Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Chivalry / Legends of Charlemagne

Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Chivalry / Legends of Charlemagne

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For almost a century and a half, Bulfinch's Mythology has

been the text by which the great tales of the gods and

goddesses, Greek and Roman antiquity; Scandinavian,

Celtic, and Oriental fables and myths; and the age of

chivalry have been known. The stories are divided into

three sections: The Age of Fable or Stories of Gods and

Heroes (first published in 1855); The Age of Chivalry

(1858), which contains King Arthur and His Knights, The

Mabinogeon, and The Knights of English History; and

Legends of Charlemagne or Romance of the Middle Ages

(1863). For the Greek myths, Bulfinch drew on Ovid and

Virgil, and for the sagas of the north, from Mallet's

Northern Antiquities. He provides lively versions of the

myths of Zeus and Hera, Venus and Adonis, Daphne and

Apollo, and their cohorts on Mount Olympus; the love story

of Pygmalion and Galatea; the legends of the Trojan War

and the epic wanderings of Ulysses and Aeneas; the joys of

Valhalla and the furies of Thor; and the tales of Beowulf

and Robin Hood. The tales are eminently readable. As

Bulfinch wrote, "Without a knowledge of mythology much

of the elegant literature of our own language cannot be

understood and appreciated.

.. Our book is an attempt to

solve this problem, by telling the stories of mythology in

such a manner as to make them a source of amusement."

Thomas Bulfinch, in his day job, was a clerk in the

Merchant's Bank of Boston, an undemanding position that

afforded him ample leisure time in which to pursue his

other interests. In addition to serving as secretary of the

Boston Society of Natural History, he thoroughly

researched the myths and legends and copiously cross-

referenced them withliterature and art. As such, the myths

are an indispensable guide to the cultural values of the

nineteenth century; however, it is the vigor of the stories

themselves that returns generation after generation to

Bulfinch.

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