THE RED SWAN: Myths and Tales of the American Indian by John--Ed. Bierhorst
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THE RED SWAN: Myths and Tales of the American Indian

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bierhorst's brilliant selection of 64 myths and tales--each representative, significant and interesting in itself--is designed to present a comprehensive view of the world, and his thematic grouping (origins, the hero in different roles, death, renewed life, etc.) gives coherence to that view while acknowledging the artificial rigidity of any such classification. His immensely helpful 30-page introduction provides not only a framework for approaching the myths (in terms of categories of subject matter or types of transition effected) and perspective on interpretation according to Freud, Jung, Frazer, and Levi-Strauss (""all valid"") but also an analysis of ""peculiarities of mythic narrative"" which is nothing less than a key to reading traditional literature. (We only wish he had the time to compile the ""grammar"" and ""vocabulary"" of the mythic idiom to which he wistfully refers.) Brief introductory notes compare individual tales to other versions or offer clues to the logic of the symbolism (in re ""Why the Buzzard Is Bald"": ""This neatly constructed mythlet is divided into two equal parts, the second of which is a translation of the first into a different set of images. . . ."") and scrupulous source and textual notes as well as extensive references are appended. In contrast to Gamer's recent eclectic, enigmatic collection (p. 693, J-243), this could mark an intellectual turning point for the serious, inquiring reader.

Pub Date: July 19th, 1976
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux