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by George Hart

The rich panorama of ancient Egyptian mythology has survived through tomb paintings, temple inscriptions, and papyri. This account begins with the creation legends of Heliopolis, Memphis, and Hermopolis and illustrates the intellectual struggles of the Egyptians to explain the beginning of the world. The myths that follow range from stories about the gods—the murder of Osiris and vengeance of Horus, Isis and the seven scorpions, Sakhmet and the virtual slaughter of mankind—to fables such as the Shipwrecked Sailor and the Enchanted Island. Through these delightful and often amusing tales, we can appreciate more fully the beliefs and imagination of the ancient Egyptians.

Download Egyptian Myths (The Legendary Past) epub
ISBN: 0714120642
ISBN13: 978-0714120645
Category: Religion
Author: George Hart
Language: English
Publisher: British Museum; 1st edition (1990)
Pages: 80 pages
ePUB size: 1309 kb
FB2 size: 1126 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 744
Other Formats: mobi azw mbr doc

I needed this text for a class and honestly? I know the professor liked it, but I find it disappointing. I wanted more from the text, but mostly it was the tone of the author. He came across as very derogatory and I felt like he thought the Egyptians were uninformed idiots with weird beliefs. Maybe this was just my take on it. I just wasn't impressed.
My son loves to read on all the myths that are out there. He is very fascinated with the Egyptian myths. Nice book size, easy to take along to read. Arrived as expected.
It's so easy
Hart tries to cover the major points of Egyptian mythology in a fairly sophisticated way. For instance, he describes the sources for most of the myths or mythic episodes he discusses, rather than assembling disparate sources into a single story, as many of the simplest retellings of Egyptian myths do. But he's constrained by the format of the Legendary Past series, in which each book is only 80 pages long. There's a limit to how much he can analyze the significance of each myth when there's so much to cover and so little space. It doesn't help that a lot of the space is taken up by his descriptions of the source material (and, weirdly, quotations from T. S. Eliot). The book therefore summarizes episodes of mythology more than it retells them, so it's not very engaging reading, but it only patchily describes the symbolic meanings behind myths and how they related to Egyptian society and customs. It falls between two stools, not succeeding as storytelling or as analysis.

The first two chapters treat the creation myths and the myth of Osiris' death and Horus and Seth's struggle for the throne. Two much shorter chapters cover stories about Isis and the Destruction of Mankind by the Eye of Ra. The next chapter is about Ra's journey through the underworld, based on the Amduat, Book of Caverns, and Book of Gates. The last two chapters are on historical Egyptian figures who became the subjects of legend after their deaths, and some of the fantastical short stories in Egyptian literature.

If you want a book that covers ancient Egyptian legends and fantastical works of fiction as well as mythology, Joyce Tyldesley's Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt is far more substantial.
I've read this book twice. It's easy to do, as it's only 80 pages. I'll surely read it again down the road since I am classically homeschooling my child and repeat our school topics every four years. George Hart's book is definitely a scholarly one, so yeah, it's a bit dry, but if you're in the mood for scholarly writing, it's pretty great - he even has a few snarky comments here and there if you look for them. It's an afternoon study-date. Filled with mostly the stories of Isis and crew and gives you the back drop by which all the Egyptian lore stems, complete with archaeological tidbits and which museum had what at the time of the publication. Worth picking up for cheap and keeping in your collection, in my opinion. (I purchased my copy at Half Price Books years ago.)
This book is a nice introduction to the subject of Egyptian mythology, but come to it with a realistic expectation for what you are getting. At just 80 pages there isn't room for much more than a survey of the subject matter, an overview with a few details to add juice. The book covers a number of myths from ancient Egypt, including stories of gods, goddesses and a whole chapter on Isis. It delves into stories about famous people like Imhotep, the builder of the first stone pyramid in Egypt, and it gives summaries of several fantasy stories that were recorded during ancient times (like the story of the island of the giant snake and the tale of the hapless Bata).

The style of this book is a scholary one, and Hart talks about the sources of his stories in an effort to give the modern reader an appreciation for these materials. He doesn't so much as tell the stories he's recounting as he summarizes them, which makes for a less exciting read than might have been had if the recounting had been done by a professional fiction writer. Still, the stories themselves are interesting and doubtless tell us something about ancient Egypt and its concerns. There is the story of the lawsuit between the gods Horus and Seth, for instance, that gives us a taste of what is considered appropriate for squabbles between the gods and goddesses, and there are various vignettes about the cleverness of Isis, a powerful goddess who jumps right in and mixes it up with the boys without missing a beat.

Through these stories we see what the ancient Egyptians thought of their gods and goddesses, what perils they faced on behalf of humans and what they expected in terms of worship. Given that this collection is just dipping one's foot in the pool, I found it to be an interesting read that excites me to seek out lengthier books with more stories in them. I finish this book wanting more ancient Egyptian stories, and so it's back to the library and Amazon for this task.
To start, this is a very dry book. At only 70 pages one would expect it to be written on a more popular level, but there are many dry references to sources and dates and scholars that seems to be better suited for an academic discussion. The many geographical references (several not on the map in the beginning), the many names and the technical vocabulary would tend to turn the casual reader away.

Then there are the very dry descriptions of the myths and stories themselves which with the exception of the last chapter do not make for very captivating reading. Some chapters, like the one on the 'myth of kingship', very poorly relate the meaning and function of the stories to Egyptian life and thought, or how Egyptian belief was related or dissimilar to other people's beliefs in the ancient world, or even how they are relevant to us.

The volume of the book isn't suited to this style, and the author doesn't seem to care a great deal whether his audience is skilled or patient enough to follow along.
If you know very little about Egyptian myths, reading this book may not be worth the effort in trying to make sense of them, nor will it fascinate you--not at least until the last chapter!