A Great Read...

(Some book reviews...) (Page 4 of 4 pages.)

Aboriginal Mythology, Colonial Expansion, and Related Topics:

Edmonds, Margot and Ella E. Clark (editors) 1939 (1992). Voices of the Winds: Native American Legends. Facts on File, Inc, New York (trade paperback) 368 pages; ISBN: 0-8160-2749-8. This is not a bad collection, and it may be more suitable to younger readers, than some of the other collections that I list. The stories seem a bit more filtered and polished than most that I've read, but it is still a good collection. Very similar to the Erdos and Ortiz book. If you like that one, you will surely want this one.

Erdoes, Richard and Alfonso Ortiz (editors) 1985. American Indian Myths and Legends. Pantheon, New York (trade paperback) 527 pages; ISBN: 0-394-74018-1. I picked up this great book at the city historical museum in the old armory in Lusk, WY. This book contains an entire section that has most of my favorite coyote myths. In addition, there are a few choice Inuit tales from Alaska. It is a wonderful book, although some of the stories have some pretty strong and disturbing content, so it may not be suitable for many younger readers. If you are new to myth and legend stories, there are few things as pleasant on a cold winter evening as having a fire in the fireplace, curling up in leather recliner with a glass of merlot, and enjoying a book like this fine volume. Since all of the tales are essentially short stories that range from a page to several pages in length, there is no requisite order that they must be read in, and the reader can easily digest just what he or she has an apetite to consume. This is a super book and makes a great gift for any friend with a varied taste in literature.

Lopez, Barry. 1986. Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. Bantam, Charles Scribnr's Sons (MacMillan Publishing Inc.), New York (trade paperback) 464 pages; ISBN: 0-533-34664-4. This book won the American Book Award (in 1987?). It is a pilosophical journey through the North and covers a grat deal of geographic and historical material along the way. I really like Lopez's treatment of the Inuit hunting culture and the Inuit "sense of place," and of course the connections he builds between the reader and the land, ice, sea, fauna and flora. Whether cogitating on the influence of the narwahl on European unicorn mythology and symbolism, or how much gravel is transported in the stomachs of te arctic walrus population on a daily basis, the book is full of interesting observations and passages that really tend to make the reader stop reading and seriously think about passages. Lopez tends toward the esoteric on his more exuberant ramblings, but his "throw-away" material is far more interesting and compelling than most of the pablum that inhabits a lot of travel writing, not to mention the popular press. I really like this book for its treatment of the Dorset, Thule and Copper cultures and the vivid descriptions of the geology and geography of the areas the author describes.

Rink, Hinrich. 1875 (1997). Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo. Dover, Mineola, NY, (trade paperback) 472 pages; ISBN: 0486 29966-X. This is an ethnographic classic first published in 1875 by William Blackwood and Sons, London. What makes these stories special, is that they pull no punches. Some of them deal with quite horrific images, and where many folk tales and traditional stories have been, time and again, anthropomorhically diluted, these still ring with the power of a realtively fresh translation straight from a very alien culture to that of the Victorian-era investigator. The book includes Rink's original drawings of family life, housing, clothing, boats, harpoons and other tools. All in all, at times, the book can be difficult reading, but it is well worth the effort. A lot of kayak-related stories.

Norman, Howard (editor), 1998. Northern Tales: Stories from the Native Peoples of the Actic and Subarctic Regions. Pantheon (Random House), New York (trade paperback) 343 pages; ISBN: 0-375-7026-9. Circum-polar (mostly North America) aboriginal folk tales, creation stories and myths. A very nice compilation, not nearly as graphic or frightening as Heinrick Rink's book, but also less mysterious and captivating since the accounts are in a more "western" prose. This is a great book to while away a few hours on an airplane, or curl up with while having a glass of wine in front of the fire. There is a very good introduction (with maps) that documents the different tribal (ethnic) regions of the North American arctic and subarctic. Like most collections of this type, the book is organized by different broad classifications of the folk tales. It reads very well, this is a great collection for a teen or interested young person, as well as any adult..

Trafzer, Clifford (editor), 1996. Blue dawn, Red Earth: New Native American Storytellers. Anchor (Doubleday), New York (trade paperback) 431 pages; ISBN: 0-385-47952-2. Contemporary Native American storytellers that weave tales that bounce back and forth between Jimi Hendrix and Merle Haggard to coyote myth, dead relatives and jilted lovers. Very cool and quite interesting. Most of the work in this collection is contemporary short story, rather than traditional myth or legend. That said, it is an interesting collection with a few truely outstanding works.

Utley, Robert M. 1997. A Life Wild and Perilous: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific. Henry Holt, New York (trade paperback) 431 pages; ISBN: 0-8050-3304-1. After the Louisiana Purchase, two great movements, one of exploration, the other of national expansion began into the unknown region Thomas Jefferson had procured from Napoleon. This book examines the economics of the western fur trade, the personal histories of the individual characters, and the sociological interactons of the native peoples, mountain men, and Mexican/Spanish cultures. Particularly, the book follows the lives of the mountain men, as well as their lesser-known exploits as cartographers, diplomats, and explorers. Individuals discussed include: Coulter, Drouillard, Meek, Smith, Provst, Young, Walker, Sublette, Ferris, Fitzpatrick, Bridger, and Carson. This is an outstanding book that spends a good deal of time looking at specific geographic regions of the westward-expansion. Utley is the former Chief Historian for the National Parks Service. He has won several awards for his historical writing, and is the author of the highly acclaimed The Lance and the Shield. A life Wild and Perilous is very readable and a great gift idea for the historical reinactor or western-history buff on your gift list.

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