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Serpent & Swan: Animal Bride Folklore & Literature 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0939923687
ISBN-10: 0939923688
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Editorial Reviews


...highly recommended to all who wish to probe human-animal relationships at their deep symbolic levels. -- Anthrozoos, vol. 12, #2 (1999)

Book Description

The Serpent and the Swan is a history and analysis of animal bride tales from antiquity to the present. The animal bride tale, the author argues, is an enduring expression of humankind's need to remain close to and a part of nature.
Boria Sax traces the idea of the animal bride through history by drawing upon legends and literary works from throughout the world. He pays particular attention to Eurasian sources which support his thesis that the animal bride theme originated among the serpent cults of Mesopotamia and southeastern Europe. Through time, the details of the animal bride theme changed as a result of mankind's changing perceptions of the natural world. In general, this study is an account of myths and beliefs that have surrounded animals—and women—during the rise of modern humankind.

The Serpent and the Swan identifies and explains images of the animal bride that pervade, enliven, and enrich our culture. The bride becomes Eve taking an apple from the serpent, Medea casting spells, Cinderella riding to the royal ball in a pumpkin coach, and the Little Mermaid rising from the waves.
The Author: Boria Sax, who holds a doctorate in German and intellectual history, is the author of The Frog King and The Parliament of Animals, among other books.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Tennessee Press; 1 edition (January 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0939923688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0939923687
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,298,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
From the title you might expect something esoteric, but actually it fits right into the mainstream of human history. Author Boria Sax asks at the outset a series of direct and disarming questions: What is nature? What is animal? What is human? What is gender? What is marriage? He devotes a brief discussion to each. The picture that emerges is that mankind in the course of its development separated itself conceptually from nature, but ever after felt the need to return. Yet the concept of "nature" is not fixed; it changes with society and remains largely a mystery, as do the animals within it. One way of re-establishing the connection is through imagination, storytelling, mythmaking. Add the reminder that humans and animals can form a bond as close as a marriage, that a man may call his sweetheart his pet, and you have the psychological preconditions for the story of the animal marriage.
There are animal brides and animal grooms, and they figure not only in remote legends and tales, but in literature central to the birth of our civilization. Such are Gilgamesh and Enkidu; Adam, Eve and the Serpent; and the accounts of animal worship or reverence that punctuate the narratives of the Old and New Testaments. Such outbreaks of zoolatry, which continue on through the Middle Ages and up to the weird cults of our time, Sax interprets as revolts against the anthropomorphic gods that replaced the original animal ones. He shows how many peoples traced their origins back to animals, how noble families liked to claim a romantic link to mythical beasts. He touches on the fears animals awaken in humans, such as lawlessness, sensuality, incest, and also on their magical powers, released in ceremonies such as snake-handling.
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Format: Paperback
I actually took Dr. Sax's class this summer and we used his book in addition to others. One thing in his favor was that his book was priced similar to most other textbooks. Some professors have you buy their books that are too expensive.

As for the book, it goes nicely into different animal-human relationships in literature. He deals with a variety of creatures such as selkies, serpents, cats, etc. He also references a number of stories and goes into depth explaining the animal-human relationship, such as "The Little Mermaid." A very good book and written well to keep the reader's attention. The best sectin was the very beginning where he describes his interation with some swans. It covers both fantasy and reality in a very humerous manner.
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