THE MYTHOLOGY OF NORTH AMERICA by John Bierhorst
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THE MYTHOLOGY OF NORTH AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Whereas Bierhorst took an aesthetic approach to North American Indian mythology in The Red Swan (1976), presenting 64 fictionally finished myths and discussing the form in terms of literary structure and symbol, here he treats the material in more general, anthropological terms. He surveys the myths region by region, distinguishing further among subregions, tribes, and kin groups, and considers the different themes or types of myths--trickster, transformer, emergence, etc.--within each region. The stories themselves are summarized, in a context of comparison and commentary, rather than told in full form for their own sake. Bierhorst's comments might deal with any aspect of a story, from its derivation, different versions, and relative purity to its doctrinal meaning, practical function (whether exorcising monsters, validating privileges, or putting children to sleep), and style in performance. Even though they are not fleshed out, the myths are packed with compelling imagery; and Bierhorst's commentary is as always impressively knowledgable and flexibly eclectic. It is also just plain sensible. For young people beginning a serious study of mythology, here is much suggestive source material, much valuable orientation, and a good deal yet to puzzle out.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1985
ISBN: 0195146239
Publisher: Morrow