This is by far the most complete references on mythology I've ever come across (by a long shot). The over-emphasis on European myth, especially GreekThis is by far the most complete references on mythology I've ever come across (by a long shot). The over-emphasis on European myth, especially Greek & Roman, is not a problem here as it is in so many other world mythology overviews. Jobes covers everything from the trippy visions of the Yakut in Siberia, to Algonquin deities, the language of flowers, those freaky Lithuanian demons with the metal teeth (Buffy, anyone?), Buddhist arhats and lohans, Christian saints, and so on... over 2600 pages of information altogether.
The other thing that makes this the indispensable reference is that Jobes points out the cognate myths. Example: the Mesopotamian sun hero Gilgamesh is similar to Fraoch (Irish), Izanagi (Japan), Llew Llaw (Wales), Orpheus (Greek), and Mithra (Iran).
If you're interested in world religions or taking a class on the subject, this will give you a definite advantage. It can be an expensive prospect, but it's well worth it....more
Joseph Campbell was a veritable demigod of comparative mythology. He was brilliant at discovering connections in seemingly unrelated myths across theJoseph Campbell was a veritable demigod of comparative mythology. He was brilliant at discovering connections in seemingly unrelated myths across the globe, illuminating the ways in which beliefs moved from culture to culture over thousands of years.
However: If you haven't read Campbell before I suggest you take The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Masks of God Lite) out for a spin first. It's only one book, and far less of a commitment. You'll be able to tell immediately if Campbell's dense & astoundingly long-winded writing style is something you can hang with, because hey, it's not for everyone.
First off, be prepared to encounter verbosity so thick you may need a mental machete to hack your way through it. Secondly, expect paragraphs and individual sentences so long that you may need to hire a cartographer to draw you a freaking map of them. If this doesn't daunt you than by all means, read The Masks of God. In this series, Campbell does not hold back. The contents of his incredibly fertile and overstuffed brain overflow from the pages in a deluge of information. He tells great stories from a plethora of different cultures. He loves to make Byzantine diagrams and complicated explanations where simplicity would suffice.. And he likes to namedrop like crazy. Sigmund Freud, Thomas Mann, Oswald Spengler, Friedrich Nietzsche, James Joyce.. You will be hearing a lot about these guys. (No girls, though. Conspicuously absent, but I suppose that's not surprising.)
As for this particular volume, Primitive Mythology, the Freudian Whackadoo is strong here. Mighty strong. It reaches a crescendo around pg. 73 to pg. 76. If you have an allergy to Freudian concepts, you might want to skip it. This volume is mostly concerned with comparing and contrasting the myths of early agriculturally based societies with the beliefs of ancient hunter-gatherer peoples. The former would concur with Star Trek's Spock: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." whereas the latter, well, read the book and find out... but don't say I didn't warn you....more
Excellent information, not crazy about the delivery. Really not crazy about it.
I remember liking the Masks of God series a lot more when I was a teenaExcellent information, not crazy about the delivery. Really not crazy about it.
I remember liking the Masks of God series a lot more when I was a teenager, but on a recent 2nd run-through I found it somewhat less satisfying. It made me feel unclean for liking Campbell in the first place, actually. Why? For one thing, Oriental Mythology is replete with massive amounts of information and anecdotes concerning various Eastern religions, but Campbell makes it quite clear where his personal judgments reside. This is where Comparative Mythology becomes something more like "Competitive Mythology". Apparently some religions are simply better than others. Some are more sophisticated. Some are more mature. (According to Campbell, these would be the religions of the West.) And the man gets very patronizing when he describes some of the quaint 'Oriental' myths that fail to measure up, so to speak.
The part I liked: as usual, I did enjoy some of the material taken directly from sacred texts. Good stuff, although where Campbell takes his interpretations is often a different matter.
Note: This is also the volume where I invented the Joseph Campbell Masks of God drinking game. (You are strongly advised not to try it. I'm fairly sure it leads to fatal alcohol poisoning.) Anyway, it's fairly simple. Every time Joseph Campbell mentions one of the following, you must take a drink: The Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler, Thomas Mann, or Nietzsche.*
One final thought: Joseph Campbell fervently fondled the words of great men (not women, never any women!) men like Nietzsche, Spengler, and company.. and he was NOT sorry. He was possibly their greatest fan. They are the glorious shining bricks in this pompous monolith of mythological dissection. This series is the sort of thing that begs to be read aloud at your next DMV visit or on public transport of your choice. Make a fun game out of it. Who will beat you to death with their shoe first?
* For total obliteration, add James Joyce and Freud. ...more
This is the volume in Joseph Campbell's Masks of God that covers Judaism, Christianity, & Islam. It is especially useful for illuminating the fascThis is the volume in Joseph Campbell's Masks of God that covers Judaism, Christianity, & Islam. It is especially useful for illuminating the fascinating and often surprising foundations of Judeo-Christian myth, and one would be hard-pressed to find a more meticulous and thorough guide to such things. This is an exemplary work, although not quite perfect. For instance, Campbell sometimes made connections that later historical discoveries proved erroneous (He implied Stonehenge was inspired by Mycenaean constructions. This was believed by a number of people in Campbell's time. Now we know that Stonehenge is far older than previously thought.) ...more
This book reignited my nostalgia for ziggurats and reminded me how much I actually enjoy the deities of Mesopotamia. They really don't make gods likeThis book reignited my nostalgia for ziggurats and reminded me how much I actually enjoy the deities of Mesopotamia. They really don't make gods like they used to.
I found it amazingly readable, for a 4,000 year old item. The first portion, with it's fun and hi-jinks, slaying of Humbaba and all that, had me giggling merrily away in Starbucks. Then something terrible happened, but by then I was invested. Funfact not included in this book: According to my mythological dictionary, Humbaba had a beard made of entrails. ...more
Andersen’s fairy tales are beautiful but disturbing, like the bright flash of a silvery blade in the moonlight. There’s always that sharp edge lurkingAndersen’s fairy tales are beautiful but disturbing, like the bright flash of a silvery blade in the moonlight. There’s always that sharp edge lurking just under the surface, like the little boy who discovers an infinite coldness on the other side of the windowpane. Or the girl dancing through the countryside in bloody shoes. Or the child of the sea who sacrifices everything for a love that can never be hers. Truly happy endings are sometimes rare in the world of fairy tales, but in Andersen’s case they’re as rare as an honest politician. It’s easy to forgive that dark tendency of his though, because Andersen’s a consummate storyteller and his work is wonderfully show-cased in Maria Tatar’s annotated edition. Definitely worth getting your hands on a copy....more
Best folktale collection I've read so far. Tales of witches, trolls, and princesses are augmented by the lush illustrations of Bauer, who's a bit likeBest folktale collection I've read so far. Tales of witches, trolls, and princesses are augmented by the lush illustrations of Bauer, who's a bit like Artur Rackham in style.. he seemed especially adept at trolls and witches. I'm keeping this one....more
If you have yet to experience the magnificence of the Icelandic sagas, this collection makes for a dandy introduction. Classics like Egil's Saga and tIf you have yet to experience the magnificence of the Icelandic sagas, this collection makes for a dandy introduction. Classics like Egil's Saga and the Saga of the People of Laxardal are interspersed with lesser known tales like the Saga of Ref the Sly and The Tale of Thorstein Shiver, making for a diverse and engaging mix. Heroes and outlaws, warriors and witches, gory battles, even a haunted outhouse.. it's all great stuff. The folks at Penguin have outdone themselves with their fabulous translations of these sagas and this book is their flagship. Give it a go. You won't be sorry....more
This saga is a brief but cracklin' good tale. The usual gory battles and heroism are here, as well as some outlandish magical mischief and satisfyinglThis saga is a brief but cracklin' good tale. The usual gory battles and heroism are here, as well as some outlandish magical mischief and satisfyingly wicked sorcery. The portion dealing with Queen Bera and her transformed lover, Bjorn, has ancient underpinnings in the very early bear cults of the northern peoples. I thought Bera's three sons with their supernatural and animalistic attributes were fascinating characters and King Hrolf was suitably bad-ass. Also, if you've read Beowulf, you'll find some interesting shared elements between the two stories....more