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Myths and Legends of the British Isles

af Richard Barber

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230188,815 (3.58)2
The British Isles have a long tradition of tales of gods, heroes and marvels, hinting at a mythology once as relevant to the races which settled the islands as the Greek and Roman gods were to the classical world. The tales drawn together in this book, from a wide range of medieval sources, span the centuries from the dawn of Christianity to the age of the Plantagenets. The Norse gods which peopled the Anglo-Saxon past survive in Beowulf; Cuchulainn, Taliesin and the magician Merlin take shape from Celtic mythology; and saints include Helena who brought a piece of the True Cross to Britain, and Joseph of Arimathea whose staff grew into the Glastonbury thorn. Tales of the British Arthur are followed by legends of later heroes, including Harold, Hereward and Godiva. These figures and many others were part of a familiar national mythology on which Shakespeare drew for Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet, creating the famous versions that are known today. Here the original stories are presented. RICHARD BARBER's other books include and The Knight and Chivalry.… (mere)
  1. 00
    Dictionary of Medieval Heroes: Characters in Medieval Narrative Traditions and Their Afterlife in Literature, Theatre and the Visual Arts af W.P. Gerritsen (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Also covers a range of mythical, legendary and historical medieval heroes, from the famous to the more obscure.
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This splendid volume collects together nearly forty different stories from Britain and Ireland, from the Roman period to the Middle Ages. The first section includes origin tales of Scotland, Ireland and England built on a mythic history already developing long before the monk Nennius was busily compiling away in the early 9th century. Then follows a section on the Early History of Britain which includes the tales from Geoffrey of Monmouth plus Lludd and Llefelys and The Dream of Maxen Wledig (from The Mabinogion) and, not so oddly, Saxo Grammaticus’ version of the story of Amleth or Hamlet (translated by Peter Fisher).

The Marvels and Magic section includes bits from Nennius, the whole of the early Arthurian tale Culhwch and Olwen, Neil Wright’s translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Life of Merlin and Lady Charlotte Guest’s Taliesen. This is followed by the Heroes and Saints section with a Breton version of Arthur’s career, the whole of Beowulf in Kevin Crossley-Holland’s translation, The Deeds of Cuchulain adapted from Lady Gregory’s retelling, and all four branches of the Mabinogi proper, together with a selection of saints’ lives (Brendan, Cadog, Joseph of Arimathea, George and Helena) from early and later medieval sources. Finally History and Romance features less accessible tales of, for example, King Horn and Havelok the Dane as well as stories of more familiar figures such as Robin Hood, Macbeth and Lady Godiva.

I’ve given a fairly substantial list of the contents so as to illustrate the breadth and richness of this selection, so reminiscent of a medieval hall hung with detailed tapestries (or even the cunning designs on Hamlet’s shield, as the Amleth tale describes). With Barber’s own translations or adaptations, and with brief introductions placing each text in context, the whole volume is designed with the needs of the modern novel reader in mind – readability and stimulation – whilst awakening them to the wealth of material contained in the corpus of traditional national narratives. If you want an authoritative modern collection with informed commentary to replace all those cheap reprints of Victorian and Edwardian retellings (with their often dubious scholarship and idiosyncratic paraphrasing) then this is it; and if you want a one-volume mythic history of Britain that’s more authentic than Tolkien’s marvellous attempt to create one of his own, you probably won’t do better than this.

http://calmgrove.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/myths/ ( )
1 stem ed.pendragon | Sep 26, 2010 |
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The British Isles have a long tradition of tales of gods, heroes and marvels, hinting at a mythology once as relevant to the races which settled the islands as the Greek and Roman gods were to the classical world. The tales drawn together in this book, from a wide range of medieval sources, span the centuries from the dawn of Christianity to the age of the Plantagenets. The Norse gods which peopled the Anglo-Saxon past survive in Beowulf; Cuchulainn, Taliesin and the magician Merlin take shape from Celtic mythology; and saints include Helena who brought a piece of the True Cross to Britain, and Joseph of Arimathea whose staff grew into the Glastonbury thorn. Tales of the British Arthur are followed by legends of later heroes, including Harold, Hereward and Godiva. These figures and many others were part of a familiar national mythology on which Shakespeare drew for Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet, creating the famous versions that are known today. Here the original stories are presented. RICHARD BARBER's other books include and The Knight and Chivalry.

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