THIS legend seems to us to be one of the best examples in our collection of what may be called atmospherical, or climatological myths.
The story opens with man in misery, without the aid of cultivation and agriculture. The old king we take to be a personification of winter; his daughter of spring, warmth, and fertility--of what the French call "la belle saison." The comb, with which she does her, marvels, is the power which draws out her golden hair, the sun's bright rays. The young man, who, without her aid, can effect nothing, is man in relation to the frozen ground, which needs her aid to quicken it into fertility. It is the old Sun-god, the Cyclops, who tells him where to find, and how to woo, his
fairy bride. But spring and earth are as yet both fast bound in winter's dominions. There he must go, and learn what he must do, if they are to be married. The felling of the forest, the sowing and ripening corn, and the cooked cake, teach him that he can only succeed by her help; and yet he does not see how she does it--man cannot see the corn grow, etc. The summer warmth and fertilizing power, typified by the ring, still lies buried in the frozen waters. The taming of the horses shows the need and help of domestic animals in agriculture. These things are necessary to be known ere spring can free herself from winter's dominion and marry her chosen lover. Winter would still hold her fast; but even in his own home her influence works secretly against him. He does not suspect that she is in league with her lover. But at length they are joined together; they flee, and the great struggle between winter and spring has fairly set in. She is able to hide her flight a little while; but he discovers it, and pursues and nearly overtakes her. But, by means of her comb, scattering abroad her warm rays, she works wonders. He is stopped by rough, wintry roads. Her path is through fair and pleasant ways; the storms, and hail, and rain of early spring assist her, but it is the mighty inundation of the swollen rivers which finally overwhelms him, and sweeps him for ever away.
But their union is not complete yet. She cannot enter the Christians' land. The natural powers of earth and sky have need of agriculture and civilization for their full expansion. And man, frightened at the toil, is lured back again to the nomad hunter life. He forgets his bride in the pleasures of the chase. He spends the winter thus, but is drawn back by the attraction of his waiting bride in spring. She has food in abundance; he is hungry. Other wooers come; she cheats and deludes them, till her true husband appears, and submits to her once more. Then is the full marriage of earth and husbandry, and man wedded to the summer's warmth and glow.
All parts of the tale are not equally clear, nor do we positively affirm that we have interpreted it aright. But there can be no doubt that we have here a nature allegory; and, told as it is by those who have not the most remote suspicion of its meaning, many things in it must needs be confused; the wonder is that the details are still so clear and so little distorted as they are. And, if this be the interpretation, or even if this kind of interpretation be allowed in this case, then we must consider if it is not to be extended to every case in which the several incidents occur, though they are now mingled and confused with circumstances with which they had no original connection.