2. Dead and Living Authorities in The Legend of Perseus: Animism and Christianity in the Evolutionist Archive
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31 2 Dead and Living Authorities in The Legend of Perseus Animism and Christianity in the Evolutionist Archive Since the demise of Hartland, social anthropology and folklore studies have followed ever diverging courses, forgetful of the happy union between the two he had promoted so successfully. Richard Dorson, The British Folklorists: A History, 1968 Edwin Sidney Hartland (1848–1927) was a British solicitor and politician whose proficiency as a self-made folklorist and evolutionary anthropologistwentfarbeyonddilettantism,followinginthefootsteps of his principal mentor, Edward B. Tylor (1832–1917). Hartland was a prominentfigureintheFolkloreSociety,whichhepresidedoveratthe turn of the century. Indeed, he was one of the members of the “Great Team”ofBritishlateVictorianfolklorists,tousetheexpressioncoined byRichardDorson(1968:202).Between1884and1924Hartland’sprolificproductionincludedhismagnumopus :athree-volumeworktitled The Legend of Perseus: A Study of Tradition in Story, Custom and Belief, whichatthetimeenjoyed“areputationcommensuratewithTheGolden Bough.”1OneofthereasonsforthisparallelwithJamesFrazer’santhropological best seller was the religious implications of Hartland’s book. Publishedin1894,thefirstvolumesubtlyheraldedachallengingagenda of universal comparativism by focusing on the myth of Perseus’s first “train of incident”—the hero’s supernatural (or virgin) birth, which obviously echoed that of Jesus Christ (Hartland 1894–96, 1:1). Nodoubt,HartlandwasaboveallaTyloriananthropologistorfolklorist (synonymouswordstohim)whosawinTylor’sPrimitiveCulture (1870), like so many others did, the standard and the main intellectual inspiration of his own endeavors. His work, like Tylor’s, had therefore Frederico D. Rosa 32 Frederico D. Rosa this rather peculiar characteristic of combining empiricism with universalism . The idea of a long-lasting or, better still, of an everlasting legacy of prehistorical mankind and particularly of its animist stock of notionswasinseparablefromacumulativeperspectiveofethnographicalorhistoricaldata .The“promiscuity”of“civilized”and“savage”man, not only from an evolutionary point of view but also psychologically speaking, had its methodological counterpart in the quotation of a “galaxyofsources”(Dorson1968:19)solelyfortheirempiricalcontent, irrespective of other scholars’ analysis or theoretical reflections—or, for that matter, irrespective of their fieldwork problems, whenever the case applied.2 This is, I think, a crucial aspect of British nineteenthcentury evolutionary anthropology and particularly of the Folklore Society’s intellectual networks. By the same token, the importance of objective data, as they were held to exist, created a common ground between all authorities that someone such as Sidney Hartland might invoke, whether those authorities were dead or alive. The illustration oreventherecaptureofthismuch-forgottenepistemologicalperspective is the challenge that I will try to defend, using the first volume of The Legend of Perseus as a case study. My purpose is actually twofold, sinceIalsointendtorecallthatTyloriananthropologistswereobsessed with Christianity. Beyond Antiquity: From Ovid to Nineteenth-Century Folklorists Classical written versions of the myth of Perseus, in particular that of Ovid’sMetamorphoses,werethestartingpointofHartland’senterprise. And yet the urge to transfer the inquiry “from literature to tradition” (Hartland 1894–96, 1:11), that is, to oral tradition, soon manifested itself, following the suspicion or hypothesis that Roman and Greek authors ignored the oldest, rudest forms of the myth and instead conveyedmoresophisticatedvariants ,whosecontentstheyfurtherembellished via the literary process. This was evident in the case of Zeus/ Jupiter’s visit to the imprisoned Danae in the form of a shower of gold, thus causing Perseus to be conceived. Since Ovid overlooked or even rejected folk versions of this tale, the popular cult of this specific hero was lost. Only the work of the Roman writer Claudius Aelianus, De Dead and Living Authorities 33 naturaanimalium,orΠερὶΖῴωνἸδιότητος(Onthenatureofanimals), provided ethnographic data from the second century ce that could be taken into account. According to Aelianus, Greek-related populations of the Red Sea used the name Perseus to denominate a specific fish species and deemed it to be sacred. This was a rare but extremely faint clue. Was the primitive cult therefore beyond recovery? The evolutionary assumption that European oral tradition had followed a deeply conservative parallel course, practically independent fromliterature,directlylinkedHartland’squesttothefolklorecollectors of his time. The first comparisons in The Legend of Perseuswere indeed historically and geographically circumscribed to Europe and the Near East.HelookedinthepresentforamoreremotePerseus,notexactlya prehistoricalone,butinanycasenearertotheoriginthantheversions of Ovid, Strabo, or Lucian. Hartland was obviously well placed to be acquaintedwithandfollowtheFolkloreSociety’sintellectualnetworks, and he quoted abundantly from contemporary sources. He initially directed his attention to folktales through the works of many collectorsofhistime (orofrecenttimessincetheGrimmbrothers),namely, from Italy, Albania, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Russia, France, Norway ,Denmark,Greece,England,Hungary,Lithuania,Holland,Bosnia, Portugal, Scotland, and Poland. I will quote just a few of those folklorists who were direct or close contemporaries with Hartland’s generation :RobertAuning(1834–1914),GunnarHyltén-Cavallius(1818–89), Domenico Comparetti (1835–1927), Emmanuel Cosquin (1841–1919), Thomas Frederick Crane (1844–1927), Svend Grundtvig (1824–83), Adalbert Kuhn (1812–81), Wilhelm Schwarz (1821–99), Teófilo Braga (1843–1924),AugustLeskien(1840...