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5/25/20

Reading the World: The Ultimate Encyclopedis of Mythology

I have been meaning to review this bad boy for quite a while. This is a 500+ pages book of mythology from Europa, Asia, and the Middle East. The book does not have any myths from Africa, Australia, the Pacific Islands, North, South, and Central America. The title uses the word ultimate and not complete. Plus given the size, it already a heavy book, and adding more to it will make it twice as heavy.

Layout: The Ultimate Mythology is divided into six sections: The Myths of Greece and Rome, Celtic World, Nordic Lands, Egypt, and West Asia, South Central Asia, East Asia.
Like any encyclopedia, the names of people, mythical creatures, magic items, and places are label in alphabet order. As an academic text, everything is described briefly so who's who and what myths they play a role in. This is a great source to use. Yes, you can look all this up on the internet but, the internet is a distracting place. Searching for mythology one moment and the next it's cat videos.

The Myths of Greece and Rome:  The myths from this section I'm pretty sure are the most familiar to most people. From my experience, Greek mythology has been taught to death in school. It is this boredom of Roman and Greek that lead me to other mythology. I notice this the only section that every other picture of people in the nude. This just shows how different Roman and Greek cultures were to other cultures.
 
The Myths of Celtic World: The Celtics do believe in deities. However, their stories don't feature gods. Instead, there wizards and enchantresses that take the places of powerful beings. The King Arthur legends come from Celtic mythology.

Nordic Lands:  The stories feature the gods more than humans. There is some exception such as the legends of Beowulf. The rings of power are interesting items find in Norse mythology. The ring is a potent symbol of power, fortune, and fame. The magical rings of Norse myth were symbols of destiny and symbols of doom. The rings of heroes brought tragedy if corrupted by greed. I'm getting a major Lord of the Rings vibe here. Remains me of the poem from LOTR:

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them,
In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie. 

Egypt and West Asia: The myth talks about here, go far back to Mesopotamia, which is the "Cradle of civilization." The ancient civilization is the Hittite, Sumerian, and the Babylonians. Then there Egypt mythology. These four civilizations have influence Greek and Roman mythology.

Also, there Iranian and Cristian mythology, Some of the stories are from the old testament of the Bible. The story of Adam having a second wife didn't make it into the Biblical canon. There is some reason as to why, which I am not going to get into here. The story of Adam and Eve is a powerful story that explains the human condition. Why are we the way we are? Adam and his second wife is unnecessary mellow drama IMO.

South and Central Asia:  All of these myths are set in India. Some people have told me that the myths from India are similar to Greek mythology. In the few myths, I read I don't see too many similarities. There are many different versions of the same story depending on where in India they come from. Historically India wasn't united until the British empire.

East Asia:  This section includes mainly myths from China and Japan. The Chinese empire was influents by surrounding countries and vis visa. Japan has its own creation myth on how the three islands came to be.

At the back of the book: there are family trees to display who's related to who in different mythology from each culture that has been talk about in the book. 

In Conclusion: What I have learned from reading mythology from around the world is that stories are powerful tools. They hold a grain of truth. Perhaps, there some history that has been forgotten. Shove back into our subconscious. Why do so many cultures around the world have a flood myth?

If Arthur Evans can discover the writing systems linear A and B all on reading the Iliad and Odyssey or Beowulf having been proven to have some historical contact that might of happen to an extent. Then stories have many layers that can reveal the history of what has been losts to us.

Also, the grain of truth finds in stories can be about human nature. Reading myths across different cultures reveal the similar story and similar patterns of human reaction. It shows no one is better or worst than anyone else. We are all on this big hunch of rock called Earth revolving around the sun and in turn the sun revolves around the Milky Way. All well, the Milky Way is in an eternal dance around the universe. As far as our technology goes, a majority of us are not getting off this carousel.

Putting that aside, The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology does not cover every mythology; what it does cover a big chunk of the world. This book is a good starting point if you don't know where to start. All you have to do is look up the myth you are interested in and find more books based on those myths.

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