it may be remarked, had never been collected or reduced to writing till within the last few years, would present a faithful picture of the national consciousness, or, perhaps, to speak more correctly, of that half consciousness out of which the heart of any people speaks in its abundance. Besides those world-old affinities and primeval parallelisms, besides those dreamy recollections of its old home in the East, which we have already pointed out, we should expect to find its later history, after the great migration, still more distinctly reflected; to discover heathen gods masked in the garb of Christian saints; and thus to see a proof of our assertion above, that a nation more easily changes the form than the essence of its faith, and clings with a toughness which endures for centuries to what it has once learned to believe.
In all mythologies, the trait of all others which most commonly occurs, is that of the descent of the Gods to earth, where, in human form, they mix among mortals, and occupy themselves with their affairs, either out of a spirit of adventure, or to try the hearts of men. Such a conception is shocking to the Christian notion of the omnipotence and omnipresence of God; but we question if there be not times when the most pious and perfect Christian may not find comfort and relief from a fallacy which was a matter of faith in less enlightened creeds, and over which the apostle, writing to the Hebrews, throws the sanction of his authority, so for as angels are concerned. 1 Nor could he have forgotten those words of
the men of Lystra,"The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men;" and how they called "Barnabas Jupiter," and himself Mercury, "because he was the chief speaker." Classical mythology is full of such stories. These wanderings of the gods are mentioned in the Odyssey, and the sanctity of the rites of hospitality, and the dread of turning a stranger from the door, took its origin from a fear lest the wayfaring man should be a divinity in disguise. According to the Greek story, Orion owed his birth to the fact that the childless Hyrieus, his reputed father, had once received unawares Zeus, Poseidon, and Hermes, or, to call them by their Latin names, Jupiter, Neptune, and Mercury. In the beautiful story of Philemon and Baucis, Jupiter and Mercury reward the aged couple who had so hospitably received them by warning them of the approaching deluge. The fables of Phaedrus and Æsop represent Mercury and Demeter as wandering and enjoying the hospitality of men. In India it is Brahm and Vishnu who generally wander. In the Edda, Odin, Loki, and Hnir thus roam about, or Thor, Thialfi, and Loki. Sometimes Odin appears alone as a horseman, who turns in at night to the smith's house, and gets him to shoe his horse,a legend which reminds us at once of the Master-Smith. 1 Sometimes it is Thor with his great hammer who wanders thus alone.
Now, let us turn from heathen to Christian times, and look at some of these old legends of wandering gods in a
new dress. Throughout the Middle Age, it is our blessed Lord and St. Peter that thus wander; and here we see that half-digested heathendom to which we have alluded. Those who may be shocked at such tales in this collection as "The Master-Smith" and "Gertrude's Bird," must just remember that these are almost purely heathen traditions in which the names alone are Christian; and if it be any consolation to any to know the fact, we may as well state at once that this adaptation of new names to old beliefs is not peculiar to the Norsemen, but is found in all the popular tales of Europe. Germany was full of them, and there St. Peter often appears in a snappish ludicrous guise, which reminds the reader versed in Norse mythology with the tricks and pranks of the shifty Loki. In the Norse tales he thoroughly preserves his saintly character.
Nor was it only gods that walked among men. In the Norse mythology, Frigga, Odin's wife, who knew beforehand all that was to happen, and Freyja, the goddess of love and plenty, were prominent figures, and often trod the earth; the three Norns or Fates, who sway the weirds of men, and spin their destinies at Mimirs' well of knowledge, were awful, venerable powers, to whom the heathen world looked up with love and adoration and awe. To that love and adoration and awe, throughout the Middle Age, one woman, transfigured into a divine shape, succeeded by a sort of natural right, and round the Virgin Mary's blessed head a halo of lovely tales of divine help beams with soft radiance as a crown bequeathed to her by the ancient goddesses. She appears as divine mother, spinner, and helpful virgin (vierge secourable). Flowers and plants bear her name. In England one of our commonest and
prettiest insects is still called after her, but which belonged to Freyja, the heathen "Lady," long before the Western nations had learned to adore the name of the mother of Jesus. 1
The reader of these Tales will meet, in that of "The Lassie and her Godmother," p. 188, with the Virgin Mary in a truly mythic character, as the majestic guardian of sun, moon, and stars, combined with, that of a helpful, kindly woman, who, while she knows how to punish a fault, knows also how to reconcile and forgive.
The Norseman's god was a god of battles, and victory his greatest gift to men; but this was not the only aspect under which the Great Father was revered. Not victory in the fight alone, but every other good gift came down from him and the Æsir. Odin's supreme will was that treasure-house of bounty towards which, in one shape or the other, all mortal desires turned, and out of its abundance showers of mercy and streams of divine favour constantly poured down to refresh the weary race of men. All these blessings and mercies, nay, their very source itself, the ancient language bound up in a single word,
which, however expressive it may still be, has lost much of the fulness of its meaning in its descent to these later times. This word was "Wish," which originally meant the perfect ideal, the actual fruition of all joy and desire, and not, as now, the empty longing for the object of our desires. From this original abstract meaning it was but a step to pass to the concrete, to personify the idea, to make it an immortal essence, an attribute of the divinity, another name for the greatest of all Gods himself. And so we find a host of passages in early writers, 1 in every one of which "God" or "Odin" might be substituted for "Wish" with perfect propriety. Here we read how "The Wish" has hands, feet, power, sight, toil, and art. How he works and labours, shapes and masters, inclines his ear, thinks, swears, curses, and rejoices, adopts children, and takes melt into his house; behaves, in short, as a being of boundless power and infinite free-will. Still more, he rejoices in his own works as in a child, and thus appears in a thoroughly patriarchal point of view, as the Lord of creation, glorying in his handiwork, as the father of a family in early times was glad at heart when he reckoned his children as arrows in his quiver, and beheld his house full of a long line of retainers and dependants. For this attribute of the Great Father, for Odin as the God of Wish, the Edda uses the word "Oski," which literally expresses the masculine personification of "Wish," and it passed on and added the word osk, wish, as a prefix to a number of others, to signify that they stood in a peculiar relation to the Great Giver of all good. Thus, we have oska-steinn, wishing-stone, i.e. a stone which plays the part of a divining-rod, and reveals secrets and
hidden treasure; oska-byrr, a fair wind, a wind as fair as man's heart could wish it; osk-barn and oska-barn, a child after one's own heart, an adopted child, as when the younger Edda tells us that all those who die in battle are Odin's choice-bairns, his adopted children, those on whom he has set his heart,an expression which, in their turn, was taken by the Icelandic Christian writers to express the relation existing between God and the baptized; and, though last, not least, oska-mær, wish-maidens, another name for the ValkyriesOdin's corse-choosers,who picked out the dead for him on the field of battle, and waited on the heroes in Valhalla. Again, the Edda is filled with "choice things," possessing some mysterious power of their own, some "virtue," as our older English would express it, which belong to this or that god, and are occasionally lent or lost. Thus, Odin himself had a spear which gave victory to those on whose side it was hurled; Thor, a hammer which destroyed the Giants, hallowed vows, and returned of itself to his hand. He had a strength-belt, too, which, when he girded it on, his god-strength waxed one-half; Freyr had a sword which wielded itself; Freyja a necklace which, like the cestus of Venus, inspired all hearts with love; Freyr, again, had a ship called Skithblathnir.
"She is so great, that all the Æsir, with their weapons and war gear, may find room on board her; and as soon as the sail is set, she has a fair wind whither she shall go; and when there is no need of faring on the sea in her, she is made of so many things, and with so much craft, that Freyr may fold her to-ether like a cloth, and keep her in his bag" 1
Of this kind, too, was the ring "Dropper" which Odin had, and from which twelve other rings dropped every night; the apples which Idun, one of the Goddesses, had, and of which, so soon as the Æsir ate, they became young again; the helm which gir, the sea giant had, which struck terror into all antagonists like the Ægis of Athene; and that wonderful mill which the mythical Frodi owned, of which we shall shortly speak.
Now, let us see what traces of this great god "Wish" and his choice-bairns and wishing-things we can find in these Tales, faint echoes of a mighty heathen voice, which once proclaimed the goodness of the great Father in the blessings which he bestowed on his chosen sons. We shall not have long to seek. In tale No. xx., p. 131, when Shortshanks meets those three old crookbacked hags who have only one eye, which he snaps up, and gets first a sword "that puts a whole army to flight, be it ever so great." We have the "one-eyed Odin," degenerated into an old hag, or ratherby no uncommon processwe have an old witch fused by popular tradition into a mixture of Odin and the three Nornir. Again, when he gets that wondrous ship "which can sail over fresh water and salt water, and over high hills and deep dales," and which is so small that he can put it into his pocket, and yet, when he came to use it, could hold five hundred men, we have plainly the Skithblathnir of the Edda to the very life. So also in "The Best Wish," p. 252, the whole groundwork of this story rests on this old belief; and when we meet that pair of old scissors which cuts all manner of fine clothes out of the air, that tablecloth which covers itself with the best dishes you could think of, as soon as it was spread out, and that
tap which, as soon as it was turned, poured out the best of mead and wine, we have plainly another form of Frodi's wishing-quern,another recollection of those things of choice about which the old mythology has so much to tell. Of the same kind are the tablecloth, the ram, and the stick in "The Lad who went to the North Wind," p. 228, and the rings in "The Three Princesses of White land," p. 181, and in "Soria Moria Castle," p. 396. In the first of those stories, too, we find those "three brothers" who have stood on a moor "these hundred years fighting about a hat, a cloak, and a pair of boots," which had the virtue of making him who wore them invisible; choice things which will again remind the reader of the Nibelungen Lied, of the way in which Siegfried became possessed of the famous hoard of gold, and how he got that "cap of darkness" which was so useful to him in his remaining exploits. So again in "The Blue Belt," p. 155, what is that belt which, when the boy girded it on, "he fell as strong as if he could lift the whole hill," but Thor's "choice-belt;" and what is the daring boy himself, who overcomes the Troll, but Thor himself, as engaged in one of his adventures with the Giants? So, too, in "Little Annie the Goose-girl," p. 414, the stone which tells the Prince all the secrets of his brides is plainly the old Oskastein, or "wishing-stone." These instances will suffice to shew the prolonged faith in "Wish," and his choice things; a belief which, though so deeply rooted in the North, we have already traced to its home in the East, whence it stretches itself from pole to pole, and reappears in every race. We recognise it in the wishing-cap of Fortunatus, which is a Celtic legend; in the cornucopia of the Romans;
in the goat Amalthea among, the Greeks; in the wishing-cow and wishing-tree of the Hindoos; in the pumpkin-tree of the West Indian Ananzi stories; in the cow of the Servian legends, who spins yarn out of her ear; in the Sampo of the Finns; and in all those stories of cups, and glasses, and horns, and rings, and swords, seized by some hold spirit in the midst of a fairy revel, or earned by some kind deed rendered by mortal hand to one of the" good folk" in her hour of need, and with which the "luck" 1 of that mortal's house was ever afterwards bound up; stories with which the local traditions of all lands are full, but which all pay unconscious homage to the worship of that great God, to whom so many heathen hearts so often turned as the divine realiser of their prayers, and the giver of all good things, until they came at last to make an idol out of their hopes and prayers, and to immortalise the very "Wish" itself.
Again, of all beliefs, that in which man has, at all times of his history, been most prone to set faith, is that of a golden age of peace and plenty, which had passed away, but which might be expected to return. Such a period was looked for when Augustus closed the temple of Janus, and peace, though perhaps not plenty, reigned over what the proud Roman called the habitable world. Such a period the early Christian expected when the Saviour was born, in the reign of that very Augustus; and such a period, some, whose thoughts are more set on earth than heaven, have hoped for ever since, with a hope which, though deferred for eighteen centuries, has not made their hearts
sick. Such a period of peace and plenty, such a golden time, the Norseman could tell of in his mythic Frodi's reign, when gold or Frodi's meal, as it was called, was so plentiful that golden armlets lay untouched from year's end to year's end on the king's highway, and the fields bore crops unsown. Here, in England, the Anglo-Saxon Bede 1 knew how to tell the same story of Edwin, the Northumbrian king, and when Alfred came to be mythic, the same legend was passed on from Edwin to the West Saxon monarch. The remembrance of "the bountiful Frodi" echoed in the songs of German poets long after the story which made him so bountiful had been forgotten; but the Norse Skalds could tell not only the story of Frodi's wealth and bounty, but also of his downfall and ruin. In Frodi's house were two maidens of that old giant race, Fenja and Menja. These daughters of the giant he had bought as slaves, and he made them grind his quern or hand-mill, Grotti, out of which he used to grind peace and gold. Even in that golden age one sees there were slaves, and Frodi, however bountiful to his thanes and people, was a hard taskmaster to his giant handmaidens. He kept them to the mill, nor gave them longer rest than the cuckoo's note lasted, or they could sing a song. But that quern was such that it ground anything that the grinder chose, though until then it had ground nothing but gold and peace. So the maidens ground and ground, and one sang their piteous tale in a strain worthy of Æschylus as the other workedthey prayed for rest and pity, but Frodi was deaf. Then they turned in giant mood, and
ground no longer peace and plenty, but fire and war. Then the quern went fast and furious, and that very night came Mysing the Sea-rover, and slew Frodi and all his men, and carried off the quern; and so Frodi's peace ended. The maidens the Sea-rover took with him, and when he got on the high seas he bade them grind salt. So they ground; and at midnight they asked if he had not salt enough, but he bade them still grind on. So they ground till the ship was full and sank, Mysing, maids, and mill, and all, and that's why the sea is salt. 1 Perhaps of all the tales in this volume, none could be selected as better proving the toughness of a traditional belief than No. ii., p. 8, which tells "Why the Sea is Salt."
The notion of the Arch-enemy of God and man, of a fallen angel, to whom power was permitted at certain times for an all-wise purpose by the Great Ruler of the universe, was as foreign to the heathendom of our ancestors as his name was outlandish and strange to their tongue. This notion Christianity brought with it from the East; and though it is a plant which has struck deep roots, grown distorted and awry, and borne a bitter crop of superstition, it required all the authority of the Church to prepare the soil at first for its reception. To the notion of good necessarily follows that of evil. The Eastern mind, with its Ormuzd and Ahriman, is full of such dualism, and from that hour, when a more than mortal eye saw Satan falling like lightning from heaven, 2 the kingdom of darkness, the abode of Satan and his bad spirits, was
established in direct opposition to the kingdom of the Saviour and his angels. The North had its own notion on this point. Its mythology was not without its own dark powers; but though they too were ejected and dispossessed, they, according to that mythology, had rights of their own. To them belonged all the universe that had not been seized and reclaimed by the younger race of Odin and Æsir; and though this upstart dynasty, as the Frost Giants in Promethean phrase would have called it, well knew that Hel, one of this giant progeny, was fated to do them all mischief, and to outlive them, they took her and made her queen of Niflheim, and mistress over nine worlds. There, in a bitterly cold place, she received the souls of all who died of sickness or old age; care was her bed, hunger her dish, starvation her knife. Her walls were high and strong, and her bolts and bars huge; "Half blue was her skin, and half the colour of human flesh. A goddess easy to know, and in all things very stern and grim." 1 But though severe, she was not an evil spirit. She only received those who died as no Norseman wished to die. For those who fell on the gory battle-field, or sank beneath the waves, Valhalla was prepared, and endless mirth and bliss with Odin. Those went to Hel, who were rather unfortunate than wicked, who died before they could be killed. But when Christianity came in and ejected Odin and his crew of false divinities, declaring them to be lying gods and demons, then Hel fell with the rest; but fulfil ling her fate, outlived them. From a person she became a place, and all the Northern nations, from the Goth to
the Norseman, agreed in believing Hell to be the abode of the devil and his wicked spirits, the place prepared from the beginning for the everlasting torments of the damned. One curious fact connected with this explanation of Hell's origin will not escape the reader's attention. The Christian notion of Hell is that of a place of heat, for in the East, whence Christianity came, heat is often an intolerable torment, and cold, on the other hand, everything that is pleasant and delightful. But to the dweller in the North, heat brings with it sensations of joy and comfort, and life without fire has a dreary outlook; so their Hel ruled in a cold region over those who were cowards by implication, while the mead-cup went round, and huge logs blazed and crackled in Valhalla, for the brave and beautiful who had dared to die on the field of battle. But under Christianity the extremes of heat and cold have met, and Hel, the cold uncomfortable goddess, is now our Hell, where flames and fire abound, and where the devils abide in everlasting flame.
Still, popular tradition is tough, and even after centuries of Christian teaching, the Norse peasant, in his popular tales, can still tell of Hell as a place where firewood is wanted at Christmas, and over which a certain air of comfort breathes, though, as in the Goddess Hel's halls, meat is scarce. The following passage from "Why the Sea is Salt," p. 8, will sufficiently prove this:
"Well, here is the flitch," said the rich brother, "and now go straight to Hell."
"What I have given my word to do, I must stick to," said the other; so he took the flitch and set off. He walked
the whole day, and at dusk he came to a place where he saw a very bright light.
"Maybe this is the place," said the man to himself. So he turned aside, and the first thing he saw was an old, old man, with a long white beard, who stood in an outhouse, hewing wood for the Christmas fire.
"Good even," said the man with the flitch.
"The same to you; whither are you going so late?" said the man.
"Oh! I'm going to Hell, if I only knew the right way," answered the poor man.
"Well, you're not far wrong, for this is Hell," said the old man. "When you get inside they will be all for buying your flitch, for meat is scarce in Hell; but mind you don't sell it unless you get the hand-quern which stands behind the door for it. When you come out, I'll teach you how to handle the quern, for it's good to grind almost anything."
This, too, is the proper place to explain the conclusion of that intensely heathen tale, "The Master-Smith," p. 105. We have already seen how the Saviour and St. Peter supply, in its beginning, the place of Odin and some other heathen god. But when the Smith sets out with the feeling that he has done a silly thing, in quarrelling with the Devil, having already lost his hope of heaven, this tale assumes a still more heathen shape. According to the old notion, those who were not Odin's guests went either to Thor's house, who had all the thralls, or to Freyja, who even claimed a third part of the slain on every battlefield with Odin, or to Hel, the cold comfortless goddess already mentioned, who was still no tormentor, though she ruled over nine worlds, and though her walls were high,
and her bolts and bars huge; traits which come out in "The Master-Smith," p. 105, when the Devil, who here assumes Hel's place, orders the watch to go back and lock up all the nine locks on the gates of Hella lock for each of the goddesses' nine worldsand to put a padlock on besides. In the twilight between heathendom and Christianity, in that half-Christian half-heathen consciousness which this tale reveals, heaven is the preferable abode, as Valhalla was of yore, but rather than be without a house to one's head after death, Hell was not to be despised; though, having behaved ill to the ruler of one, and actually quarrelled with the master of the other, the Smith was naturally anxious on the matter. This notion of different abodes in another world, not necessarily places of torment, comes out too in "Not a Pin to choose between them," p. 173. where Peter, the second husband of the silly Goody, goes about begging from house to house in Paradise.
For the rest, whenever the Devil appears in these tales, it is not at all as the Arch-enemy, as the subtle spirit of the Christian's faith, but rather as one of the old Giants, supernatural and hostile indeed to man, but simple and easily deceived by a cunning reprobate, whose superior intelligence he learns to dread, for whom he feels himself no match, and whom, finally, he will receive in Hell at no price. We shall have to notice some other characteristics of this race of giants a little further on, but certainly no greater proof can be given of the small hold which the Christian Devil has taken of the Norse mind, than the heathen aspect under which he constantly appears, and the ludicrous way in which he is always outwitted.
We have seen how our Lord and the saints succeeded to Odin and his children in the stories which told of their wanderings on earth to warn the wicked, or to help the good; we have seen how the kindliness and helpfulness of the ancient goddesses fell like a royal mantle round the form of the Virgin Mary. We have seen, too, on the other hand, how the procession of the Almighty God degenerated into the infernal midnight hunt. We have now to see what became of the rest of the power of the goddesses, of all that might which was not absorbed into the glory of the blessed Virgin. We shall not have far to seek. No reader of early medieval chronicles and sermons can fail to have been struck with many passages which ascribe majesty and power to beings of woman's sex. Now it is a heathen goddess as Diana; now some half-historical character as Bertha; now a mythical being as Holda; now Herodias; now Satia; now Domina Abundia, or Dame Habonde. 1 A very short investigation will serve
to identify the two ancient goddesses Frigga and Freyja with all these leaders of a midnight host. Just as Odin was banished from day to darkness, so the two great heathen goddesses, fused into one "uncanny" shape, were supposed to ride the air at night. Medieval chroniclers, writing in bastard Latin, and following the example of classical authors, when they had to find a name for this demon-goddess, chose, of course, Diana the heathen huntress; the moon-goddess; and the ruler of the night. In the same way, when they threw Odin's name into a Latin shape, he, the god of wit and will, as well as power and victory, became Mercury. As for Herodiasnot the mother, but the daughter who dancedshe must have made a deep impression on the mind of the early Middle Age, for she was supposed to have been cursed after the beheading of John the Baptist, and to have gone on dancing for ever. When heathendom fell, she became confounded with the ancient Goddesses, and thus we find
her, sometimes among the crew of the Wild Huntsman; sometimes, as we see in the passages below, in company with, or in the place of Diana, Holda, Satia, and Abundia, at the head of a bevy of women, who met at certain places to celebrate unholy rites and mysteries. As for Holda, Satia, and Abundia, "the kind," "the satisfying," and "the abundant," they are plainly names of good rather than evil powers; they are ancient epithets drawn from the bounty of the "Good Lady," and attest the feeling of respect which still clung to them in the popular mind. As was the case whenever Christianity was brought in, the country folk, always averse to change, as compared with the more lively and intelligent dwellers in towns,
still remained more or less heathen, 1 and to this day they preserve unconsciously many superstitions which can be traced up in lineal descent to their old belief. In many ways does the old divinity peep out under the new superstitionthe long train, the midnight feast, "the good lady" who presides, the bounty and abundance which her votaries fancied would follow in her footsteps, all belong to the ancient Goddess. Most curious of all is the way in which all these traditions from different countries insist on the third part of the earth, the third child born, the third soul as belonging to the "good lady" who leads the revel; for this right of a third, or even of a half, was one which Freyja possessed. "But Freyja is most famous of the Asynjor. She has that bower in heaven hight Fólkvángr, and whithersoever she rideth to the battle, then hath she one-half of the slain, but Odin the other half." Again "when she fares abroad, she drives two cats and sits in a car, and she lends an easy ear to the prayers of men." 2
We have got then the ancient goddesses identified as evil influences, and as the leader of a midnight band of women, who practised secret and unholy rites. This leads us at once to witchcraft. In all ages and in all races this belief in sorcery has existed. Men and women practised it alike, but in all times female sorcerers have predominated. 3 This was natural enough. In those days women
were priestesses; they collected drugs and simples; Women alone knew the virtues of plants. Those soft hands spun linen, made lint, and bound wounds. Women, in the earliest times with which we are acquainted with our forefathers, alone knew how to read and write, they only could carve the mystic runes, they only could chant the charms so potent to allay the wounded warrior's smart and pain. The men were busy out of doors with ploughing hunting, barter, and war. In such an age the sex which possessed by natural right book-learning, physic, soothsaying, and incantation, even when they used these mysteries for good purposes, were but a step from sin. The same soft white hand that bound the wound and scraped the lint; the same gentle voice that sung the mystic rune, that helped the child-bearing woman, or drew the arrow-head from the dying champion's breast; the same bright eye that gazed up to heaven in ecstasy through the sacred rove and read the will of the Gods when the mystic tablets and rune-carved lots were castall these, if the will were had, if the soothsayer passed into the false prophetess, the leech into a poisoner, and the priestess into a witch, were as potent and terrible for ill as they had once been powerful for good. In all the Indo-European tribes, therefore, women, and especially old women, have practised witchcraft from the earliest times, and Christianity found them wherever it advanced. But Christianity, as it placed mankind upon a higher platform of civilisation, increased the evil which it found, and when it expelled the ancient goddesses, and confounded them as demons with Diana and Herodias, it added them and their votaries to the old class of malevolent sorcerers. There was but one step, but a simple act of the will, between
the Norn and the hag, even before Christianity came in. As soon as it came, down went Goddess, Valkyrie, Norn, priestess, and soothsayer, into that unholy deep where the heathen hags and witches had their being; and, as Christianity gathered strength, developed its dogmas, and worked out its faith, fancy, tradition, leechcraft, poverty, and idleness, produced that unhappy class, the medieval witch, the persecution of which is one of the darkest pages in religious history.
It is curious indeed to trace the belief in witches through the Middle Age, and to mark how it increases in intensity and absurdity. At first, as we have seen in the passages quoted, the superstition seemed comparatively harmless, and though the witches themselves may have believed in their unholy power, there were not wanting divines who took a common-sense view of the matter, and put the absurdity of their pretensions to a practical proof. Such was that good parish priest who asked, when an old woman of his flock insisted that she had been in his house with the company of "the Good Lady," and had seen him naked and covered him up, "How, then, did you get in when all the doors were locked?" "We can get in," she said, "even if the doors are locked." Then the priest took her into the chancel of the church, locked the door, and gave her a sound thrashing with the pastoral staff, calling out, "Out with you, lady witch." But as she could not, he sent her home, saying, "See now how foolish you are to believe in such empty dreams." 1 But as the Church
increased in strength, as heresies arose, and consequent persecution, then the secret meetings of these sectarians, as we should now call them, were identified by the hierarchy with the rites of sorcery and magic, and with the relies of the worship of the old gods. By the time, too, that the hierarchy was established, that belief in the fallen angel, the Arch-Fiend, the Devil, originally so foreign to the nations of the West, had become thoroughly ingrafted on the popular mind, and a new element of wickedness and superstition was introduced at those unholy festivals. About the middle of the thirteenth century, we find the mania for persecuting heretics invading the tribes of Teutonic race from France and Italy, backed by all the power of the Pope. Like jealousy, persecution too often makes the meat it feeds on, and many silly, if not harmless, superstitions were rapidly put under the ban of the Church. Now the "Good Lady" and her train begin to recede; they only fill up the background, while the Prince of Darkness steps, dark and terrible, in front, and soon draws after him the following of the ancient goddess. Now we hear stories of demoniac possession; now the witches adore a demon of the other sex. With the male element, and its harsher, sterner nature, the sinfulness of these unholy assemblies is infinitely increased; folly becomes guilt, and guilt crime. 1
From the middle of the fourteenth to the middle of the seventeenth century the history of Europe teems with processes against witches and sorcerers. Before the Reformation it reached its height, in the Catholic world, with the famous bull of Innocent the Eighth in 1481, the infamous Malleus Maleficarum, the first of the long list of witch-finding books, and the zeal with which the State lent all the terrors of the law to assist the ecclesiastical inquisitors. Before the tribunals of those inquisitors, in
the fifteenth century, innumerable victims were arraigned on the double charge of heresy and sorceryfor the crimes ran in couples, both being children and sworn servants of the Devil. Would that the historian could say that with the era of the Reformation these abominations ceased! The Roman Hierarchy, with her bulls and inquisitors, had sown a bitter crop, which both she and the Protestant Churches were destined to reap; but in no part of the world were the labourers more eager and willing, when the fields were "black" to harvest, than in those very reformed communities which had just shaken off the yoke of Rome, and which had sprung in many cases from the very heretics whom she had persecuted and burnt, accusing them, at the same time, of the most malignant sorceries. 1 Their excuse is, that no
one is before his age. The intense personality given to the Devil in the Middle Age had possessed the whole mind of Europe. We must take them as we find them, with their bright fancy, their earnest faith, their stern fanaticism, their revolting superstition, just as when we look upon a picture we know that those brilliant hues and tones, that spirit which informs the whole, could never be were it not for the vulgar earths and oil out of which the glorious work of art is mixed and made. Strangely monotonous are all the witch trials of which Europe has so many to show. At first the accused denies, then under torture she confesses, then relapses and denies; tortured again, she confesses again, amplifies her story, and accuses others. When given to the stake, she not seldom asserts all her confessions to be false, which is ascribed to the power which the fiend still has over her. Then she is burnt and her ashes given to the winds. Those who wish to read one, unexampled perhaps for barbarity and superstition, and more curious than the rest from the prominence given in it to a man, may find it in the trial of Dr. Fian, the Scotch wizard, "which Doctor was register to the devill, that sundrie times preached at North Baricke (North Berwick, in East Lothian) Kirke to a number of notorious Witches." 1 But
we advise no one to venture on a perusal of this tract who is not prepared to meet with the most unutterable accusations and crimes, the most cruel tortures, and the most absurd confessions, followed as usual by the stoutest denial of all that had been confessed; when torture had done her worst on poor human nature, and the soul reasserted at the last her supremacy over the body. 1 One
characteristic of all these witch trials is the fact. that in spite of their unholy connection and intrigues with the Evil One, no witch ever attained to wealth and station by the aid of the Prince of Darkness. The pleasure to do ill is all the pleasure they feel. This fact alone might have opened the eyes of their persecutors, for if the Devil had the worldly power which they represented him to have,
he might at least have raised seine of his votaries to temporal rank, and to the pomps and the vanities of this world. An old German proverb expresses this notorious fact, by saying, that "every seven years a witch is three halfpence richer;" and so with all the unholy means of Hell at their command, they dragged out their lives, along with their black cats, in poverty and wretchedness. To this fate at last came the worshippers of the great goddess Freyja, whom our forefathers adored as the goddess of love and plenty; and whose car was drawn by those animals which popular superstition has ever since assigned to the "old witch" of our English villages.
The North was not free, any more than the rest of the Protestant world, from this direful superstition, which ran
over Europe like a pestilence in the sixteenth century. In Sweden especially, the witches and their midnight ridings to Blokulla, the black hill, gave occasion to processes as absurd and abominable as the trial of Dr. Fian and the witch-findings of Hopkins. In Denmark, the sorceresses were supposed to meet at Tromsoe, high up in Finmark, or even on Hecla in Iceland. The Norse witches met at a Blokolle of their own, or on the Dovrefell, or at other places in Norway or Finmark. As might be expected, we find many traces of witchcraft in these Tales, but it may be doubted whether these may not be referred rather to the old heathen belief in such arts still lingering in the popular mind than to the processes of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which were far
more a craze and mania of the educated classes acting under a mistaken religious fanaticism against popular superstitions than a movement arising from the mass of the community. Still, in the Mastermaid, p. 71, the witch of a sister-in-law, who had rolled the apple over to the Prince, and so charmed him, was torn to pieces between twenty-four horses. The old queen in "The Lassie and her Godmother," p. 188, tries to persuade her son to have the young queen burnt alive for a wicked witch, who was dumb, and had eaten her own babes. In "East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon," p. 22, it is a wicked stepmother who has bewitched the prince. In "Bushy Bride," p. 322, the ugly bride charms the king to sleep, and is at last thrown, with her wicked mother, into a pit full of snakes. In "The Twelve Wild Ducks," p. 51, the wicked stepmother persuades the king that Snow-white and Rosy-red is a witch, and almost persuades him to burn her alive. In "Tatterhood," p. 345, a whole troop of witches come to keep their revels on Christmas eve in the Queen's Palace, and snap off the young Princess's head. It is hard, indeed, in tales where Trolls play so great a part, to keep witch and Troll separate; but the above instances will shew that the belief in the one, as distinct from the other, exists in the popular superstitions of the North.
The frequent transformation of men into beasts, in these Tales, is another striking feature. This power the gods of the Norseman possessed in common with those of all other mythologies. Europa and her Bull, Leda and her Swan, will occur at once to the reader's mind; and to come to closer resemblances, just as Athene appears in the
[paragraph continues] Odyssey as an eagle or a swallow perched on the roof of the hall, 1 so Odin flies off as a falcon, and Loki takes the form of a horse or bird. This was only part of that omnipotence which all gods enjoy. But the belief that men, under certain conditions, could also take the shape of animals, is primeval, and the traditions of every race can tell of such transformations. Herodotus had heard how the Neurians, a Slavonic race, passed for wizards amongst the Scythians and the Greeks settled round the Black Sea, because each of them, once in the year, became a wolf for a few days, and then returned to his natural shape. Pliny, Pomponius Mela, and St. Augustin, in his great treatise, De Civitate Dei, tell the same story, and Virgil in his Eclogues has sung the same belief. 2 The Latins called such a man a turnskin,versipellis, an expression which exactly agrees with the Icelandic expression for the same thing, and which is probably the true original of our turncoat. In Petronius the superstition appears in its full shape, and is worth repeating. At the banquet of Trimalchion, Niceros gives the following account of the turnskins of Nero's time:
"It happened that my master was gone to Capua to dispose of some second-hand goods. I took the opportunity and persuaded our guest to walk with me to the fifth milestone. He was a valiant soldier, and a sort of grim water-drinking Pluto. About cock-crow, when the moon was shining as bright as mid-day, we came among the monuments. My
friend began addressing himself to the stars, but I was rather in a mood to sing or to count them; and when I turned to look at him, lo! he had already stripped himself and laid down his clothes near him. My heart was in my nostrils, and I stood like a dead man; but he 'circumminxit vestimenta,' and on a sudden became a. wolf. Do not think I jest; I would not lie for any man's estate. But to return to what I was saying. When he became a wolf, he began howling, and fled into the woods. At first I hardly knew where I was, and afterwards, when I went to take up his clothes, they were turned into stone. Who then died with fear but I? Yet I drew my sword, and went cutting the air right and left, till I reached the villa of my sweetheart. I entered the courtyard. I almost breathed my last, the sweat ran down my neck, my eyes were dim, and I thought I should never recover myself. My Melissa wondered why I was out so late, and said to me,'Had you come sooner you might at least have helped us, for a wolf has entered the farm, and worried all our cattle; but he had not the best of the joke, for all he escaped, for our slave ran a lance through his neck.' When I heard this, I could not doubt how it was, and, as it was clear daylight, ran home as fast as a robbed innkeeper. When I came to the spot where the clothes had been turned into stone, I could find nothing except blood. But when I got home, I found my friend the soldier in bed, bleeding at the neck like an ox, and a doctor dressing his wound. I then knew he was a turnskin; nor would I ever have broke bread with him again; no, not if you had killed me." 1
A man who had such a gift or greed was also called lycanthropus, a man-wolf or wolf-man, which term the Anglo-Saxons translated literally in Canute's Laws verevulf, and the early English werewolf. In Old French he was loupgarou, which means the same thing; except that garou means man-wolf in itself without the antecedent loup, so that, as Madden observes, the whole word is one of those reduplications of which we have an example in lukewarm. In Brittany he was bleizgarou and denvleiz, formed respectively from bleiz, wolf, and den, man; garou is merely a distorted form of wer or vere, man and loup. In later French the word became waroul, whence the Scotch wroul, wurl, and worlin. 1
It was not likely that a belief so widely spread should not have extended itself to the North; and the grave assertions of Olaus Magnus in the sixteenth century, in his Treatise de Gentibus Septentrionalibus, shew how common the belief in were-wolves was in Sweden so late as the time of Gustavus Vasa. In mythical times the Volsunga Saga 2 expressly states of Sigmund and Sinfjötli that they became were-wolves,which, we may remark, were Odin's sacred beasts,just in the same way as Brynhildr and the Valkyries, or corse-choosers, who followed the
god of battles to the field, and chose the dead for Valhalla when the fight was done, became swan-maidens, and took the shape of swans. In either case, the wolf's skin or the swan's feathery covering was assumed and laid aside at pleasure, though the Völundr Quidr, in the Edda, and the stories of "The Fair Melusina," and other medieval swan-maidens, shew that any one who seized that shape while thus laid aside, had power over its wearer. In later times, when this old heroic belief degenerated into the notion of sorcery, it was supposed that a girdle of wolfskin thrown over the body, or even a slap on the face with a wolfskin glove, would transform the person upon whom the sorcerer practised into the shape of a ravening wolf, which fled at once to the woods, where he remained in that shape for a period which varied in popular belief for nine days, three, seven, or nine years. While in this state he was especially ravenous after young children, whom he carried off as the were-wolf carried off William in the old romance, though all were-wolves did not treat their prey with the same tenderness as that were-wolf treated William.
But the favourite beast for Norse transformations in historic times, if we may judge from the evidence afforded by the Sagas, was the bear, the king of all their beasts, whose strength and sagacity made him an object of great respect. 1
This old belief, then, might be expected to be found in these Norse Tales, and accordingly we find men formed in them into various beasts. Of old these transformations,
as we have already stated, were active, if we may use the expression, as well as passive. A man who possessed the gift frequently assumed the shape of a beast at his own will and pleasure, like the soldier in Petronius, Even now in Norway, it is matter of popular belief that Finns and Lapps, who from time immemorial have passed for the most skilful witches and wizards in the world, can at will assume the shape of bears; and it is a common thing to say of one of those beasts, when be gets unusually savage and daring, "that can be no Christian bear." On such a bear, in the parish of Oföden, after he had worried to death more than sixty horses and six men, it is said that a girdle of bearskin, the infallible mark of a man thus transformed, was found when he was at last tracked and slain. The tale called "Farmer Weathersky," in this collection (p. 285), shews that the belief of these spontaneous transformations still exists in popular tradition, where it is easy to see that Farmer Weathersky is only one of the ancient gods degraded into a demon's shape. His sudden departure through the air, horse, sledge, and lad, and all, and his answer, "I'm at home, alike north, and south, and east, and west"; his name itself, and his distant abode, surrounded with the corpses of the slain, sufficiently betray the divinity in disguise. His transformation, too, into a hawk answers exactly to, that of Odin when he flew away from the Frost Giant in the shape of that bird. But in these Tales such transformations are for the most part passive; they occur not at the will of the person transformed, but through sorcery practised on them by some one else. Thus the White Bear in the beautiful story of "East o' the Sun and West
o' the Moon," p. 22, is a Prince transformed by his stepmother, just as it is the stepmother who plays the same part in the romance of William and the Were-wolf. So the horse in "The Widow's Son," p. 311, is a Prince over whom a king has cast that shape. 1 So also in "Lord Peter," p. 295, which is the full story of what we have only hitherto known in part as "Puss in Boots," the cat is a Princess bewitched by the Troll who had robbed her of her lands; so also in "The Seven Foals," p. 302, and "The Twelve Wild Ducks," p. 51, the Foals and the Ducks are Princes over whom that fate has come by the power of a witch or a Troll, to whom an unwary promise had been given. Thoroughly mythic is the trait in "The Twelve Wild Ducks," where the youngest brother reappears with a wild duck's wing instead of his left arm, because his sister had no time to finish that portion of the shirt, upon the completion of which his retransformation depended.
But we should ill understand the spirit of the Norsemen, if we supposed that these transformations into beasts were all that the national heart has to tell of beasts and their doings, or that, when they appear, they do so merely as men-beasts, without any power or virtue of their own. From the earliest times, side by side with those productions of the human mind which speak of the dealings of men with men, there has grown up a stock of traditions about animals and their relations with one another, which forms a true Beast Epic, and is full of the liveliest traits of nature.
[paragraph continues] Here, too, it was reserved for Grimm to restore these traditions to their true place in the history of the human mind, and to shew that the poetry which treats of them is neither satirical nor didactic, though it may contain touches of both these artificial kinds of composition, but, on the contrary, purely and intensely natural. It is Epic, in short, springing out of that deep love of nature and close observation of the habits of animals which is only possible in an early and simple stage of society. It used to be the fashion, when these Beast traditions were noticed, to point to Æsop as their original, but Grimm has sufficiently proved 1 that what we see in Æsop is only the remains of a great world-old cycle of such traditions which had already, in Æsop's day, been subjected by the Greek mind to that critical process which a late state of society brings to bear on popular traditions; that they were then already worn and washed out and moralised. He has also shewn how the same process went on till in Phædrus nothing but the dry bones of the traditions, with a drier moral, are served up to the reader; and he has done justice on La Fontaine, who wrote with all the wanton licentiousness of his day, and frittered away the whole nature of his fables by the frivolity of his allusions to the artificial society of his time. Nor has he spared Lessing who, though he saw through the poverty of Phædrus as compared with Æsop, and was alive to the weakness of La Fontaine, still wandered about in the classical mist which hung heavy over the learning of the eighteenth century, and saw in the Greek form the perfection of all fable, when in Æsop
it really appears in a state of degeneracy and decay. Here too, as in so many other things, we have a proof that the world is older than we think it. The Beast-Fables in the Pantcha-Tantra and the Hitopadesa, the Indian parallels to Æsop, reveal, in the connection in which they occur, and in the moral use to which they are put, a state of society long past that simple early time in which such fictions arise. They must have sprung up in the East in the very dawn of time; and thence travelling in all directions, we find them after many centuries in various shapes, which admit of no mistake as to their first origin, at the very ends of the earth, in countries as opposite as the Poles to each other; in New Zealand and Norway, in Central Africa and Servia, in the West Indies and in Mongolia; all separated by immense tracts of land or sea from their common centre.
To the earnest inquirer, to one who believes that many dark things may yet be solved, it is very satisfactory to see that even Grimm, in his "Reynard the Fox," is at a loss to understand why the North, properly so called, had none of the traditions which the Middle Age moulded into that famous Beast Epic. But since then the North, as the Great Master himself confesses in his later works, has amply avenged herself for the slight thus cast upon her by mistake. In the year 1834, when Grimm thus expressed his surprise on this point, the North had no such traditions to shew in books indeed, but she kept them stored up in her heart in an abundance with which no other land perhaps can vie. This book at least shews how natural it seems to the Norse mind now, and how much more natural of course it seemed in earlier times, when
sense went for so much and reflection for so little, that beasts should talk; and how truly and faithfully it has listened and looked for the accents and character of each. The Bear is still the King of Beasts, in which character he appears in "True and Untrue," p. 1, but here, as in Germany, he is no match for the Fox in wit. Thus Reynard plays him a trick which condemns him for ever to a stumpy tail in No. XXIII. (p. 172). He cheats him out of his share of a firkin of butter in No. LVII. (p. 409). He, is preferred as Herdsman, in No. X. (p. 69), before either Bear or Wolf, by the old wife who wants some one to tend her flock. Yet all the while he professes immense respect for the Bear, and calls him "Lord," even when in the very act of outwitting him. In the tale called "Well Done and Ill Paid," p. 266, the crafty fox puts a finish to his misbehaviour to his "Lord Bruin," by handing him over, bound hand and foot, to the peasant, and by causing his death outright. Here, too, we have an example, which we shall see repeated in the case of the giants, that strength and stature are not always wise, and that wit and wisdom never fail to carry the day against mere brute force. Another tale, however, restores the bear to his true place as the king of beasts, endowed not only with strength, but with something divine and terrible about him which the Trolls cannot withstand. This is "The Cat on the Dovrefell," p. 90, in connection with which it should be remembered that the same tradition existed in the thirteenth century in Germany, 1 that the bear is called familiarly grandfather in the North, and that the Lapps reckon him
rather as akin to men than beasts; that they say he has the strength of ten and the wit of twelve men. If they slay him, they formally beg his pardon, as do also the Ostjaks, a tribe akin to the Lapps, and bring him to their huts with great formalities and mystic songs. To the Wolf, whose nickname is "Graylegs," 1 these Tales are more complimentary. He is not the spiteful, stupid, greedy Isengrim of Germany and France. Not that Isengrim, of whom old English fables of the thirteenth century tell us that he became a monk, but when the brethren wished to teach him his letters that he might learn the Paternoster, all they could get out of him was lamb, lamb; nor could they ever get him to look to the cross, for his eyes, with his thoughts, "were ever to the woodward." 2 He appears, on the contrary, in "The Giant who had no Heart in his Body," p. 59, as a kindly, grateful beast, who repays tenfold out of the hidden store of his supernatural sagacity the gift of the old jade, which Boots had made over to him.
The horse was a sacred animal among the Teutonic tribes from the first moment of their appearance in history, and Tacitus 3 has related, how in the shade of those woods and groves which served them for temples, white horses were fed at the public cost, whose backs no mortal man crossed, whose neighings and snortings were carefully watched as auguries and omens, and who were thought to be
conscious of divine mysteries. In Persia, too, the classical reader will remember how the neighing of a horse decided the choice for the crown. Here, in England, at any rate, we have only to think of Hengist and Horsa, the twin-heroes of the Anglo-Saxon migration, as the legend ran,heroes whose name meant "horse,"and of the vale of the White Horse in Berks, where the sacred form still gleams along the down, to be reminded of the sacredness of the horse to our forefathers. The Eddas are filled with the names of famous horses, and the Sagas contain many stories of good steeds, in whom their owners trusted and believed as sacred to this or that particular god. Such a horse is Dapplegrim in these Tales (p. 272), who saves his master out of all his perils, and brings him to all fortune, and is another example of that mysterious connection with the higher powers which animals in all ages have been supposed to possess.
Such a friend, too, to the helpless lassie is the Dun Bull in "Katie Woodencloak," p. 357, out of whose ear comes the "Wishing Cloth," which serves up the choicest dishes. The story is probably imperfect, as we should expect to see him again in human shape after his head was cut off, and his skin flayed; but, after being the chief character up to that point, he remains from that time forth in the background, and we only see him darkly in the man who comes out of the face of the rock, and supplies the lassie's wants when she knocks on it. Dun, or blue, or mouse-colour, is the favourite colour for fairy kine. Thus the cow which Guy of Warwick killed was dun. The Huldror in Norway have large flocks of blue kine. In Scotland runs the story of the Mouse-coloured Elfin Bull. In
[paragraph continues] Iceland the colour of such kine is apalgrâr, dapple grey. This animal has been an object of adoration and respect from the earliest times, and we need only remind our readers of the sanctity of cows and bulls among the Indians and Egyptians, of "the Golden Calf" in the Bible; of Io and her wanderings from land to land; and, though last, not least, of Audhumla, the Mythic Cow in the Edda, who had so large a part in the creation of the first Giant in human form. 1
The Dog, to which, with all his sagacity and faithfulness, something unclean and impure clings, as Grimm well observes, plays no very prominent part in these Tales. 2
[paragraph continues] We find him, however, in "Not a Pin to choose between them," p. 173, where his sagacity fails to detect his mistress; and, as "the foe of his own house," the half-bred foxy hound, who chases away the cunning Fox in "Well Done and Ill Paid," p. 266. Still he, too, in popular superstition, is gifted with a sense of the supernatural; he howls when death impends, and in "Buttercup," p. 124, it is Goldtooth, their dog, who warns Buttercup and his mother of the approach of the old hag. In "Bushy Bride," p. 322, he appears only as the lassie's lap-dog, is thrown away as one of her sacrifices, and at last goes to the wedding in her coach; yet in that tale he has something weird about him, and he is sent out by his mistress three times to see if the dawn is coming.
In one tale (p. 264) the Goat appears in full force, and dashes out the brains of the Troll, who lived under the bridge over the burn. In another, "Tatterhood," p. 345, he helps the lassie in her onslaught on the witches. He, too, was sacred to Thor in the old mythology, and drew his thundering car. Here something of the divine nature of his former lord, who was the great foe of all Trolls, seems to have been passed on in popular tradition to the animal who had seen so many adventures with the great God who swayed the thunder. This feud between the Goat and the Trolls comes out curiously in "The Old Dame and her Hen," p. 14, where a goat falls down the trapdoor to the Troll's house: "Who sent for you, I should like to know, you lone-bearded beast?" said the Man o' the Hill, who was in an awful rage; and with that he whipped up the Goat, wrung his head off, and threw him down into the cellar." Still he belonged to one of the heathen gods, and so in later Middle-Age superstition he is assigned to the Devil, who even takes his shape when he presides at the Witches' Sabbath.
Nor in this list must the little birds be forgotten which taught the man's daughter, in the tale of "The Two Step-sisters," p. 113, how to act in her trials. So, too, in "Katie Woodencloak," p. 357, the little bird tells the Prince, "who understood the song of birds very well," that blood is gushing out of the golden shoe. The belief that some persons had the gift of understanding what the birds said is primeval. We pay homage to it in our proverbial expression, "A little bird told me." Popular traditions and rhymes protect their nests, as in the case of the wren, the robin, and the swallow. Occasionally this gift seems
to have been acquired by eating or tasting the flesh of a snake or dragon, as Sigurd, in the Volsung tale, first became aware of Regin's designs against his life, when he accidentally tasted the heart-blood of Fafnir, whom he had slain in dragon shape, and then all at once the swallow's song, perched above him, became as intelligible as human speech.
We now come to a class of beings which plays a large part, and always for ill, in these Tales. These are the Giants or Trolls. In modern Norse tradition there is little difference between the names, but originally Troll was a more general expression for a supernatural being than Giant, 1 which was rather confined to a race more dull than wicked. In the Giants we have the wantonness of boundless bodily strength and size, which, trusting entirely to these qualities, falls at last by its own weight. At first, it is true, that proverbial wisdom, all the stores of traditional lore, all that could be learnt by what may be called rule of thumb, was ascribed to them. One sympathises too with them, and almost pities them as the representatives of a simple primitive race, whose day is past and gone, but who still possessed something of the innocence and virtue of ancient times, together with a stock of old experience, which, however useful it might be as an example to others, was quite useless to help themselves.
[paragraph continues] They are the old Tories of mythology, as opposed to the Æsir, the advanced liberals. They can look back and say what has been, but to look forward to say what will be and shall be, and to mould the future, is beyond their ken. True as gold to the traditional and received, and worthless as dross for the new and progressive: such a nature, when unprovoked, is easy and simple; but rouse it, and its exuberant strength rises in a paroxysm of rage, though its clumsy awkward blows, guided by mere cunning, fail to strike the slight and lissom foe who waits for and eludes the stroke, until his reason gives him the mastery over sheer brute force which has wearie