Gary R. Varner,
Creatures in the Mist: Little People, Wild Men & Spirit Beings
Around the World, A Study in Comparative Mythology

(Algora, 2006)

The author of Creatures in the Mist, Gary R. Varner, is a lecturer on folklore and early religions and the author of several popular books on those subjects. He is a member of the American Folklore Society, the Foundation for Mythological Studies and the National Writers Union.

The book takes on a challenge that perhaps cannot be met in such a short work. Varner strives to show concordances between mythologies of all cultures and countries. How many societies share stories of mysterious wee people, giants, cats or bats with elemental powers? Where did the first myth of a mermaid come from? In how many places on Earth do we hear of witches and green men (not the little kind but the specters of harvest folklore)?

With such sweeping themes, it's no wonder Varner's book cannot do fullest justice to the subject matter, but his expertise and his sincerity are obvious.

I don't generally comment on a book's format, but unfortunately the printing of this book (not an advanced reader's copy but a commercial paperback) omitted all hyphens, leaving an open space at the end of a line where a word would generally be hyphenated. It may sound like a small matter, but if you check out any book in which margins are justified, you'll quickly see that the hyphen gets used frequently. The space is distracting and indeed is a flaw both the author and publisher, Algora (which advertises itself as an academic press), should have corrected before the manuscript went to press. Sadly, despite the no doubt fascinating content of this work, the printing error gives it a cheap appearance.

review by
Barbara Bamberger Scott

8 December 2007

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