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suitable for young people””

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  • #72015

    This text is available free, online, without copyright (it was first published in 1867)…

    A Manual of Mythology in the Form of Question and Answer by Bart George William Cox

    The author described it as “suitable for young people”. I have only read the beginning, but it was enough for me to think it was worth mentioning. It’s written very clearly and plainly (no religious/spiritual overtones, no high-academese). Checkout this excerpt from the preface – so basic, yet brilliant…

    Many ages ago, long before Europe had any of the nations who now live in it, and while every thing was new and strange to the people who then lived on the earth,men talked of the things which they saw and heard, in a way very different from our way of speaking now. We talk of the sun rising and setting, as of something which is sure to happen ; but they did not know enough to feel sure about these things: and so when the evening came, they said “Our friend the sun is dead; will he come back again? And when they saw him once more in the east, they rejoiced because he brought back their light and their life with him. Knowing very little about themselves, and nothing at all of the things which they saw in the world around them, they fancied that everything had the same kind of life which they had themselves. In this way they came to think that the sun and stars, the rivers and streams, could see, and feel, and think, and that they shone or moved of their own accord. Thus they spoke of everything as if it were alive,and instead of saying, as we say, that the morning comes before the sunrise, and that the evening twilight follows the sunset, they spoke of the sun as the lover of the dawn or morning who went before him,as longing to overtake her,and as killing her with his bright rays,which shone like spears. W e talk of the clouds which scud along the sky ; but they spoke of the cows of the sun, which the children of the morning drove every day to their pastures in the blue fields of heaven. So too, when the sun set, they said that the dawn, with its soft and tender light,had come to soothe her son or her husband in his dying hour. In the same way,the sun was the child of darkness, and in the morning he wove for his bride in the heavens a fairy network of clouds, which re appeared when she came back to him in the evening. When the sun shone with a pleasant warmth,they spoke of him as the friend of men: when his scorching heat brought a drought, they said that the sun was slaying his children,or that someone else, who knew not how to guide them, was driving the horses of his chariot through the sky. As they looked on the dark clouds which rested on the earth without giving any rain, they said that the terrible being whom they named the snake or dragon was shutting up the waters in a prison-house. When the thunder rolled, they said that this hateful monster was uttering his hard riddles; and when, at last, the rain burst forth, they said that the bright sun had slain his enemy,and brought a stream of life for the thirsting earth.

    Now, so long as men remained in the same place, there was no fear that the words which they spoke would be misunderstood : but as time went on,they were scattered,and some wandered to the south,and some to the north and west; and so it came to pass that they kept the names which they gave to the sun and the clouds and all other things,when their meaning had been almost or quite forgotten. In this way they still spoke of Phoebus as loving Daphne, after they had forgotten that this meant only “The Sun loves the Dawn .’ So the name of the dew had been Procris, and it had been said that the sun killed (dried up)the dew as he rose in the sky: but now Kephalos (Cephalus) became a man who, without knowing it, killed a woman named Procris, whom he loved…


    What a find, androoshka!

    (I hope you don’t mind – I used my admin superpowers to edit your link to open on a new page, so those who follow it don’t have to figure out how to navigate back to COHO; when posting a link in the future, just make sure to click on the “gear” icon on the far right of the field where you post the link, then check the box about opening the link on a new page, before you click submit).

    My introduction to mythology – mostly Greek and Roman myths – came in the 1960s via a set of Golden Book encyclopedias, filled with colorful illustrations, which I devoured.

    Golden Book Encyclopedias

    At the same time I was reading and re-reading every entry in the my Golden Book Encyclopedias, I was also quite taken with this cartoon show, which aired from 1962 – 1966, loosely based on the Greek cycle of myths surrounding Herakles (very loosely – in these cartoons, Hercules seemed an ordinary mortal with ordinary powers until he slipped on a magic ring, a gift from Zeus, that served the same role as spinach in a Popeye cartoon, bestowing extraordinary strength and other powers).

    Many people I know credit D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths with arousing their interest in mythology during childhood.

    But the title you’ve linked by Bart George William Cox is the earliest work (1867!) I have seen on comparative mythology designed for children. In addition to the qualified endorsement by Max Müller, one of the early luminaries in the field, it seems relatively comprehensive for the time in which it was published (though it is interesting, like many works on myth, that it only looks at the myths of pagan peoples, apparently viewing Christian stories as society’s default setting – more than myth, if you will).

    Granted, the writing style might be beyond that of most children in the targeted age group today (much like the McGuffey Eclectic Readers that dominated primary school education in the 19th and early 20th centuries).

    I am curious about the experience of other forum participants – what first drew you to mythology? Was it something you read as a child, or maybe television program or movie that first captured your interest?

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