Picks and Pans Review: Legends of the World

updated 01/24/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/24/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

edited by Richard Cavendish

This engrossing volume retells the legends of the Far East, the Middle East, European cultures, the Pacific, Africa and the Americas. Gypsy legends, for instance, often explain why their people must be forever on the move. South American Indian stories can be earthy and humorous. Early Russian legends deal with dreams of a just society. In Celtic tales, saints and fairies abound. Jewish legends are often about Old Testament characters, but the details are different from those found in the Bible. Cain died, for example, "when his house fell on him...and he was killed by its stones; for with a stone he killed Abel, and by a stone he was killed in righteous judgment." The 34 authors, a distinguished group of experts in mythology and anthropology, occasionally evoke Freud to explain the curious similarities of events in myths from widely different areas and times, but it is more comforting to believe that all men share a common need for stories of heroic happenings, of a divinity, of magic. That's finally what is so important, and richly satisfying, about this book. (Schocken, $29.95)

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