Mitra-Varuna * Georges Dumézil (1940/48 * 1996)

It is a shame to see how few books by Georges Dumézil (1898-1986) have been translated into English and how even fewer books are actually available. Dumézil is famous for being at the cradle of the Indo-European hypothesis, being an imminent scholar in the field of comparative religions and mythology and (later) for recognising the tripartite divsion which comes back in all kinds of Indo-European fields. He may not really have been a ‘Traditionalist’ in the meaning of Guénon’s ‘school’, but he certainly has inspired many Traditionalists. Of the few books that are available through Amazon in English, I chose this one, because Dumézil more or less has an Indian starting point, but here also dedicated a few chapters to the Northern mythology. The book is only 190 pages, well translated by Derek Coltman and reads easily. In a few chapters Dumézil does get a bit scholarly though. The first version of this book was published in 1940. Dumézil has in particular been looking for pairs in Indo-European myths. Oppositional pairs, but just as well supplementary. The brothers Mitra and Varuna were used as example. For the 1948 second edition, the writer has rewritten parts of the book, because in the meantime he built his trifunctional hypothesis, so ‘things do not come in twos, but in threes (as well)’. Not too much information about this in the book though, but in the conclusion Dumézil explains that the pairs remained the starting point, but the trifunctional division is compatible with the other hypothesis, because the pairs come back on each of the three levels or classes.
The book starts with the Roman pair of Romulus and Remus, the Luperci and mythical founders of Rome, takes a few other characters from Roman mythology, continues with Greek mythology (Jupiter and Fides) and then passes Iranian (Ahura and Mithra) mythology to go to the Northern double function of *Wʹdhanaz and *Tͮwaz. All this comes to a conclusion in which the writer summarizes his findings and adds some extra information.
I loved to read the comparisons and cross-references, but I have the idea that this book shows only a tip of what Dumézil has to offer. Maybe his later books give a more complete view of his ideas. Unfortunatetly -like I said- there are not too many titles available in English, so I am afraid that I will have to get (or download!) myself some of the books in French.
(13/6/06 -4-)
Read quotes of Dumézil here.)
1940/48 * 1996 urzone * isbn 0942299132

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