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III.-The Happy Otherworld and Fairy Mistress Themes in the




In recent years, the researches of scholars along many different lines have combined to throw light upon the beginnings of human life and thought. Geologists are enlarging our acquaintance with the beginnings of the race, and pushing back the history of mankind on earth more than half a million years. Archaeologists, turning up the earth and sifting the soil bit by bit, tell us of the pottery that our forbears used, the houses that they lived in and the weapons with which they fought, long before the era of written records. And students of anthropology and folklore, investigating the customs and traditions of peoples living and dead, have gathered a mass of material that is of incalculable value for the primitive workings of the human mind. All these investigations tend to show a surprising similarity even among widely separated peoples, the same type of handicraft, the same type of story, occurring where direct contact is both geographically and chronologically impossible.1 Sherds of the Neolithic Age in Greece, for instance, show cross-hatching which bears a strong resemblance to designs on pottery of the Indians of New Mexico and Arizona; and the gift to mortals of fire stolen from heaven is recorded in myths of Babylon and Alaska, Australia and Ceylon, as well as in the Prometheus legend.2

One of the most widely diffused themes of folklore is that of a Happy Otherworld:

1 For an early exposition of this point of view, see A. Lang, "Mythology and Fairy Tales," in Fortnightly Review, XIX (1873), 618–631.

2 See E. E. Sikes and St. J. B. W. Willson, The Prometheus Vinctus of Aeschylus, London, 1898, Introd., pp. xi-xv; and also the numerous other parallels in J. G. Frazer's edition of Apollodorus, London, 1921, 1, pp. 326–349.

Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies

Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard-lawns

And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea.

Here dwell the gods; from this land, according to some legends, sprang, in far-off golden days, the progenitors of the folk who tell the tale; to this land, according to other stories, the souls of the blessed dead are taken after their life on earth. The land may be on a far-away island, at the top of a steep and inaccessible mountain, or beneath the waves; 3 but in any case it is remote from the known world and reached with considerable difficulty; it is a place that abounds in sensuous delights, in unfading freshness and beauty. Every want of the inhabitants is richly satisfied, and they live a life of ease, untouched by age or sorrow. Such conceptions are found among peoples as distant from one another as Hebrews and Polynesians, and in literature as widely separated in date as the odes of Pindar and the medieval French romances.

With the theme of a Happy Otherworld is frequently combined the story of a fairy lady who loves a mortal man and takes him to her kingdom with her. Such an adventure forms part of the story of several Oriental heroes,4 and is fairly common in the literature of western Europe, especially among the Celtic peoples. Irish romances tell of Bran and Connla, of Cuchulinn, Maelduin, and Teigue, all of whom visited the


See H. R. Patch, 'Some Elements in Mediaeval Descriptions of the Otherworld," in Proc. Mod. Lang. Ass. xxvi (1918), 601–643.

4 Hasan of El-Basrah, in the Thousand and One Nights (IV, pp. 183 ff., Lane's ed.), visits seven lovely damsels in the Palace of the Mountain of the Clouds; Nischayadatta, in Somadeva's Ocean of Story (111, pp. 183–196, Penzer's ed.), lives with his love the Vidyādharī in a magic city that she has made in the air. A Hawaiian romance, too, tells how a lover came to a beautiful maiden who lived in the magic land of Paliuli. See The Hawaiian Romance of Laieikawai, with introduction and translation by M. W. Beckwith, Washington, D. C., 1918, and also Miss Beckwith's discussion of "Polynesian Analogues to the Celtic Otherworld and Fairy Mistress Themes," in Vassar Mediaeval Studies, New Haven, 1923, pp. 27-55.

fairy kingdom and enjoyed the favor of fairy women.5 In Arthurian romance the Fairy Mistress appears over and over again, not only in the person of fées like Morgan, but in humanized form in many a story of which a proud, beautiful lady is the heroine; and English literature has preserved an almost perfect example of the type in the ballad of Thomas Rymer.7

In these stories the fairy lady has chosen the hero and has frequently acted as his helper and protector even before he knows of her existence. She invites him to come to her abode and enjoy her love, and after a perilous journey he reaches a land of wonderful beauty. If he stays there and eats of the fairy food, "nor age nor dimness" can affect him; he may, on the other hand, be warned that eating food or drinking in fairyland, or even speaking to the inhabitants, will prevent his return. His mistress gives him wonderful gifts, and when he goes back to the land of mortals the years that he has spent in the fairy realm seem to him but a few days or hours. In many cases the visit to earth is a mere interlude, and the mortal eventually returns to fairyland to dwell forever.

But the beautiful lady's will is supreme, and disobedience to even the slightest of her commands brings sorrow. Far greater is the danger to one who scorns the fairy's gifts, or who, having enjoyed her love, deserts her and takes another bride. Ballads like "Clerk Colvill" differ from the type of story that we have been discussing in that the hero, instead of journeying to fairyland, merely kisses the fay or joins in a dance with her; but the emphasis on fidelity to fairy love is the same. So long

5 See A. Nutt, "The Happy Otherworld in the Mythico-Romantic Literature of the Irish," printed as an appendix to K. Meyer's edition of The Voyage of Bran, London, 1895, 1, pp. 101-331; P. W. Joyce, Old Celtic Romances translated from the Gaelic, London, 1907, pp. 106-111; 152-156.

6 See L. A. Paton, Studies in the Fairy Mythology of Arthurian Romance, Boston, 1903; A. C. L. Brown, "Iwain," in Studies and Notes in Philology and Lit. VIII (1903), 1-147. W. H. Schofield, "The Lay of Guingamor," in Stud. and Notes, v (1896), 221-243, draws a valuable distinction between the swanmaiden type and the fairy mistress type. See further T. P. Cross, "Celtic Elements in Lanval' and 'Graelent,' in Mod. Phil. XII (1914-15), 585–644.

7 Printed, with a full discussion of parallels, by F. J. Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Boston, 1882, 1, pp. 317-329.

as the hero of these tales is true to the lady she befriends him, but when he deserts her for a mortal, death follows, swift and relentless.8

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The Greeks too knew of a happy otherworld, and the fact that it appears in the oldest of their poets shows how deeply rooted the concept was.' The sixth book of the Odyssey pictures Olympus: "Neither is it shaken by winds nor ever wet with rain, nor does snow fall upon it, but the air is outspread clear and cloudless, and over it hovers a radiant whiteness. Therein the blessed gods are glad all their days (vi, 43–46, A. T. Murray's translation). The same cloudless air is spread above the Elysian plain, where dwells Zeus's son Rhadamanthus, and whither, according to the prophecy of Proteus, Menelaus is to be transported while he is yet alive. "But for thyself, Menelaus, fostered of Zeus, it is not ordained that thou shouldst die and meet thy fate in horse-pasturing Argos, but to the Elysian plain and the bounds of earth will the immortals convey thee, where dwells fair-haired Rhadamanthus, and where life is easiest for men. No snow is there, nor heavy storm, nor ever rain, but ever does Ocean send up blasts of the shrill-blowing West Wind that they may give cooling to men; for thou hast Helen to wife, and art in their eyes the husband of the daughter of Zeus (IV, 561-569).”

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8 See Child, op. cit. 1, pp. 371-389. Cross, 1. c. discusses the motif of "The Offended Fée." One of the most important tales of this type, Peter von Staufenberg," is discussed by H. W. Puckett, "The Fay in Middle High German" in Mod. Phil. xvi (1918–19), 297–373.

9 For a general discussion of Greek ideas about the life after death, see A. Dieterich, Nekyia, Leipzig, 1893. The conception of the abode of the dead as a place of light and joy seems to have existed side by side with the picture of the shadowy underworld which we find in Odyssey, XI. J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion, Cambridge, 1910, pp. 516-527 (following, in part, Ridgway, Early Age of Greece), suggests that the two different conceptions represent the points of view of two different races, the Homeric doctrine of "universal misery in a cold and gloomy underworld" coming from the "Achaeans," and being bound up with the rite of cremation, whereas the "Pelasgians," who interred their dead, thought of the soul and body as reunited after death and following the same pursuits which men of flesh and blood enjoyed on earth. The "after-world" scenes on "the ring of Nestor," described by Sir Arthur Evans in J. H. S. XLV (1925), 43-74, may lend some support to this theory.

Hesiod too told of the fate that befell the heroes of Thebes and Troy. "There death's end enshrouded a part of them. But to the others father Zeus the son of Cronos gave a living and an abode apart from men, and made them dwell at the ends of the earth. And they live untouched by sorrow in the islands of the blessed along the shores of deep swirling Ocean, happy heroes for whom the grain-giving earth bears honeysweet fruit flourishing thrice a year" (Works and Days, 166168; 170-173, Evelyn-White's translation).

In all these descriptions there is no ethical connotation. Rhadamanthus and Menelaus apparently go to the Elysian plain because of their connection, by blood or marriage, with Zeus; and whatever Hesiod's reason may have been for the discrimination between the warriors who were shrouded in death and those who found a place ἐν μακάρων νήσοισι, it certainly was not a moral one. Later Greek thought, however, took up the concept, and, combining it with the Orphic doctrines of transmigration and purgation, made the Blessed Isles the abode of those who, in Pindar's phrase, "have thrice been courageous in keeping their souls pure from all deeds of wrong." These "pass by the highway of Zeus unto the tower of Cronus, where the ocean breezes blow around the Islands of the Blest, and flowers of gold are blazing, some on the shore · from radiant trees, while others the water fostereth; and with chaplets thereof they entwine their hands, and with crowns" (0. 2, 67-74, Sandys's translation). Another passage of Pindar locates the scene of happiness "below" (káтw), but in other respects is very similar to the description of the Blessed Isles (frags. 129-130).10 It is this picture of the Islands of the Blest, touched with playful humor and possibly embellished with some Oriental details, that Lucian gives in his True History (11, 5, 11-16)."1

10 Cf. Hor. Epodes, 16, 41-66. The "dewy meadow(?)" of Sappho, frag. 85, Edmonds, may belong to a similar picture.

11 The modern Greek peasant conceives of Paradise in almost identical terms. Lawson, op. cit. p. 519, writes of the belief expressed in some folk songs "that the departed still continue the pursuits which they followed in this life; while,

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