Mythopedia

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Good Wives and Warriors, Mythopedia: Encyclopedia of Mythical Beasts and Their Magical Tales, Laurence King Publishing Ltd, September 2020, 128pp., RRP $35.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781786276902

Wow! Mythopedia: An Encyclopedia of Mythical Beasts and their Magical Tales is brought to life by the illustration work of UK based Becky Bolton and Louise Chappell, the team behind Good Wives and Warriors. The book is a visual feast full of spectacular colour and a dizzying array of intricate details, supported by weird and wonderous tales of mythical beasts from around the world. 

Organised according to regions such as the Americas, Oceania, and Asia, Mythopedia includes 37 mythical beasts. There is a description of each mythical beast, interspersed with a more detailed legend of selected beasts. Some of the stories feature gruesome elements. For example, Tsuchigumo, is a giant, human-sized spider with eight long legs and a hairy, striped body like a tiger from Japanese folklore and is believed to eat its human victims after shape-shifting and luring them to their death. 

Whilst I do not know enough about mythology to comment on the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in the book, the content of the two myths from Australia, Tiddalik, the thirsty frog of Dreamtime mythology and the Rainbow Serpent are consistent with the stories I have heard growing up. One nit-picky criticism is that the picture for the myth of Tiddalik includes a wombat reclining in the branches of a gum tree and an echidna scaling an upper branch of the same tree. I understand that to those unfamiliar with Australian wildlife some species can be somewhat bewildering, however the illustrations for the other mythical beasts do not include similar anomalies. 

I can imagine this becoming a favourite resource for young readers (aged 10+ years) obsessed with myths and mythology, drawing/illustration, or origin stories. Whilst I would hesitate to recommend it to readers younger than ten years of age because of the gruesome elements, overall, it would make an excellent addition to any school library, classroom, or home library. 

Reviewed by Anne Varnes 

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