Mythology: Myths, Legends and Fantasies is a ginormous collection of mythology from all around the world. The book is beautifully illustrated with so many pictures and captions that I felt like I was wandering through an ancient museum at times. There is also no shortage of content here since the book is over 500 pages of coffee table style size and format. Any mythophile (I am pretty sure I just made that word up) or legendophile (I definitely just made that word up) will be impressed with the book’s look and heft.
Thankfully, Mythology: Myths, Legends and Fantasies faithfully represents mythology without any sanitation or apology. Inside this tome’s pages, we find the ancient tales of Thor flattening giants with Mjölnir, Hera taking horrible revenge on the unfortunate (and often unwilling) victims of Zeus’ legendary philandering, and Osiris’ murder/dismemberment at the hands of Seth. The stories are summarized in an easy to read prose style, but the readers intelligence and ability to handle the content on his/her own terms are respected by the many authors of this anthology.
As I expected, the more commonly read mythologies of the Greeks and Romans are covered in impressive detail. The well known tales of these mythologies, such as the Trojan War, feature prominently, but some lesser known stories are also given their due. However, this does bring me to my one criticism of the collection. Some of the lesser known mythologies such as Finnish, Slavic, Middle Eastern, and Chinese (to name a few) are somewhat pushed aside and only granted a comparatively cursory treatment.
For example, there is a crazy awesome character in the tiny section dedicated to Slavic mythology (approximately 12 pages as opposed to the nearly 200 for Greek and Roman mythology) known as Baba Yaga. She is the prototypical “witch” complete with a flying broom and a long, pointed nose. Baba Yaga is also feared by villagers because she is known to eat people at the slightest provocation or annoyance. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, she lives in a house that rests on four chicken’s legs that can move around on its own! This is just one example of a character who certainly deserved more explanation.
However, despite my one gripe with Mythology: Myths, Legends and Fantasies the rest of the collection is truly fascinating. Any mythophile needs to add this impressively illustrated and written collection to his/her bookshelf.
Note: There seem to be several different editions of the book, but this 2007 edition seems to be the most common. There is also a 2005 edition and a somewhat elusive 2013 edition that I own, although I think it might have been exclusive to a particular bookstore chain.