and well-nigh trembled at his appearance. {392}An eagle of
the largest variety, but so reduced that he looked the mere skeleton
of a bird, and with faded and disheveled plumage, sat in a corner, the
picture of misery, with his dull eyes and his drooping wings. He was the
old man’s sole companion.

The two hermits, having no other means of subsistence, lived by hunting,
and the old man found in addition, means to carry on a modest traffic
in the furs of the only game that the island contained; he laid up large
supplies of the small peltry and exchanged it for luxuries.....

But my pen refuses to go on. I cannot reconcile it to my principles as
an author nor to my conscience as an honest student of genuine myths, to
repeat here a story, which is altogether apocryphal, and which belongs
much less to tradition than to mystification.

Now, this old man was Jupiter, and as I think it over, I come to the
conclusion that Mr. Heine, who laughs at the most serious things, has
skillfully concealed his irony under the cloak of an interesting story,
for the mere purpose of telling us that the Chief of the Gods, dread
Jupiter, has become--a dealer in rabbit skins!

I cannot follow his example.

Without wandering from my subject, for I am still speaking of false
gods, I will substitute for {393}this necessarily much curtailed
account, another story which I can warrant as authentic.

“In Persia,” we are told by Count Gobineau, in a recently published
book of great merit, “the _Soufys,_ that is to say the savants and
philosophers, reject all dogmatic religion and believe in the reunion of
the soul with God in trances only. When this union is complete, the soul
is transformed and becomes itself a participant in the nature of the
uncreated essence, and Man is God.” Human folly is always a disease
produced by human pride.

France, also, has produced a few gods of that kind; I do not mean to
mention them, however, as belonging to the myths of the Rhine, which
have special reference to Germany only. But among the Germans, also,
there is a school of philosophers who without going as far as the
Persians go, are utterly incredulous, and disregarding trances
and immortal souls alike, have finally denied the existence of God
altogether and made themselves gods. This shows how anxious savants as
well as ignorant men are, in that beautiful country, to people the earth
with deities of every kind!

It is the history of one of these earth-born gods which I propose to
give here, before I close this long chapter. Alas! he is dead now, and
that is a great pity; but he did live once; on that essential point
there is no lack of evidence. I could even, {394}like the Thuringian
peasants when speaking of Frederick Barbarossa, say: “I have seen him!”

In the year 1800 there was born in Düsseldorf, in Prussia, a child in a
Jewish family recently converted to Christianity. This child might well
have been looked upon as of supernatural origin, so entirely different
was it, from its earliest days, from all that had ever been seen before.
Martin Luther no doubt, if the child had been one of his own, would have
pronounced him to be a Killecroff.

He was not only noisy and troublesome, but he was also a pedant; he
snubbed professors and listened to the advice of very young children.
When his parents scolded him, he only laughed at them; when a grave
event disturbed a neighbor’s household, he laughed; when the French took
his native city, he laughed; in fine he was always laughing.

However, as he grew up, he gorged himself with logic, with mathematics,
with Greek and Latin and Hebrew and all kinds of good things besides.
He became even a philosopher before he was of age, but his philosophy
consisted mainly in a sarcastic laugh. When they spoke to him of the
position he might occupy in Düsseldorf, and of the wealth he might
acquire, his only answer was a grimace.

A rabbi spread out before him heaps of gold, {395}promising to give him
that and more, if he would be his slave only for a few years; he refused
to listen to him. As he was a vain man, the demon of Fame endeavored to
tempt him, but he laughed in his face.

At last the devil, a real devil, I am sure (his name was George William
Frederick Schlegel) whispered into his ear: “Would you like to be a
god?”

This time our young philosopher did not laugh. He became a god, and,
from official jealousy, proceeded to deny the great God in Heaven until
he lost all human sentiments. He lived alone, friendless, childless,
without a family and giving up even his mother country, finding that
everything had to be done over again in this world, which he had not
created.

After leaving Germany he came to France, and here in France he laughed
louder and bitterer than ever. In France they did not believe in his
divinity; they did not worship him, but they loved him as if he had been
a simple mortal; in France he made friends and he became like other men
once more. Finally, as he was after all bad only in his wit, he became
voluntarily a convert as he saw the evil fruit of his teachings. He
took a wife to himself with the sanction of the Church, and he died
a believer. {396}This ex-god was called Heinrich Heine, that Heinrich
Heine, who laughed so bitterly at his ex-colleague, Jupiter, and spoke of
him as a dealer in rabbit skins.

[Illustration: 416]

[Illustration: 419]



XVI.

{399}Women as Missionaries, Women as Prophets, Strong Women and Serpent
Women.--_Children’s Myths.--Godmothers.--Fairies.--The Magic Wand and
the Broomstick.--The Lady of Kynast.--The World of the Dead,’ the World
of Ghosts, and the World of Shadows.--Myths of Animals._

Well? Have you seen enough of the gods and demigods of Germany, of the
Nixen and goblins, the Kobolds, the giants, and the dwarfs? Have I shown
you enough of this vast storehouse of human folly? I must confess, it
makes me melancholy to speak of all this, and I feel an urgent desire to
“shut up shop.”

The conscientious collector of myths, who has more material than he can
manage, and sees new myths continually rising before him, is not unlike
those learned physicians who spend their lives among crowds of insane
people. A fever of imitation seizes them and soon they begin to wander
like their patients.

Perhaps I have reached that point myself without becoming aware of it.
The reader must judge for himself.

My mind, filled with myths, symbols, and eccentricities, is ready to ask
for mercy, and still I feel it, there are some things yet to be done.
For instance, I recollect having promised to give a completion of the
history of the Druidesses, that is to say, of women, those myth-like
beings by eminence! That kind of instinctive sense, that delicacy of
almost intuitive perceptions which distinguished them from the other
sex in its material coarseness, could not fail to give them easily the
advantage over men. In Celtic lands as in Scandinavia they were the
models of all virtues, the oracles of the house. They were occasionally
beaten, {401}it is true, but they were also grandly honored, and in
Germany especially people burnt incense before them, long before they
smoked tobacco in their presence.

[Illustration: 421]

{403}At the time when Christianity came, the women played a prominent
and truly glorious part there; all the historians bear witness. Between
the fourth and the sixth century Fritigill, Queen of the Marcomanni,
Clotilda, Queen of France, and Bertha. Queen of England, had compelled
their husbands to bow down before the Cross, and not by witchcraft, as
the pagans wickedly maintained, but simply by persuasion. Other women,
who belonged to noble families or to the common people at large, a
Krimhild, a Thekla, and a Liobat, assisted the missionaries in their
dangerous enterprise and actually helped them in cutting down the sacred
oak trees.

What had become, during these long continued persecutions, of you, fair
Gann, noble Aurinia, majestic Velleda, and of your sisters, the other
Druidesses?

They were wandering about in dark forests, proscribed and weeping over
their departed glory; they concealed themselves in remote places where
the agents of the civil power but rarely appeared. Sometimes, of an
evening, they would venture forth, approach a belated traveller on a
cross-road, and {404}hold with him mysterious converse. Sometimes,
also, the inhabitants of a village, or even of a larger place, would go
secretly to their well chosen hiding places to consult them on the good
or evil chances of their prospects in life, or on an epidemic that was
attacking their cattle. Some people, and among them not unfrequently
recent converts, who were still strongly imbued with their former creed,
would ask them to name their new-born infants and thus to bring them
good luck. Hence they were at first known as _Godmothers_, and at a
later time as _Fairies_.

It was naturally supposed that like the ancient fairies of the East,
these women also derived their power from the stars, for why else should
they have been met so constantly on the mountain slopes, when the moon
was shining brightly, or slipping suddenly from behind a rock or a tree,
where will-o’-the-wisps and fireflies alone were in the habit of being
about?

Among these fairies many were kind and naturally benevolent; others, no
doubt embittered by their fate, appeared irascible and ill disposed. Woe
to the men, or even the cattle upon whom they cast an evil eye!

This evil influence could be averted only by the assistance of another
fairy, a good one in this case, who relieved you more or less promptly
by means {405}of a talisman, a constellated stone, or certain words
possessed of magic power.

Now, if we add to these godmothers, to these godchildren, to good and
bad fairies, the terrible Ogres, whose very name filled the people of
those days with terror, you will know all the mysterious personages
which appear in the myths of children and which we have all known in our
early days.

If we were to examine these legends and traditions more carefully, we
should no doubt easily find “Bluebeard” again among the old burggraves
of the Rhine, as “Puss in Boots” has already been discovered there. “The
Sleeping Beauty” might very well be the peasant woman who had slept a
century under the influence of magic magnetism, and why should not our
little dwarf Kreiss and his brothers have furnished the first idea
of little Tom Thumb, with Quadragant to play the part of the ogre? In
“Cinderella” we might with the same readiness recognize one of the three
Undine sisters, who forgot amid the delights of the evening assembly,
that their furlough was out at ten o’clock? The same would apply, no
doubt, to many others who lived under the influence of wicked Nichus or
evil disposed fairies.

Poor Druidesses! If you had at least survived as fairies! If they had
met you only in the air travelling simply by the aid of your magic wand!
{406}But in proportion as Christianity increased, your power necessarily
decreased.

[Illustration: 426]

The day came at last, when they dared transform you into fortune
tellers, and finally into accursed witches! Then your enchantress’ wand
became that atrocious broomstick upon which you travelled through
the air on your way to the witches’ Sabbath! Oh misery! Oh
{407}wretchedness! What a fatal overthrow of all earthly glory and
grandeur!

When the women thus saw their power of ruling men by prophetic
inspiration slip away from them, they one fine day determined to change
their tactics, their ways and manners, and, I am sorry to have to say
it, almost their sex! They assumed the noisy and truculent manners of
their brothers and husbands and affected violent exercises, riding on
horseback, wrestling, and even fighting in battles. This was the age of
bullying women, of _Strong Women_ in fact.

When they were young ladies they would admit no lover who could not
prove his affections by the most perilous adventures and impossible
enterprises. Such was the case with the famous Lady of Kynast.

She owned a large domain and on this domain a ruined old tower which
stood on the summit of a steep, high rock, surrounded on all sides by a
deep abyss.

Rich, young, and beautiful, eagerly sought for by a number of admirers,
she did not think, in her desire to keep them from becoming too
pressing, of undertaking an endless piece of embroidery like Penelope.
She did not embroider; in fact, she looked with contempt, and almost
with disgust, upon every kind of work that was done by women. {408}She
told her lovers that she was betrothed to Ky-nast--this was the name of
the old tower--and that any one who thought of winning her good will,
would first have to compete with her betrothed. To do this, nothing
was required but to climb up the rock and the tower, and after having
reached the battlements, to make a complete round, not on foot, however,
and assisted by the hands and knees, but on horseback, without other
assistance than the bridle.

The flock of lovers took flight instantly; only two remained. They were
two brothers, bereft of reason by the strength of their passion.

After having cast lots, the first one attempted the task and at first
he was successful. But that was all. He had no sooner reached the
crenelated top of the old tower, unaccompanied by his less active
courser, than he was seized with vertigo and fell instantly into the
abyss.

The second brother, in his turn, climbed up to the top and actually
succeeded in riding some length along the battlements; but soon his
horse, feeling the stones slipping from under its hoofs, and the whole
tower rocking under the weight, refused to go on. To return was as
impossible as to proceed.{409}

[Illustration: 429]

{411}The knight, determined to carry through the undertaking in which he
was engaged, encouraged his horse with his voice and with his spurs,
but the poor animal remained immovable, apparently wedged in between
the large stones of the tower. At last, knight and horse disappeared
together; the abyss swallowed up their bleeding, mangled remains.

The Lady of Kynast could not disguise her delight and her pride as
she received the congratulations of her noble neighbors; all the great
ladies thought of having a Kynast, or a similar trap, in which they
might catch’ and try their lovers.

No other claimants, however, appeared to woo this fair lady, who was so
well protected by her betrothed. The poor damsel felt rather aggrieved
by this neglect. She was by no means satisfied with having sacrificed
only two young men to her pride; she was gradually becoming soured and
ill-tempered, when at last a third lover presented himself and asked
leave to attempt the trial.

She did not know who it was, and this surprised her; for how could he
have fallen in love with her? He might possibly have seen her on her
balcony, or at some royal feast; perhaps he was only allured by her
great reputation. However, there was nothing to lose by accepting his
offer. At best, he was only one more victim to be added to the list;
that was all. At that time women were ferocious.

For some days a thick, heavy fog had shrouded {412}the castle and
the old tower from top to bottom, so as to make the ascent utterly
impossible.

The simple laws of hospitality, required, therefore, that the lady
should offer her castle to the newly arrived knight.

The latter was handsome and of fine figure; his features beamed with
bravery and intelligence; his white, delicate hands, exquisitely shaped,
proved sufficiently that he was of noble descent; and his large retinue
bespoke his high rank and large fortune. During three days he spent
almost all his time with the young lady, but as yet he had not dared say
a word of his love. She, however, felt herself gradually conquered by a
feeling which had, until now, been unknown to her heart.

When the dense veil of mist was at length torn aside, and the Kynast
shone forth in its full splendor, she was on the point of telling the
knight that she would not insist on the trial in his case; but what
would her good friends, the noble ladies of the neighborhood, have said?

When the moment came, the Lady of Kynast felt her heart fail her. She
shut herself in, she wept, she cried, and although little given to
prayers generally, she besought God to do a miracle in behalf of her
knight. She could, however, hope very little from such a miracle, for in
the meantime, loud clamors had been heard below, and as {413}she surely
thought the spectators were bewailing the death of her last lover, she
fainted away.

[Illustration: 433]

{415} Cries of joy and of triumph roused her again; the knight had
successfully accomplished the task. Quite overcome, she rushes to meet
him, and in her intense excitement and the depth of her passion, she
forgets that all eyes are upon her, and breathlessly cries out: “My hand
is yours.”

But he draws himself up to his full height, and, haughtily and harshly
he replies with a withering smile:--

“Have I ever asked you for your hand? I only came to avenge my two
brothers, whom you have killed, and I have done it, for I do not love
you, and you love me! Very well! Now you can die of your love, or of
your shame, as you like it! Farewell, I am going back to Margaret, my
darling, my wife!”

The same evening the wretched lady had herself hoisted up to the top
of the tower, from whence she wished, as she said, to watch the setting
sun.

But before the sun had sunk below the horizon, she had rejoined her
victims at the foot of the ruined old tower.

Thus the Kynast obtained possession of his betrothed.

The story might furnish an admirable plot for a grand opera. But, upon
reflection, I think it would {416}suit a circus better, for there are in
it three first-class parts for horses.

The Lady of Kynast was a strong minded woman, rather than a really
strong woman; but there were others, who really distinguished themselves
by extraordinary physical strength. It would seem that the habit of
taking violent exercise had finally developed their muscles and sinews
to such a degree, that few men could be found strong enough to overcome
them in a wrestling match, or in armed combat.

Such was the noble Brunehilt, queen of Isenstein, in Norway.

_Soothsayers, Godmothers, Fairies, Strong Women, and Serpent Women_ are
not the only women of this class which we ought to mention here perhaps.
We might also speak of the _Swan Women_, who floated on the water in
the dim morning mist, clothed in a cloak of eider down; and the _Forest
Woman_, who was honored every year by the burning of a spindle full of
hemp, to keep her from doing any harm; and the _Water Sneezers,_ to whom
you had to say three times “God bless you!” in order to save their souls
from purgatory; and the little _Moss Gatherers_, who could not escape
from their enemies, the Forest Woman and the Wild Huntsman, unless a
benevolent charcoal burner would mark some trees with three crosses,
behind {417}which they could conceal themselves. But we must make haste
to conclude.

However, as the great _Wild Huntsman_ has accidentally been mentioned,
we do not think it would be fair to leave him out and pass him over in
silence.

[Illustration: 437]

He is the Lord Hackelberg. Most imprudently he had begged God to allow
him to exchange his place in heaven for the right to hunt upon earth for
all time to come. To punish him, God granted {418}his prayer, and ever
since he has been hunting, with horns blowing and dogs barking, without
respite or repose. He hunts continually, day and night, to-day as
yesterday; he must hunt to-morrow as he does to-day, and yet he must
hunt the same deer, which forever escapes from him, and ever will
escape.

Which of the two is most to be pitied, the everlasting huntsman, or the
everlasting game?

How many others could claim a right to be mentioned here as well as he?

These are the people who are _condemned to remain standing forever_, and
those who are _condemned to dance forever,_ another variety of bewitched
people.

You do not think my material is all used up? By no means! In the first
place, I might have told you all about mythological animals; of Thor’s
_buck-goat_, which enjoyed the same privilege as the boar of the
Walhalla, of daily satisfying the powerful appetite of its master and
his guests, and yet being replaced in all its bodily fullness, provided
only care had been taken to put all the bones aside.

I might have gone back to give a fuller account of that famous
Iormungandur, the great sea serpent, which still exists in our
days--who dares doubt it? The crew of an English vessel, passengers,
{419}officers, and sailors, have unanimously testified in a legally
drawn up deposition that they have met it quite recently in the Northern
seas. What more evidence do you want?

And the _Kraken_, that most marvelous of all cetaceans, which could
easily be mistaken for a habitable island, and on which imprudent
navigators once really landed, erecting their tents and saying mass,
without its ever stirring, until they hoisted anchors, when the animal
for the first time gave signs of life?

And the _Griffins_, those perfect symbols of avarice, who are all the
time busily engaged in dragging forth from underground vast heaps of
gold and precious stones, merely in order to guard and defend them
ever afterwards, at the peril of their lives, although the gold and
the jewels are of no use to any one? And Sleipner, Odin’s _eight-legged
horse_, and the dog _Garm_, etc?

Passing on to another variety of zoological marvels, I might have
mentioned the _Salmon,_ whose scaly skin wicked Loki assumed as a
disguise in order to escape from the wrath of the gods after Balder’s
death. And that marvelous _Sturgeon_ in the Rhine, which the French
legends have put to good profit. Let us pause a moment in contemplation
of this wonderful fish.

A young, noble lady determined, in order to save {420}her honor, to
destroy her beauty, the grandest, most heroic, and most calamitous
sacrifice that can possibly be made. Hence, when the moment for action
arrived, her courage failed her. But if she could not bear the idea
of becoming ugly, she could at least mutilate herself. So she puts her
dagger upon the ledge of a window which overlooked the Rhine, seizes a
hatchet, and with a single blow cuts off her hand, which falls into
the river, and then with the bleeding stump terrifies her infamous
persecutor. Here the sturgeon makes its appearance. This providential
sturgeon has seen the hand drop into the river; it swallows it with
well-known voracity, but in the anticipation of restoring it, seven
years later, uninjured to the true owner, and thus to prove her
superhuman virtue. And this really happened seven years after the
occurrence in Rome, in the presence of the Pope and his assembled
Cardinals.

At first sight it does not appear quite clear, how the sturgeon could
have passed from the waters of the Rhine into those of the Tiber, but in
this kind of stories there is no use in trying to comprehend everything.

The noble lady and the sturgeon have furnished the theme for the
famous novel, “La Manekine,” and later, in the Middle Ages, for a
great dramatic mystery on the French stage. {421}Before concluding this
chapter, I may be allowed to say a word about the _World of the Dead_,
which sends in certain consecrated nights its representatives to some of
the churches, or to silent dinners, and about the _World of Ghosts_,
the annals of which have been collected, and the laws of which have been
explained by Jung Stilling and Kerner.

[Illustration: 441]

These ghosts can imitate all the motions of men, walk, run, and even
jump, but they have no power over material objects; they cannot move
a table, a chair, or even a straw. All their united efforts would
not succeed in causing the light of a candle {422}to flicker. We can
therefore feel perfectly easy with regard to these ghosts; they cannot
injure our furniture, nor draw the knot of our cravat inconveniently
tight, if they should take a fancy to make an end of us.

Nor can I keep altogether silence as to the _World of Shadows_, still
dimmer and less perceptible than the World of Ghosts. I shall therefore
content myself with a single instance, which we owe to a Dutch legend.
The master bell-ringer of the city of Haarlem, caught at a tavern by his
wife escaped with such extraordinary rapidity that his shadow was unable
to follow him, and remained hanging on the wall--a fact duly certified
by the signature and seal of the reigning burgomaster, the aldermen, and
other notables of said town.

In spite of such overwhelming evidence one might be disposed to doubt
the authenticity of this remarkable occurrence, which Hoffmann, I
believe, has used in one of his Tales; but had not long before Hoffmann,
and long before the master bell-ringer of Haarlem even, the god Fô left
his shadow in some town of Hindustan, instead of his card? We try in
vain to find anything new under the sun; all our most famous myths and
all our most amusing anecdotes have travelled all over India before they
reached us.

I might also tell you.... but he who tells {423}everything, says too
much. Let us here pause once more, and for the last time. Farewell,
reader, and may Heaven keep you sound in body and soul.{424}

[Illustration: 443]





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