This study has engaged in a process of analysis that involved not only the contextualization but also the decontextualization and recontextualization of selections representing a genre of literature. Hundreds of narrative traditions were examined both within and outside of their contexts in the sources. The advantage of this double method is that it included but then went beyond the analysis of a narrative's contextualized meaning; examining a narrative out of its immediate context eliminated a certain portion of meaning that was imposed by the authors or redactors who placed it in a purposeful order within the sources. It should not be forgotten that as traditions were passed orally between people over generations, their contextualization within the sources already represented a synthesis undertaken by the exegetes and not necessarily reflective of earlier stages in their meaning. Removing a large number of tellings of legends out of context and comparing them with one another as well as with related lore shed new light onto patterns of content and structure which, in turn, suggested a logic to their intertextuality.
We can rest the case of authorship or origin for the material in the foggy history of oral literature. There was no single author nor "source," but rather, as we learn from studies in oral literature, a long process of creation and influence. The teller of an oral tradition, and even the redactor of one who provided a context for it in a written source, is a living part of the creative process resulting in its current meaning. If there is a last stage in the process it can only be temporarily last, for it is represented by the occasion of the most recent discourse--that is to say, the circumstances of the most recent reading (or hearing) of the text, which must take into consideration the makeup of the reader (mental associations, cultural "baggage," etc.) and the context of the communicative act.
The written form of the traditions in our sources is a conservative medium which discourages the kind of fluidity that allowed oral traditions to change and bend to the needs and interests of a changing environment. This