The Bungling Host


The Bungling Host

The Nature of Indigenous Oral Literature

Daniel Clément
Translated by Peter Frost

570 pages
4 maps, 16 tables, 46 figures


August 2018


$70.00 Add to Cart

August 2018


$40.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

August 2018


$40.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

The Bungling Host motif appears in countless indigenous cultures in North America and beyond. In this groundbreaking work Daniel Clément has gathered nearly four hundred North American variants of the story to examine how myths acquire meaning for their indigenous users and explores how seemingly absurd narratives can prove to be a rich source of meaning when understood within the appropriate context. In analyzing the Bungling Host tales, Clément considers not only material culture but also social, economic, and cultural life; Native knowledge of the environment; and the world of plants and animals.

Clément’s analysis uncovers four operational modes in myth construction and clarifies the relationship between mythology and science. Ultimately he demonstrates how science may have developed out of an operational mode that already existed in the mythological mind.

Author Bio

Daniel Clément is an anthropologist consultant. He is the author of several books published in France. Peter Frost has translated several books in anthropology and local history and is an author in his own right. 


"I would argue that even for those of us who merely have to stroll to the refrigerator for food, the stories teach important lessons about the relations between humans, animals and the land, and about generosity and hospitality."—Margery Fee, Canadian Journal of Native Studies

"This book provides an unequaled resource in its compilation of versions of myths by region and its appendix of source materials, thus doing a tremendous service to the field."—Aimee J. Hosemann, Journal of Anthropological Research

“Anthropologists have been analyzing the oral stories of Aboriginal cultures for a long time. Aboriginal peoples have also been untangling the stories told to them by their elders. Daniel Clément weaves these two perspectives together to get at the meaning of these ‘myths.’”—Stephen J. Augustine, hereditary chief, Mi’kmaq Grand Council

“The introduction is one of the most readable critiques of structuralism I have ever seen. It is nuanced yet accessible and poses terrific questions about structuralism. I can imagine this [book] as a central resource for indigenous scholars, historians, naturalists, and anthropologists. It contributes greatly to the comparative study of mythology and contemporary studies of structural analysis.”—Thomas McIlwraith, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Guelph and author of “We Are Still Didene”: Stories of Hunting and History from Northern British Columbia

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations                                                                                                     


1. Caribou Takes In His Wife’s Dress (Subarctic)                                                                

2. Snake Makes a Meal in the Embers (Southwest)                                                              

3. The Fire Trap (Grand Basin)                                                                                             

4. While Bird Sings, Bear Cooks (Northwest Coast)                                                            

5. Seal Roasts His Hands (Northwest Coast)                                                                        

6. Silver Fox Digs Up Yellow Jacket Larvae with His Penis (California)                            

7. Wildcat Beats a Blanket (California)                                                                                 

8. Deer Kills Her Children and Puts Their Bones Into the Water (Southwest)                     

9. Wolf Transforms Two Arrowheads into Mincemeat Puddings (Southwest)                    

10. Badger Pushes a Stick Down His Throat and Gets Yucca-Juice (Southwest)                

11. Bison Skewers His Nose (Plains)                                                                                    

12. White-Tailed Deer Shoots at a Red Clay Bank (Plains)                                                  

13. Man Kills Bison with His Sharpened Leg (Plains, Plateau)                                            

14. Black-Mountain-Bear Gets Persimmons by Leaning Against a Tree (Southeast)          

15. Rabbit Gathers Canes (Southeast)                                                                                   

16. Squirrel Slits Open His Scrotum (Plains)                                                                        

17. Duck Excretes Rice (Northeast)                                                                                      

18. Bird Gets Salmon Eggs by Striking His Ankle (Northwest Coast)                                 

19. Muskrat Cooks Some Ice (Northeast)                                                                             

20. Woodpecker Pulls Eels Out of Trees (Subarctic)                                                            


Appendix: Bungling Host Myths                                                                               



Also of Interest