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The Golden Bough by James George Frazer
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The Golden Bough

by James George Frazer

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Thank you for the abridged edition, Sir James. Even the abridgment contains a confounding amount of information and examples. Like any attempt to shoehorn a large portion of human behavior into one theory, the book has its problems. While a classic of its time it is no longer considered authoritative in the field. I wouldn't consider it a "must read" but it certainly illustrates the amazing complexity of magical and religious customs around the world. ( )
  ritaer | Feb 19, 2017 |
The Golden Bough describes our ancestors' primitive methods of worship, sex practices, strange rituals and festivals. Disproving the popular thought that primitive life was simple, this monumental survey shows that savage man was enmeshed in a tangle of magic, taboos, and superstitions. Revealed here is the evolution of man from savagery to civilization, from the modification of his weird and often bloodthirsty customs to the entry of lasting moral,... ( )
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  Tutter | Feb 20, 2015 |
The 756-page single volume abridged by Frazer himself ,
published in 1922, includes a 42-page index with entries that make one long to read the text.
  KayCliff | Jan 6, 2009 |
So this is the condensed version, only about a thousand pages, but still full of fascinating tidbits of folklore and culture, and some very incisive theorizing about human belief patterns and theories of culture to link it all together. Very much a product of its times, but if you can get past the (generally mild) period imperialism, the meat of the book is still good.

It's very obviously condensed, though, and therefore I find it best dipped into in small portions. I've no idea how the 12-volume version compares - even the one up in Preject Gutenberg is the condensed edition, as far as I can tell - but I'd like to put down the book's tendency to list a bunch of apparently unrelated facts, then a bald theory, then some more random facts, to the abridging process. Unfortunately it's a style that was picked up by a lot of less rigorous researchers into the liminal spaces (erikvondaniken *cough*), with unfortunate results.

But if you're at all interested in magic or folklore or myth or culture, this is a classic, the basis of a lot of fiction and all later theoretical work (even the works that have partially overturned it) and, for all my caveats, still suprisingly readable - a great bedtime book. ( )
2 vote melannen | Jul 26, 2007 |
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