Merlin's Kin

Merlin's Kin; World Tales of the Hero Magicians retold by Josepha Sherman. Little Rock, AR: August House, 1998. ISBN 0-87483-519-4 PB $11.95 (also HC for $21.95) 192 pp

How many magicians from world folklore can you name? Merlin, of course. Think in broad terms and consider shamans, wizards, the average person who gains the gift of magic from someone in the spirit world.

Did you come up with thirty? Josepha Sherman did. Not just any thirty, but thirty who have done some heroic deeds, or shown a desire to do good and a refusal to use his or her magical powers for harm. They come from many corners of the British Isles, from Italy, Hungary, Iceland, Finland, Israel, Russia, China, Japan, Laos, Hawaii, Egypt, several African nations, and several Native nations of the U.S. and Canada.

As Sherman points out in the introduction, not all cultures approve of magicians, viewing them rather as masters of the demonic arts. And lest you think that we in modern Western culture are beyond such attitudes, consider how we mistrust the intellectual elite, how we typify the highly educated as mad scientists eggheads, or nerds. Consider, too, the modern witch hunts, now political or social, which have replaced the historic witch hunts of Salem or mediaeval times.

The magician will always be with us, Sherman points out. It's up to us to decide whether to shun or study that magician. If we choose the latter we will, she says, hopefully learn a little more about ourselves and what it means to be human.

A diverse and fascinating collection with excellent notes on . the stories and a generous bibliography.

The Second Story Review, Vol 3, No. 4, March 1998
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