Monday, August 18, 2008

Giants, Monsters,and Dragons - Oh My!

My first week of vacation was at the beach. I love the beach. It doesn't matter if it is rainy or cold, the beach is the place to be. While waiting for my wife to pick out a swim suit, I took my boys over to the Barnes and Noble and told them I'd get them a book. My eldest got a Pokemon book, the youngest got Five Chinese Brothers, which is perhaps the best book ever on Asian siblings with supernatural powers. Not to be left out, I wandered over to the mythology section and found Giants, Monsters, and Dragons by Carol Rose. What a fantastic book!

What it is is an encyclopedia of creatures that can be found in mythology and legend. There are many things that make this a great book to have in your collection of reference books:

  • It is pretty comprehensive. It has well over 2,000 entries and gives most entries a fair amount of coverage.
  • It covers many cultures. In fact, it covers Anatolia, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Roman, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Sumer, Zambia, Libya, South Africa, Tanzania, Sotho, Zambia, Dahomey, the Congo, Nigeria, Tschwi, Ashanti, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Burma, Canada (Canadian mythology - now there's something I've overlooked), the Caribbean, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Venezuela, China, Czech, Denmark, Croatian, Slav, Serbian, Bosnian, Romanian, England, Estonia, Medieval Europe, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Indonesia, Ireland, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lapp, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Cook Islands, Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, Portugal, Russia, Ukraine, Siberia, Norway, Sweden, Scotland, Basque, Switzerland, Thailand, Native American, and other American. If a particular culture is not mentioned, I must have over looked it. If you want to hear about a particular one, leave a comment and I'll pick a monster from that area for a post.
  • It has an incredible index. The book is set up in alphabetical order, so if you knew a particular monster by name, you could just look it up. You can look up creatures by nationality. You can look up creatures by type. You can look up creatures by what they are associated with (water, end of time, etc.).
  • It is heavily documented. Carol Rose used 189 different sources to find her information and gives them all credit if you want to read more.

The only thing I could say that would make this a better book would be to have more illustrations of creatures.

I give it a 4.5 lightning bolts out of five.

So now if someone mentions a Gaki to me, I'll be able to know that it is a Japanese demon with a huge red or green belly, a horse head, three eyes, huge horns and claws, and is always tormented by hunger and thirst. And I know how to defeat it. That's pretty handy information.

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