Myths and Legends of the Britisby Richard Barber
The earliest legends were born in the
Giants and gods, shape-shifters and saints, heroes and kingsthese are the mythic beings whose lives and adventures are immortalized in the legends of the British Isles. Drawing on a rich variety of medieval sources, Richard Barber has woven a tapestry of tales with threads of wonder that move in and out of the real world.
The earliest legends were born in the great folk migrations to "the island at the edge of the world," a land cloaked in shadowy mists where spirits mingled with humans. We read of the giants of Albion and the Tuatha de Danaan of Ireland, and in the genealogy of the Saxon kings we see the kings' descent from Woden, the greatest of the gods. The legends of Britain's early history contain grains of truth distorted by invention, as in the story of Brutus, who led the exiles of Troy to a land promised by the gods: Britain. Scraps of half-forgotten lore are woven into the legends of marvel and magic, where heirs of the ancient gods work wonders and reality is suspended. We meet Taliesin, a sixth-century poet, and Merlin, a mad king.
Among the legends of heroes and saints are the story of Arthur, perhaps the best loved of all the legends, and the history of Saint Joseph of Arimathea, who allegedly brought the Holy Grail to Arthur's court at Glastonbury. We enter the stark landscape of Beowulf, the warrior-hero who has no more than human powers, and the bizarre world of Cuchulain, whose life is bound by magical taboos. The legends of history and romance range from embellished histories to pure storytelling. We read of the pious Lady Godiva, a real Saxon noblewoman whose legendary ride was not recorded until two hundred years after it was made, and of Robin Hood, a popular outlaw hero in the Middle Ages whose real-life origins continue to elude scholars.
Running like a golden thread throughout this tapestry of legends are the stories of King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, and others upon which Shakespeare based his plays. These captivating tales and many others make Myths and Legends of the British Isles a collection to be treasured.
- Sterling Publishing
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