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The "Legendary Past" Series on Mythology
13 Books Exploring the World of Myth

See also World Mythology:  Recommended Books Exploring the World of Myth


Hindu Myths

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Hindu Myths
by A. L. Dallapiccola

"India has long been regarded as the home of Hinduism, its mythology constituting the backbone of Indian culture. Hindu myths have been adapted over the centuries to incorporate new or revised characters, and they continue to play a central role in modern Indian life."

"Retold here in their colorful and dramatic splendor, the Hindu myths touch on the key narrative themes of creation, preservation, destruction, delusion, and the bestowal of grace. They also portray the main deities of the Hindu pantheon—Shiva, Vishnu, and Devi—and their relationships with antigods, nymphs, and ascetics. Drawn from a variety of sources, most notably the encyclopedic Puranas, the myths range from the early centuries A.D. to the sixteenth century, conveying their enduring appeal and the religious teachings derived from them."

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


Etruscan Myths

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Etruscan Myths
by Larissa Bonfante and Judith Swaddling

"The Etruscans were a people of sophisticated culture and technology who lived in the area between Florence and Rome. Their civilization flourished for nearly a thousand years before being subsumed by the Roman Empire, but they left a substantial legacy to western civilization. In antiquity they were known as a wealthy, luxury-loving people, fond of banqueting and music and deeply religious. They were highly literate, but their literature has not survived, so we turn to Etruscan art to tell us about their mythology and beliefs. Their plentiful, spontaneous art also tells us a great deal about their lives and about the importance of women in their aristocratic society. Most informative of their own distinctive and colorful beliefs are their interpretations of scenes from Greek mythology, reflecting the importance of goddesses and demons in their religion, as well as scenes of the human sacrifice they practiced."

"This book serves as an excellent introduction to the world of the Etruscans and their mythology and is plentifully illustrated from the vast collection of the British Museum and other international museums."

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


Russian Myths

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Russian Myths
by Elizabeth Warner

"The coming of Christianity to the state of Kievan Rus' at the end of the tenth century had an enormous impact on the development of Russian civilization. Despite the abandonment of the pagan gods, both Christian and pagan practices and beliefs continued to coexist for centuries, producing a system known as 'dual faith.' Russian Myths deals with mythic beliefs, notions, and customs—concerning the veneration of earth, water, fire, and air, demons and spirit-beings in the world of nature, the cult of the dead, and witchcraft—many of which have their roots in the pre-Christian past but still survive to the present day."

"To illuminate the evolution of major themes and motifs and set Russian myths in the context of mythology the world over, Elizabeth Warner draws upon a rich variety of sources, including anecdotal narrative forms and religious legends, epic songs, funeral laments and folk religion, and, of course, the folktales where the sacred gives way to pure imagination in the depiction of mythic themes and characters."

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


Egyptian Myths

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Egyptian Myths
by George Hart

"The rich panorama of ancient Egyptian mythology has survived through tomb paintings, temple inscriptions, and papyri."

"This account begins with the creation legends of Heliopolis, Memphis, and Hermopolis and illustrates the intellectual struggles of the Egyptians to explain the beginning of the world. The myths that follow range from stories about the gods—the murder of Osiris and vengeance of Horus, Isis and the seven scorpions, Sakhmet and the virtual slaughter of mankind—to fables such as the Shipwrecked Sailor and the Enchanted Island. Through these delightful and often amusing tales, we can appreciate more fully the beliefs and imagination of the ancient Egyptians."

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


Mesopotamian Myths

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Mesopotamian Myths
by Henrietta McCall

"A vast legacy of powerful creative writing was revealed when nineteenth-century scholars managed to decipher the mysterious wedge-shaped symbols of cuneiform script, inscribed on clay tablets over 5,000 years ago by the ancient Mesopotamians. Strikingly familiar themes emerged, forcing the Victorian world to review its belief in the Bible as the sole source of literal truth. Imagine the impact of the Epic of Gilgamesh—the saga of a man in search of the secret of eternal life—which includes scenes of a flood predating the story of Noah and the Ark. In contrast, an alternative version of human origins is described in the Mesopotamian Epic of Creation, while the tale of Etana foreshadows the Greek myth of Ganymede."

"These and other stories are here retold, based on the latest translations, and illustrated with the works of both contemporary and later artists inspired by the rediscovery of these ancient characters and themes. Not only are the myths a foundation of our Western literary tradition, they are also compelling stories in their own right."

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


Norse Myths

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Norse Myths
by R. I. Page

"Entertaining and sometimes horrifying legends of gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines, monsters and giants survive from pagan Scandinavia, even though the Norsemen were unable to write them down. Odin and Thor, Freyja and Loki, Sigurd the Volsung, Gudrun and Brynhild are the most famous of these mythical characters, whose stories were eventually recorded."

"With authority and wit, Professor Page retells the Norse legends and shows how complex and sometimes contradictory their traditions are. Yet it is through these ancient myths that we know how the Norsemen visualized the creation of mankind and the final ending of the world."

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


Persian Myths

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Persian Myths
by Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis

"The traditional tales and stories of ancient Iran, which occupied a vast area of Central Asia, describe confrontations between good and evil, the victories of the gods, and the exploits of heroes and fabulous supernatural creatures such as the magical bird Simergh and the dev or black demons. Much of our information about Iran's pre-Islamic past comes from the holy book of the Zoroastrian religion, the Avesta, which was not written down in its present form until the thirteenth or fourteenth century A.D. but dates back originally to between 1400 and 1200 B.C. As well as the words of the prophet Zoroaster and stories about the wise
lord Ahura Mazda, it also incorporates earlier pagan myths which reappear in the Shahnameh (Book of Kings), a magnificent epic in rhyme complete in A.D. 1010 by the poet Firdausi and featuring his most famous hero, Rustam."

"Dr. Curtis draws upon all of these sources to retell for modern readers the stirring legends of ancient Iran, which have inspired centuries of manuscript illustrations."

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


Chinese Myths

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Chinese Myths
by Anne Birrell

Chinese myths were primarily a diffuse and fragmentary oral tradition, eventually preserved in writing only in a piecemeal fashion. Many classical texts are unavailable in translation, and the stories have been unknown to Western readers. Anne Birrell here introduces the general reader to a selection of narratives organized by themes and motifs thathelp set Chinese myths in the context of world mythology.

The contents include:

Origin and creation myths
Myths of the flood
The divine cosmos
Gender in myth
Metamorphoses
Mythic heroes and heroines
Fabled plants and animals
Major sources of myth

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


Greek Myths

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Greek Myths
by Lucilla Burn

"Here retold in all their dramatic power are some of the most exciting and influential of all Greek myths: the epic struggle of the Trojan War, the wanderings of Odysseus, the tragic destiny of Oedipus, and the heroic adventures of Herakles, Theseus, Perseus, and Jason."

"The author introduces the complex pantheon of Olympian gods and goddesses, describing their attributes, genealogies, and often comic relationships, and illustrates the personalities and their stories by drawing upon the artistry of the ancient culture which created them. A concluding chapter reviews the powerful and continuing imaginative legacy of Greek myth, from Botticelli to Freud."

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


Roman Myths

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Roman Myths
by Jane f. Gardner

"Gardner distills Roman mythological narratives drawn from numerous primary sources, and presents a coherent, tightly configured series of stories."

"The myths of the Romans are rather different from those of other ancient cultures, such as the Greeks or the Egyptians. Most Roman myths do not consist of stories about the gods and their actions, nor were they presented as fictional, magic stories. Ancient writers such as Livy, Virgil, and Ovid treated myths as history: the history of Rome itself, of its rituals and religious practices, and of important, noble Roman families. Myths were valued as exempla—illustrations of moral truths."

"Many myths centered around the founding of the city of Rome, such as those of Aeneas, Romulus and Remus, and the (largely imaginary) Seven Kings. Others provided models of virtuous behavior by citizens or added luster to family histories. The protagonists were often male, but sometimes female. Lucretia, who killed herself to expunge the shame of being raped and helped precipitate the founding of the Roman Republic, was a heroine who has exercised a particular fascination on later writers and artists. Still other myths grew up around particular deities (mostly Greek) who were taken into the Roman pantheon at different times or provided 'historical' explanations for cult activities or festivals such as Lupercalia."

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


 

Celtic Myths

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Celtic Myths
by Miranda J. Green

"Celtic Myths explores the mythology and beliefs of the pagan Celts between about 600 B.C. and A.D. 400. At their peak, the Celtic peoples inhabited a vast area of Europe, Great Britain, and Ireland. As non-literates, they have left no written record of their lives, their beliefs, and the stories which were such an important part of their culture; however, contemporary commentators from the Classical world, later Christian scribes recording oral traditions, and the archaeological evidence can give us fascinating, though fragmented, glimpses. Dr. Green draws on all these sources to discuss the myths and the religious beliefs and ritual which she believes inform them."

T"he heroic and magical tales of the Book of Invasions, the Fionn stories, the Ulster Cycle, and the Mabinogi are the subject of the first chapters. These stirring stories, though recorded in medieval times by Christian writers, preserve fascinating evidence of their pagan origins. Dr. Green then goes on to look at the evidence for Celtic religious  beliefs and raises some interesting questions as to how far we can establish links and recognize common features between the story material and the archaeological record."

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


 

Aztec and Maya Myths

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Aztec and Maya Myths
by Karl Taube

"The myths of the Aztec and Maya derive from a shared Mesoamerican cultural tradition. This is very much a living tradition, and many of the motifs and gods mentioned in early sources are still evoked in the lore of contemporary Mexico and Guatemala."

"Professor Taube discusses the different sources for Aztec and Maya myths. The Aztec empire began less than 200 years before the Spanish conquest, and our knowledge of their mythology derives primarily from native colonial documents and manuscripts commissioned by the Spanish. The Maya mythology is far older, and our knowledge of it comes mainly from native manuscripts of the Classic period, over 600 years before the Spanish conquest. "

"Drawing on these sources as well as nineteenth- and twentieth-century excavations and research, including the interpretation of the codices and the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphic writing, the author discusses, among other things, the Popol Vuh myths of the Maya, the flood myth of Northern Yucatan, and the Aztec creation myths."

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


 

Inca Myths

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Inca Myths
by Gary Urton

"Inca Myths begins with an introduction to the land and people of the Andes and reviews the sources of our current knowledge of Inca mythology. Gary Urton then recounts various creation myths, including a selection from various ethnic groups and regions around the empire. Finally, he draws upon his extensive knowledge of the history and ethnography of the Incas to illuminate the nature and relationships of myth and history."

"The contents include:

Introduction
Creation myths
Origin myths of the founding of the Inca empire
Myths of the works and deeds of the Inca kings
Selection of myths from around the empire
Animal myths
Myths from the Spanish Conquest
Conclusions"

A volume in "The Legendary Past" Series.


See also World Mythology:  Recommended Books Exploring the World of Myth

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