Mannhardt’s Approach to Mr. Max Muller
In this essay on Lettish Sun-songs
(1875) Mannhardt comes nearest to Mr. Max Muller.
He cites passages from him with approval (cf. pp.
314, 322). His explanations, by aid of Sun-songs,
of certain features in Greek mythology are plausible,
and may be correct. But we turn to Mannhardt’s
explicit later statement of his own position in 1877,
and to his posthumous essays, published in 1884; and,
on the whole, we find, in my opinion, much more difference
from than agreement with the Oxford Professor, whose
Dawn-Daphne and other equations Mannhardt dismisses,
and to whose general results (in mythology) he assigns
a value so restricted. It is a popular delusion
that the anthropological mythologists deny the existence
of solar myths, or of nature-myths in general.
These are extremely common. What we demur to
is the explanation of divine and heroic myths at large
as solar or elemental, when the original sense has
been lost by the ancient narrators, and when the elemental
explanation rests on conjectural and conflicting etymologies
and interpretations of old proper names Athene,
Hera, Artemis, and the rest. Nevertheless, while
Mannhardt, in his works on Tree-cult, and on Field
and Wood Cult, and on the ‘Corn Demon,’
has wandered far from ’his old colours’ while
in his posthumous essays he is even more of a deserter,
his essay on Lettish Sun-myths shows an undeniable
tendency to return to Mr. Max Muller’s camp.
This was what made his friends so anxious. It
is probably wisest to form our opinion of his final
attitude on his preface to his last book published
in his life-time. In that the old colours are
not exactly his chosen banner; nor can the flag of
the philological school be inscribed tandem triumphans.
In brief, Mannhardt’s return
to his old colours (1875-76) seems to have been made
in a mood from which he again later passed away.
But either modern school of mythology may cite him
as an ally in one or other of his phases of opinion.