The tales included in this volume, though told in modern speech, relate to heroes and adventures of an ancient time, and contain elements peculiar to early ages of story-telling. The chief actors in most of them are represented as men; but we may be quite sure that these men are substitutes for heroes who were not considered human when the stories were told to Keltic audiences originally. To make the position of these Gaelic tales clear, it is best to explain, first of all, what an ancient tale is; and to do this we must turn to uncivilized men who possess such tales yet in their primitive integrity.
We have now in North America a number of groups of tales obtained from the Indians which, when considered together, illustrate and supplement one another; they constitute, in fact, a whole system. These tales we may describe as forming collectively the Creation myth of the New World. Since the primitive tribes of North America have not emerged yet from the Stone Age of development, their tales are complete and in good preservation. In some cases simple and transparent, it is not difficult to recognize the heroes; they are distinguishable at once either by their names or their actions or