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Notes on the Folklore of the Fjort, by Richard Edward Dennett, [1898], at


IT was in the beginning, and four men were walking through a wood. They came to a place where there were two rivers. One river was of water, clear as crystal and of great purity; the other was black and foul and horrible to the taste. And the four men were puzzled as to which river they should cross; for, whereas the dirty river seemed more directly in their way, the clear river was the most pleasant to cross, and perhaps after they had crossed it they might regain the proper path. The men, after some consultation, thought that they ought to cross the black river, and two of them straightway crossed it. The other two, however, scarce touched and tasted the water than they hesitated and returned. The two that had now nearly crossed the river called to them and urged them to come, but in vain. The other two had determined to leave their companions, and to cross the beautiful and clear river. They crossed it, and were astonished to find that they had become black, except just those parts of them that had touched the black river, namely, their months, the soles of their feet, and the palms of their hands. The two who had crossed the black river, however, were of a pure white colour. The two parties now travelled in different directions, and when they had gone some way, the white men were agreeably surprised to come across a large house containing white wives for them to marry; while the black men also found huts, or shimbecs with black women whom they married. And this is why some people are white and some black.

Next: XXVIII. The Bird-Messengers.