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A Medieval Storybook

Overview

"Medieval men were great storytellers. In the long dark of winter evenings, there was not much to do but tell stories and sing songs. At country markets, professional narrators and ballad-singers profitably drew clusters of auditors, ready to pay with their farthings. The stories were mostly old and familiar, but each teller altered and localized his material to suit his hearers and his own taste. Thus a great body of oral literature existed. Most of it has disappeared, destroyed by printing and the enormous communications industry. Some remnants ...

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A Medieval Storybook

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Overview

"Medieval men were great storytellers. In the long dark of winter evenings, there was not much to do but tell stories and sing songs. At country markets, professional narrators and ballad-singers profitably drew clusters of auditors, ready to pay with their farthings. The stories were mostly old and familiar, but each teller altered and localized his material to suit his hearers and his own taste. Thus a great body of oral literature existed. Most of it has disappeared, destroyed by printing and the enormous communications industry. Some remnants of the oral tradition are included in this volume. At the same time a good number of original writers of fiction appeared, composing with conscious art. We can identify some of them, such as Marie de France, Huon Leroi, and of course Boccaccio and Chaucer. But most of them remain anonymous, and only by good luck have their works been preserved.

"For this collection the compiler has picked examples of stories of various sorts. His essential requirement has been that the chosen tales should excel as stories, that they should progress from an initial state through altering incidents to a conclusion, logical but often unforeseen. While of course the tales illustrate medieval life and thought, the compiler's purpose has been to please the story-reader rather than the social or literary historian. The examples should stand alone as works of art, not illustrations of anything."—from the Preface

From the rich store of medieval tales, Morris Bishop brings together a delightful collection of thirty-five stories. Some are romantic, some religious, some realistic, some even scurrilous. There are merry tales and moral tales, sagas, allegories, and fables. They vary widely in theme and their characters represent every class of medieval society. The tales in A Medieval Storybook vividly illustrate medieval life and thought. Above all they excel as stories, and demonstrate the high level attained by narrative art in the Middle Ages and the great gift the medieval writers had for creating lively and memorable characters. Some of the stories in the book were translated by Bishop; others were translated in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Line drawings by Alison Mason Kingsbury add considerably to the charm of this collection.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Every medievalist with a sense of humor has wanted to do this sort of book, but too few have. Morris Bishop gives us a delightful collection of medieval storytelling, ranging from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, in Latin, Norse, French, Spanish, Italian, and English. Recommended for all popular collections and especially for children."—Library Journal

"A pleasant collection of medieval tales intended for light reading. There are the usual bits and pieces from the Arthurian legend, from the lais and the collections like the Decameron, from saints' lives, and from the moralized exempla of the preachers’ handbooks, all illustrating the lighter side of the extraordinarily rich tradition of medieval narrative art."—Virginia Quarterly Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801478826
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

The late Morris Bishop was Kappa Alpha Professor of Romance Literature and University Historian at Cornell University.

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Table of Contents

Preface

I. Romances of King Arthur's Court

The Story of Merlin
The Sword in the Stone, by Sir Thomas Malory
Launcelot, Elaine, and Guenever, by Sir Thomas Malory
Tristan's End

II. Adventures and Escapades

The Story of Frithjof and Ingebjorg
Amleth's Revenge, by Saxo Grammaticus
A Knight Who Made a Bargain with a Merchant
A Story of beyond the Sea
The Cruelty of Francesco Orsini, by Giovanni Fiorentino
A Night in Naples, by Giovanni Boccaccio

III. Lovers' Weal and Woe

The Dapple-Gray Palfrey, by Huon Leroi
The Lay of the Nightingale, by Marie de France
The Falcon, by Giovanni Boccaccio

IV. Wonders and Prodigies

The Life of Saint Brandon, by Jacobus de Voragine
The Famous History of Friar Bacon

V. Moral Tales

The Execrable Devices of Old Women
Of the Cunning of the Devil, and of the Secret Judgments of God
Of the Transgressions and Wounds of the Soul
Of Extreme Fear
The Marvelous Conversion of the Blessed Hildegund, Virgin, by Caesarius of Heisterbach
The Cleric Who Deflowered a Jewish Maiden, by Caesarius of Heisterbach
How the Novice Theobald Conquered His Pride, by Caesarius of Heisterbach
Friar Juniper

VI. Merry Tales and Salty Fictions

Of the Churl Who Won Paradise
A Dean and a Magician, by Juan Manuel
King Ben Abit and Queen Romaquia, by Juan Manuel
A Profound Judgment
The Pear Tree
Fra Cipolla, by Giovanni Boccaccio
A Father's Wise Counsel, by Franco Sacchetti
The Rustic Ambassadors, by Franco Sacchetti
The Noble Crest, by Franco Sacchetti
Sacchetti and the Astrologer, by Franco Sacchetti
The Blind Man of Orvieto, by Franco Sacchetti
The Reeve's Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer

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