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Potomac Books


Northern Tales, Northern Tales, 0803218796, 0-8032-1879-6, 978-0-8032-1879-6, 9780803218796, Selected and edited by Howard Norman

Northern Tales
Traditional Stories of Eskimo and Indian Peoples
Selected and edited by Howard Norman

2008. 368 pp.
2 maps, 71 drawings
$21.95 t

With tales from the tribal peoples of Greenland, Canada, Siberia, Alaska, Japan, and the polar region, told and retold during months-long winter nights, Northern Tales gathers together a rich diversity of traditions and cultures, spanning the Way-Back Time through the coming of the first white explorers. By turns tragic and comic, fantastic and earthy, frivolous and profound, this collection transports the reader to the haunting, little-known world of the far North, with all its fragile majesty and power.

Howard Norman is the author of numerous books, most recently Devotion, In Fond Remembrance of Me, and The Bird Artist. He was twice a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction and has received a Lannan Literary Award, three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and the Harold Morton Landon Prize in translation from the Academy of American Poets. He is a professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park.

“A brief introduction before each type of traditional tale reflects the tribal and cultural concerns as well as the diversity of people who are deeply involved in and influenced by natural phenomena, animals, shamans, and the supernatural. Through humor and fantasy as well as earthy wisdom, the tale-tellers point out that ‘stories are not just about living things, they are living things.’ Through this book, a way of life is revealed and preserved.”—School Library Journal

“This anthology includes a wide range of arctic and subarctic residents. Within this vast geographical coverage, the common concerns of a harsh environment and of the interdependent survival of nature and humanity become central elements that tie the individual pieces together. Norman arranges his selections by type and subject and contributes a short introduction to each section; otherwise, he allows his storytellers to speak eloquently for themselves.”—Booklist

“There are 116 folktales in this gathering from the myriad cultures of the North. Drawn from regions from Siberia to Greenland, Canada and the Aleutian Islands, the stories represent a diversity of landscapes as well as of human and animal relationships. Arranged, with their origins identified, by folklorist Norman (Northern Lights), the tales illuminate arctic and subarctic village life, shamans, hunting and marriage customs. Animals are often central, especially the raven and fox, who take on human qualities. Humor is part of the trickster stories ('Beaver Man Meets Mink Lady'); the Cree Indian heritage preserves the essential Northern hunting experience; mythic elements of intercourse between animals or spirits and humans are pervasive. Cautionary and pedagogical tales, as well as those told at special times and places, round out this chronicle of tribal oral traditions.”—Publishers Weekly

“Fascinating. . . . [Norman] provides excellent background for each tale. . . . [A] superb book.”—Washington Times

“What gives these tales vibrancy is that they are . . . so full of struggle and celebration within the mind of nature.”—Boston Globe

"It's good to see Northern Tales back in print. We don't want stories like these to be forgotten. They remind us that even though Native Americans lacked the written word, they possessed an abundance of great literature. And thanks to books like this it's a literature we can all share now."—David A. James,

Also of Interest

Indian Why Stories (Expanded Edition)
Frank B. Linderman

Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians, Second Edition
Clark Wissler

Salish Myths and Legends
M. Terry Thompson

Modern Blackfeet
Malcolm McFee