Gods, Heroes, and Kings: The Battle for Mythic Britain

Gods, Heroes, and Kings: The Battle for Mythic Britain

by Christopher R. Fee
     
 

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The islands of Britain have been a crossroads of gods, heroes, and kings-those of flesh as well as those of myth-for thousands of years. Successive waves of invasion brought distinctive legends, rites, and beliefs. The ancient Celts displaced earlier indigenous peoples, only to find themselves displaced in turn by the Romans, who then abandoned the islands to

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Overview

The islands of Britain have been a crossroads of gods, heroes, and kings-those of flesh as well as those of myth-for thousands of years. Successive waves of invasion brought distinctive legends, rites, and beliefs. The ancient Celts displaced earlier indigenous peoples, only to find themselves displaced in turn by the Romans, who then abandoned the islands to Germanic tribes, a people themselves nearly overcome in time by an influx of Scandinavians. With each wave of invaders came a battle for the mythic mind of the Isles as the newcomer's belief system met with the existing systems of gods, legends, and myths.

In Gods, Heroes, and Kings, medievalist Christopher Fee and veteran myth scholar David Leeming unearth the layers of the British Isles' unique folkloric tradition to discover how this body of seemingly disparate tales developed. The authors find a virtual battlefield of myths in which pagan and Judeo-Christian beliefs fought for dominance, and classical, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, and Celtic narrative threads became tangled together. The resulting body of legends became a strange but coherent hybrid, so that by the time Chaucer wrote "The Wife of Bath's Tale" in the fourteenth century, a Christian theme of redemption fought for prominence with a tripartite Celtic goddess and the Arthurian legends of Sir Gawain-itself a hybrid mythology.

Without a guide, the corpus of British mythology can seem impenetrable. Taking advantage of the latest research, Fee and Leeming employ a unique comparative approach to map the origins and development of one of the richest folkloric traditions. Copiously illustrated with excerpts in translation from the original sources,Gods, Heroes, and Kings provides a fascinating and accessible new perspective on the history of British mythology.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Destined to become the fundamental history of British mythology"—Library Journal

"Deep and comprehensive scholarship into the myths and legends which form the religious heritage of Britain."—Literature and Theology

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195174038
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
02/29/2004
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
8.80(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Christopher R. Fee is Assistant Professor of English at Gettysburg College. David A. Leeming is Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. His most recent book is From Olympus to Camelot: The World of European Mythology (Oxford, 2003).

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