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Mythology Books by D. Pattanaik and A. Birrell Comparison Essay

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Updated: Dec 13th, 2021

The Indian mythology book by Devdutt Pattanaik is mainly discussing the Hindu myth. It begins by discussing how Hindu myth is a reaction to and communication of human’s level of understanding the nature. There are various ways through which narratives, symbols, and rituals generate a model that explains a way of perfection in this world and then provides possibilities of the life after. This author has also made some comparisons of Hindu myths and myths of other cultures. The process through which Hindu myths have evolved over a long period of time is discussed. Interpretation of myths, narratives, symbols, and rituals are made in this book (Pattanaik, 2003).

Myths in this book are discussed to have come from the fight, flight, and freeze response of a community to come up with models of perfection and possibility for a culture. Then these models are expressed through symbols and rituals. Devdutt explains myth in two ways, one as a sacred idea passed over from one generation to the other. Secondly, he defines it as an absurd concept concerning the world that applies to unsophisticated minds.

Myths are expressed as being all about communication but a special kind of communication whereby the relationship among the universe, society, and humans is established through narratives, symbols, and rituals. The author of the book insists that for the communication to be an expression of a myth, both the person passing the message and his audiences must have a sacred perception. Communication should not be directed to one person but to a group of people. A myth expression may be considered sacred if it has an anonymous origin or its communication is from a non-human source. For instance, in this book, no one is aware of the person who came up first with the story of Brahma, who drew the first swastika (Pattanaik, 2003).

The Chinese mythology book by Anne Birrell offers different texts of myths just like the Indian mythology book. The meaning of a myth in this book is just the same as that of an Indian mythology book as a sacred narrative. The author defines myth in this book as a very important ingredient in human civilization. The types of mythic narratives presented in this book are divided into three different periods. These periods are the early period, middle and late times. This author provides readers with English translations of more than 300 myth narratives with some never been translated into any of western languages (Birrell, 1999).

Differently from Devdutt, Anne Birrell has addressed mythical issues of source, dating, attribution, and many more. The Indian mythical book is greatly based on religious issues, unlike the Chinese mythical book which has gone further to discuss mythical issues of the day-to-day activities. Anne Birrell has done many surveys in her book concerning comparative mythology, different levels of development of Chinese myth studies, and also brings into view the contribution of Chinese and Japanese scholars to the different learning ways of Chinese myths. She goes further to discuss the special aspects of traditional approaches which have been applied to Chinese myths (Birrell, 1999).

Both books on mythology have given a comprehensive introduction of mythology to both specialists and general leaders, with organized and well-chosen texts, commentaries, and helpful supplementary matters.

Works cited

Birrell, A. Chinese mythology: an introduction, University of Texas, 1999.

Pattanaik, D. Indian mythology: tales, symbols, and rituals from the heart of the Subcontinent. Bear & Company, 2003.

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