Four Corners of the Sky: Creation Stories and Cosmologies from Around the World

Overview

What is the universe? How did it get that way? Here are thought-provoking answers from throughout history and around the world.

"In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth." -King James Bible

"In the beginning, before men, before the Gods, all was chaos." -Greek myth

Folklorist Steve Zeitlin gives answers to the questions everyone asks about the nature of the universe: What is it? Where did it come...

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Overview

What is the universe? How did it get that way? Here are thought-provoking answers from throughout history and around the world.

"In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth." -King James Bible

"In the beginning, before men, before the Gods, all was chaos." -Greek myth

Folklorist Steve Zeitlin gives answers to the questions everyone asks about the nature of the universe: What is it? Where did it come from? Will it end? A picture of the universe is a cosmology, and every culture has its own. People build these stories from the world around them. The ancient Egyptians who saw the Nile flood yearly told stories of gods who rise, die, and are reborn. The Maori living on the wind and sea-battered island of New Zealand tell of sea, land, and sky gods in eternal combat.

Readers will discover the Iroquois who pictured the world on a turtle's back; the Southeast Asians who described the world as a flat disc held up by three elephants; even Genesis and the Big Bang theories are included. Zeitlin retells each myth, legend, folktale or theory as a story filled with wonder and imagination.

Now every child who tries to build a picture of the universe will see how he or she fits in the grand tradition of human thought and imagination.

A collection of folk stories from around the world, each accompanied by background information, that explain the various perspectives of different peoples on how the universe and their world came to be.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-Zeitlin introduces 16 cosmologies from ancient cultures, including Maori, Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, Inca, Jain, Desana Indian, Haitian, Iroquois, Fon, Chumash, and Chinese. Early Western scientific theories as well as contemporary scientific views are noted, and nearly every cultural view is accompanied by a myth about how the universe came to be. Stories with a similar theme, such as the Hindu and Norse beliefs in cycles of creation and destruction, have been grouped together. Each cosmology is accompanied by a brief introduction and a black-and-white illustration based on designs, objects, or artifacts of the culture it represents. Thorough source notes and a further reading list enhance the research value. While there is some overlap here with Virginia Hamilton's more poetic In the Beginning (Harcourt, 1988), Four Corners will be a valuable resource for storytellers, teachers, and students with a serious interest in mythology.-Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"One person's religion is often another's mythology," writes the author. He could have added"or science," because into this study of how diverse cultures have explained or interpreted the universe he folds chapters on both European cosmology from Ptolemy to Galileo, and on the Big Bang and string theory. Interspersing briefly told creation myths printed in a different typeface, he begins with views of Earth and Sky as Man and Woman (Maori and ancient Egyptian). In a chapter titled"Something out of Nothing," he pairs the origin of the Greek gods and the first part of Genesis. Next he goes on to summarize cyclical views (Hindu, Norse), the heliocentric theory challenged by Copernicus and Kepler, the cosmos as a woman (Jain), a mirror (Haitian Vodou), a series of animal images, even, for a small Amazonian group, a brain. Finally, as"The Cosmic Egg," ancient Chinese and modern scientific scenarios. Raschka opens each chapter with a design drawn from an appropriate culture's artifacts. Zeitlin not only puts the scientific study of the cosmos into an unusual context (carefully pointing out the essential difference between telling stories, and actually testing them), he draws fascinating comparisons throughout, then closes with enthusiastic notes on sources and further reading. The result is a thought-provoking companion to Virginia Hamilton's more story-oriented In the Beginning (1988). (bibliography) (Nonfiction. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805048162
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Age range: 11 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Zeitlin co-authored While Standing On One Foot and The Cow of No Color. He is the director of City Lore, which documents and presents the living cultural heritage of New York City.

Chris Raschka is the Caldecott Honor illustrator of Yo! Yes! and other highly praised books, including Simple Gifts. He lives in New York City with his wife and son.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 28, 2012

    The Four Corners of the Sky gives an in-depth analysis of how th

    The Four Corners of the Sky gives an in-depth analysis of how the world came to be. It answers some of the most fundamental questions about our world. These questions are answered through cosmology - a picture of the universe. This novel mainly focuses on the creation of the universe and answers controversial questions such as “What is it?”, “Will it end”?, and “Where did it come from?”

    This novel is a collection of mythical stories that give us an idea of how people thought of our universe. For this book review, I decided to use The Story of Rangi and Papi, a Maori myth that gives a possible explanation of how the Earth came to be. I found this story really intriguing because it is completely different from the religions we have learned in this class.

    It is said that Rangi and Papi are two giants that occupy the sky and the earth. Their children, all of which are males, are forced to live in between these two giants. They experience never ending darkness and have never seen light. Throughout the story, they quarrel and fight in a cramped space, and are forced to find refuge in their mother’s armpits. They had only dreamed of one day seeing light. This story continues to explain how these children broke away from total darkness and how their actions led to the creation of our World.

    To be honest, I thought that this novel was very bland. Steve Zeitlin did a great job of listing the many mythical stories, but his stories lacked drama. This was probably why it took me so long to finish this novel. I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy creation stories and to those who want to understand the different cultures and religions of our world.

    From this novel, I learned that there are many versions of how this world came to be. This is just one interpretation of Earth’s history, and there are thousands of stories out there similar to the story of Rangi and Papi. Everybody has their right to choose which creation story they believe, but I personally do not believe in Rangi and Papi. I have also learned that love and hate has been engraved into everyone of us, even dating back to Rangi and Papi and their children. Rangi and Papi loved their children, and it is because love exists that hatred must coexist. Similar to our lives, our parents love us unconditionally and take care of us. Sibling rivalry occasionally occurs and this can cause chaos in the family. These underlying themes have been apparent in our lives today, and will continue to harm and benefit people on earth.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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