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The mystique of the Pacific Northwest

BERKELEY, Calif. - As a lookout for the United States Forest service, Ella E. Clark heard pieces of the Klickitat Indian myths about Mt. Hood and Mt. Adam's brotherly rivalry for the affections of Sleeping Beauty Mountain. Inspired by the beauty of her natural surroundings and the compelling mystique of these legends, Clark published this treasure trove of tales and legends from the peoples of the Pacific Northwest.

"Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest" (University of California Press, 2003) is the 50th anniversary edition of Clark's extensively researched work. Many of the tales were told to her by those interested in their preservation and others were rewritten from printed sources as the author notes, "for smooth, pleasant reading." The author includes her extensive notes, a complete bibliography and a glossary with pronunciation guide.

Clark, who died in 1998, was Professor Emerita of English at Washington State University. In the preface of her work, she divulges her selection criteria, "My two criteria in the consideration of each tale have been inseparable: Is it authentic? And is it interesting?" Her clear style and light tone allow for pleasurable reading, while the arrangement of the book speaks of the detail and effort of the research undertaken to create the collection.

The first three chapters of the book were selected because they focus on the natural phenomena and geography of the Pacific Northwest region. They do, however, reveal the beliefs and customs of their originators, and these are expanded upon in the fourth and fifth sections where the tales are devoted to myths of creation, of the origin of Indian customs, of heavenly bodies, storms and fire.

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Each chapter is preceded by a brief historical account of the origins of the tales collectively. The author also anecdotally cites the source and brief factual information on the origin of each individual tale.

For those curious about the American Indians of the Northwest or the reader who likes folk tales and myths, this is an interesting read.

For more information about this book, write University of California Press, 2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley CA 94720 or visit their Web site at