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The Basket Woman A Book of Indian Tales for Children   By: (1868-1934)

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First Page:

TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: Diacritic marks over letters are enclosed within square brackets. For example, [)a] represents small letter "a" with breve.

THE BASKET WOMAN

A BOOK OF INDIAN TALES FOR CHILDREN

BY

MARY AUSTIN

SCHOOL EDITION

BOSTON, NEW YORK, AND CHICAGO HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

The Riverside Press, Cambridge

COPYRIGHT, 1904, BY MARY AUSTIN COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

[Illustration: From photograph by A. A. Forbes THE BASKET WOMAN]

PREFACE

In preparing this volume of western myths for school use the object has been not so much to provide authentic Indian Folk tales, as to present certain aspects of nature as they appear in the myth making mood, that is to say, in the form of strongest appeal to the child mind. Indian myths as they exist among Indians are too frequently sustained by coarse and cruel incidents comparable to the belly ripping joke in Jack the Giant Killer , or the blinding of Gloucester in King Lear , and when presented in story form, too often fall under the misapprehension of the myth as something invented and added to the imaginative life. It is, in fact, the root and branch of man's normal intimacy with nature.

So slowly does the mind awaken to the realization of consciousness and personality as by products of animal life only, that few escape carrying over into adult life some obsession of its persistence in inanimate things, say of malevolence in opals or luckiness in a rabbit's foot, or the capacity of moral discrimination against their victims residing in hurricanes and earthquakes. The chief preoccupation of the child in his earlier years is the business of abstracting the items of his environment from this pervading sense, and ascribing to them their proper degrees of awareness. He arrives in a general way at knowing that it hurts the cat's tail to be stepped on because the cat cries, and that it does not hurt the stick. But if the stick were provided with a squeaking apparatus he would be much longer in the process, and if the stick becomes a steed or a doll it is quite possible for him to weep with sympathetic pain at the abuse of it.

He sees the tree and it is alive and sentient to him; you cut a stick horse from its boughs, and that is separately alive; cut the stick again into two horses, and they will prance whole and satisfying. Later when the game is played out, the stick may burn and furnish live flame to dance, live smoke to ascend, live ash to be treated with contumely; all of which arises not so much in the mere trick of invention as in the natural difficulty in thinking of objects freed from consciousness, almost as great as the philosopher's in conceiving empty space. There is a period in the life of every child when almost the only road to the understanding is the one blazed out by the myth making spirit, kept open to the larger significance of things long after he is apprised that the thunder did not originate in the smithy of the gods nor the Walrus talk to the Carpenter. Any attempt, however, to hasten the proper distinctions of causes and powers by the suppression of myth making is likely to prove as disastrous as helping young puppies through their nine days' blindness by forcibly opening their eyes. You might get a few days' purchase of vision for some of them, but you would also have a good many cases of total blindness. What can be done by way of turning the myth making period to advantage, this little book is partly to show.

Of the three sorts of myths included, about a third are direct transcriptions from Indian myths current in the campodies of the West, but it must not be assumed that myths like The Crooked Fir and The White Barked Pine are in any sense "made up," or to be laid to the author's credit. Since the myth originates in an attitude of mind, it must be understood that, to the primitive mind, nearly the whole process of nature presents itself in mythical terms... Continue reading book >>




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