Thematic Guide to World Mythology

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All around the world, myths address questions that humans have always posed about their origins, their environments, their ultimate destinies, and the meanings of their lives. This book examines 30 common motifs that thread their way through mythological tales across history and around the globe. The themes are presented in alphabetical order, moving from The Afterlife and Animals in Myth to The Underworld, World Tree, and Ymir Motif. Each thematic section defines and discusses a single recognizable motif, compares a number of different mythological traditions, and traces the repeated occurrences of one of these patterns through several different categories of narratives.

The discussion of The Afterlife, for example, examines the theme's earliest known occurrences in ancient Mesopotamia and compares them with those in Greek, Aztec, Norse, and other ancient cultures, as well as with contemporary views from Innuit and Polynesian cultures. A glossary provides concise definitions of recurring terms. A list of suggested readings on these topics will further aid students who desire to deepen their knowledge of world mythology.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Covering all the themes of multicultural mythologies in one volume would seem a daunting task, but Stookey (English, Univ. of Nevada, Reno) does make a valiant attempt. She tackles themes traditional to comparative mythology (e.g., the afterlife, creation, the deluge, the fall, and tricksters), as well as more esoteric topics (e.g., the world tree, sacred mountains, the earth-diver, messengers, and guardians). In a mere 244 pages, however, few of the subdivisions within each chapter can be given slightly more than a page, and most earn a mere paragraph or two. "Origins of Fire," for example, allots approximately half a page to Greek, Native American, Peruvian, Australian, and South American myths. Bottom Line While the volume achieves its goal of providing an overview of the themes of world mythology, it sacrifices academic depth to do so in so few pages. As a basic reference book, it is recommended to school and public libraries. Academic libraries and those with deeper mythology collections might be better served by more focused studies. Katherine K. Koenig, Ellis Sch., Pittsburgh Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313315053
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/30/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

LORENA STOOKEY is Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she teaches course in mythology, poetry, and literature. She is the author of Louise Erdrich: A Critical Companion (Greenwood 1999).

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Table of Contents

The Afterlife

Animals in Myth

The Apocalypse

Changing Ages

Cosmic Egg

Creation Myths

Culture Heroes

Deluge Motif

Descent Motif

Earth-Diver Motif

Emergence Motif

Etiological Myths

The Fall

Fertility Myths






Primal Parents

The Quest


Sacred Mountains

Separation of Earth and Sky




The Underworld

World Tree

Ymir Motif

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