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American Indian Myths and Legends

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,912 Ratings  ·  80 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, In ...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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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 peo ...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.
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 mak ...more
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 g
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
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 h ...more
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 we ...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
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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!
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I just started this book and the myths and legends in this book are pretty cool some are "How the sun was made" and "How the crow got its color" it show you what indian tribe this story is from. I would recomend these storys for anyone who likes myths and legends about animals and how plants and animals were made or got it color. Im only on page 12 but I have already read 5 storys
Quinn Sharkey
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was very interesting with all of the stories from different tribes. It has a lot of different stories, some are even stories that they used to explain things. There are number of tribes who's stories are told in this book. There are serious stories and there are humorous stories. I would recommend it to anybody that likes Native American stuff or anybody that likes short stories.
John Burns
Jun 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
One of the better collections of folk tales. Red indian stories have an earthy, mundane style often with a vein of wry humour. There weren't many really strong stories here but the perspective was very refreshing compared to the usual fairy tales and things.

I'd recommend it to fans of folklore but the quality of storytelling is probably not high enough for the average reader.
Jan 22, 2015 rated it liked it
This book was very educational in regards to Native American Culture and Legends. I was well written, however it was a little dry to a reader who already knew some of the legends. I would recommend this book to someone who wanted to know about Native American History and Culture and had never been exposed to the culture before.
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely wonderful collection of folklore. It is respectful to the cultures that spawned the stories, as it sources the people who told the stories, the time period in which it was told, and in what area. It has a wide array of stories as well, ranging from silly to serious to the long and the short sweet and simple. Highly recommend.
Nathan Burgoine
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: anthologies
This was a wonderful collection of short myths and legends, retold from oral tradition, and entirely enjoyable to read. I must admit, I kept this for far too long - enjoying a tale or two before bedtime each night, or while in the bath, or on the bus. I'm extremely grateful to have had the chance to read it
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.
Lindsay Wuchner
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: myths-legends
This book was fabulous. It was the best compilation of Native American myths and legends that I have found. These stories should always be treasured and retold to upcoming generations. They reveal a rich past as well as present, and bring forth a somewhat "lost" culture in terms of what one usually associates with the United States.
Jake Berlin
a large and most engaging collection. at times i think it was too geared towards certain tribes (e.g., the sioux), but i guess the editors took what they had and could get. i generally liked how the stories were organized, although occasionally i thought some were misplaced and the intros to the sections were wanting.
Sheri Fresonke Harper
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mythology
American Indian Myths and Legends tells stories in ten different categories: human creation, world creation, universe creation, monsters and heroes, war, love, the trickster, animals, ghosts and the end of the world. The book is excellent in identifying the tribes where the story originated and for providing a background for the many Native American tribes. I keep it for a reference.
Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People with a love for Mythology and an open mind
Recommended to Sydne by: Mama
My mom read this to me when I was little.
I loved the elaborate stories.
Like many books, this one opened my imagination to more.
The Coyote, The Spider, and The Man eating stomach.
And others.

Scared me half to death, but I still love it.
Nov 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting, though sometimes hard to read, as translations of oral traditions do not have the same sense of plot and story that we have in a literary society of short stories, TV shows, movies, and pop songs.
Jul 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
We read these tales intermittently with the kids--some of it's pretty twisted! Definately censored for those kinky frog sex scenes; I appreciate the different perspective on the world and relationships that these stories reflect.
Sep 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
I did not read this book cover to cover but skipped through reading stories of from different tribes and subjects. It is interesting how similar they can be between tribes as well as to Hebrew, Greek and Roman myths.
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