|C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the Worlds Best Literature.|
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
|Savages Compared with Children|
|By Sir John Lubbock (18341913)|
From Pre-Historic Times
|SAVAGES may be likened to children; and the comparison is not only correct, but also highly instructive. Many naturalists consider that the early condition of the individual indicates that of the race,that the best test of the affinities of a species are the stages through which it passes. So also it is in the case of man: the life of each individual is an epitome of the history of the race, and the gradual development of the child illustrates that of the species. Hence the importance of the similarity between savages and children. Savages, like children, have no steadiness of purpose. Speaking of the Dogrib Indians, we found, says Richardson, by experience, that however high the reward they expected to receive on reaching their destination, they could not be depended on to carry letters. A slight difficulty, the prospect of a banquet on venison, or a sudden impulse to visit some friend, were sufficient to turn them aside for an indefinite length of time. Even among the comparatively civilized South Sea Islanders this childishness was very apparent. Their tears indeed, like those of children, were always ready to express any passion that was strongly excited, and like those of children they also appear to be forgotten as soon as shed. DUrville also mentions that Tai-wanga, a New Zealand chief, cried like a child because the sailors spoilt his favorite cloak by powdering it with flour. It is not, says Cook, indeed strange that the sorrows of these artless people should be transient, any more than that their passions should be suddenly and strongly expressed; what they feel they have never been taught either to disguise or suppress; and having no habits of thinking which perpetually recall the past and anticipate the future, they are affected by all the changes of the passing hour, and reflect the color of the time, however frequently it may vary.
| We know the difficulty which children find in pronouncing certain sounds: r and l, for instance, they constantly confound. This is the case also among the Sandwich-Islanders and in the Ladrones, according to Freycinet; in Vanikoro; among the Dammaras; and in the Tonga Islands. Mr. Darwin observed that the Fuegians had great difficulty in comprehending an alternative; and every one must have noticed the tendency among savages to form words by reduplication. This also is characteristic of childhood among civilized races.|| 2|
| Again, some of the most brutal acts which have been recorded against them are to be regarded less as instances of deliberate cruelty than of a childish thoughtlessness and impulsiveness. A striking instance of this is recorded by Byron in his narrative of the Loss of the Wager. A cacique of the Chonos, who was nominally a Christian, had been out with his wife to fish for sea-eggs, and having had little success, returned in a bad humor. A little boy of theirs, about three years old, whom they appeared to be doatingly fond of, watching for his father and mothers return, ran into the surf to meet them: the father handed a basket of eggs to the child, which being too heavy for him to carry, he let it fall; upon which the father jumped out of the canoe, and catching the boy up in his arms, dashed him with the utmost violence against the stones. The poor little creature lay motionless and bleeding, and in that condition was taken up by the mother, but died soon after.|| 3|
| In fact, we may fairly sum up this part of the question in a few words by saying, as the most general conclusion which can be arrived at, that savages have the character of children with the passions and strength of men.|| 4|