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Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend [Paperback]

Mike Dixon-Kennedy
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO Ltd (29 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576071308
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576071304
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,136,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

Russian and Slavic beliefs weave a rich tapestry of the real world and the fantasy world, populated by such creatures as dragons, monsters and shape-changing wolves. Though Russia adopted Christianity as the state religion in AD 988, paganism remained popular through to the end of the 19th century - and survives in isolated pockets even at the end of the 20th century. In Russian myths and legends, Christian themes are interwoven with pagan ideas: dragons fight priests; saints encounter nymphs; and witches enter the kingdom of heaven. This volume offers a guide in English to the myths and legends of the Russian Empire and other Slavic countries and peoples. Extensive historical, geographical and biographical background is included to enhance the reader's understanding.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
When one is interested in the myths and legends of a culture, a good mythological encyclopedia is, in my opinion, a must, as a general reference work alongside the actual stories themselves. This one is amazing, the entries are complete, with reference to the country of origin of the character or story (the work covers most of Eastern Europe, a huge area), and full and detailed entries and the book is extremely readable for an encyclopedia. I own many encyclopedias of various mythologies and this is one of the best, both in the ammount of information and readability. Well worth a look, especially as Eastern European Mythology is so rich and little known.
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Has its good points, but ultimately disappointing - oh, what could have been! 5 Dec 2011
By Anne M. Myers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As a student of Slavic myth, I had been champing at the bit to get hold of this volume, hard-to-find but one of the few in-depth English resources on the subject. While the tome is certainly weighty enough to make all your academic dreams come true and is nicely laid-out in most respects, I was ultimately disappointed.

The subject matter seems to vary fairly widely in accuracy and scope; while appropriately slavish attention is paid to Russian folktales and folk figures such as Baba Yaga or Vasilisa the Wise, older Slavic myth and its deities seems to fall by the wayside some, leaving most Slavic gods in the dust with only a short, unilluminating paragraph before Dixon-Kennedy moves on. Some places clearly seem to not have even been edited, such as when the god Yarilo is described as a female "goddess" of springtime and eroticism but the rest of the paragraph discussing the deity appears to be referring to a male (for the record, I have never heard Yarilo/Jarilo referred to as female in any other source). The lack of discussion (or even acknowledgment) of controversial subjects also hurts the book's scholarly credibility, as when the entirely reconstructed and hotly debated god Belebog is not only included in his own entry but also discussed as if there were no question whatsoever regarding his existence or functions.

Dixon-Kennedy also includes a goodly amount of information on Finno-Ugric and Baltic mythology, which is often irritating as little of it has more than a vague linguistic connection to Slavic myth. It's great to note the parallels and cultural mixing between cultures, but when we're reading through entry after entry about Lapp deities that have nothing whatsoever to do with Slavic culture or myth, it becomes clear that the book is trying to do too much and would likely prove confusing for beginning students in the subject.

The book's general encyclopedia format is handy enough; the inclusion of a by-subject and by-culture topic index is a great idea, but the fact that it has no page numbers and requires you to flip back through looking for each individual entry prevents it from being as useful as it could have been. All in all, it's a decent beginning point but is too flawed and generalized to be much use to a serious student, and contains too much misleading or unsubstantiated material for me to feel entirely comfortable recommending it to a beginner.
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