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Shier-Sorrie, Beverly A. and Brenda E. Willoughby.

Cambridge (Ont.), Encyclopedia Britannica Publications, 1987, 56pp, looseleaf, $12.95. Distributed by Britannica Learning Materials, P.O. Box 2249, Cambridge, Ont., N3C 3N4. No ISBN or CIP

Grades 10-12
Reviewed by Cornelia Fuykschot

Volume 15 Number 5
1987 September

This set of typewriter-size sheets with very large print has been aptly subtitled as "A series of independent study activities designed to develop the understanding of Greek, Roman, Norse, and Canadian Indian mythology. "The sheets come in five colours, to accommodate the five chapters: Origins of mythology, Greek, Roman, Norse, and Canadian Indian Mythology. In very elementary language the student is introduced to the subject, and then referred for information to various encyclopedias and reference works, foremost, of course, the Encyclopedia Britannica. Then instructions for a variety of activities are given such as; "Brainstorm the traits of a mythological character." "Write your own myth to explain the occurrence of some natural phenomenon," "Compose a prayer to a god or goddess to ask him or her to grant a wish." "Working with a partner, role-play a possible argument between Zeus and Prometheus," "Write a myth explaining the founding of your city," "Compare Hera and Zeus to Andy Capp and his wife, and give other examples of husband-wife conflict in the comic entertainment of today,"

The students are introduced to the Greek creation myth, the great gods, Heracles, Prometheus, Jason, and the Trojan War. The Roman mythology deals with Romulus, Aeneas, the underworld, and the Latin names of the gods. The pages on Norse mythology offer the names of gods and places such as Asgard, refer to the creation myth, the battle between gods and giants, Sigurd, and Loki the trickster.

Canadian Indian mythology gives the names of Great Spirits, refers to creation myths, to be found in the Canadian Encyclopedia, the Thunderbird. Glooscap, Windigo and Manitou, Sedna, false face societies, healing and medicine bundles, and refers to ceremonies such as the sun dance and the feast of the dead.

The variety of activities the student is asked to perform includes working with partners and showing mimes, dances, etc., before a class of students. A teacher would be needed to direct the activities, but, strictly speaking, not to teach the course. The reading of four or five books is required, ranging from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn to Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey, to enable the student to draw comparisons between the problems of ancient and modern heroes. This would presumably mean writing an essay, or possibly drawing up a lisi of differences. A fair amount of creativity and time is required of the student, some of which might be more profitably spent in the study of the myths themselves rather than concentrating on presentations or writing "newspapers."

Our remote ancestors have wrestled with awesome questions, which we have not solved. Or have we? The course stays meticulously away from Judaeo-Christian mythology, apparently considering ihe subject still too "hot." This precludes an honest understanding of the reverence and awe in which the myths were conceived and passed on. Perhaps the reading of a book like James Stevens' Sacred Legends of the Sandy Lake Cree (McClelland and Stewart 1977) might help the students understand the deep emotional and religious values of these tales, caught in that brief moment of time when their diminishing grip on people's minds allows them to be written down, and before they have been completely discarded and forgotten. One would also have liked to see a reference to Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, and perhaps to a writer on the subject like Mary Barnard.

There is no provision made for the evaluation of the work done in this course. It is good that an attempt is made to bring this subject closer to today's student, who often has no awareness at all of awe or religion of any kind. Will this course give him an awareness of the power and sway these beliefs had and still have over people? Recommended with these reservations.

Cornelia Fuykschot, Gananoque S.S., Gananoque, Ont.
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