Hiuen Tsang's version of the legend agrees with Marco's in placing the
Woman's Island to the south of Persia.
It was called the Kingdom of
Western Women. There were none but women to be seen. It was under Folin
(the Byzantine Empire), and the ruler thereof sent husbands every year; if
boys were born, the law prohibited their being brought up. (Vie et
Voyages, p. 268.) Alexander, in Ferdusi's poem, visits the City of Women
on an island in the sea, where no man was allowed.
The Chinese accounts, dating from the 5th century, of a remote Eastern
Land called Fusang, which Neumann fancied to have been Mexico, mention
that to the east of that region again there was a Woman's Island, with the
usual particulars. (Lassen, IV. 751.) [Cf. G. Schlegel, Niu Kouo,
T'oung Pao, III. pp. 495-510. - H.C.] Oddly enough, Columbus heard the
same story of an island called Matityna or Matinino (apparently
Martinique) which he sighted on his second voyage. The Indians on board
"asserted that it had no inhabitants but women, who at a certain time of
the year were visited by the Cannibals (Caribs); if the children born were
boys they were brought up and sent to their fathers, if girls they were
retained by the mothers. They reported also that these women had certain
subterranean caverns in which they took refuge if any one went thither
except at the established season," etc. (P. Martyr in Ramusio, III. 3
v. and see 85.) Similar Amazons are placed by Adam of Bremen on the Baltic
Shores, a story there supposed to have originated in a confusion between
Gwenland, i.e. Finland, and a land of Cwens or Women.
Mendoza heard of the like in the vicinity of Japan (perhaps the real
Fusang story), though he opines judiciously that "this is very doubtful
to be beleeved, although I have bin certified by religious men that have
talked with persons that within these two yeares have beene at the saide
ilands, and have seene the saide women." (H. of China, II. 301.) Lane
quotes a like tale about a horde of Cossacks whose wives were said to live
apart on certain islands in the Dnieper. (Arab. Nights, 1859, III. 479.)
The same story is related by a missionary in the Lettres Edifiantes of
certain unknown islands supposed to lie south of the Marian group.
Pauthier, from whom I derive this last instance, draws the conclusion: "On
voit que le recit de Marc Pol est loin d'etre imaginaire." Mine from the
premises would be different!
Sometimes the fable took another form; in which the women are entirely
isolated, as in that which Mela quotes from Hanno (III. 9). So with the
Isle of Women which Kazwini and Bakui place to the South of China. They
became enceinte by the Wind, or by eating a particular fruit [or by
plunging into the sea; cf. Schlegel, l.c. - H.C.], or, as in a Chinese
tradition related by Magaillans, by looking at their own faces in a well!
The like fable is localised by the Malays in the island of Engano off
Sumatra, and was related to Pigafetta of an island under Great Java called
Ocoloro, perhaps the same.
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