Having reached the close of our series of stories of Pagan mythology, and inquiry suggests itself. "Whence came these stories? Have they a foundation in truth or are they simply dreams of the imagination?" Philosophers have suggested various theories on the subject; and 1. The Scriptural theory; according to which all mythological legends are derived from the narratives of Scripture, though the real facts have been disguised and altered. Thus Deucalion is only another name for Noah, Hercules for Samson, Arion for Jonah, etc. Sir Walter Raleigh, in his "History of the World," says, "Jubal, Tubal, and Tubal-Cain were Mercury, Vulcan, and Apollo, inventors of Pasturage, Smithing, and Music. The Dragon which kept the golden apples was the serpent that beguiled Eve. Nimrod's tower was the attempt of the Giants against Heaven." There are doubtless many curious coincidences like these, but the theory cannot without extravagance be pushed so far as to account for any great proportion of the stories.
"To behold the wandering moon
Riding near her highest noon, Like one that had been led astray In the heaven's wide, pathless way."
"In that fair clime the lonely herdsman, stretched
On the soft grass through half a summer's day, With music lulled his indolent repose; And, in some fit of weariness, if he, When his own breath was silent, chanced to hear A distant strain far sweeter than the sounds Which his poor skill could make, his fancy fetched Even from the blazing chariot of the Sun A beardless youth who touched a golden lute, And filled the illumined groves with ravishment. The mighty hunter, lifting up his eyes Toward the crescent Moon, with grateful heart Called on the lovely Wanderer who bestowed That timely light to share his joyous sport; And hence a beaming goddess with her nymphs Across the lawn and through the darksome grove (Not unaccompanied with tuneful notes By echo multiplied from rock or cave) Swept in the storm of chase, as moon and stars Glance rapidly along the clouded heaven When winds are blowing strong. The Traveller slaked His thirst from rill or gushing fount, and thanked The Naiad. Sunbeams upon distant hills Gliding apace with shadows in their train, Might with small help from fancy, be transformed Into fleet Oreads sporting visibly. The Zephyrs, fanning, as they passed, their wings, Lacked not for love fair objects whom they wooed With gentle whisper. Withered boughs grotesque, Stripped of their leaves and twigs by hoary age, From depth of shaggy covert peeping forth In the low vale, or on steep mountain side; And sometimes intermixed with stirring horns Of the live deer, or goat's depending beard; These were the lurking Satyrs, wild brood Of gamesome deities; or Pan himself, That simple shepherd's awe-inspiring god."
All the theories which have been mentioned are true to a certain extent. It would therefore be more correct to say that the mythology of a nation has sprung from all these sources combined than from any one in particular. We may add also that there are many myths which have arisen from the desire of man to account for those natural phenomena which he cannot understand; and not a few have had their rise from a similar desire of giving a reason for the names of places and persons.