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The Popol Vuh

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  5,374 ratings  ·  400 reviews
In the beginning, the world is spoken into existence with one word: "Earth." There are no inhabitants, and no sun--only the broad sky, silent sea, and sovereign Framer and Shaper. Then come the twin heroes Hunahpu and Xbalanque. Wielding blowguns, they begin a journey to hell and back, ready to confront the folly of false deities as well as death itself, in service to the ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published October 9th 2018 by Milkweed Editions (first published 1550)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  5,374 ratings  ·  400 reviews

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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  ·  review of another edition
"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  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Of all the creation and hero myths in the world, this one has to be one of the most woefully neglected.
Nickole L.
May 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
It is an extraordinary book, in fact it is an epic story, which brings together the legends of the Mayan-Quiché civilization, in which the creation of the world is discussed. It is also entertaining, a door to a world full of poignant characters.
Barbara Bradley
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love reading Native creation stories, and this one is also amazing. The ways in which our ancestors tried to explain the world around them are so fascinating–– it really offers a great perspective into other cultures.
Jan 24, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can summarize my reading experience of this book for my world literature class in one word: boring.
Jacques Coulardeau

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
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Eric Norris
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Bryn Donovan
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael Bazzett
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
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,
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
Sturdy magic.
Reece Carter
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bipoc
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
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: guatemalan
Ever since humans developed language, no matter what region from Earth they are from, they told stories. They told stories about the sky, the stars, what’s above, what’s below, what’s near them, what’s beyond them, what’s around them and tried their best, generation after generation, narrator after narrator, to preserve these stories. Even now, with all of our modern technology, we try to put what we know into stories. We speak, for instance, of a chaotic universe’s rapid expansion from the infi ...more
Oct 27, 2020 added it
How do you rate an entire culture's mythology? You can't, really, which is why I've left off a rating. This is my first time reading this work. In the Popol Vuh we follow the creation of the universe and some of the adventures of the hero twins. We also spend a great deal of time in Xibalba, along with the death gods who live there. On a personal note, anything involving death gods or an underworld I'm extremely invested in, so I really enjoyed those parts of the story in particular.

I read Micha
Cristina López
Jun 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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". ...more
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