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American Indian Myths and Legends

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  4,376 ratings  ·  94 reviews
This magnificent collection gathers 160 tales from 80 tribal gathers to offer a rich and lively panorama of the Native American mythic heritage. From all across the continent come tales of creation and love, of heroes and war, of animals, tricksters, and the end of the world. Alfonso Ortiz, an eminent anthropologist, and Richard Erdoes, an artist and master storyteller, ...more
Paperback, Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library, 527 pages
Published August 12th 1985 by Pantheon (first published January 1st 1984)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
American Indian Myths and Legends, Richard Erdoes
A unique collection of more than one hundred Native American tales, spanning several centuries and the North American continent. The authors of the magnificent American Indian Myths and Legends have combined their talents as eminent anthropologist and master storyteller to produce a rich and ribald sequel, featuring the myriad tricksters of Southwestern and other Native American oral traditions.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز شانزدهم ماه ژوئن سال 2001
Peter Croft
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a very problematic text. Most, if not all, of the texts are paraphrases of myth related to and written down by amateurs. It's probably why so many of them sound like fairy tales. This is not because they are but because this is the manner they were chosen to be presented. It's not cultural appropriation but it is culturally patronizing. These read like the products of a literate culture, which they are not. We are talking about oral storytelling cultures and when encountering their myths ...more
Kristen Coffin
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
"The trees spoke to each other. Every day and every moment they were talking, and they are still talking now in an unknown language which humans do not understand."


Part One (Tales of Human Creation): Also included are tales of how some tribes get their sacred ceremonies, horses (or Elk Dogs, here, since there is no word for ‘horse’ which is now MY FAVORITE THING EVER), and tobacco
Part Two (Tales of World Creation): I love creation myths, they’re so inventive and interesting to see how cultures
John Nelson
Jul 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Myths, legends, and fairy tales can carry great wisdom and provide a basis for great literature, or they can be insignificant or even pointless. This collection of American Indian myths and legends is extensive, containing over 160 stories from tribes coast to coast, including a few living in Canada. Most of the stories, however, carry no great weight, and do not seem very different from the no doubt bowdlerized versions many of us heard at summer camp as children. Perhaps the editors didn't ...more
John Collings
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have always known this to be the definitive collection of Native American myths out there. Richard Erdoes travelled around the country to collect these stories from various tribes in order to make sure that they were not lost due to the fact they have been passed down by oral tradition and nobody had ever recorded them before. The stories blend from the ancient to more modern stories with references to points of American history important to the Native American tribes. The collection gives ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great collection and worthwhile starting place for those interested in Myths and Legends of the Native Peoples of North America. Broken up into topics with the only limitation being the one imposed by history: many of these tales were written down post-European contact (often by Europeans) so you can see Christian influence. Still, it’s imperative to know these stories in the best forms available and this book surely is one of the best.
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very cool! There's a wide range in stories collected, and as an archaeology student, I like how they give key insights into studying the past and the varied cultures of Native Americans. They show both changes and continuities in the lives of Native American communities.
First read in community college for a history class on Early American History. Reread as a book club selection in honor of National Native American Heritage Month.
Lauren Hiebner
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
This book contains 166 American Indian legends and myths. These stories are an insight into the soul of Native American people. Most of these come from the earth, plants, herbs, and animals which were an integral part of their culture. A myth is also a link between the historic past and present day. A myth can be used to celebrate, to mourn, to honor the past. Myths are, according to the editors, “ever changing emblems of a living religion giving concrete form to a set of beliefs and traditions ...more
Jeanne Mixon
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are a lot (160) of myths and legends here from a wide variety (80) of tribes covering a wide variety of topics: Where did we come from, what causes natural disasters, where do we go when we die, who are the gods, what do they want from us. There are some hilariously bawdy stories. There are heartbreaking stories like the one that resembles the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. There is a beautiful and sad account of what happened at Wounded Knee. There is a creation myth that begins with Old ...more
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was very entertaining and gave me insight on the different story telling styles of different tribes. I read this in my early twenties and remember a few of the stories that amused me. Like how one story told of how God made man and why were all of different shade of skin and how dog was created to be man's best friend. And I think one story was about how the Great Salt Lake in Utah was created. Very interesting and less dramatic than those of Greek Mythology.
Gilbert Baron
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great introduction to Native American Legends

This book has legends from most tribal groups and most are short. You will learn a lot about the subject and enjoy the stories at the same time.
Jay Wright
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Many of the stories collected in this work are very good. It may be the organization of the book, but I found it hard to follow the themes presented. Otherwise it is a wide view of the myths and legends of native Americans. Many of the legends have their equivalent in other cultures.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Awesome Book for anyone Who wants to learn About native American life.
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nice book (not for kids though.)
Ariadne Deborah Fassel
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very interesting collection. I downloaded it several years ago and finally got around to reading it.
Hanna Gilman
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I do like this, I just don't have the stamina for short story collections. But I did learn a new perspective and more tricks should I ever come across a problem.
Melissa Conner
Oct 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Stories and legends often represent the heart and soul of a culture. They tell tale of creation of life, the supernatural, higher beings, and even explain such miniscule things as why the crow is black and why a beaver’s tale is flat.

Perhaps the greatest storytelling culture is that of the American Indian…a culture so committed and dedicated to oral history, myths, and legends. In Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz’s colorful collection, American Indian Myths and Legends, nearly 200 stories help
David Rainey
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
This is an excellant collection of the oral myths and legends of the Native American people. It is well organized with the various legends having common elements. The only way I found to truly enjoy the book was to get out of the Western Thinking mode as it applies to myths and legends. These stories do not necessarily have a moral behind it, and quite often no real begining or end. They often are just a partial episode that could centuries into a tribes traditions.

It is interesting to note the
Hayden Mulder
Sep 28, 2015 rated it liked it
It was an interesting read but I could have lived without some of the additions inside it. For the most part it was well written and very intense with many referrals to the past which it came from. A look into the long held traditions and old beliefs of another world and culture it was a stimulating read. I did not enjoy the stories that were about the creation of man and woman because I find them less than tasteful but as this was an explanation of their daily lives I see that they were very ...more
Jan 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this book years ago for a Native American literature course. Being part Native American I have always been interested in stories from the indigenous people that were here first, and I think this is a good introductory volume for most North American to read, to realize we were not here first. There were others here first, and they had a diverse and rich cultures that we can learn more about. This is by no means a scholarly or anthropological volume, but I think most American and Canadian ...more
Nov 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm on a serious Native American kick and this book was the fix I needed. The book is nicely organized into sections by major theme—life, death, birth, love, etc..., with a variety of myths from different tribes, giving a novice reader a good overview of Indian belief systems. Not sure if all the myths are intended for children though. Case in point; a censor might be in order for some of the surprisingly graphic ball-grabbing, frog vulva myths (Coyote and the two Frog Women), however, I have to ...more
Oct 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
I hope this is really the book I read. Hmm...

This was an interesting book to read especially of all the different legends and to see how they came up with them. A lot really didn't make any kind of sense to me or I felt were just too silly and I hate to say it but stupid (or maybe that's just me), also a lot just left me hanging or in ended in a rather weird spot. So I was kind of glad to be finished with this one.
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
i loved this book. this is a great anthology about the myths and legends told by the native Americans. who is this book for. i would recommend this book for all age groups whether you are telling a bed time story to your child about how the mood tricked the son, or maybe you out camping in the woods and would like reconnect with the land. all in all i think this is a great book that is fun and easy to read and everyone should have a copy.
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I thought this a great collection of Native American folklore. Rather than dividing the tales by tribe, which most collections do, the editors divided the chapters by tale types instead. This makes the collection a wonderful general overview of Native American folklore, particularly if you are more interested in tale types rather than the tales of specific tribes, though tribe names are still listed for each tale.
Stewart Thorvald
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful , entertaining, and thoroughly enjoyable compilation of Myth/Religion tales. The voice of each teller rings through clearly throughout each tale, and gives a window into another way of thought and mode of being. I have read and re-read this collection and I always get something new out of it. If you are interested in American Indian culture and folklore I cannot rate this highly enough.
Amberle Husbands
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference
Got this book second-hand at the flea market. I love the scope of stories they've collected, as well as the broad range of cultures they've managed to represent. There were a few majorly confusing typos -- like places where the narrative suddenly skipped over four paragraphs, concluded itself, then lumped all the skipped-content together at the end. But, aside from some editing issues, the collection struck me as very complete and we'll worth reading.
Oct 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Older children, adults, creators of worlds
We have really enjoyed this book! It made great bedtime reading (for a pre-teen) because the stories were just the right length. It was very well-written compared to other anthologies of "folk" stories that I have read. All of the stories were engaging and many taught valuable lessons. It's a great pick-it-up-and-put-it-down book!
I'll have to check this out of the library again. I got maybe 1/5 through this thing, but then had to return it to the library, seeing as I have a bunch of other books that need finishing. This book is valuable in light of the cultures it helps bring to life, and the stories themselves are good, but they aren't always shining examples of narrative.
Aug 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
These stories were well-written and really interesting. It's always nice to have a book of bits and pieces that you can jump into when you're in the mood. Too often I get stuck in novels and can't do anything in the real world until I'm done with them.

I may actually buy this one, even though I'm through the library copy.
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Richard Erdoes was an artist, photographer, illustrator and author. He described himself as "equal parts Austrian, Hungarian and German, as well as equal parts Catholic, Protestant and Jew..."

He was a student at the Berlin Academy of Art in 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power. He was involved in a small underground paper where he published anti-Hitler political cartoons which attracted the
“A tremendous thunderclap was heard, the loudest there has ever been ... The sun remained hidden behind dark clouds, and there was only twilight, gray and misty. Then the earth trembled, and there came a great roar of something immense moving. The people saw a sheer green wall advancing toward them, filling the valley from one side to the other. At first they did not know what it was, and then they realized that it was a wall of green water. Destroying everything in its path, it came like a huge beast, a green monster, rushing upon them, foaming, hissing, in a cloud of spray. It engulfed the seer's house and carried it away with the seer, who was never seen again. Then the water fell upon the villages, sweeping away homes, people, fields and trees. The flood swept the valley clean as with a broom. Then it rushed on beyond the valley to wreak havoc elsewhere.” 1 likes
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