The Mythology of South America

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More than any other continent, South America "has preserved the conditions that allow mythology to be freely produced." Dividing the continent into seven carefully mapped regions, John Bierhorst shows how South America's principal myths can be traced from tribe to tribe and how each region has developed its own unique oral tradition. Generous samples from the stories themselves introduce the female creators of the northern Andes, the male gods of the ancient Incas, and the Brazilian tricksters Sun and Moon. Originally published in 1988, Bierhorst has updated the text to reflect the abundance of new information that has become available since the mid 80s and written a new Afterward in which he emphasizes the durability of Indian mythology. Illustrations of native artwork and chapters devoted to special topics—including the connections between myths and politics—help to provide a well-rounded overview of this fascinating and little-known lore. Detailed maps show tribal locations and the distribution of key stories 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.

Discusses the mythology from Indians of various regions of South America, describing origins, comparing the similar tales, and presenting some of the myths themselves.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up In this overview and guide to the myths of the many tribes of South America, a distinguished folklorist introduces the scholarship behind the study of this mythology. While providing samples of the stories themselves, Bierhorst concentrates on the themes and motifs of the principal myths, the variants of them among the tribes, and on legends unique to individual tribes. He divides South America into seven regions, summarizing the great mythological themes of each. There are creation myths, stories of origins, stories about the roles of men and women and conflicts between the sexes, and stories which very frankly tell of the origins of various aspects of anatomy and sexuality. Gifford's Warriors, Gods, and Spirits from Central and South American Mythology (Schocken, 1983) tells some of the stories with introductory material for each region. The two books complement each other. Bierhorst provides a guide to the different tribal cultures and their vast folklore, while Gifford provides the stories themselves in a fuller form, covering both Central and South America in one profusely illustrated volume. Bierhorst's is an excellent book, illustrated with native artworks, for readers seriously interested in mythology or for student reports. Louise Yarian Zwick, Houston Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195146257
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/1/1902
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 1,193,662
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.13 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John Bierhorst is the author, editor, or translator of more than thirty books on Native American lore—eight of which have been named Notable Books by the American Library Association.

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Table of Contents

A Note on Pronunciation
Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Greater Brazil
I Culture Heroes and Their Deeds 25
II Men Versus Women 41
III Creators and Saviors 53
Pt. 2 Guiana
IV The Other World 65
V This World and Its Beginnings 79
Pt. 3 Brazilian Highlands
VI The Art of Myth 93
VII Myth and Society 105
Pt. 4 Gran Chaco
VIII Tricksters of the Chaco 119
IX Dangerous Women 127
X Cataclysms 138
Pt. 5 Far South
XI Providers and Deliverers 151
XII Men's Liberation 161
Pt. 6 Northwest
XIII Mothers and Their Children 173
XIV When Myths Die 188
Pt. 7 Central Andes
XV Highland Gods 199
XVI In the Montana 212
XVII Myth and Archaeology 220
XVIII From Myth to Politics 233
Afterword 243
Notes on Sources 251
References 264
Index 275
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