Joseph Bruchac,
Heroes & Heroines,
Monsters & Magic:
Native American Legends & Folktales

(The Crossing, 1985)

Heroes & Heroines, Monsters & Magic: Native American Legends & Folktales is a collection of traditional tales from the Iroquois people, the Haudenausaunee. Although these stories are the unique version of the teller, Joseph Bruchac (Gah-neh-goh-he-yoh), a part-Abenaki Indian, versions of them date back to the time long before Europeans landed on the North American continent.

Bruchae includes a short but powerfully enlightening introduction that acquaints us with the importance of storytelling in the Native American culture and, specifically, the Iroquois people. He explains the various ways and reasons for storytelling and tells us a little about himself. He makes it clear that he is a storyteller, not an anthropologist, ethnologist or folklorist. He is not attempting to provide a study of people, but to preserve their folklore and culture for future generations. He explains that Native American stories have survived because they entertain, instruct and empower. The stories contained in this book will do all three.

The stories are greatly enhanced by the numerous full-page illustrations by Daniel Burgevin. When you look at these pictures, your mind is filled with the action of the story and you become enmeshed in the characters.

All the stories are wonderfully retold and each is a treasure of Native American culture. My favorite has to be "The Story of Okteondon of the Workers of Evil." It illustrates why it is important to keep your promises and explains how cripples came to be. It contains many of the elements of Native American folklore that are most commonly found in numerous tribes, such as the screech owl being a witch or representing evil. I also tremendously enjoyed "The Vampire Skeleton," which relates how an evil wizard's remains were reanimated and explains why people are now buried beneath the ground when they die.

Once you begin reading this book, you will not put it down until you have finished it. You will thoroughly enjoy the stories as you marvel at the insights into this culture. Bruchac has a flair for telling his stories with great description and intense action. I was quite impressed by his inclusion of a glossary of Iroquois words and phrases.

Bruchae is the author of 21 other books, including Arrow Over the Door, The Boy Who Lived with the Bears, The Circle of Thanks and Eagle Song. If you enjoy folktales, he is a master of the Native American folklore and is an author that you should be reading.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 12 July 2003

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