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Parallel Myths Paperback – October 11, 1994

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (October 11, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345381467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345381460
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A religious scholar and lifelong student of mythology, Bierlein (The Book of Ages) has done an outstanding job both in tracing the parallel themes of world mythology and then gathering a wealth of information vital to understanding thir importance. He recaps not only the well-recognized Greek and Roman gods but also the lesser-known Norse, Indian, Chinese, Native American and Oceanic gods, detailing fascinating similarities among pantheons. Bierlein weaves spell-binding tales through his examination of creation myths, flood myths, tales of love, morality myths and myths of heroes and the underworld. He devotes an entire chapter to four stories, two of which tell almost identical tales of two brothers-one myth is from the Native American Blackfoot nation, the other from ancient Egyptians. After providing examples, Bierlein ends with a look at how to interpret parallel myths and modern questions of faith and the legitimacy of the supernatural. This enlightening work will beckon not only the newcomer to mythology, but also the reader well versed in Joseph Campbell.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In many ways a worthy successor to Joseph Campbell, Bierlein (The Book of Ages, Ballantine, 1992) introduces and compares myths from many cultures and suggests how we may interpret them to make sense in our world today. Various creation accounts, flood myths, mythological love stories, morality myths, legends of the underworld, and visions of the apocalypse are all sensitively retold in this landmark introduction to mythology. A religious scholar at American University, Bierlein convincingly demythologizes the myths themselves by reminding the reader of their true meaning, both sacred and secular, throughout history. Recommended especially for undergraduates and for informed lay readers in public libraries.
Gary P. Gillum, Brigham Young Univ., Provo, Ut.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 16, 1997
Format: Paperback
I was struck by more than this Bierlein's wonderfully lucid and enthralling style. Even though others had found most of the mythic & scriptural patterns, Bierlein's intriguing evidentiary quotations and disciplined background & contextual analysis gave me goosebumps. He is not only on to something mysterious here but he has courageously related the inspiration he felt as he explored the undeniable spiritual realities embedded in the roots of civilization. Others' comments include: "Religious scholar J.F. Bierlein gathers key myths from the world's major traditions, drawing from the works of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, and others, to reveal their common themes, images, and meanings. He vividly retells creation, flood, morality, and underworld myths, among others." Professional and hobbyist archaeologists, adventurers and anyone concerned with matters spiritual must acquire and absorb this important work. I impatiently await his next fascinating endeavor, due out in early 1998: MYTH, MYSTERY, AND MEANING. -- Dan Gallagher author, THE PLEISTOCENE REDEMPTION
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By K. Sozaeva VINE VOICE on June 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
This fascinating work - which delves deep into myths from around the world and shows startling parallels - is a must-have for anyone who is interested in the study of ethnology, comparative religions, mythology, the development of civilizations, etc. and so forth - in other words, just about anyone who is interested in where we, as humanity, have been and where we are going.

The author shows where parallel myths have developed between cultures where there is no known contact and speculates, via various models, on how this might have happened. Myths are presented from the typical Greek, Roman and Norse, through Egyptian, Semitic, Polynesian and various Native American tribal myths as well as Incan and Aztec.

I was particularly interested (having managed to get this far in my life and not been exposed to much in the way of Norse/Germanic mythology or Wagnerian opera) by how much Tolkien borrowed for his LotR series from said sources. I was also appalled in many instances by the extreme bloodiness of some of the Egyptian myths - most of them seemed to end badly, which made me wonder . . . I shall now have to do further research (oh, drat - now I'll have to go buy books . . )

Although scholarly in nature, the work is engaging and accessible to the lay reader and in this reader's humble opinion, should be added to the reading list of as many individuals as possible. A definite recommend from me.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
The book offers the material in a very readable fashion. I got exactly what I expected from the title -- readings of parallel myths. The themes around which the parallels were drawn such as the "hero" or "descent to the underworld" made sense. More commentary on the themes themselves would have been of interest to me but then would have changed the book from a straight forward collection into a thesis. The final chapters of the book give a short but informative review of the key theories of how myths may be traced back to primordial events and societies. The author seems to be presenting this collection (along with short commentary) as a counterbalance to the rational materialism of our present culture that demands empirical evidence and eschews all things supernatural. His short closing arguments for the positive role of mythology in our present society are interesting.
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44 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Spacelord on March 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
I had originally given this book a severe review and one star. I still hold that for me, the book is not very useful. But after a few discussions with the author, Mr. Bierlein, I have somewhat changed my opinion, although I can't completely let him off the hook. As an aside, I would like to say that Mr. Bierlein is a complete gentleman, especially considering my original words, which weren't too nice.
I was greatly looking forward to reading this book and I was somewhat letdown. I am a bit of a student of mythology so I was quite excited to find a book that purported to draw on the work of Joseph Campbell, G.G. Jung, and Mircea Eliade.
My first complaint is there is not a great deal of original content. The large portion of the book is cut and paste from Eliade, Jung, and Campbell, books which I already own. So, if you are already a well-read student of this field, this book will have a limited appeal. I have come to realize, however, that it could be a valuable source to those who have little to no knowledge of comparative mythology. Mr. Bierlein alerted me to the fact that the book was intended to be an introductory text for High School students, so keep that in mind. I must concede that it could be useful in that regard, as the subject matter is very broad rather than overly specific in any one area.
This explains what had been my second issue with the book. Please note that the stories have been censored, so that nothing overly sexual is portrayed. Again, this could be good for younger students, getting it included in schools, but could be a detriment to older students who wish to see the tale in its original and pagan form. As a good reader is apt to know, the pagans did not share our delicate Christian sensibilities when it came to the facts of life.
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