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  • Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero
  • Cynthea L. Ainsworth
Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero. By David Adams Leeming. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Pp. xv + 272, preface, introduction, 8 illustrations, selected bibliography, index.)

David Leeming's Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero is a collection of excerpts from world religions, literature, myth, and folklore that illustrate the points of crisis in the life of the hero, as identified by Lord Raglan. The text excerpts are set in an interpretive framework by a preface, introduction, short introductory head notes preceding each text, and brief essays closing each chapter. Eight chapters offer 122 texts organized by life crisis themes: birth, initiation, preparation, quest, death, underworld, resurrection, and ascension.

In a fast-paced review of scholarship in the cross-disciplinary study of myth, Leeming's introduction provides a roadmap of landmark theories in myth ritual study. The bibliography offers ample suggestions for further reading and attests to the depth of the deceptively brief review section in the introduction. This brevity is no doubt in service of Leeming's stated wish that readers gain insight through confronting texts from or inspired by myth with minimal editorial guidance.

Originally published in 1973, Voyage is now in its third edition with significant changes from its interim appearance in 1981. The bibliography has been updated and expanded to include more folklorists, and nearly every chapter has added one or more texts to include female, Asian, and Native American heroes. The second edition had appendixes on Jung and on creation and flood myths, which have been removed from this third edition and enlarged in four separate publications, all from Oxford University Press: The World of Myth (1990); A Dictionary of Creation Myths (1995); God: Myths of the Male Divine (1996); and Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine (1994).

The significance of Leeming's Voyage is more than that of an anthology. Undeniably, the convenience of having these texts in one place, some of them lengthy, justifies the republication of this valuable resource in today's unfortunate trend of allowing books to fall from print. Nevertheless, the informed reader can see the application of theory in the selection of texts and hear the cross-disciplinary theoretical debates in the juxtaposition of texts. Some of those debates are taken up in the concluding essays. Leeming's avoidance of overinterpretation anticipates future development in myth theory. Voyage will remain useful to students of mythology regardless of fluctuating interpretations of the lessons behind heroes, their lives, and their deeds. [End Page 111]

Cynthea L. Ainsworth
University of Alaska


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