In myth, author Puhvel argues, a human group expresses the thought patterns by which it formulates self-cognition and self-realization, attains self-knowledge and self-confidence, explains its own sources and sometimes tries to chart its destinies. Here, Puhvel unravels the prehistoric origins of the traditions of India and Iran, Greece and Rome, of the Celts, Germans, Balts, and Slavs. Utilizing the methodologies of historical linguistics and archaeology, he reconstructs a shared prehistorical religious, mythological, and cultural heritage. Separate chapters on individual traditions as well as on recurrent themes give life to the book as both a general introduction and a detailed reference.--From publisher description.
This collection, first published in 1992, offers critical-interpretive essays on various aspects of the work of Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), one of a very few international experts on myth. Joseph Campbell examines myths and mythologies from a comparative point of view, and he stresses those similarities among myths the world over as they suggest an existing, transcendent unity of all humankind. His interpretations foster an openness, even a generous appreciation of, all myths; and he attempts to generate a broad, sympathetic understanding of the role of these 'stories' in human history, in our present-day lives, and in the possibilities of our future.
The Sumerians were a non-Semitic, non-Indo-European people who flourished in southern Babylonia from the beginning of the fourth to the end of the third millennium B.C. During this long stretch of time the Sumerians, whose racial and linguistic affiliations are still unclassifiable, represented the dominant cultural group of the entire Near East. This cultural dominance manifested itself in three directions: 1. It was the Sumerians who developed and probably invented the cuneiform system of writing which was adopted by nearly all the peoples of the Near East and without which the cultural progress of western Asia would have been largely impossible. 2. The Sumerians developed religious and spiritual concepts together with a remarkably well integrated pantheon which influenced profoundly all the peoples of the Near East, including the Hebrews and the Greeks. Moreover, by way of Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism, not a few of these spiritual and religious concepts have permeated the modern civilized world. 3. The Sumerians produced a vast and highly developed literature, largely poetic in character, consisting of epics and myths, hymns and lamentations, proverbs and “words of wisdom.” These compositions are inscribed in cuneiform script on clay tablets which date largely from approximately 2000 B.C.
In Chinese Mythology, Anne Birrell provides English translations of some 300 representative myth narratives selected from over 100 classical texts, many of which have never before been translated into any Western language. Organizing the narratives according to themes and motifs common to world mythology, Birrell addresses issues of source, dating, attribution, textural variants, multiforms, and context. Drawing on exhaustive work in comparative mythology, she surveys the development of Chinese myth studies, summarizes the contribution of Chinese and Japanese scholars to the study of Chinese myth since the 1920s, and examines special aspects of traditional approaches to Chinese myth. The result is an unprecedented guide to the study of Chinese myth for specialists and nonspecialists alike.
Norse Mythology explores the magical myths and legends of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Viking-Age Greenland and outlines the way the prehistoric tales and beliefs from these regions that have remained embedded in the imagination of the world. The book begins with an Introduction that helps put Scandinavian mythology in place in history, followed by a chapter that explains the meaning of mythic time, and a third section that presents in-depth explanations of each mythological term. These fascinating entries identify particular deities and giants, as well as the places where they dwell and the varied and wily means by which they forge their existence and battle one another. We meet Thor, one of the most powerful gods, who specializes in killing giants using a hammer made for him by dwarfs, not to mention myriad trolls, ogres, humans and strange animals. We learn of the ongoing struggle between the gods, who create the cosmos, and the jötnar, or giants, who aim to destroy it. In the enchanted world where this mythology takes place, we encounter turbulent rivers, majestic mountains, dense forests, storms, fierce winters, eagles, ravens, salmon and snakes in a landscape closely resembling Scandinavia. Beings travel on ships and on horseback; they eat slaughtered meat and drink mead. Spanning from the inception of the universe and the birth of human beings to the universe's destruction and the mythic future, these sparkling tales of creation and destruction, death and rebirth, gods and heroes will entertain readers and offer insight into the relationship between Scandinavian myth, history, and culture.