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Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, [1899], at

Tokens of Recent Diffusion.

Sometimes, however, it seems to me, we get sure tokens of recent diffusion. Thus in the folk-tales to which Sir George Cox, Professor de Gubernatis, and their fellow-mythologists assign a prehistoric antiquity, one of the commonest incidents is where the hero and heroine, flying from a demon, magician, or ogre (the heroine's father often), transform themselves into a church and priest. We find the incident in Lorraine, Brittany, Picardy, many parts of both Germany and Italy, the Tyrol, Transylvania, Hungary, Croatia, Russia, Spain, Portugal, and

p. lxxii

[paragraph continues] Brazil, as well as among the Gypsies of Turkey, the Bukowina, and Galicia Of. Cosquin, i. 106; and my own pp. 127, 196). What was the prehistoric form of the church? Was it a tope, a stone circle, something of the kind? That well may be. But how comes it that the development of the prehistoric form has in all these widely-separated countries reached exactly the same stage, and there stopped? Why has not the stone circle become in one case a stone-heap with a stone-breaker, in another a pound with a horse in it, in a third a field with a rubbing-post? Why always the modern Christian notion of a church? But the difficulty vanishes if one may suppose that the Gypsies, starting from the Balkan Peninsula at a date when churches were familiar objects, which a pursuer would naturally pass, carried with them the modern version of the story to Russia, Spain, and the other countries in which it is told to-day. Similarly, in Gypsy stories, and in stories current in countries wide apart, one finds such incidents as the hero falling in love through a portrait, the hero playing cards with the devil, the hero carrying a Bellerophon letter, the hero looking through an all-seeing telescope. Such stories in their original form may be of indefinable antiquity; but the recurrence of their developed form amongst Slays and Teutons and Celts would seem to be due to recent transmission, unless one is prepared to maintain that our primæval Aryan ancestors were acquainted with portrait-painting, with playing-cards, with the art of writing, and with telescopes.

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