Tim McNeese,
Myths of Native America
(Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003)
previously published as
Illustrated Myths of Native America,
Vols. 1-2 (1998-99)

Myths of Native America is a hefty book that covers the rich lore of the tribes that once lived throughout the continental United States and portions of Canada.

The book doesn't claim to be comprehensive -- a complete volume of stories from so large a region, after all, would fill many shelves -- but it does give a diverse sampling of tales from each part of the country. Each section begins with a map showing the area included, filled with the names of the various tribes that lived there. Next come several scholarly pages of historical and anthropological information on the region and its tribes, with details on the land itself, migration patterns, lifestyles, religions and more. And then, of course, the stories.

The stories themselves are entertaining to read, providing insights into each culture's beliefs and storytelling style. Some are of a legendary nature, dealing with matters of creation and magic, while others are more matter-of-fact stories of great romances and battles. Lavish paintings by Richard Hook capture the flavor of each region. The book, too, has impressive heft and the feel of real quality in its construction -- a pleasant bonus in any case!

But, while this had the potential to be one of the finest volumes of Native American lore in my collection, the book is marred by an unusually high number of typographical errors. We're not talking long, awkwardly spelled tribe names, but simple words -- like "the" -- are misspelled all over the place. I searched the book in vain for some reason to believe this might be an advance proof copy, but no, this is the final product.

It's a shame to see such a fine work of scholarship spoiled by something so easily fixable. Both the subject matter and the work that went into compiling it deserves better.

Still, anyone with a passion for Indian culture should not pass this book over. After a while, the typos become annoying background noise, while the rich tales and histories remain fascinating throughout.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 17 April 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.