IN the following pages we shall seek to present an outline of the mythology of the Oceanic peoples. Although certain aspects of the mythic system of this area, as well as the myths of separate portions of it, have been treated by others, the present writer does not know of any recent endeavour to gather all available materials from the whole region, or to discuss the relationship of the mythologies of the various portions of Oceania to one another, and to the adjacent lands. The attempt has been made to go over all the myths of worth which have been published; but it is not impossible that valuable and important material has been overlooked. Some omissions, however, have been due to circumstances beyond control. A number of volumes containing material, probably of considerable value, were not to be found in the libraries of the United States, and disturbances consequent upon the European War have made it impossible to secure them; while other gaps are due to the author's insufficient knowledge of Malay languages, which prevented the use of some collections of tales, published without translations.
The selection of the legends to be presented has offered considerable difficulty, this being especially marked in the class of what may be denominated, for convenience, miscellaneous tales. No two persons would probably make the same choice, but. it is believed that those which are here given serve as a fair sample of the various types and include those which are of widest interest and distribution. In the majority of cases the tales have been retold in our own words. For strictly scientific purposes exact reproductions of the originals would, of course, be required; but the general purpose of this series,
and the limitations of space, have made this method impossible. References have in every case, however, been given; so that those who wish to consult the fuller or original forms of the tales can do so easily. These references, and all notes, have been put into an Appendix at the end of the volume, thus leaving the pages unencumbered for those who wish only to get a general idea of the subject. The Bibliography has, with few exceptions, been restricted to the titles of original publications; reprints and popular and semi-popular articles and volumes have been omitted. Every care has been taken to make the large number of references correct, though it is too much to hope that errors have not crept in.
In the brief discussions at the end of each section, and again at the end of the volume, we have sought to draw conclusions in regard to the probable origin of some of the myths and to point out the evidences of transmission and historical contact which they show. Merely to present the tales without offering any suggestions as to how they had come to be what they are and where they are, seemed to fail of attaining the full purpose of this series. No one is more conscious than the author that the hypotheses offered will not meet with universal acceptance; that they rest, in many cases, upon uncertain foundations; and that, plausible as they may look today, they may be fundamentally modified by new material and further study. Should this essay only serve to stimulate interest in this field, and lead to greater activity in gathering new material while yet there is time, he will be quite content.
ROLAND B. DIXON.
HARVARD UNIVERSITY, June 1, 1916.