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The Mythical Zoo: An Encyclopedia of Animals in World Myth, Legend, and Literature Library Binding – December 1, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-1576076125 ISBN-10: 1576076121 Edition: 1st

8 New from $172.69 17 Used from $60.99 1 Collectible from $181.18
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Library Binding, December 1, 2001
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Product Details

  • Library Binding: 298 pages
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO; 1 edition (December 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576076121
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576076125
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,056,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


• Draws from a variety of cultures and sources: mythology, history, art, science, philosophy, and literature

• Includes fictional animals such as mermaids and unicorns, in addition to a vast range of real animals

• Each entry contains quotes from texts around the world

• Offers insight into the sometimes conflicting meanings of Western and Eastern symbolism

• Includes over 50 A–Z conversational entries

• Fully illustrated with a variety of images from medieval prints to editorial cartoons and advertisements

• Weaves together a cross-cultural tapestry encompassing mythology, history, art, science, philosophy, and literature while discussing the special significance of animals in human cultures

• Includes relevant quotes from worldwide texts preceding each entry

"Sax offers the rare reference volume, a bestiary entertaining enough for bedside reading . . . He impartially examines the real animal world and the fantastic fauna of myth and legend, mermaid and werewolf to unicorn . . ."



"The Mythical Zoo provides essential grounding for those interested in understanding the traditional as well as more modern or contemporary treatments of animals in art, literature, and popular culture. It is equally valuable for those concerned with gaining a better understanding to how attitudes toward animals are established and changed. As such, it will be an important tool for students and scholars in many fields as well as for storytellers, techers, and naturallists who use stories about animals to enrich their students' or audiences' appreciation."


H-Net Book Review

"Recommended for public and academic libraries."


Gale Reference Reviews

"[A] handy reference book that will be useful to just about anyone from storywriters to television producers, newspaper editors, or just plain interested readers. Anyone checking some background information or some last minute facts will find this book a must . . . The Mythical Zoo emphasizes depth over breadth in conveying ideas supporting the treatment of animals in myth, legend, and other aspects of human culture."


American Reference Books Annual

"This is another in a growing line of excellent reference volumes issued by ABC-CLIO in it continuing folklore and literature series . . . It is as much as home in a school library as in one's own personal collection."


Territorial Tattler

Book Description

Thought in the past to be divine, animals have played an active role in human culture since prehistoric times. Sometimes domesticated, never conquered, and serving as both prey and predator, animals are an integral part of the human experience. Even today, animals wield symbolic powers as varied as the cultures that embrace them.

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More About the Author

Our stories begin long before we are born, and contain more than we can ever know. I have told the story of my early years in the forthcoming book Stealing Fire: A Boyhood in the Shadow of Atomic Espionage. But when I look back, I find myself asking, "Was that really me?"

I first became interested in the literature of animals around the end of the 1980's, not terribly long after I had obtained my PhD in German and intellectual history. I was feeling frustrated in my search for an academic job and even study of literature. By accident, I came across an encyclopedia of animals that had been written in the early nineteenth century. There, without any self-consciousness, was a new world of romance and adventure, filled with turkeys that spoke Arabic, beavers that build like architects, and dogs that solve murders. Within a few months, I had junked my previous research and devoted my studies to these texts.

Today, I shudder how nervy the switch was for a destitute young scholar, who, despite one book and several articles, had not managed to obtain any steady job except mopping floors. But soon I had managed to publish two books on animals in literature, The Frog King (1990) and The Parliament of Animals (1992). Around 1995, I founded Nature in Legend and Story (NILAS, Inc.), an organization that combines storytelling and scholarship. It was initially, a sort of rag-tag band of intellectual adventurers who loved literature but could not find a niche in the scholarly world. We put together a few conferences, which generated a lot of excitement among the few who attended, but little notice in academia or in what they sometimes call "the real world."

From fables and anecdotes, I moved to mythology, and published The Serpent and the Swan (1997), a study of animal bride tales from around the world. This was followed by many further publications including an examination of the darker side of animal studies, Animals in the Third Reich (2000), and a sort of compendium, The Mythical Zoo (2002), and a cultural history of corvids entitled Crow (2003). My most recent book is City of Ravens: London, its Tower and its Famous Ravens (2011), and Imaginary Animals will be published soon by Reaktion Books in London.

When I embarked on the study of animals in myth and literature, even graduate students did not have to mention a few dozen books just to show that they had read them. In barely more than a couple decades, the literature on human-animal relations has grown enormously in both quantity and sophistication. NILAS, I am proud to say, has become a well established organization, which has sponsored two highly successful conferences together with ISAZ.

But as the study of animals, what I like to call "totemic literature," becomes more of a standard feature of academic programs, I fear that something may be lost. It is now just a little too easy to discourse about the "social construction" and the "transgression" of "boundaries" between animals and human beings. Even as I admire the subtlety of such analysis, I sometimes find myself thinking, "So what?"

Having been there close to the beginning, part of my role is now to preserve some the sensuous immediacy, with that filled the study of animals in literature when it was still a novelty. That sort of "poetry" is not simply a luxury in our intellectual pursuits. With such developments as cloning, genetic engineering, and the massive destruction of natural habitats, we face crises so unprecedented that traditional philosophies, from utilitarianism to deep ecology, can offer us precious little guidance. The possibilities are so overwhelming, that we hardly even know what questions to ask. But neither, I am sure, did the fugitive who once encountered a mermaid in the middle of the woods.

Boria Sax

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I saw a short review of this book in Cat Fancy magazine. It said "The Mythical Zoo: Animals in Life, Legend, and Literature by Boria Sax, explores the meanings and traditions that have grown around more than 150 different kinds of animal species. Conveying the underlying ideas behind the treatment of animals in myth, legend and related aspects of human culture, the book explains how every creature, whether it's a ladybug, a tiger, or a rhinoceros, represents an alternative or partial image of humanity. This adventurous read lets us imagine familiar creatures as they would have been experienced in unfamiliar cultures and environments, and covers the folkloric meanings and histories of a menagerie of mythical creatures through cultural and literary history.

In case you're wondering, This is NOT a book about animal welfare.

I found this book hard to put down. In many cases it points out how ancient and Medieval traditions about animals still influence stereotypes, figures of speech, common legends and beliefs about animals that have roots in history and are still believed today, and even symbols in advertising and popular figures in childrens' lit.

I found several myths that I plan to write poems about.

This book was listed in the review as $29.95 but I got it on Amazon for about $22 (this is an unpaid testimonial!)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joann Karges on May 6, 2013
Format: Library Binding Verified Purchase
This was the information I had wanted and needed. I had not heard of the book, so I am glad Amazon popped up the ttitle. The text is readable; the content is well documented.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By walla2wa on September 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the worst edited books I've ever encountered. It is full of errors of all sorts - typographical, editorial and factual. There are missing words, extra words, misspelled words and a host of other inconsistencies and errata. An author who states that the 23rd Psalm is known as The Lord's Prayer seems untrustworthy to me on other facts I may be less familiar with. "Lead" is used in place of "led", Theseus is said to "wander through the minotaur" instead of the Labyrinth, a story involving a cat and mouse switches from "mouse" to "rat" - not the same creature at all and just another sign of very poor copy editing. It is so painful to read it is hard to concentrate on the content. There is an error on nearly every page. Author, editor and publisher should all be ashamed.

As to content, the book is full of synopses of world folklore but also makes peculiar assertions, such as "Poets always love mystery, and so they also love cats." (p. 174) It is an odd hodgepodge, not terribly well written but not uninteresting, either; just difficult - for me, at any rate - to winnow the useful lore from the overall poor product.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are so many books on the same topic, that another one does not make a big difference. Just keep it !
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