Winner of the 2004 Chicago Folklore Prize
"Pure literature, appropriate—crucial—to professional anthropologists and folklorists, a delight for the layman, an epiphany for students. Barre Toelken has written a pure gem that is incredibly readable for anyone at all educated but is loaded with profound content."
"A valuable, nearly indispensable, contribution . . . of very significant use to students and teachers of anthropology, folklore, and Native American studies and to all who have an interest in this fascinating subject . . . strong, original, immensely interesting, well written, and perfectly readable."
—N. Scott Momaday
After a career of working and living with Native Americans and studying their traditions, Barre Toelken has written this sweeping study of Native American folklore in the West. Within a framework of performance theory, cultural worldview, and collaborative research, he examines Native American visual arts, dance, oral tradition (story and song), humor, and patterns of thinking and discovery to demonstrate what can be gleaned from Indian traditions by Natives and non-Natives alike. In the process he considers popular distortions of Indian beliefs, demystifies many traditions by showing how they can be comprehended within their cultural contexts, considers why some aspects of Native American life are not meant to be understood by or shared with outsiders, and emphasizes how much can be learned through sensitivity to and awareness of cultural values. The Anguish of Snails is an essential work for any serious reader of folklore or Native American studies.
Journal of Folklore Research, 2005 by Kimberly Jenkins Marshall