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March 08, 1992|CHARLES SOLOMON

AFRICAN MYTHOLOGY by Geoffrey Parrinder and JAPANESE MYTHOLOGY by Julie Piggott (Peter Bedrick Books: $14.95 each). These two entries in the "Library of the World's Myths and Legends" feature well-chosen illustrations that complement the text rather than offering a mute parade of ethnic art. The authors of both volumes recount stories that will probably be unfamiliar to American readers. Parrinder focuses on the tales of sub-Saharan Africa: The Fon of Benin believe that the sun and the moon are the twin offspring of the primordial mother, Nana Buluku, and that eclipses are their love-making. In contrast to the European belief in the magical riches at the end of the rainbow, many southern African tribes believe the rainbow's end is unlucky, and the Ila of Zambia seek to drive away the arch with pestles. Some of the most interesting fables in this volume involve a wily hare--the ancestor of Br'er Rabbit in the stories African-Americans learned from their enslaved forebears. The very different myths in the Japanese collection reflect the confluence of Chinese and Indian/Buddhist influences with native traditions and the Shinto religion. The semi-mythical heroes of the convoluted Japanese civil wars share stories of such curious creatures as Tengu (odd man/bird hybrids that generally inhabit trees), Oni (devils) and the intelligent, monkey-like Kappa. Additional volumes issued at this time include "Celtic Mythology" by Proinsias MacCana, "Egyptian Mythology" by Veronica Ions and "Greek Mythology" by John Pinsent.

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