SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE SUN by Elizabeth S. Helfman


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A world survey of sun signs and symbols and sun-related customs and myths from earliest times couldn't be entirely without interest, but Helfman's uniformly pedestrian, sometimes fatuous style (""The sun itself is more than a symbol. It brings the light by which we see our world. . ."") does nothing to evoke the awe and solemnity that gave rise to the dazzling Inca and gory Aztec rituals that she describes in the same flat tone and to the sun wheels and swastikas from diverse cultures (there's no mention of the latter's more notorious application), the Eastern mandalas and the Christian halos that are listed and displayed in black and white drawings and photos. Compared with Komaroff, below, Helfman summarizes (rather than retells) more myths from more cultures, pads the survey with chapters on modern art (Adolph Gottlieb, Richard Lippold) and even advertising, includes more illustrations which are also more consistently related to the theme, and generally conforms more closely to the dictates of the usual school-related library usage. However, oversimplification and superficial research abound here too. Like Komaroff, Helfman refers to ""the Eskimos' "" beliefs, but her generalization is perhaps the more unfortunate as the Eskimo belief she cites is an Alaskan one (culled from the Larousse Mythology listed in her bibliography) but used here by way of commentary on a modern Dorset stone cut by Kenojuak which would be better illuminated by a sentence explaining, for example, the unusual tattooing on Kenojuak's sun which derives from a particularly local variation on a Baffin Island custom. A small point perhaps, but it is unfortunate that this level of scholarship prevails in so many children's books that purport to be informational.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1974
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Seabury