Historians of religion who investigate the myths, rites, and symbols of the multilocal Indo-European speakers are not unlike historians of the planet earth who investigate the dispersed continental land masses and ocean floors of the present time. The former labor to reconstruct from hundreds of thousands of mythological, philological and iconographical details the language, religion and social structure of an ancient parent culture, while the latter proceed from an equally bewildering variety of geological and oceanographical puzzle-pieces to determine the character of that primordial “Pangaea” from which continental plates of the earth's surface originated. Interestingly, both areas—comparative mythology and earth science—have recently been reinvigorated by fresh schools of investigation after long lapses subsequent to the discrediting of nineteenth-century hypotheses. A generation ago no Asian studies scholar would have supported the claim that the massive Indian epic Mahābhārata and the Iranian epic Shāhnāmeh have preserved significant structures of the Indo-European mythological worldview that went unreflected in the vedic and avestan texts, any more than a reputable earth scientist would have maintained the idèa that the Himalayan massif was created by a wayward “India” crunching into central “Asia” after a multithousand-mile journey from the loins of South Africa.



Gerald J. Larson (ed.), Myth in Indo-European Antiquity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. Pp. 200.

Jaan Puhvel (ed.), Myth and Law Among the Indo-Europeans. Studies of Indo-European Comparative Mythology. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970. Pp. 276.

George Cardona, Henry M. Hoenigswald and Alfred Senn (eds.), Indo-European and Indo-Europeans. Papers Presented at the Third Indo-European Conference at the University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970. Pp. 440.


I refer to the theories of Dumézil and Stig Wikander that proceeded from Wikander's 1947 article

Pāṇḍavasaǵan och Mahābhāratas mytiska förutsättningar
Religion och bibel
, pp.
This and subsequent articles by Wikander in-volving Indo-Iranian, Greek, ancient Scandinavian, Hittite and other materials have produced such a symbiotic productivity that in many respects it is more correct to speak of a “Dumézil-Wikander hypothesis.” In fact, several papers here in review, including those of Littleton and Ward, are more dependent upon the research of Stig Wikander than that of Dumézil.


The remaining articles in this important and long-awaited Pennsylvania volume are concerned with linguistics, archeology and other areas and will not enter our discussion here. One must wonder, incidentally, why a volume that professes a publication grant (from the Haney Foundation) is so shockingly overpriced at $35.


This second edition contains an up-to-date bibliography. The other revisions are discussions of recent scholarship in general (Ch. 6) and recent publications of Dumézil himself (Ch. 8).


Einar Haugen , with the assistance of some transla of his students, has translated Dumézil's
Lcs dieux des germains
Gods of the Ancient Northmen
This work contains introductory essays by Littleton (pp. ix-xviii) and Udo Strutynski (pp. xix-xliii). These five publications, plus the forthcoming third edition of Mitra-Varuṇa, to be translated by Rodney Needham, bring welcome relief from the drought of published English translations of Dumézil's major efforts. Still a desideratum is the translation of L'idéologie tripartie des Indo-Européens (Collection Latomus; Brussels, 1958). It is curious that the second volume of Mythe et épopée has been translated piecemeal and not in entirety.


I am grateful to Gerald Larson, Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at UCSB, for sending me a pre-publication copy of the book. I should mention here the fact that one of the essays in Larson (aside from that of Dumézil himself) and one of the essays in Puhvel are by well-known European scholars long acquainted with Dumézil. They are Matthias Vereno of the University of Salzburg and Jacques Duchesnethe Guillemin of the University of Liège. All other essays are by scholars at universities in the United States.


Jeannine Talley , “
Runes, Mandrakes and Gallows
,” in
, pp.
relying upon James Sauvé, “The Divine Victim,” in puhvel, as well as the articles by Puhvel and Ward in that volume.


Larson, p. 172. The phrase “genetic model” has been used before, e.g. by Evon Vogt in studiesof Mayan culture. See also Littleton's article in this issue of J.A.S.


Larson, p. 38. I confess here my failure to appreciate the distinction between genetic and “poygenetic” development.


For a discussion of the relation of tripartite to quadripartite symbols, and the principles behind the Vedic-Hindu expansion of triads to pentads, see my article

One Fire, Three Fires, Five Fires: Vedic Symbols in Transition
History of Religions


There is much more to be said about the tripartite and trifunctional expressions of this Prambanan temple, but this is not the forum. The epic mythical inputs here alone (from both Mahābhārāta and Rāmāyaṇa) are complex and considerable. I offer this only as an illustration of the hermeneutical dilemma.


Larson, pp. 174–75.


Metodväger inom den jämföratide religions-forskningen
). For his discussion of “structuralism” as it is in vogue with Lévi-Strauss, Eliade, Dumézil, etc., see pp.
Cf. also Smith P. and Sperber D. , “
Mythologiques de Georges Dumézil
Annales, économies, sociétés, civilisations
Greimas A. J. ,
Dit sens: essais sémiotiques


“The Mythical Structure of the Ancient Scandinavians,” in
To Honor Roman Jacobson:Essays
… (
The Hague
Strutynski, after undercutting Haugen' system point by point, reverses field and applies the binary scheme to the Middle High German Heldenbuch!


Larson, p. 85. Cf. also Polomé's remarks, pp. 59–60.

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