Friday, September 21, 2018

Gods and Heroes: Mythology around the world by Korwin Briggs

I was skeptical when I received this - so many "global" mythology or history books are anything but. However, this encyclopedia truly includes a wide range of mythology, as well as amusing pictures, and a voice that's both light-hearted and respectful of various traditions.

An introduction talks about the origin of myths and how they are researched - and how little we sometimes know. There's a legend of designs that show what tradition the characters come from, as well as markers for gods, heroes, and creatures. There's also a quick glossary.

Back matter includes an index by type (god, goddess, etc.) and by tradition (Slavic, Sumerian, etc.) and a map.

The entries' content varies. Some retell stories of the various characters, some include research into the myth, others include how it affected the tradition or religion. Some sample stories include Hera's revenge on Semele and Io, Kintu's trip to heaven for a wife, and Nu Gua rides a gourd.

Greek/Roman mythology has 10 entries, Indian/Hindu, Egyptian, and Norse each have 8, China has 6. Other traditions included are the Americas, including North American Great Plains, Inuit, Inca, and Mesoamerican, Japanese/Shinto, Sumerican/Mesopotamian, Australian, Maori, Persian, West African, and Slavic.

The art fits in well with the tone of the stories; respectful but humorous. The characters are shown with the appropriate color of skin, artifacts, and against their native background. While the author glosses over some of the more egregiously sexual and violent aspects of the myths and throws in humorous pop-culture references, he does so in a way that feels to me like he's taking the myths seriously as a part of the various cultures and not using them to titilate or shock. One reviewer mentioned the complete lack of Judeo-Christian characters and I.... actually prefer that. Whether you consider that tradition to be mythological or not, in my community an encyclopedia that treated them as mythological would be extremely controversial, especially if directed towards children. Not to mention, it would have made the book waaaay too long.

Verdict: A great choice to get kids into exploring different mythologies; recommend to mythology and comic fans.

ISBN: 9781523503780; Published August 2018 by Workman; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

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