FAMILY OF EARTH AND SKY: Indigenous Tales of Nature from Around the World by John & Hertha Wong -- Eds. Elder

FAMILY OF EARTH AND SKY: Indigenous Tales of Nature from Around the World

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An unfocused and pointless environmentalist anthology of stories from oral traditions. Elder (English and Environmental Studies/Middlebury College; Following the Brush, 1993) and Wong (English/Berkeley; Sending My Hean Across the Years, not reviewed) set out to collect stories of nature from indigenous peoples around the globe. Their aim is to help readers enlarge their ""ethical circle"" by seeing nature as something to which they have an immediate and tangible connection. Their task is complicated because the storytellers themselves don't distinguish ""nature stories"" from other stories. Similar problems are set forth but never properly addressed in the brief introduction. Stories in the volume are grouped under four rubrics. Under ""Origins"" are creation tales: the Mohawk story of diving creatures who bring mud up from the water's bottom to create a dry place for the first woman to rest; the Tahitian story of Tangaroa, who literally cannibalizes his own body to create the world; and others. ""Animal Tales and Transformations"" includes stories, often didactic, in which humans turn into animals and vice versa. ""Tricksters"" includes stories of the now familiar Coyote, Raven of the Pacific Northwest, and Anansi of Africa and the Caribbean, among others. The final section, ""Tales to Live By,"" offers nonfiction pieces by notables, including Leslie Silko, Rigoberta Menchu, and N. Scott Momaday. There are entries from places as diverse as Finland, India, and Korea, and because of a porous definition of""indigenous,"" English folk tales (""The Rollright Stones"") and African-American characters (Brer Rabbit and Terrapin) are also included. All stories have appeared in print elsewhere before, and an ""Acknowledgements"" section at the end gives sources. Useless to serious students and confusing to the popular audience for which it is intended, the book bears a passing resemblance to Story Earth by the Inter Press Service, from which several of the pieces in the final section are drawn.

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 1994
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: "Beacon -- dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux"