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Butterfly Mother is a collection of epic songs from the rich oral tradition of the Miao (Hmong) people of southwest China. These poetic narratives, traditionally performed by two groups of singers, relate the creation of a world in which everything is alive, and listeners find that besides mountains, rivers, trees, and creatures, inanimate objects are also 'born' and have spirits. In his engaging introduction, Mark Bender places these mythic narratives in their social and historical context, describing the workings and traditions of Miao society.
Brimming with cultural lore, Butterfly Mother is a virtual encyclopedia of time-honored myths, legends, and folk customs of the Miao people.
"Bender has published translations and studies of Chinese minority nationality epics and folktales since the early 1980s. The current volume brings together about 20 Miao (Hmong) epic songs, grouped into six parts: 'Prelude', 'Song of Gold and Silver', 'Song of the Ancient Sweet Gum', 'Song of Butterfly Mother,' 'The Great Flood', and 'Westwards, Upriver'. Historical, geographic, ethnographic, linguistic, and folkloristic introductions help the reader understand the internal logic of the songs and the myths, legends, and folk customs of the Miao. Including ample notes and a selected bibliography, this is a book for those interested in folklore, epics, mythology, and ethnography. Summing up: Recommended."
—J. W. Walls, CHOICE
"Talk about 'persistent cultures'—this translation of the great epic, mythic tellings of the Miao/Hmong peoples is a window into a huge ancient soul of sustainable spirit and practice. Mark Bender's commentary provides context and details of places and singers that makes it even richer. This book provides new insights into how deeply oral recitation and performance can be embedded in a whole society, and some fresh, stunning stories."
—Gary Snyder, author of Mountains and Rivers Without End
About the Author:
Mark Bender is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures, The Ohio State University.