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Today we lament that people have little time for the classics and even less for mythology. Bulfinch, writing in 1855, said much the same, To devote study to a species of learning which relates wholly to false marvels and obsolete faiths, is not to be expected of a general reader in a ...
Today we lament that people have little time for the classics and even less for mythology. Bulfinch, writing in 1855, said much the same, To devote study to a species of learning which relates wholly to false marvels and obsolete faiths, is not to be expected of a general reader in a practical age like this.
And yet without some familiarity with Greek and Roman mythology we not only have little understanding of Greek and Roman civilization, we also limit our appreciation for some of the greatest English literature and poetry. Shakespeare, Keats, Milton, and other English writers have assumed that readers are acquainted with mythology. And more basic, we also deprive ourselves of some fascinating and enjoyable stories and tales.
In writing The Age of Fable Bulfinch focused on mythology as connected with literature, not just the fables themselves. He created a book that has remained easy to read and as well serves as an amazingly useful reference when reading 16th, 17th, and 18th century literature and poetry. I have repeatedly found that what was an obscure and murky reference to mythology took on meaning and significance by a quick visit to Bulfinch. I particularly appreciate his index of names: it really helps me track down those prolific deities.
I sometimes pick up The Age of Fable and simply browse a few pages, exploring a new tale, a new adventure by powerful deities with magnified human frailties. Buy a copy, you wont be disappointed.
Posted February 8, 2012
Bulfinch does a great job of retelling the classic Greek/Roman myths of antiquity as well as the myths of Old Europe including, among others, Arthur, Charlemange, Orlando, and Thor. One part that stands out is the Mabinogeon which (and this is noted on page 561 of the Modern Library edition) has a Thousand and One Nights fell to it. One part that appeared to not fit into the book at all was Chapter 37 of The Age of Fable, which hastily describes a portion of Eastern Mythology. Although this section has no true faults with the information, one gets the sense that Bulfinch quickly threw the myths together and since he didn't have room for them anywhere else he put them in this chapter. Although it does not take away from the quality of the book it might have been better had Bulfinch chosen either to elaborate slightly on the myths or to not include them altogether. However, for an introduction to classical mythology for the reader who is having trouble understanding Byron or Milton or Shakespeare or a hundred other classical European and American writers this book is a godsend. Bulfinch tailored this book to just this kind of reader. At times it may seem a bit dry, but Bulfinch intended his work to be used as a reference mainly (which is why he included a great index in the back of The Age of Fable).
For those readers who are interested in mythology as an end unto itself, I recommend this work as your main road map through this sometimes confusing trail. Robert Graves and Edith Hamilton's works are good also but in my opinion Bulfinch outdoes both of them. From here you will definitely want to look at the Madrus and Mathers 4 vol. edition of the Thousand Nights and One Night (that is the full title) if you liked the Eastern feel that you get in Chapter 37 in the Age of Fable and the Mabinogeon. If you are interested in the Greek and Roman myths mainly go straight to the horses mouth and read Ovid, Homer, and Virgil. For more European mythology, Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur is indespensable. I recommend Penguin's two volume edition but with some hesitation, as the annotation is a bit strange, making you flip back and forth between the front of the book and the back of the book. However, Penguin prints out almost every major mythological story, ranging from the Medieval French Romances to the Icelandic Sagas. As stated before, let Bulfinch lead you through this mass of myths, he knows what he's doing.
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Posted December 23, 2004
Bulfinch's Mythology, one of the tools used when creating my novel, Grecian Rune, is a cornerstone in the understanding of modern story-telling. Simple to understand, and decorated with acute illustrations, this mythology compilation is the one for all ages. Needless to say, it is as definitive as the works of Isaac Asimov and J.R.R. Tolkien. I strongly recomend this for anyone interested in Greek Mythology and other myths and legends.
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Posted March 17, 2011
Posted April 5, 2013
The material is timeless and interesting. Although the book is very inexpensive, the editing is atrocious. There many misspellings, words, phrases and in some cases, entire sentences simply missing.
I would suggest that if you are going to do it, take the time to do it correctly.
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Posted July 28, 2012
Just because you think history is boring does not mean Greek Myths is. I became infatuated with it in 4th grade. Now its dampened by Harry Potter, but still...
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