Harold Courlander,
People of the Short Blue Corn: Tales & Legends of the Hopi Indians
(Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970)

People of the Short Blue Corn includes 17 Hopi stories, an introduction to the Hopi people and the area of northern Arizona where they live, a pronunciation guide and glossary, a chapter about Hopi oral literature and a lengthy section of "Notes on the Stories." In other words, it is one heck of an introduction to Hopi culture.

Harold Courlander intends for his collections of folklore to be much more than mere stories for entertainment. Instead, he uses them as a record of the people: "...their problems, their attitudes toward the world in which they live, their values, and their comments on the human condition."

These stories were collected in 1968 and 1969 from residents of Shongopovi, Moencopi, Hano (Tewa) and Walpi. They were members of several clans: Bear, Coyote, Rabbit, Reed and Tobacco.

The stories vary widely in type, style and tone; from the straight historical record with no mysticism or magical beings, such as "How the Tewas Came to First Mesa," to historical records injected with mysticism or supernatural events, such as "The Foot Racers of Payupki," to whimsical animal capers such as "Two Friends, Coyote & Bull Snake, Exchange Visits."

This book includes several full-page illustrations by Enrico Arno. Each is dominated by geometric shapes and patterns in lieu of landscapes or backgrounds. Although these are exactly what you find on baskets and pottery in that region, when compared to the illustrations in Old Indian Legends, these seem cartoon-like and whimsical.

The biggest difference in People of the Short Blue Corn and other collections of Native American stories is the amount of information, especially history, that is included. Also, the author goes into great detail about how the various clans have developed their own versions of the stories. He also demonstrates how the stories have been modernized.

People of the Short Blue Corn is one of the best collections of Native American stories on the market, simply because the author did so much more than tell stories in the book. It is an outstanding look at the history, culture and beliefs of the Hopi people.

Harold Courlander is one of the world's leading authors on folklore and folk music. He has written about Caribbean, Asian, African and American Negro culture, lore and music. He has written several novels and was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship.

book review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

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