Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 15, 2013

Tales from Silver Lands by Charles J. Finger

I am a firm believer that, at bottom, people are more similar than they are different. The cultural differences we have grown into due to geography and environment and years of local traditions are, in the main, things we have learned. Most people want the same things—to live in peace, to have enough to eat and drink, to have a decent place to live, and for their families to be happy and healthy.

I might have mentioned that I am reading my way through the Newbery Award winners (follow my progress on Goodreads). I just finished Charles J. Finger’s Tales from Silver Lands, which is a collection of Native Indian tales from South America. The book won the Newbery in 1925.

The stories within fall into two broad categories: “creation myths” that explain how a place or a landmark or an animal came to be, or “hero myths” where a hero takes on evil and dispatches it with his virtuous power.

In spite of being tales from a civilization so far removed from my own, the tales were relatable and familiar. Of course, Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” was in evidence. But the basic tenets—the urge to explain the mysteries of the world and that good will overpower evil—are universal.

Like many good books, this one transported me to a cultural time and place vastly unfamiliar—yet within it I found people just like us.

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