• A Short History of Myth

  • The Myths
  • By: Karen Armstrong
  • Narrated by: Sandra Burr
  • Length: 3 hrs and 30 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (115 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

What are myths? How have they evolved? And why do we still so desperately need them?

The history of myth is the history of humanity; our stories and beliefs, our curiosity and attempts to understand the world, link us to our ancestors and each other. Myths help us make sense of the universe. Armstrong takes us from the Palaeolithic period and the myths of the hunters right up to the "Great Western Transformation" of the last 500 years and the discrediting of myth by science.

Heralding a major series of retellings of international myths by authors from around the world, Armstrong's characteristically insightful and eloquent book serves as a brilliant and thought-provoking introduction to myth in the broadest sense - and why we dismiss it only at our peril.

©2005 Karen Armstrong (P)2005 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Witty, informative, and contemplative: Ms. Armstrong can simplify complex ideas, but she is never simplistic." ( New York Times Book Review)
"Armstrong writes with sensitivity and wisdom. She employs a breadth of learning that reflects the scintillating, shifting light and shade of human experience." ( The Times)

What listeners say about A Short History of Myth

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Good but not unabridged

I loved this book, but the final chapter on the modern era is missing on the audio version

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

K. Armstrong is a real TEACHER,, listen carefully

In less than 3 hrs, Karen Armstrong exposes the essential theories of modern scholarship in the history of religion: How myth came about? What purpose it serves in human life? An excellent introduction to the beginner and an elegant summary to the expert. Sandra Burr, the narrator, is marvelous: clear and not hurried. I wish she read more non-fiction. But the paper book is 7 chapters, and this audio hopes that I enjoyed the recording after chapter 6!

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting overview!

The title promises to be a short history of myth, and delivers on that. I just wish that there was more to the myths of the 20th century, which could have been expanded upon. But overall, it is a nice and compact exploration into the reasons why people tell stories.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

appreciation of myth

I listened twice. Not for new facts, I am familiar with most of the facts. Karen Armstrong has given me a new perspective on myth: the value of myth today. the value of myth in my individual life (mostly as metaphor, a language for expressing emotion, life events and challenges), and the value of myth in my social and community setting.
This is material which usually lends itself better to hard copy, but it was so well read, so well paced, that voice was the best presentation.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Better than I expected

After reading some of the reviews for this book, I didn't expect much but in all, I found the book to be better than those reviews that I read. I thought this book was interesting, educational and historical and I may even listen to it again at another time.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Somewhat interesting but...

I found this audio book difficult to listen to because of the narration. She spoke very slowly and over-pronounced every single word.

As for the book itself, I didn't really enjoy it, partly because it seemed to come to a lot of conclusions about myth's history and origins and the way our ancestors thought based on very little evidence. Also, she seemed to keep saying the sames things over and over again and didn't really offer a lot of substance.

That said, this is my first Karen Armstrong book and I am still definitely planning on reading more of her books. But I found this audio book very unsatisfying.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating and informative

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, definitely. I learned a great deal about the subject.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A Short History of Myth?

The whole book!

Which character ??? as performed by Sandra Burr ??? was your favorite?

N/A

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes but I did not. But I have gone back over parts.

Any additional comments?

Armstrong is an engaging writer who makes her subject come alive. All of her books provide important learning experiences. I think everyone should read them all and I recommend them to my friends at every opportunity.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Short & Sweet

As usual, Karen Armstrong delivers the goods as she explains how humankind's beliefs in the gods have changed as his way of life shifted, while the need to believe persists throughout history. I specially liked that although she used to be a Catholic nun she does not moralize or make a case for monotheism vs polytheism.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • J
  • 07-20-22

A very helpful overview of myths and their function

Having been raised with an exclusive focus on one religion and a reactive dismissal of anything else contradictory or preceding, I finally realized what was missing and had become problematic: I lacked a comprehensive understanding of where divergent religious systems originate and the origins of mythology and why humans make myths in the first place. Karen Armstrong does a fantastic job of revealing foundations from which all systems of belief arise, charting development and abandonment at various points in human history. I found this very useful in establishing a “baseline” understanding of what we ALL share and have in common with our ancestors: a mechanism with which we investigate and analyze our world—and ourselves—in an attempt to explain the knowns and unknowns we encounter. This book provides a strong framework with which to more confidently approach and even embrace the mysteries of our existence.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent accessible introduction

Armstrong uses academic language about "myth" in a way that might put off true believers but does it gently and compellingly. We all have our non-rational beliefs, and Armstrong helps us understand their value and what our culture has lost by denigrating them. A historical tour-de-force for sure. (It would have been better if the narrator had had a better grasp of the pronunciation of some Hebrew words, but it didn't detract from the telling.)