Fountain and Origin

Justin McCarthy
Chapter I

AS the child is the father of the man, so the legend is the parent of the history. If we would understand the story of a nation we must begin by a study of its legendary lore. We cannot thoroughly comprehend the character of a people unless we have made ourselves well acquainted with the legendary forms that people has accepted as the pictures of its progenitors. There are severe and scientific expositors of history who insist that every trace of the past should be rejected, unless it has authentic evidence to prove its reality and warrant its place. But no evidence can be of greater importance as to national characteristics than the legends which found common belief in the days when the nation was just beginning to emerge from the realm of shadows. We could not understand the people who created the Parthenon if we did not take account of the Homeric gods and heroes, nor could we comprehend the race which raised the Pyramids if we were to put out of consideration the stories which came to be embodied in "The Thousand and One Nights."