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The Mythology of Mexico and Central America
     

The Mythology of Mexico and Central America

by John Bierhorst
 

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In this expansive volume, John Bierhorst brings to light the gods and heroes of pre-Columbian times—and demonstrates that they are very much alive today. The book provides translations of twenty "basic myths," showing how these have influenced the artistic, literary, and political life of modern Mexico and Central America. Originally published in

Overview

In this expansive volume, John Bierhorst brings to light the gods and heroes of pre-Columbian times—and demonstrates that they are very much alive today. The book provides translations of twenty "basic myths," showing how these have influenced the artistic, literary, and political life of modern Mexico and Central America. Originally published in 1990, the text has been updated to reflect recent advances in Mesoamerican studies. In addition, a new Afterword describes how these native mythologies—since the late 1980s—have begun incorporating issues of international significance, including cultural pluralism, religious freedom, and environmentalism.
Detailed maps show tribal locations and the distribution of key stories. Indian artworks illustrate the texts and samples of differing narrative styles add enrichment, as some of the world's purest and most powerful myths are made more accessible—and more meaningful—than ever before.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book should serve as a road map to the cultural wealth of Mesoamerica. John Bierhorst has provided unique stories that will delight his readers. He draws us easily through myths of creation and destruction, of the quest for corn, of wise heroes who come to us as elders and defiant little boys. By remaining faithful to the simplicity of the telling he preserves the power of images that continue to keep alive centuries of cultural heritage."—The New York Times Book Review

School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-- Among indigenous American populations, the Aztec and Maya--with their various tributary tribes--surely comprise two of the most colorful and controversial cultures. Bierhorst provides an in-depth and scholarly treatment of the mythology of these groups. Beginning with a discussion of what constitutes mythology, he defines myth types, motifs, and gives ethnographic information on the 30 or so tribes inhabiting the area from northern Mexico to Costa Rica. The second section of the book presents examples of 20 myth types or motifs found throughout the area. The myth is recounted, giving the teller's name--if possible--as well as the tribe and the print source. The third and final section concerns building whole mythologies. The approach is sophisticated and closer to a fully fleshed-out version of a dictionary of folklore motifs than anything else; while it has a use as a reference and research resource for high-school libraries, a college or university audience seems more likely. Younger students might benefit more from Bierhorst's own The Hungry Woman (Morrow, 1984) or Douglas Gifford's Warriors, Gods, & Spirits from Central & South American Mythology (Schocken, 1983). Although providing less background material, it is easier to read, and John Sibbick's splashy illustrations will capture the adolescent eye. For both intelligent writing and impeccable scholarship, Bierhorst is hard to beat. --Ann Welton, University Child Development School, Seattle

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195146202
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
08/22/2002
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

John Bierhorst is the author, editor, or translator of more than forty books on American Indian myths—six of which have been ALA Notable Books—including The Sacred Path, Four Masterworks of American Indian Literature, and In the Trail of the Wind.

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