Book Review: Mythopedia: An Encyclopedia of Mythical Beasts and Their Magical Tales

I am not sure how I stumbled on Mythopedia: An Encyclopedia of Mythical Beasts and Their Magical Tales at NetGalley but I am glad I did.  I was able to get a digital review copy of the hardback book that will be published on Tuesday.

What is Mythopedia?

From the West African fable of Anansi the Spider, to Michabo, the magical hare who rebuilt the world and Tanuki, the sweet but troublesome raccoon-dog of Japanese folklore, Mythopedia is an encyclopedia of mythical creatures that covers legends, tales and myths from around the world.

Lovingly created by the illustration duo behind popular flipbook Myth Match, Good Wives and Warriors, this book contains pages upon pages of cultural folklore from around the world.

Organized by geography (The Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia & Oceania), it offers a basic overview of mythological creatures from all over the globe. Plus, colorful and imaginative illustrations.

Some of the creatures will be familiar (most likely those from The Americas and Europe but some from Asia and Africa as well) while others are strange and exotic (Grootslang: and elephant-snake hybrid; Aun Pana: a creepy monster fish from the Amazon jungle; or Encantado: a bizarre shapeshifting dolphin).

Along with the basic descriptions of the creatures are short vignettes of folklore featuring that creature. These are not deep dives into mythology or particularly evocative literary adoptions of the myths.  They provide an introduction but those looking for more depth will need to look elsewhere.

But where the book really shines is in the bright and evocative illustrations. Page after page of beautiful are illustrates the creatures and stories.  They are colorful, with depth and texture and detail.  There is a sense of play and joy even as some of the stories are dark and odd.

I would love to see what this looks like in full size hardback, but even in digital it was impressive.  If you are looking for a beautifully illustrated introduction to mythological creatures of the world, Mythopedia would be a great place to start.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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