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He Who Hunted Birds in His Father's Village: The Dimensions of a Haida Myth Paperback – May 1, 2007

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ISBN-13: 978-1593761554 ISBN-10: 1593761554

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593761554
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593761554
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,312,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Althea on January 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a careful investigation of one small myth as it relates to many other cross-cultural myths in style, form, and function. The focus is narrow but intense, and the writing academic and crisp.

The myth that Gary Snyder works with here is from the Northwest Coast and it's told by the Haida storyteller, Ghandl. It's an ancient and enigmatic tale about a hunter who comes across two beautiful sisters swimming in a lake. They are supernatural beings who have left their goose skins on the bank in order to swim. The hunter takes their skins, and says that the younger sister has to marry him if they want the skins back. She agrees, and in human form goes home with him and they marry, but she languishes, sneaks out at night in her goose skin, and eventually returns to the sky-world. Thus begins the hero's standard quest to win back the maiden, and the story has inexplicable turns as well as the usual exploits and a (somewhat) redemptive ending. Snyder uses John Swanton's prose translation, which doesn't carry the beautiful weirdness of Robert Bringhurst's more recent and more poetic interpretation, but in 1951, Swanton's was the only one available.

This is the 21-year-old Snyder's thesis paper, and he takes a multi-dimensional approach to the myth that leaves no stone unturned. He begins with a description of the ancestral Haida lands; examines cultural background; moves on through marriage, potlatch and lineage; and considers the portends of animals as supernatural beings.

Then he dives into the ancient Swan-Maiden myth, as it has come down through the folklore of various cultures worldwide, and establishes, fairly effectively, that the Haida BirdHunter/GooseWoman myth is a vital and resilient version of it.
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He Who Hunted Birds in His Father's Village: The Dimensions of a Haida Myth
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