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Popol Vuh

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  4,753 ratings  ·  321 reviews
Popol Vuh, the Quiché Mayan book of creation, isn't only the most important text in the native languages of the Americas, it's also an extraordinary document of the human imagination. It begins with the deeds of Mayan gods in the darkness of a primeval sea & ends with the radiant splendor of the Mayan lords who founded the Quiché kingdom in the Guatemalan highlands. Origin ...more
Paperback, 388 pages
Published January 31st 1996 by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (NY et al.) (first published 1550)
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Popol Vuh by Anonymous1491 by Charles C. MannBreaking the Maya Code by Michael D. CoeThe Maya by Michael D. CoeThe Aztecs by Richard F. Townsend
116 books — 52 voters
Holy Bible by AnonymousThe Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith Jr.القرآن الكريم by AnonymousTao Te Ching by Lao TzuThe Bhagavad Gita by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Jan 22, 2008 added it
Can you really rate something like the Popol Vuh?
Jenny (Reading Envy)
"Here we will write. Here we will plant the ancient word of the beginning, the origin of all that was done in the citadel of K'iche', among the people of K'iche' nation."

An epic poem of creation and culture from the K'iche' people of what is now Guatemala, newly translated into verse by Michael Bazzett.

I found it breathtaking and intriguing throughout, but I especially liked the long period before the humans turn up, and how many elements of the culture are embedded into the creation story.

Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"We found a large number of books," says a conquistador, "and, as they contained nothing in them which were not superstitions and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which [the Maya] regretted to an amazing degree and which caused them much affliction." Maybe one of them was the original Popol Vuh, who knows. This doesn't seem to be it.

Here are the Maya, killing some people

It's close. How close depends on whose word you want to take. This version was probably written down in the 1550s, so wel
Feb 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was taking aback by the amount of bad reviews the kiddies are giving this awesome book. Even as a kid myself I loved the stories and the characters. It transported me to a world full of heroes, powerful lords, Kings, and princesses. As an adult I could see the spirituality behind it. The beauty in the simplicity of the text, and the stories of how humans came into being according to Mayan mythology.

Joseph Campbell, in his "Hero's Journey" draws parallels between the Twin brothers Hun Ah'pu an
Jeremy Orbe-Smith
Allen J. Christenson has given us a brilliant translation (packed with very helpful notes) of the Popol Vuh, the Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya, the "book that pertains to the mat." The "mat" is the royal throne upon which the king gave counsel to his people, with the fibers symbolizing the interlaced community remembered in the text.

This is a personal book for me, because if family legend is to be believed, the distant ancestors of my Ecuadorian relatives might have come through the area of Gua
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
I re-read this book with a writing group and still find it amazing. The hero twins on the road to Xibalba. It is a dark creation myth that partially follows Joseph Campbell's heroic journey, but there are corners of Mayan consciousness that remain impenetrable. It presents a fascinating world laden with imagery and symbolism that defy our comprehension. What a shame that this world was virtually destroyed first by European viruses and later by European arrogance in the guise of Christianity and ...more
Mercurio Cadena
A very interesting cosmogony. There are some common points with Christianity, such as a virgin who gets pregnant by Spirits, and the fact that men were created from mud (yet, in the maya myth, this was just the first attempt from the gods to create mankind, which ended, by the way, as a failed attempt. Their final creation was made from corn).

A must in cosmogony.
Stephen Kiernan
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nearly every culture has an origin story, from the Garden of Eden to the sacred rock in Lake Champlain (some indigenous folk held that the world began when the Great Mother poked her finger above the surface of the waters that covered the Earth).
The Popul Vuh is that sort of an origin story, derived from the thousands-of-years-old Mayan oral tradition, written on bark in the 1500s, and translated vividly and with great compassion by the poet Michael Bazzett.
This book will not be for everyone.
Barbara Bradley
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I had the good fortune of reading the "Popol Vuh" under the tutelage of Dennis himself, and there really is no way to describe the detail and the power of the text. I highly recommend to pay special attention to every single symbol, every picture in the book (no matter how small or minor) because each one bears an important insight into the Mayan culture. For example, on page 107 there is a picture of a dancing monkey with quill pins bunched atop his head. The Maya consider monkeys to be their p ...more
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Of all the creation and hero myths in the world, this one has to be one of the most woefully neglected.
Jan 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
I can summarize my reading experience of this book for my world literature class in one word: boring.
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pronounced “Poe-pol Voo,” this ancient creation myth dates to about 200 B.C.E. I had never heard of it and wouldn’t have been tempted to read it except for one thing: Michael Bazzett. I love his poetry, and trusted that he would make this good reading. He did. In parts it reminded me of the Bible, stories of the Greek gods, Aesop, African animal legends, and Native North American animal fables.

That doesn’t mean I fully enjoyed it. Bazzett couldn’t, after all, change ancient text for the sake of
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
They spoke then, the ones called

She who has borne children
And He who has planted them,

The Framer and the Shaper,
Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent:

Soon it will be dawn,
yet our work is not done.

There are not yet those
who will provide for this world,

And those who will sustain it:
children of light, born in the light.

Note that my rating is for Michael Bazzett’s new translation published by Milkweed. Beautiful both poetically and visually, this edition of the captivating creation myth delights. Bazzett
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
This was a joy to read. I have very little knowledge or history of this part of the world, much less the Mayans, but it was absolutely fascinating. The translation is welcoming, and the parallels to other myths and archetypes gave me chills. There are connections to philosophy that surprised and tickled me.
My favorite lines might be:

However many nations
live in the world today,

however many countless people,
they all had but one dawn.
Sonnet Fitzgerald
I first read the Popol Vuh when I was a Spanish undergraduate at the University of Oregon. I remember being absolutely enchanted by it, as well as surprised that I had never heard of it before. I spent an entire semester digging into the details and context of the book, but that was over twenty years ago. I confess I had pretty much forgotten the Popol Vuh until a chance encounter gave me a reason to enjoy it again, and I’m so pleased.

You’ll find many people who compare the Popol Vuh to the Bibl
Quentin Crisp
I realised, looking at this book today, that I'd finished it and not made a record of my having done so, therefore I don't know on what day I finished it, and will simply record it as today's date.

The edition I read (in case this review shows up under different editions), is that of Lewis Spence, published by The Book Tree. A warning for those looking for a definitive edition of the text: this isn't it, being not a translation, as such, but more a summary of the text with background cultural and
Bryn Donovan
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I guess most ancient mythologies are crazypants, and this one seems even more so because the culture is so unfamiliar. So things happen like: a guy gets killed and they bury his skull, and a calabash tree grows up from the skull but one of the calabashes is actually this guy's head, and a lady comes by and this head spits into her hand and she gets pregnant with twins. It's pretty amazing.

The creation of humans in this book begins with a few failed attempts, which wind up being monkeys and othe
Brett Williams
With delightful insight this book provides a grasp of not only the Maya but the common human condition and response to our short existence seen in all mythic documents. Conforming to Joseph Campbell’s prescription, the Popol Vuh intends the same goal as any other, clothed in local dress.

While ancestors of the Maya stretch back to the Olmecs who were in full swing by 1200 B.C. (about the time ancient Hebrews claim to have organized) the Popol Vuh did not appear until significant Mayan city-state
Sam Tornio
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sturdy magic.
Jacques Coulardeau
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Some compare this book to the Christian or Jewish Bible. I guess some compare it too to the Quran. Such comparisons are unfair to this book because they cast it into a mold that has little to do with the Mayas and Mayan religion, mythology or culture.

We could definitely compare some motifs or patterns in the story with those of the Bible or the Quran, but the patterns only have the meaning the general architecture in which they are cast provide them w
Michael Bazzett
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
I'll simply say that I did the best I could & I truly hope you enjoy it, that it serves as a gateway.

I will add, however, that I think it imperative that we, as contemporary readers, begin connecting/reconnecting with indigenous stories, stories that arose from a profound connection between people & the land that held them for hundreds of generations. We need these stories. We need art & the imagination it feeds. Our impoverished relationship with the world & each other stems from our inability,
Cristina López
Jun 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Are uxe‘ ojer tzij
waral K‘iche‘ ub‘i‘.
xchiqatz‘ib‘aj wi
xchiqatikib‘a‘ wi ojer tzij,
uxe‘nab‘al puch rnojel xb‘an pa
tinamit K‘iche‘
ramaq‘ K‘iche‘ winaq. "This is the root of the ancient word
of this place called Quiché.
we shall write,
we shall plant the ancient word,
the origin
the beginning of all what has been done in the
Quiché Nation
country of the Quiché people."
Glauber Ribeiro
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea this existed. A kick-butt pre Colombian creation myth in glorious, deep, and sometimes silly verse, with an amazing origin story, itself. An ode to flute players and soccer players. It stands well with the better known classics like Genesis and Gilgamesh. A must read.
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Both biblical and atmospheric verse in a great creation/origin story. I now get the references to Xibalba in Aronofsky's underappreciated film "The Fountain".
Reece Carter
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is based on an oral creation story of the Maya that was later transcribed, eventually translated into prose, and has now been reorganized into verse. As creation stories go, this was quite an interesting one and a pleasure to read. It touches on various themes of Maya ontology, culture, and religion. This translation by Michael Bazzett was especially nice because of the Reader's Companion and Introduction which provide context to the work.

One of the more interesting facets of this poe
Eric Norris
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing little book.

I would say that it should be added to every survey class on world literature—but then nobody would read it. Read it. It is an absolutely riveting account of the creation of the world. It's as if you took primordial elements from a dozen other core myths from cultures across the planet—cataclysmic floods, dismembered heroes made whole, talking animals, virgin births, fiery pits—and blended them together into some kind of indigenous tapestry: unique and totally new.
Therese Broderick
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oral creation myth, hero/trickster tale, community Council Book, illustrated epic, foundation story of the K'iche' (Maya) people -- the famed Popol Vuh poem is as integral to the history of the Western Hemisphere as the Homeric poems are to the history of Western civilization. By turns eloquent and crude, entertaining and sacramental, cartoonish and horrifically violent, Logos and fable, this English translation by Michael Bazzett is delivered in a contemporary and lively diction. Short "chapter ...more
Felipe CZ
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The "Genesis" of the Mayan Quiché (or K'iche) people of the Guatemalan highlands, preserved from oral tradition until around 1550 when it was written down. The twins, Hun-Hunahpú and Vucub-Hanahpú were invited to the Mayan Underworld, Xibalba, to play a ballgame with the lords but are put to death. The Hero Twins, Hunahpú and Xblanaqué, magically conceived after the death of their father, Hun-Hunahpú, go to Xibalba to avenge the deaths of the original twins and defeat the Lords of the Underworld ...more
Justin Hiltz
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
3 stars for the confusing names, large amounts of characters, as well as lacking a chronological or concise storyline at times.
But 5 stars for the historical and cultural importance of this text, as well as rarity (and knowing backstory of how the Popol Vuh barely survived the Spanish takeover) thus making it a gem.
Average: 4 stars.
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
A somewhat violent creation story
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39 likes · 9 comments
“The first men to be created and formed were called the Sorcerer of Fatal Laughter, the Sorcerer of Night, Unkempt, and the Black Sorcerer … They were endowed with intelligence, they succeeded in knowing all that there is in the world. When they looked, instantly they saw all that is around them, and they contemplated in turn the arc of heaven and the round face of the earth … [Then the Creator said]: 'They know all … what shall we do with them now? Let their sight reach only to that which is near; let them see only a little of the face of the earth!… Are they not by nature simple creatures of our making? Must they also be gods?” 405 likes
“THIS IS THE ACCOUNT of when all is still silent and placid. All is silent and calm. Hushed and empty is the womb of the sky. THESE, then, are the first words, the first speech. There is not yet one person, one animal, bird, fish, crab, tree, rock, hollow, canyon, meadow, or forest. All alone the sky exists. The face of the earth has not yet appeared.” 5 likes
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