The subject of mythology is much too complex to be covered in a single book, and no attempt has been made to do so here. There are as many mythic stories as there are dreams, and numerous ways in which these stories might be arranged for study. There are as many mythic traditions as there are races, tribes, or villages; and equally many ways to experience myth.
This book is arranged in sections according to theme. Each section ends with a commentary that is designed to assist the reader in the discovery of the basic myth that underlies the stories of the section. The purpose of this inversion of the usual pattern of introduction followed by literary text is to encourage the reader to develop insights before reading the commentaries, which then may serve as catalysts for deeper understanding. A brief headnote precedes each story, supplementing the commentaries, outlining essential motifs, and suggesting connections between the stories.
Since its original publication in 1973 Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero has been used successfully as a textbook for courses in mythology. It has also been used as a freshman English text, as a supplementary text for anthropology, religion, and upper-level English courses, and as a general reference book on world mythology.
The changes made in this edition include the addition of several heroine myths, an updating of the bibliography, and the elimination of appendices on subjects more fully covered in my The World of Myth ( Oxford University Press).
The book is directed, finally, to any reader with an interest in the study of human nature. The record of that nature is reflected in the myths collected here, and to study those myths is to study the quest for self that concerns us all.
David Adams Leeming