Monday, September 9, 2013

Here Be Dragons: A Fantastic Bestiary (Ariane Delacampagne and Christian Delacampagne).

Here Be Dragons: A Fantastic Bestiary
Ariane Delacampagne and Christian Delacampagne
Princeton University Press
Nonfiction, Mythology
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Since its earliest days, Mankind has never been content to simply observe the world's wonders. Dreams and nightmares, joys and fears, even simple whimsey gave birth to all manner of bizarre creations which found their way into art and story. Such beasts reached their heyday in medieval Europe, as the Christian church attempted to harness them to provide moral instructions to the masses in tomes known as bestiaries. Even in today's enlightened world, animal such as dragons and griffins evoke powerful, sometimes primal emotions. In this book, the authors examine the origins of fantastic beasts, various attempts to classify and moralize them, and their persistence into modern times.

REVIEW: Originally published in France, this book includes many images - from Asian tapestries to Pacific Northwest masks - that I haven't seen elsewhere. The broad variety and sheer volume of art alone would've easily merited a Good rating, maybe close to a Great. The text, however, grows dense at times, with a strong Christian European flavor that colors the authors' conclusions, not to mention a few outdated beliefs stated as certainties. Overall, it makes for an interesting, if occasionally overwhelming, examination of fantastic animals and their cultural significance through the ages.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Mythical Beasts (Alexandra Bonfante-Warren) - My Review
The Book of Fabulous Beasts (Joseph Nigg) - My Review
The Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were (Michael Page and Robert Ingpen) - My Review

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