Have you ever wondered why so many heroes--from Odysseus to Tom Sawyer--journey to the underworld? Or why virgin births occur in so many stories around the world?In the first comprehensive view of mythology directed toward the general reader, Shirley Park Lowry tells why we find recurring patterns and symbols in stories that are centuries--or continents--apart. Drawing upon tales ranging from the ancient Middle East to modern North America, Lowry shows how "myths reflect and dramatize ordinary experience, illuminating our deepest and least articulated hopes, fears, and quandaries. Their extravagant plots and images are recognizable because they are the language of our own dreams."Lowry defines what myths are; why they are important; what they share with folk tales, dreams, and fantasies; how we developed a symbolic language and what such symbols as blood, milk, sunlight, and monsters mean; how heroes from Moses and Jesus to Charlemagne and Superman relate to one another; and how myths reconcile us to life's limitations.