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THE chief object of the present work has been to preserve, and to give at one view, the more serious traditions—religious, mythological, and historical—of the four aboriginal races who live nearest the shores of Guiana.
A few of these legends appeared in a former work on the Indian tribes. To them are here added the more copious results of systematic research, extending over many years. A metrical form has been adopted, as agreeable to the native style in former days, when their national traditions were recited with peculiar intonation—chanted, rather than told.
The head-men, mostly sorcerers, who guarded, and from time to time recited them, have, in the vicinity of our missions, nearly all passed away. Many time-honoured legends have expired with them, as the old state of things has yielded to the spread of Christianity.
The foregoing remarks apply only to the more serious traditions. Fanciful legends, of which a few specimens are also given here, are common to all. Some are very popular, and will probably continue to be told, for the purpose of amusement, over their evening fires, as long as the native languages shall be spoken.