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Owl (Animal) [Paperback]

Desmond Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Sep 2009 Animal
'The owls are not what they seem'. From ancient Babylon, to Edward Lear's The Owl and the Pussycat and the grandiloquent, absent-minded Wol from Winnie the Pooh, to David Lynch's Twin Peaks, owls have woven themselves into the fabric of human culture from earliest times. Beautiful, silent, pitiless predators of the night, possessing contradictory qualities of good and evil, they are enigmatic creatures that dwell throughout the world yet barely make their presence known. In his fascinating new book Owl bestselling author and broadcaster Desmond Morris explores the natural and cultural history of one of nature's most popular creatures. Morris describes the evolution, the many species, and the wide spread of owls around the world - excluding Antarctica, owls are found on every land mass, ranging in size from 28 centimeters (the Least Pygmy Owl) to more than 70 centimeters tall (the Eurasian Eagle Owl). As a result of their wide distribution, owls also occur in the folk-tales, myths and legends of many native peoples, and Morris explores all these, as well as the many examples of owls in art, film, literature and popular culture. A new title by an acclaimed and well-known author, and featuring many telling illustrations from nature and culture, Owl will appeal to the many devotees of this emblematic bird. Despite the fact that many have never seen or even heard an owl, he illustrates through this enticing read that the owl's presence is still very real to us today.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books (29 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861895259
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861895257
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 13.5 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 152,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


In this small, elegant volume, Morris explores our paradoxical relationship with the owl, symbol of both wisdom and evil. He examines its depiction in mythology, literature and art and provides an overview of its fascinating biology. Beautiful photographs illustrate the allure of this mysterious creature.' - Sierra Magazine 'Owl is sparely and eloquently written, scholarly and highly readable ... an entertaining and informative little gem. It will particularly appeal to the many devotees of these eternally iconic birds.' - Emu-Austral Ornithology

About the Author

Desmond Morris is a well-known and critically-acclaimed writer and broadcaster. His many books include The Naked Ape (1967), The Human Zoo (1969), and The Human Animal (1994), and he has contributed to numerous natural history and scientific publications. For several years he was the host of the popular TV program Zootime, and in 1959 he was appointed Curator of Mammals at the London Zoo.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This left me wanting more... 29 May 2010
I read this book in one day and then immediately wanted to read it again. I loved it. It's well written and organised into logical themes regarding the history and myth surrounding this 'wise' and 'human-like' creature. The images are on the same page they are discussed which provides useful context and they are also varied. This is in striking contrast to the book 'Hare' in the same series which I didn't finish; reading it felt like walking through treacle because of the poor structure. If there was one critcism about 'Owl' it would be that I wanted more....Desmond we need 'Owl 2'.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise and Wonderful 11 Nov 2010
By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is an excellent book that focuses on the mythical and symbolic nature of Owls. What makes this book different from some of the others I have read in this series (Crow (Animal), Fox (Animal) and Hare) is that the material is presented with a much closer attention to the biology of actual the animal in question. So although the book is about the mythic owl, real owls form the backbone of the book.

The myths, fables and associated folk lore of owls remains, appropriately, central to this book, but the real owl as revealed by modern study is never far from the surface. At one point this is wonderfully illustrated by a reference to having strayed into the realms of Monty Python when some of the folk health remedies are being considered. This section ends, tellingly, with this phrase "We may be cutting down their forests, but at least we have stopped placing bits of then under our armpits"!

The spirit of that phrase flows through the whole book, and it is at its most useful when the book deals with modern interpretation of ancient fables and artefacts that contain owls. Almost without fail such analysis contains phrases such as "it's is speculated that" or "some studies conclude that" - this seems far more academically honest than the tone adopted in some of the other books in this series, where modern analysis is presented without even a hint of conjecture or speculation. In this regard that fact that the author has a clear track record in writing in a field where it is important to differentiate between fact and speculation is not a surprise.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, insightful, clear 11 July 2011
By Sadune
This book covers the cultural history and folklore around owls in a very clear manner without overwhelming the reader with too much detail. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down.
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