Balder the Beautiful

Balder the Beautiful

by Sir James George Frazer
     
 
In this concluding part of The Golden Bough I have discussed the problem which gives its title to the whole work. If I am right, the Golden Bough over which the King of the Wood, Diana's priest at Aricia, kept watch and ward was no other than a branch of mistletoe growing on an oak within the sacred grove; and as the plucking of the bough was a necessary prelude to

Overview

In this concluding part of The Golden Bough I have discussed the problem which gives its title to the whole work. If I am right, the Golden Bough over which the King of the Wood, Diana's priest at Aricia, kept watch and ward was no other than a branch of mistletoe growing on an oak within the sacred grove; and as the plucking of the bough was a necessary prelude to the slaughter of the priest, I have been led to institute a parallel between the King of the Wood at Nemi and the Norse god Balder, who was worshipped in a sacred grove beside the beautiful Sogne fiord of Norway and was said to have perished by a stroke of mistletoe, which alone of all things on earth or in heaven could wound him. On the theory here suggested both Balder and the King of the Wood personified in a sense the sacred oak of our Aryan forefathers, and both had deposited their lives or souls for safety in the parasite which sometimes, though rarely, is found growing on an oak and by the very rarity of its appearance excites the wonder and stimulates the devotion of ignorant men. Though I am now less than ever disposed to lay weight on the analogy between the Italian priest and the Norse god, I have allowed it to stand because it furnishes me with a pretext for discussing not only the general question of the external soul in popular superstition, but also the fire-festivals of Europe, since fire played a part both in the myth of Balder and in the ritual of the Arician grove. Thus Balder the Beautiful in my hands is little more than a stalking-horse to carry two heavy pack-loads of facts. And what is true of Balder applies equally to the priest of Nemi himself, the nominal hero of the long tragedy of human folly and suffering which has unrolled itself before the readers of these volumes, and on which the curtain is now about to fall. He, too, for all the quaint garb he wears and the gravity with which he stalks across the stage, is merely a puppet, and it is time to unmask him before laying him up in the box.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940015443332
Publisher:
Library of Alexandria
Publication date:
09/07/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
554 KB

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