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By Johannes C. Andersen

This authoritative quantity combines a wealth of myths and legends with a full of life remark on Polynesian existence and tradition. desirable stories comprise historical tales of the gods and production, nature and the supernatural, love and struggle, revenge, and extra. Over seventy five illustrations, plus a 42-page index and thesaurus of Polynesian phrases.

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Example text

This nature mythology was taken as a kind of given, and bits and pieces of myths from all over the world were put to its service. There was no way to test the theory, since even if a bit of mythological lore was taken from a living people, nobody bothered to ask them what they thought it meant, and in fact the comparative method allowed one to ignore living beings, since change could have obscured the original meaning of something. Although Adalbert Kuhn was an important early adherent of nature mythology, the person most closely associated with it today is Max Müller, a German Indo-Europeanist resident in England who was widely read and very influential for the entire second half of the nineteenth century.

These show us the importance of verbal activity at a blót, specifically verbal activity aimed at producing a result, presumably by means of intervention by the deities. Another way to influence the deities was of course to make sacrifices to them, and here we have an ample record to draw on. Bogs, wells, lakes, and the earth have yielded such objects as broken weapons, which can only be interpreted as gifts to the gods after battle. Classical sources report that the Germanic peoples killed their defeated enemies rather than take them prisoner, again as a form of sacrifice, and Adam of Bremen says that every ninth year at the pagan temple at Uppsala, sacrifices of all kinds of creatures took place, including humans.

The project was doomed from the start, however, by notions of what myths were about. Few people thought that a particular sound “meant” something in and of itself. That is, for example, the sound that turned up as ç in Sanskrit, c [= k] in Latin, and h in Germanic was not thought to be anything other than the reflection of a k in Proto-Indo-European, a sound whose meaning was always arbitrary. In myth, however, the situation was quite different. Comparative mythology in the nineteenth century was above all a field driven by interpretations of myths as reflections of natural phenomena, primarily involving the sun, moon, fire, storms, and so forth.

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