Anthropology •  Folklore and Latin America

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Mayan Folktales: Folklore from Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Edited by James D. Sexton

This collection of folklore offers a rich and lively panorama of Mayan mythic heritage. Here are everyday tales of village life; legends of witches, shamans, spiritualists, tricksters, and devils; fables of naguales, or persons who can change into animal forms; ribald stories of love and life; cautionary tales of strange and menacing neighbors and of the danger lurking within the human heart. These legends narrate origin and creation stories, explain the natural world, and reinforce cultural beliefs and values such as honesty, industriousness, sharing, fairness, and cleverness. Whether tragic or comic, fantastic or earthy, whimsical or profound, these tales capture the mystery, fragility, and power of the Mayan world.


James D. Sexton is Regents’ Professor of anthropology at Northern Arizona University and is the author of many articles and books on cultural change in Guatemala's highland communities.


"The collection serves splendidly the purpose of a wide variety of readers."



"A delightful collection by the eminent anthropologist and his Mayan collaborator. Written in an oral style, filled with ancient wisdom."


NACLA Report on the Americas

". . . a colorful mélange of myths . . . Sexton's collection reveals an enlightening picture of native Guatemalan culture . . . It provides valuable information on diverse aspects of the culture of Lake Atitlan."


Cultural Survival

6 x 9.25 in. 304 pages