Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adders Fork and Lizards Leg: The Lore and Mythology of Amphibians and Reptiles By Marty Crump

Beautiful photos and makes a great display book 304 A great homage to reptiles and amphibians. This book includes many cool facts and stories, and also stresses the importance of, and possible ways to, conserve at risk species. 304 This book recounts folk tales about reptiles and amphibians from all over the world. It’s an interesting read for anyone who likes herpetofauna, but it is longer than it needs to be – there’s a lot of repetition, the same tales appearing in several chapters or being repeated multiple times because the same story is told in multiple cultures. The book really need only have been half the length it is.

I also noticed that the author mistakenly refers to the giant snake of Norse myth as being named Midgard – in fact, Midgard is Earth, and the snake is called the Midgard Serpent because it encircles the Earth. Its actual name is Jormungandr. This did rather make me wonder whether she has also misinterpreted other myths and might be presenting them incorrectly. 304 597.8 C9567 2015 304


The author knows a lot about herpetology but very little about folklore. He has done a good job of collecting myths and legends about reptiles, but he seems to regard them as entertaining curiosities or perhaps primitive science. He makes little attempt to place legends in any cultural or historical context, in fact he does not even seem to be aware that folklore is a distinctive discipline. This book can be an excellent source of information but little more. 304 I think this book would have been greatly improved by being organized differently - maybe by region? - and by having a little more focus. While I think the author was trying to include as many stories about as many species as possible, it came across as being unorganized and overwhelming.

As it stands, there isn't much about this book that will stick with me. I'd rate it at a 1.5 star if Goodreads would let me do half stars. I liked the topic and a few of the stories were interesting, but I really did not care for the book overall. 304 A chimera of a book.

Appropriately, I guess, given the subject.

I love frogs. I have a frog tattoo. Frog shirts. Frog knick knacks. There's too many bits in this book that I love for me to ever give up. But it's weird, this beast of a book is.

Start from the book as a physical object. It's large and heavy, like a textbook. The pages are thick and saturated with color--it is abundantly illustrated with photographs and paintings and images of the animals and the animals-as-cultural objects. Everything about the book screams durability.

But Crump's prose does not have the chops for such a form. It is personal, informal to the point of inanity. The end section, in which she discusses current groups trying to conserve amphibians is sure to be outdated, and reads like advertising, not the considerations of a scholar or reminders for posterity. (It's not a group. It's a movement!) Very strange.

The book's intellectual apparatus is weak--a thin reed upon which to hang the subject. She starts with a notion she borrows from James Serpell, that animals can be positively or negatively valued, either affectively or in terms of utility. fair enough, though this does not say much. She then points out that her subject matter--reptiles and amphibians--fill all four quadrants of this classification. Meaning--what, exactly? Do we learn anything? No, because she does not press the issue or break it down further along any other axes.

She says her goal is to survey the folklore of reptiles and amphibians in hopes of encouraging people to be more willing to conserve them. But with no systematic way of understanding how they are understood, it is not clear what to do. And Crump seems more willing to bring up possible problems--should outsiders even be encouraging others in how they look at the natural world, or change their practices? But she offers no answers, or even ideas leading toward an answer, and for most of the book the framing just drops away.

She picks it up again at the very end, but does not use anything that came before to advance her discussion. The reader is left with the vague sense that protecting reptiles and amphibians is a good idea, and it would be good to encourage others to seem them both as useful and wonderful, but not idea how to do this or even what the whole suite of issues is. Again, strange.

The bulk of the book--and, seemingly the point--is to go over the folklore. Crump says that she has been collecting folklore on herps since she was in college, back in 1966--almost fifty years. That's a lot of potentially good stuff. But she clearly has no idea what to do with the material. It reads like a folklore text from the late nineteenth or very early twentieth century. There is virtually no consideration of social context or performance; her distinction between legends and fairy tales is brief and superficial.

The books divisions are simplistic at best--here's some folklore on frogs. Here's some on snakes. It doesn't even rise to the level of motif indexing. Her explanations for the folklore, when she bothers to offer them at all, are the worst sort of rationalization. for example, milk snakes were probably thought to drink cow milk because they're found in barns, where there are rodents. These strip away any possible cultural interpretation. Although she, here and there, takes time to say that even moderns indulge folklore or are superstitious, the weight of the book is to suggest all this folklore is just-so stories of pre-scientific societies.

Indeed, there are a few points in the book where she suggests we--presumably more sophisticated moderns--encourage certain types of folklore because it positively values herpetological affection and utility. It's a bizarre idea that she never really thinks through.

More than anything else--textbook, rallying cry, folklore encyclopedia--the book seems like a vanity project. Or, better said, a personal scrapbook or photo album. For all that the art is very colorful, and sometimes striking, it also ads very little to her arguments. At times, it even distracts--she gets caught up, early on, in a discussion about how humans use animals to think about the world, which takes her away from folklore and toward other aspects of animal studies. (She also brings up advertising, which again confuses her point.) Some of the paintings are too on-point, naive and almost silly.

There are also a lot of personal pictures--of her, her husband, her grandchild. And throughout she refers to things she has done, and conversations she's had with her granddaughter, which are supposed to be out of the mouth of babes moments, but just seem out of place. In contrast to her granddaughter, she also quotes the turtle biologist Archie Carr here and there, but these, while adding some depths to her ideas, don't really bring much clarity to the project as a whole.

And yet--there's still something I liked. The book did collect fifty years of reading in folklore, even if Crump had no idea what to do with these notes. It's here, it's compiled. I enjoyed many of the stories and can imagine dipping in again--never to read through, but to refresh my acquaintance with the stories. 304 Not a fan. I was excited about the topic, but didn't like the writing and layout. It felt rather tedious ... here are some cultures that like snakes and have myths about them. now here are some that don't like snakes. here are 20 movies that have snakes in them, and 87 idioms about snakes. I just felt tired trying to slog through it all. 304 I found this very tedious reading with a lot of information but much repetition. I am not sure the actual reason for the book other than to but all your years of research material out there. 304

Frogs are worshipped for bringing nourishing rains, but blamed for devastating floods. Turtles are admired for their wisdom and longevity, but ridiculed for their sluggish and cowardly behavior. Snakes are respected for their ability to heal and restore life, but despised as symbols of evil. Lizards are revered as beneficent guardian spirits, but feared as the Devil himself.

In this ode to toads and snakes, newts and tuatara, crocodiles and tortoises, herpetologist and science writer Marty Crump explores folklore across the world and throughout time. From creation myths to trickster tales; from associations with fertility and rebirth to fire and rain; and from the use of herps in folk medicines and magic, as food, pets, and gods, to their roles in literature, visual art, music, and dance, Crump reveals both our love and hatred of amphibians and reptiles—and their perceived power. In a world replete with home terrariums at the same time that we’re fighting invasive cane toads, and where public attitudes often dictate that the cute and cuddly receive conservation priority over the slimy and venomous, she shows how our complex and conflicting perceptions threaten the conservation of these ecologically vital animals.

Sumptuously illustrated, Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder’s Fork and Lizard’s Leg is a beautiful and enthralling brew of natural history and folklore, sobering science and humor, that leaves us with one irrefutable lesson: love herps. Warts, scales, and all. Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adders Fork and Lizards Leg: The Lore and Mythology of Amphibians and Reptiles

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