“American Indian Myths and Legends”

As a storyteller I believe it is absolutely critical to remain as connected as possible to that inner source of storytelling.  Jung called it the collective unconsciousness.  This force is the mechanism within us that we all share, across cultures, and that defines the symbols and patterns that help us process human reality.

In “American Indian Myths and Legends” readers are given a terrific journey back to “the source” of all human storytelling.  The anthology is very large, and the stories have a wonderful variety of lengths.  Some of the better features of this text is the specific mentioning of the geographic / specific tribal origins of the story, which if paid close attention to helps teach the reader a great deal about different tribes particular nuances in storytelling, cultural assumptions, and adaptations.

Another fantastic feature of this anthology that many of my other collections of myths and legends has lacked is notes on the codification of each myth and legend.  Near the end of each story is a notation on when, who, and where, wrote the myth or legend down.  Most of these legends and stories were captured around the turn of the century or as late as the nineteen-fifties.  Myths and legends are oral in nature, they are meant to be told and retold.  When they are codified they die.

Additionally, myth is necessarily dependent on the structure and nature of the particular language it was originated and maintained in.  Thus, all of our collections of Native American mythology and legends are all necessarily documents which depict a snapshot of a culture who has been so traumatized and nearly-broken.  The loss of original language and the centuries of abuse have necessarily informed the modern codification of these myths.  As such, they tell us more about the state of a particular remains of a culture adapting an inheritance whose interpretation has come to lose much of its original context and meaning at the time of telling.

Carefully noting when these myths were recorded helps us contextualize where in a timeline of decline these re-tellings fall.  Oftentimes it is clear that much older, more powerful, myths have been adapted to deal with the conditions of the modern world.  I am convinced that all of them have been affected to a degree with which we are given little insight to the true nature of Native American myth, but nonetheless as a cultural-mythic document this text remains an extraordinary resource.

I highly recommend this to anyone interested in expanding the dimensionality of their storytelling interests and tastes.