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Review: Dumzil: A Review Essay Author(s): David Evans Source: The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 89, No.

353 (Jul. - Sep., 1976), pp. 345-350 Published by: American Folklore SocietyAmerican Folklore Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/539450 Accessed: 14/10/2010 13:55
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irrational,accounts for feelings and external events by mechanicaldeterminismor the accident of statistical probability, and dispatches his elders at age fifty to the recreationalcoffin of a retirement community so that he need not see them age let alone die, then there shall be no laments. Well, not quite, for Alexiou and those like her will mourn the passing of sensitivity, passion, folk poetry, and the ceremonials which embracethese. There are other features which bear on the coming death of survivals,for that which any peasant economy seeks for the relief of arduouswork and industrialization avoidable pain does not readily abide the Greek national character with its personalizing of abstractions, its love for intimate interpersonalexchange, and its capacity for passion sometimes woven into great art. A technological society can hardly stand any one of these, certainlynot all three. One is gratefulthen that Alexiou Like zoos are for endangered has collected these materialsbefore all have disappeared. in which are stored the endangered the folklore become museums publications species, and extinct folk arts of man. Her analysishas enriched that museum, her scholarship stands as an example of how future curatorsmay fulfill their duties with honor. And as long as such treasuresexist there will be survivals.In the Epitaphios for Adonis, Kythereiaasks Adonis for a final kiss before his lips are cold. It is said that when Duke Ellington lay dying (May 1974) his final words were "kiss, kiss." Perhapsthen with Poets as well as well as survival. artists as well as scholarsthere is hope for regeneration as scholarsshould readAlexiou. Stanford University Stanford,California RICHARD andEVABLUM

Mythology: Analysis and Classification

Dumizil: A Review Essay The New Comparative Mythology: An AnthropologicalAssessmentof the Theoriesof Revised edition. By C. Scott Littleton. (Berkeley: Universityof Dumezil. Georges xv California 1973. Press, Pp. + 271, 2 prefaces,bibliography,index. $11.95) Gods of the Ancient Northmen. Publications of the UCLA Center for the Study of ComparativeFolklore and Mythology, No. 3. By Georges Dumezil. Edited and translatedby EinarHaugen.Introductionby C. Scott Littleton and Udo Strutynski. (Berkeley: Universityof CaliforniaPress, 1973. Pp. xlvi + 157, editor's preface, 2 notes, index. $9.00) introductions,author'spreface,bibliographical The original 1966 edition of Littleton's book was for some reasonnot reviewedin these pages. The new edition is not in any sense rewritten. Rather, it contains brief endnotes to some of the chapters and two new chapters which discuss Dumezil's writings since 1966 and those of his followers and critics. It is unfortunate, though, that the new edition could not have been delayed somewhatlongerin order to contain a discussion of two very important recent books, Dumezil's Mythe et Epopee III (Paris, 1973) and Myth in Indo-European Antiquity edited by GeraldJames Larson, Littleton, and Jaan Puhvel (Berkeley, 1974).



Georges Dumezil has undoubtedly been the most original, prolific, and controversialwriter of the twentieth century on comparativeIndo-European mythology, but until recent translationsof some of his works, personalappearancesin America, and Littleton's book, he was little known to Americanscholars.Basically,he takes a sociological approachto myth, following the school of Emile Durkheimin viewingthe charactersand actions of myths as "collective representations"of important societal forces and structures.Among the variousIndo-European speakingpeoples he detects a of and juridical sovereignty, warrior force, and magico-religious tripartite ideology in social structures, and other cultural institutions. myths, fecundity represented Dumezil believes that this ideology characterizedproto-Indo-European society and survived in part among its various offshoots. He also believes that this ideology is uniquely Indo-Europeanand is found elsewhere only as the result of culturecontact. Littleton's book is very useful as a concise overview of the development of Dumezil's thought. He represents Dumezil and his critics fairly and is careful to separate his own ideas from theirs. A small criticism is that sometimes he gives only Dumezil's conclusions on a particularproblem without summarizingthe evidence on which they are based, although in all fairnessit must be stated that the great detail involved in many of the argumentswould take many pages even to summarize. Footnote referencesand a lengthy bibliographyhelp to alleviatethis problem. Following a brief overview of the tripartite system and an introduction to Indo-European studies and mythological theory comes the heart of the book, a discussionof Dumezil'swritingsand those of his followers and critics.At the end there is an assessmentof all this in the light of anthropologicaltheory. Dumezil'sthought is divided into four phases: the formative (1924-1938), in which the influence of Frazer and Mannhardt was apparent; the developmental (1938-1949), influenced by the school of Durkheimand Mauss,in which the tripartiteideology was first outlined; the florescent (1949-1966), in which Dumizil and his followers filled in the outlines of the system and discovered important secondary themes such as the three sins of the warriorand the conflict between the first two parts of the system and the third;and the phase de bilan (1966-present), in which Dumezil has tried to show how the characterof different branchesof Indo-European myth modified the inheritedsystem to from historical was transferred and how the system legend. myth This is not the place to offer a critiqueof Dumezil'ssystem. Littleton himself raises three important questions (pp. 66-67), which other critics have often posed. To what extent are data selected by DIumezil because they fit his preconceived model? To what extent are data interpretedin order to fit the model?And to what extent is the To these we might add two other questions.To what model uniquely Indo-European? extent is tripartitiontruly an ideology rather than a single theme amongothers?And how much of the Indo-Europeandata does the tripartitemodel really explain? Since the system is still being developed, these questions cannot yet be answered.Suffice it to say that for many scholarsthe system "works,"and no alternativesystem has been developed that explains as much. But since Dumezil's system is hardlylikely to prove capable of explaining everything in Indo-Europeanmythology, its true test will be whether it can be reconciled with other systems and approacheswhich have shown themselvesto be useful for explainingthe data. Littleton offers a number of more specific criticisms,noting, for example, that the "fecundity" portion of the system sometimes tends to become a "catch-all"category



and needs to be more precisely defined (p. 77). On the other hand, he sometimes proves too eager to support some of the weaker arguments of Dumezil and his followers. For example, he printswithout comment (p. 144) Dumezil'sstatement that Max Miiller'sZeus = Dyaus equation "n'enseignepresque rien," even though Dumezil himself has often based his arguments largely on linguistic comparisons.Littleton uncritically accepts Gerschel's simplistic correlation of the motifs of three magical tripartitesystem (p. 164), and he objects in modern legends with the Indo-European to gives guardedsupport Toporov's unsystematicspeculationson the Slavic pantheon (p. 183). He also leaps too readily to Dumezil'sdefense in his long-raging controversy with PaulThieme over the meaningof arya-and related terms, and Littleton's proposal of a connection with Greekaptoros does nothing to resolvethe problem (pp. 186-192). Some of Littleton's attempts to contribute to the development of the tripartite system and to give it a strongeranthropologicalbase seem ill founded. His suggestion that the Greekgod Ouranosservesas a "dieu premier"like the RomanJanusand Indic Vayu (p. 86) has little to recommend it except a myth which Littleton himself has shown not to be Indo-European in origin. Similarly his comparison of the ScandinavianLoki to the Roman Tarpeiais without foundation, as is his contention that the kind of universallyknown binary oppositions in which Loki is involvedhave "a flavor that is generally Indo-European"(p. 89). Littleton reveals himself to be somewhat of a Euhemerist in suggesting, on the basis of mythic and legendary evidence, that the Indo-Europeanpeoples practiced ultimogeniture (pp. 164-165), when the evidencefrom the practicesof real people suggests,if anything,the opposite. His conjecturethat the proto-Indo-European communitywas formed by the victory of a warlike, nomadic hunting and gatheringpeople over a sedentaryNeolithic people (pp. 13, 165, 219), advancedagain on the basis of myths and legends,is controverted by the fact that almost all of the historical and ethnographicevidence shows that huntingand gatheringsocieties lack the degreeof political organizationand integration necessaryto withstand the attacks of food producers,much less to launch successful wars against them. Littleton attempts without much success to correlate IndoEuropeanlanguagestructurewith the tripartiteideology (pp. 228-230) and speculates that other ideologies based in language families might someday be discovered (pp. 232-233). These ideas seem to me to bearon the weakest aspect of Dumezil'sthought. Why should this ideology, or any other ideology, be uniquely the possessionof peoples whose languages are genetically related? Could it not have been adopted by the proto-Indo-Europeansfrom a neighboring society? And could it not, in turn, be borrowed by non-Indo-European speaking peoples, like the Finns, Hungarians,and Basques without any significanteffects on their languagestructure?If little evidence for such borrowingshas been found so far, it is probablybecause most Indo-European specialistshave not searched for it. Weknow, however,from other cases that language structurehas no determiningeffect on ideology. The work of MelvilleHerskovitsand others has shown that Afro-Americanpeoples could retain significant aspects of African ideological systems while speaking languages that are classifiable as IndoEuropean. Elsie Clews Parsons, Ruth Benedict, Alfonso Ortiz, and others have also amassedconsiderableevidencewhich suggeststhat the Pueblo Indianssharea common ideology, despite the fact that they are membersof three different languagefamilies. In fact, parts of this ideology have spread to the neighboring Navahos, who are membersof yet anotherlanguagefamily.



Some serious printing errors diminish the attractiveness of Littleton's otherwise useful book. On pp. 77-78 and 98 there are several repeated lines of text, while on p. 109 there are two lines missing and replaced with two others. On p. 213 there is a footnote missing, and on pp. 100-139 the heading describing Dumezil's florescent phase reads consistently "1949 to the Present" instead of "1949-1966." If there is ever a third edition of this book, then, let us hope that it is truly "revised" as well as expanded. Gods of the Ancient Northmen brings us directly in contact with the thought of Dumezil himself, as it is applied to one branch of Indo-European mythology, the Scandinavian. The book is a translation by Einar Haugen's students of a 1959 revision of a work which originally appeared in 1939. To this have been added translations of four articles by Dumezil on Scandinavian subjects published between 1952 and 1959. The translations are generally readable and accurate, although a printer unfamiliar with Greek and an incautious proofreader have allowed some errors to creep in on pp. 128 for Sa'icov) and 139 (y'vce6ts for Yervers). Dumezil has done a great service (Sa`cyv for the reader by bringing his bibliographical notes up to date (1973). Dumezil insists that Scandinavian mythology was basically Indo-European and, of course, tripartite in its organization. He also minimizes the differences between the Scandinavian and continental Germanic religions, despite generally a difference of a millennium in the dates of our sources. Consequently, he is able to adduce continental evidence to buttress otherwise weak arguments based on the Scandinavian data. In typical Durkheimian and Malinowskian fashion Dumezil sees the Scandinavian religious system as an integrated, smoothly functioning whole, rather than as a collection of competing or geographically distinct cults, some waxing and others waning. Also he fails to discuss the place of such "minor" gods as Ullr and Frigg, who do not fit so neatly into the tripartite system. This book, then, is by no means a handbook of Scandinavian mythology but is instead a prop for the tripartite system. Whether it is a strong or a weak prop can be answered only when the system is fully developed. Dumezil will also have to face the question of whether his elegant interpretations of certain myths explain the most important aspects of the Scandinavian and continental Germanic religious systems. Do they explain the myths and religion as they were felt by living people some 1,000 years ago, or finally, which is more important, the latent system or the manifest mass of often contradictory details? The system may appear more important to us, but were the Scandinavians themselves more affected by the details? These problems and others make this book perhaps not the best place for the reader to begin immersing himself in Dumezil's thought, for he is apt to come away with an unduly harsh opinion. The introductions by Littleton and Strutynski, however, partially alleviate this problem. Littleton basically summarizes his book, which is reviewed above. Strutynski puts Dumezil's book into the context of research on folk narrative in general and Germanic mythology and religion in particular. He reviews the development of Dumezil's thinking on Germanic matters and the opinions of Germanists on his work, defending Dumezil against some of his critics. It should be noted, however, that Dumezil's ideas have received anywhere from guarded to enthusiastic support from such eminent Germanists as Wikander, de Vries, Betz, Polome, Turville-Petre, Haugen, Ward, and Davidson. Dumezil views the Aesir-Vanir distinction as the fundamental problem of



interpretationin Scandinavianmythology. He rejects the "historical"view that sees this as a reflection of a war between two peoples. Insteadhe believesthat the war and reconciliation between the Aesir and Vanir represent an inherited Indo-European ideological pattern brought by the ancestors of the Germanic peoples from the Indo-EuropeanUrheimat. The Aesir gods Odin and Tyr represent respectively the magicalandjuridicalaspects of the first (sovereign)level of the tripartitesystem, while Thor represents the second (warlike) level. The Vanir gods Njord, Frey, and Freya represent collectively the third (fecundity) level. Continental Germanic triads of noted by Tacitus, Sun/Vulcan/Moon noted by Caesar, Mercurius-Mars/Hercules/Isis and Uu6ten/Thunar/Saxnotof the Saxons offer parallelsto the Scandinaviansystem mythologicalsystems. along with many other such groupingsin other Indo-European Dumezil comparesthe war between the Aesir and Vanirto the Indic conflict between Indra and the Nasatya and the war between the Romans and the Sabines, which he theme is views as a historicizedmyth. The isolation of this important Indo-European probably one of the most brilliant comparisons made in Dumezil's long and distinguishedcareer. Dumezil comparesthe sovereigngods Odin and Tyr to the Indic Varunaand Mitra and to the Roman Jupiter and Dius Fidius. To the latter he adds the Roman "historical" pairs Romulus/Numa and Horatius Cocles/Mucius Scaevola. He then in the case of confronts the considerabledifficulties in this interpretation,particularly Tyr, whose role in Scandinavianreligion is not well attested in our sources. The warlikeattributesof Odin and Tyr are viewed as the result of the exaggeratedemphasis In essence they are connected respectivelywith placed upon war by the Scandinavians. and magical juridical sovereignty, according to Dumezil. Yet the strain that their warlike image places upon the tripartite system forces Dumezil to conclude (p. 47) has in practicedescendedto the rankof 'Hercules'-Thor." In order to that " 'Mars'-Tyr account for the downgrading of Tyr to simply a guarantor of victory, Dumezil proposes that the god Balder representsthe hope for a return to justice in a future world. In another brilliantcomparisonDumezil correlatesBalderand his slayerHoder with the Roman gods Juventasand Terminus,the Indic Aryamanand Bhaga,and their epic transformations Vidura and Dhrtarastra.Loki represents the demon and is comparable to Kali and Duryodhana in India. Dumezil also draws a comparison between Balderand Loki and the Ossetic legendarycharacters Sozryko and Syrdon. Thor is viewed as a typical figureof the warriorlevel. Dumrzil compareshis slaying of the giant Hrungnir,who has a three-corneredheart, with other Indo-European myths and legends of the killing of a triple or tricephalicadversary,noting that this pattern may be connected with a warrior'sinitiation rite. The relationship of this supposedly Indo-Europeanpattern to more recent Europeanlegends and Mirchen as well as to other widespread narrativepatterns pitting culture heroes againstvarious demonic adversaries remainsto be determined. Dumezil downplays Thor's many connections with fertility in a not altogether convincing manner. This is done so that he can highlight the obvious connections of the Vanir gods Njord, Frey, and Freya with fecundity. Like many earlierwriters, he identifies Njord with the GermanicNerthus mentioned by Tacitus, despite the sex changethat this figurewould have had to undergo. The four additionalarticleshelp to fill out the system that Dumezil describedin his originalbook. His identificationof Byggvirwith the barley (following Grundtviget al.)



and Beyla with the bee will mainly be of interest to Scandinavianspecialists.These two "minor gods" are viewed as representativesof the two important alcoholic beverages,beer and mead. Dumezil assertsthat Byggviris not a Mannhardtian corn-god and that he is unrelatedto Beowulf or the EstonianPeko. In a second articleDumezil tackles the problemof the lack of a priestly class among the Germanicpeoples. This glaringfact has often been used as a criticismagainsthis whole tripartite system. Dumezil does not find such a social class anywhere,but he does cite a myth in which the god Heimdallbegets three sons namedThraell,Karl,and Jarl (=Slave, Peasant, and Nobleman), while Jarl has a son who becomes a magician-king.The three Indo-European social classes, then, seem to have been downgradedamong the Germanic peoples, a tendency that can also be seen at the divine level, where Odin and Thor often have warrior and fertility attributes respectively.Despite their demotion, the three sons of Heimdallretain an association with the three colors characteristicof their original positions in the Indo-European tripartite structure. Dumrzil's interpretation of this myth is quite interesting if somewhat tortuous, but it again raises the question of where the emphasisshould be placed, on the Indo-European ideology or the Scandinavian reality. Heimdallhimself is interpretedas a "dieu premier"like the RomanJanus but more particularlyas a "frame god" who sets things in motion and survivesto their end. In this latter respect Heimdall is comparable to the Indic god Dyauh and his epic incarnation Bhisma. Dumezil has recourse to Welsh folklore about Gwenhudwy to explain Heimdall'sconnection with the ram and the fact that he is describedas the son of nine mothers. This latter trait is compared to the circumstancesof the birth of Bhisma.This article is a beautiful example of the brillianceof Dumezil'scomparative scholarshipand of the scope of his research,which extends from India to the British Isles and from ancient myth to modernfolklore. Dumezil's final article, comparing the fauna associated with the Scandinavian mythological trees Yggdrasil and Laerad with the Vedic one-legged billy-goat and serpent of the deep, is the most speculative and least tidy of those printed in this book. The book as a whole, though, is highly recommended.It and Littleton's book should guarantee a resurgence of interest among Americans in comparative IndoEuropeanmythology. CaliforniaState University Fullerton, California DAVIDEVANS

Folksong,Song and Society

And They All Sang Halleluja. By Dickson D. Bruce, Jr. (Knoxville: University of TennesseePress, 1974. $7.50) This maddeninglittle volume is at once one of the best, one of the worst, and one of the few serious efforts to grapple with the subject of the folk-religiousnorms of nineteenth century America,as typified and codified by the camp-meeting. The book has real strength in its use of sources, especially the more recent secondary sources, which might easily escape the notice of a student of the