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

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Oxford University Press, USA, Oct 18, 2001 - Social Science - 256 pages
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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 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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Gods, heroes & kings: the battle for mythic Britain

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Elegant contributions to the vast literature on mythology, these well-informed and thoroughly documented studies enhance our understanding of this elusive topic. Originally a series of lectures ... Read full review

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Fee and Leemming's exploration is a carefully researched and engaging look into the very foundations of the British identity. By examining the complex interactions between the myths of various invading groups, the authors give us the ingredients to the melange that is Britain. Especially in the first half, the work is elegant, hopping between saga and analysis with the greatest of ease. I found this book both informative and, surprisingly, highly entertaining. 

Contents

Introduction
3
THE MYTHS
11
1 The Pantheons
13
2 Deity Types
75
3 Sacred Objects and Places
111
4 Heroes and Heroines
117
5 Creation and Apocalypse
139
6 The Sagas
147
Five Reflections of the Face of the Hero in the Medieval English RomanceTrials Tribulations and Transformative Quests
191
Further Reading
223
Bibliography
227
Index
231
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