The Villas Boas brothers are almost single-handedly responsible for the survival of many groups of Indians in Central Brazil...

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XINGU: The Indians, Their Myths

The Villas Boas brothers are almost single-handedly responsible for the survival of many groups of Indians in Central Brazil during a quarter of a century that has seen the opening of a gold-feverish, gun-happy, genocidal frontier in the Amazon jungle. This book, drawn from 25 years of their journals, is a compendium of myths from the tribes of the Xingu River region where the brothers -- rough adventurers and gentle intelligences -- persuaded the Brazilian government to establish a large protected (and now highway threatened) reservation. The book begins with a brief survey of the flora, fauna and climate of the Xingu and a history of some of the tribal wars, mergers, intermarriages and extinctions that gradually created its culture sharing ""society of nations."" For the non-anthropologist this part of the book is hard to follow, a tangle of unfamiliar tribal names, though one does occasionally catch a glimpse of Indian groups living like shy wild bird flocks in the forest. The rich meat, however, is the 31 myths themselves: not set in an ethnographic context, not philosophically dissected like those in Reichel-Dolmatoff's Amazonian Cosmos (1970), but told simply and vividly, as if out loud, like Jaime De Angulo's Indian Tales (1962). And they are full of humor and mystery -- myths that parallel our own (the origin of day and night, the flood); myths that account for the origins of arts and customs (often by theft or trickery); myths which reveal by implication the social lives of people -- all coming out of a ""dreamtime"" in which humans, otters, jaguars, fish and vulture are intimately related by intermarriage and transformation. A man warms himself by a firefly, flutes live in the water, the dead journey as snakes, a canoe has eyes -- anthropologist and artist in tandem will find it rich and strange.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 1973

ISBN: 0285647482

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Girous

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1973