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American Indian Myths and Legends
Cover of American Indian Myths and Legends
American Indian Myths and Legends
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More than 160 tales from eighty tribal groups gives us a rich and lively panorama of the Native American mythic heritage. From across the continent comes tales of creation and love; heroes and war; animals, tricksters, and the end of the world. In addition to mining the best folkloric sources of the nineteenth century, the editors have also included a broad selection of contemporary Native American voices.

With black-and-white illustrations throughout
Selected and edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz
Part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

More than 160 tales from eighty tribal groups gives us a rich and lively panorama of the Native American mythic heritage. From across the continent comes tales of creation and love; heroes and war; animals, tricksters, and the end of the world. In addition to mining the best folkloric sources of the nineteenth century, the editors have also included a broad selection of contemporary Native American voices.

With black-and-white illustrations throughout
Selected and edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz
Part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

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Excerpts-
  • From the book CORN MOTHER

    [Penobscot]

    What the buffalo represented to the nomadic tribe of the Plains, corn was to the planting people of the East and the Southwest—the all-nourishing sacred food, the subject of innumerable legends and the central theme of many rituals. Derived from a wild grass called teosintl, corn was planted in Mexico's Tehuacan Valley as early as 8,000 years ago. The oldest corn found north of the border was discovered in New Mexico's Bat Cave. It is about 5,500 years old. The Hopi's say: "Moing'iima makes corn. Everything grows on his body. He is short, about the height of a boy. He has a female partner. Every summer he becomes heavy, his body is full of vegetables: watermelon, corn, squash. They grow in his body. When the Hopi plant, they invariably ask him to make the crop flourish; then their things come up, whether vegetables or fruit. When he shaves his body, the seeds come out, and afterward his body is thin. He used to live on this earth and go with the Hopi. When things grow ripe, he becomes thin and is unhappy. He stays in the West." Corn had equal significance for tribes in the East, as we see in this tale from a New England tribe.

    ***

    When Kloskurbeh, the All-maker, lived on earth, there were no people yet. But one day when the sun was high, a youth appeared and called him "Uncle, brother of my mother." This young man was born from the foam of the waves, foam quickened by the wind and warmed by the sun. It was the motion of the wind, the moistness of water, and the sun's warmth which gave him life—warmth above all, because warmth is life. And the young man lived with Kloskurbeh and became his chief helper.

    Now, after these two powerful being had created all manner of things, there came to them, as the sun was shining at high noon, a beautiful girl. She was born of the wonderful earth plant, and of the dew, and of warmth. Because a drop of dew full on a leaf and was warmed by the sun, and the warming sun is life, this girl came into being—from the green living plant, from moisture, and from warmth.

    "I am love, said the maiden. "I am a strength giver, I am the nourisher, I am the provider of men and animals. They all love me."

    Then Kloskurbeh thanked the Great Mystery Above for having sent them the maiden. The youth, the Great Nephew, married her, and the girl conceived and thus became the First Mother. And Kloskurbeh, the Great Uncle, who teaches humans all they need to know, taught their children how to live. Then he went away to dwell in the north, from which he will return sometime when he is needed.

    Now the people increased and became numerous. They lived by hunting, and the more people there were, the less game they found. They were hunting it out, and as the animals decreased, starvation came upon the people. And the First Mother pitied them.

    The little children came to First Mother and said: "We are hungry. Feed us." But she had nothing to give them, and she wept. She told them: "Be patient. I will make some food. Then your little bellies will be full." But she kept weeping.

    Her husband asked: "How can I make you smile? How can I make you happy?"

    "There is only one thing that will stop my tears."

    "What is it?" asked her husband.

    "It is this: you must kill me."

    "I could never do that."

    "You must, or I will go on weeping and grieving forever."

    Then the husband traveled far, to the end of the earth, to the north he went, to ask the Great Instructor, his uncle Kloskurbeh, what he should do.

    "You must do what she wants. You must kill her," said Kloskurbeh. Then the young man...
About the Author-
  • Richard Erdoes is co-editor of American Indian Myths and Legends and the author of, among many other books, Lakota Woman; Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions; and Saloons of the Old West. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    Alfonso Ortiz was a Native American scholar, anthropologist, activist and author. His works included, The Tewa World: Space, Time, Being and Becoming in a Pueblo Society.

Reviews-
  • Peter Matthiessen "We have nothing more universal than our folk myths, and in this book Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz have brought together what is probably the most comprehensive and diverse collection of American Indian Legends ever compiled. It is a worthy and welcomed addition to the literature of our native peoples"
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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